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Pentagon Chief Reaffirms US Commitment to Allies

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis delivers the keynote address during the Air Force Association's Air, Space and Cyber Conference, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, in National Harbor, Maryland, Sept. 20, 2017.

The United States is working to strengthen its international alliances and partnerships, the country’s top defense official said, describing the effort as critical to U.S. military strategy.

“Americans have no God-given right to victory on the battlefield,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a conference just outside of Washington Wednesday, saying no nation can flourish on its own.

“History is compelling on this point, that nations with allies thrive and those without allies decline. It's that simple,” he said.

The comments come a day after President Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly U.S. foreign policy was returning to the “founding principle of sovereignty.”

“I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first,” Trump said.

Trump also irked some U.S. allies and partners with talk on possibly needing to “totally destroy” North Korea due to its nuclear and missile tests, and with talk of potentially pulling out of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Mattis, in his speech at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference, struck a different tone.

"We must be willing to do more than to listen to our allies,” the U.S. defense secretary said. “We must be willing to be persuaded by them."

"Not all the good ideas come from the nation with the most aircraft carriers," he added.

Mattis also emphasized the need for effective diplomacy, especially in confronting North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.

“It is still a diplomatically-led effort,” he said when asked about North Korea. "But we must also recognize the somber reality that military options must be available to protect our allies and ourselves."