America Secretary of Defense James Mattis addressed reporters in what became an impromptu press briefing on Friday, in which he addressed a slew of issues facing the American defensive infrastructure, and even Michael Wolff’s supposed tell-all book that’s been the focus of the president’s attention recently, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Reporters asked the Marine General-turned top defense official if he’s had a chance to read the book that President Trump characterized as “fiction.”
“No. No, I’m a little busy, these days, actually doing my job, you know?” Mattis replied. Reporters then added that the Secretary of Defense himself was mentioned within the book’s pages a number of times – something Mattis seemed happy to laugh off.
“No, I don’t — I don’t — I purposely don’t read that. And, if it’s a book with my name in it, the aide puts sticky — double stickies over it, so I don’t read about myself. And that’s done with malice and forethought by my aide, okay?”
That wasn’t the end of Mattis’ kidding around. When prompted to describe his biggest military concern for the coming year, he simple replied that he “didn’t’ really have any,” but when pushed to choose one, he made a reference to a now legendary response he gave reporters last May – in which he said that nothing keeps him up at night, “I keep other people awake at night.”
“I’d be hard pressed,” Mattis said on Friday. “As you know, I don’t have concerns, I create them.”
Despite the levity in the room, the Defense Secretary addressed a number of serious issues as well, including talks between North and South Korea and the decision to halt military exercises near the Korean Peninsula until after the upcoming Olympics. Mattis made it clear that there has been no shift in military posture toward North Korea, and that training operations near the peninsula would resume as normal after the Olympics were concluded.
When asked if American ships would be leaving the area or remain there if needed, Mattis said only, “we’re always ready to act if we need be.”
Mattis was then asked if high level diplomatic talks between North and South Korea planned to happen this week will include broader-reaching issues, or if it would be relegated only to North Korean participation in the Olympics. Mattis indicated that it would likely only involve the Olympics, but didn’t consider that to be a missed opportunity.
“It would be if the other nations that are involved were in the room, but in fact they’re not. This is simply South and North Korea. And so the right countries aren’t in the room to go further. I don’t think it’s a missed opportunity.”
He then reassured reporters that American and South Korean leaders saw eye-to-eye in the progression of diplomatic talks between the two Koreas, emphasizing the nation’s presidents, diplomats, and defense officials were all on the same page.
“We talk all the time. Our president has talked to theirs. Our secretary of state has talked to the foreign minister. I’ve talked to their minister of defense,” he said. “We’re on the same sheet of music.”
Image courtesy of the Department of Defense