ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT —
Freedom of navigation and issues of sovereignty were front and center as Navy Undersecretary Thomas B. Modly journeyed through Oceana.
The undersecretary spoke to reporters via phone from Guam. The trip involved stops in Kiribati and its capital on the island of Tarawa. Modly and his party also visited Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, and the Federated States of Micronesia, and it ended in Guam.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis asked Modly to make the trip. “It was a fascinating trip for me, having not spent too much time in this region in either my professional or personal life,” he said.
The vastness of the Pacific theater impressed on him and reinforced the “tyranny of distance” that the area entails, Modly said. He added that he also was impressed by “the broad range of friendships and partnerships we have across the region in these small island nations who have big challenges.”
Mattis encouraged Modly to take the trip to cultivate and reinforce U.S. partnership with the nations. He noted that the second line of effort in the National Defense Strategy is to build and strengthen partnerships and alliances. “This is part of that effort to get out here to insure our friends that the United States is committed to freedom of navigation and peace and prosperity for the region,” he…