In Singapore, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned that “violent extremist organizations, including fighters returning from the Middle East and local individuals radicalized by malicious ideologies, seek to gain ground in Southeast Asia.”
Pro-ISIS militants in the Philippines recently attempted to seize part of Marawi City in Mindanao, attacking innocents, killing police and military, and taking worshippers hostage. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the brutal bombings that killed three police officers at a Jakarta, Indonesia, bus station.
“We must act now to prevent this threat from growing,” said Secretary Mattis. “Otherwise, it will place long-term regional security at risk and stunt regional economic dynamism.”
Alliances are critical to countering the extremist threat, said Secretary Mattis. They “provide avenues for peace, fostering the conditions for economic growth with countries that share the same vision, while tempering the plans of those who would attack other nations or try to impose their will over the less powerful.”
In the Philippines, the U.S. is helping to train, advise and assist the military in their fight against violent extremist organizations in the south.
The U.S. will also continue to support the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces to address the country's security issues. During this challenging fight against terrorists, we will stand by the people of the Philippines, and we will continue to uphold our commitments to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty, said Mr. Mattis.
Another U.S. priority is to empower countries in the region so they can be stronger contributors to their own peace and stability. The U.S. calls on all countries to contribute sufficiently to their own security.
“At the same time,” said Mr. Mattis, “we encourage them to actively seek out opportunities and partnerships with other like-minded nations as we do the same to sustain and maintain the peace.”
And finally, the U.S. Department of Defense is working to strengthen U.S. military capabilities in the region because security is the foundation of prosperity, enabling the flow of commerce.
By strengthening its alliances, by empowering the region, and by enhancing the U.S. military, the United States intends to continue to promote the rules-based order that is in the best interest of the United States, and of all the countries in the region.