Gavin Williamson and General Mattis Meet

US Secretary of Defence General Jim Mattis has said America and Britain will stand shoulder to shoulder in facing down the increasing threat from North Korea and Russia.

Newly appointed Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson was hosting his US counterpart in London for a bilateral meeting following two days of NATO defence ministers' meetings in Brussels.

Congratulating him on his appointment, which came last week in the wake of sleaze allegations that led to the resignation of Mr Williamson's predecessor Sir Michael Fallon, Gen Mattis said it highlights the confidence Prime Minister Theresa May has placed in him.

In what they both called a volatile and dynamic security environment, Gen Mattis said they stand "united in condemning North Korea's aggressive provocation" and violation of international law, as well as the threat from Russia.

"Together we send a message of transatlantic resolve."

Gavin Williamson and General Mattis Meet
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and US Defence Secretary James Mattis during a bilateral meeting at the Ministry of Defence in London. CREDIT: PA

"For many years Britain has galvanised the international community through the power of its moral voice, and today I look forward to strengthening that special relationship in defence of our way of life."

 

From our Westminster correspondent, Laura Makin-Isherwood:

They may have just spent two days in Brussels together – but this London meeting was the first time Gavin Williamson and Jim Mattis have focussed on UK-US relations specifically.

There was, of course, a lot for the pair to discuss; Daesh, North Korea, Russia and Iran. But this was also the first opportunity for two of the most powerful men on the planet to size one another up one-on-one.

It followed the usual formalities to begin with; a welcome, Mr Williamson guiding Mr Mattis to a fireplace with British and American flags crossed over it, and the obligatory press photos of the pair shaking hands (Gavin Williamson decided to go ‘Obama style’ placing his free hand on Mattis’ back).

But for anyone looking for signs of change since Sir Michael Fallon’s departure – what followed could be one.

Cameras were allowed to film the two men as they took their seats opposite one another - and continued to roll as they gave their opening remarks.

We watched as Gavin Williamson read from the white A4 sheets in front of him (stumble free, I might add), delivering a familiar message; that the UK will continue to hold a ‘special relationship’ with the United States.

Jim Mattis followed on – also reading from white A4 – clearly practiced performer.

These speeches, as far as Forces News are aware, have never been filmed before.

The question is, whose idea was it? Gavin Williamson or Jim Mattis?

 

Describing British armed forces as a "national treasure", and one the US respects greatly, Gen Mattis thanked the UK for their efforts at the talks in Brussels to modernise NATO and an increased contribution to defeat Islamic State.

"The UK and the US maintain an unmatched, enduring relationship. It is not artificial or a historical artefact - it is, in fact, a pathway for the future," he added.

"It identifies common values and democratic ideals which I look forward to reinforcing alongside you."

Flanked by the Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Mr Williamson said the UK has been the United States "closest partner for a century" - from fighting in the trenches of the First World War to tackling Islamic State.

Gavin Williamson and General Mattis Meet
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and US Defence Secretary James Mattis during a bilateral meeting at the Ministry of Defence in London. CREDIT: PA

"We face some major threats going forward, we have to be constantly vigilant to defeat the Daesh death cult.

"This year they have murdered citizens in New York, Manchester and London," Mr Williamson said.

"We must continue to confront increased Russian aggression, and deal with the disruptive and dangerous behaviour of North Korea.

"We must never, ever flinch in the face of aggression."

Highlighting how the UK is proud to be one of only six NATO countries hitting a 2% defence spending target, Mr Williamson also said they want to continue to build on the existing defence trading relationship - worth £3 billion a year.

"The United Kingdom and the United States, when we are united, quite simply, the world is a safer and better place, and let us make sure that unity continues going forward," he added.

Cover image courtesy of PA. 

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