PENTAGON - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is not afraid to mince words and had quite the greeting for President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser Thursday.
After shaking hands with John Bolton and escorting him up the steps to the Pentagon, Mattis wasted no time unleashing a one-liner.
“I heard you’re actually the devil incarnate and I wanted to meet you,” Mattis told Bolton, who laughed, as they walked through the Pentagon’s doors.
The highly anticipated meeting is the first between two men.On Tuesday, Mattis told Pentagon reporters he had never met Bolton before, but that he did not anticipate any difficulties in forging a working relationship.
“No reservations, no concerns at all,” Mattis said at the time. “It's going to be a partnership. We're going to go forward.”
Bolton, who was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from 2001-2005, is regarded as a hard-liner and interventionist on matters of foreign policy and defense. The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002 and has called for military action against Iran and North Korea.
There have been questions about whether Mattis and Bolton would be able to work together effectively given Bolton’s reputation as a hawk on defense issues, while Mattis has repeatedly stressed a need to lead with diplomacy.
“I hope that there's some different worldviews,” Mattis told reporters earlier this week. “That's the normal thing you want, unless you want groupthink.”
Earlier Thursday, Mattis hosted U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Pompeo has been nominated to replace ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White described the earlier meeting as routine, and an opportunity for Mattis to review the Pentagon’s priorities with other administration officials and members of Congress.
Thursday’s meetings come as reports emerge that the U.S. defense secretary could visit China in the next several months.
“Defense departments in both countries are currently coordinating on this," Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said Thursday, when asked about the possibility.
Pentagon officials would not comment on the reports.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.