U.S. Department of Defense
|Presenter: Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Minister of Defence of the Netherlands||August 15, 2017|
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Madam Minister, you're very welcome in the Pentagon as we receive your delegation. It's great to have you, a pleasure to have you here, a staunch NATO ally. And as you know so well, our nations share a very long and proud history.
And from what we in America call you're 1581 Act of Abjuration. We drew from your spirit, and even from your words, what we read today in our Declaration of Independence, and we're keenly aware that we continue a tradition; we didn't start it on our own. So thank you for that.
And at that very fragile moment in our history, I think it is notable that one of our greatest founding fathers, John Adams, worked with your country to secure the survival of ours. And Adams wrote that your people, and I quote John Adams here, "that those people have ever distinguished by an inviolable attachment to freedom and the rights of nations." And his words were true in 1781. They remain true today, having worked alongside you.
It's been a delight to work alongside you on our NATO councils. And I cannot meet with you today without expressing my respect for your soldiers on our shared battlefields, and notably right now as we're here against ISIS. Your soldiers embody, again, that inviolable attachment to freedom, and represent your enduring commitment to defending our shared values and we're proud to serve alongside your troops.
You're also a contributor to NATO's enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania where I saw your troops deployed in the forest --
MINISTER OF DEFENCE JEANINE HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT: You did? (Laughter.)
SEC. MATTIS: -- with the Germans and all the other nations up there, Americans, demonstrating once again you're continuing commitment to the rights of nations. And our two countries stand for freedom, for democracy and human dignity. And that last value makes clear that human life is never cheap.
It is why we were repulsed by the 2014 shoot down of Flight MH17 that claimed, among others, the lives of nearly 200 Dutch victims, and we don't forget that.
To be effective in our defense of these values, we recognize certain obligations, such as the NATO treaty, and a reminder again to the Americans, this was the first peacetime military alliance ever signed by the United States in its history.
Today, your country's respectful and honorable engagement with the international community stands as such a stark example to everyone around the world, and certainly in stark contrast to that of North Korea or Russia at this point in time.
Your ideas and your wisdom are welcome here in Washington. The many challenges I am confident we can face together mean that we must draw forward the best ideas between us, just as the Americans drew from you in 1775.
So Madam Minister, members of the delegation, thank you for coming. It's a pleasure to welcome you to the Pentagon.
And if you'd like to say a few remarks, Madam Minister, in front of the press here, please feel free.
MINISTER HENNIS-PLASSCHAERT: Wow, what can I say after such an introduction. But again thank you so much for hosting us today. I'm very pleased to be here. I will be brief in front of the cameras, but clearly we do face a world in turmoil, and in order to protect our common interests and shared values, we need each other. We need to join forces. We are very proud to serve alongside your troops, and we are pleased to continue our intense and close cooperation now and in the future.
SEC. SEC. MATTIS: (Inaudible) -- good. Again, thank you for coming, your excellency. Thank you. And all of you, we will now ask the press to leave so we can get down to business.
Q: Mr. Secretary ...
SEC. MATTIS: Thank you very much everybody.
Q: Mr. Secretary, on North Korea, Kim Jong-un today -- yesterday said that he was pulling back from his threat to target Guam in a missile strike. Do you believe that to be true? And is the U.S. -- what is the U.S. prepared to do if he proceeds with that missile firing?
SEC. MATTIS: Here in the Pentagon, we are part of a sentinel for our nation, and we stand ready to defend our nation.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
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