TOKYO – In his debut abroad as the first retired general to lead the Pentagon in more than half a century, Jim Mattis found that in Japan and South Korea his experience in uniform is seen as an asset.
Not everyone who knows Mattis well in the U.S. shares that view, but he clearly was an instant hit in northeast Asia.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was effusive in his endorsement, and also noted that Mattis's military career included a stint on Okinawa in 1972.
In Seoul, where civilian control of the military has a mixed history, Mattis's counterpart, Han Min Koo, portrayed him as a kindred spirit. Han said they were able to forge a bond in their first meeting because both had been active-duty servicemen for more than 40 years.