WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- U.S. defense chief James Mattis said Sunday en route to the Philippines that he will discuss regional security challenges with his counterparts of U.S. Asian allies and Southeast Asian nations there, the Defense Ministry said in a press release.
Mattis will participate in an ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM+) to be held on Oct. 23-25, to discuss issues with his counterparts of Japan, South Korea, India and ASEAN countries. The United States and ASEAN this year marked the 40th anniversary of their cooperation.
The 10-member regional bloc groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Mattis said the bloc has played a strong role in Southeast Asia's peace, stability and economic prosperity since it was founded five decades ago.
"The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN," he noted.
During the ASEAN meeting, Mattis is slated to have a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan to discuss things "in a trilateral setting."
Mattis also hailed the Philippine military for liberating the southern Marawi city from pro-Islamic State group militants.
"It was a very tough fight as you know in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists," he said.
The U.S. defense secretary embarked on his trip on Saturday to the Philippines. On Thursday, he will lead the U.S. presidential delegation to attend the royal cremation rites of late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok.
Mattis will conclude his tour with a visit to South Korea to co-chair the 49th annual security consultative meeting with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo.
He said he will discuss with Song how to "reinforce the diplomatic efforts ...to return to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula."