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Mattis pledges to strengthen U.S. alliances

All News 00:19 January 13, 2017

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (Yonhap) -- Incoming U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for defense secretary pledged Thursday to strengthen alliances and security partnerships with foreign countries, touting them as a key element that determines whether countries "thrive" or "wither."

Retired Marine Corps Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis made the remark during his confirmation hearing, laying to rest concerns that U.S. alliances could suffer under Trump, as the president-elect had previously accused allies of relying on the United States for their defense without paying enough.

"We must embrace our international alliances and security partnerships. History is clear: nations with strong allies thrive and those without them wither," Mattis said during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

"My priorities as secretary of Defense will be to strengthen military readiness, strengthen our alliances in league with our diplomatic partners, and bring business reforms to the Department of Defense by instilling budget discipline and holding our leaders accountable," he said.

Mattis, 66, retired in 2013 after serving 44 years in the military. Nicknamed "Mad Dog" because of his tough talk and eagerness to fight, he is considered something of a legendary figure and is well respected not only in the Marine Corps but also throughout the U.S. military.

As Central Command leader, Mattis oversaw all U.S. forces in the Middle East. But his hard-line views on how to deal with Iran were at odds with the administration of President Barack Obama. He has also been an outspoken critic of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Mattis is expected to seek a hard-line policy on the North.

Mattis reportedly favors a tougher stance against U.S. adversaries abroad, especially Iran. He called the Middle Eastern nation "the single most enduring threat to stability and peace" in the region, and said the Iranian nuclear deal won't stop its acquisition of nuclear weapons.

His blunt statements have caused controversy, including his 2005 remark, "It's fun to shoot some people."

Should Trump decide to nominate Mattis for defense secretary, the nomination would need a waiver from Congress because it would run counter to the regulation that a retired officer can become defense secretary only after being out of the military for seven years.

But the Republican-led Congress is likely to grant the waiver.

"If the Senate consents and if the full Congress passes an exception to the seven-year requirement, I will provide strong civilian leadership of military plans and decisions," Mattis said.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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