Mark Esper: US deterred in past year aggressive activities by N Korea, Iran, Russia, China
WASHINGTON: The US Department of Defense has in the past year deterred aggressive activities by North Korea, Iran, Russia and China, Secretary of Defence Mark Esper said in a Message to the Force on Accomplishments in Implementation of the National Defence Strategy.
“Over the past year, the Department conducted or supported international counterterrorism operations that removed dozens of key terrorists from the battlefield; maintained our leadership role in the Defeat-ISIS (Daesh) coalition, whose work resulted in the destruction of ISIS’s physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria,” Esper said.
The department also “preserved the freedom of navigation and commerce in contested waters, from the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea; and deterred aggressive activities perpetrated by rogue states such as North Korea and Iran, as well as near-peers such as Russia and China,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Esper together with Japanese and Australian defence ministers Taro Kono and Linda Reynolds urged North Korea to return to the negotiating table on denuclearization.
The defence chiefs again urged North Korea to cease actions that “increase tensions and undermine regional stability”, to comply with its international obligations, and take clear steps to achieve complete and irreversible dismantlement of its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles programs.
Earlier in the week, DPRK rejected the possibility of restarting negotiations with the United States and accused Washington of embracing a “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang and disregarding agreements made at past summits.