Asien — Asia Summit to Kick-Off Five-Nation Gates Trip

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today embarked on a five-nation trip that will begin with his par­tic­i­pa­tion in a major Asian secu­ri­ty con­fer­ence in Sin­ga­pore.

In addi­tion to Sin­ga­pore, the sec­re­tary will trav­el to Azer­bai­jan, Eng­land, Bel­gium and Ger­many.

The Inter­na­tion­al Insti­tute for Strate­gic Stud­ies Asia Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit – known as the “Shangri-La Dia­logue” for the Sin­ga­pore hotel where it’s held — is the ninth annu­al con­fer­ence since its 2002 incep­tion. A senior defense offi­cial speak­ing on back­ground called it “the pre-emi­nent secu­ri­ty con­fer­ence in Asia.”

“The sec­re­tary and a lot of his coun­ter­parts are able to gath­er and talk freely about a range of issues and intro­duce a range of secu­ri­ty issues for the Asia-Pacif­ic region,” the offi­cial said, “but [he] also will have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to have bilat­er­al dis­cus­sions with many of his coun­ter­parts.”

Gates will artic­u­late cer­tain U.S. strate­gic inter­ests — both pub­licly and pri­vate­ly — in Asia, the offi­cial added, includ­ing through a speech he’ll deliv­er June 4.

“Giv­en where we are in the defense cycle,” the offi­cial said, “[this] allows the sec­re­tary to talk for the first time about the impli­ca­tions of the reviews that have hap­pened, espe­cial­ly the Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review, and the impli­ca­tions for our secu­ri­ty pos­ture and pres­ence and poli­cies in Asia.”

The sec­re­tary will empha­size the impor­tance the Unit­ed States places on its role in Asia, the offi­cial said, as well as the need for mutu­al respon­si­bil­i­ty for all coun­tries in the region.

Gates also will thank nations that have been con­tribut­ing to efforts in Pak­istan and Afghanistan, the offi­cial said.

A June 4 bilat­er­al meet­ing with Indone­sian Defense Min­is­ter Purnomo Yus­giantoro will be the first between the two men, and the senior defense offi­cial said it’s hoped their talk will be a pre­cur­sor to high­er-lev­el U.S.-Indonesia vis­its. Gates is expect­ed to dis­cuss defense coop­er­a­tion and how the Unit­ed States can help to bring Indone­sia to a lead­er­ship posi­tion in South­east Asia on a range of issues, includ­ing mar­itime secu­ri­ty and inter­na­tion­al peace­keep­ing.

Gates also will meet briefly with New Zealand’s defense min­is­ter, Wayne Daniel.

“This will be the first time that they will have met since we did a re-eval­u­a­tion of our approach toward defense coop­er­a­tion with New Zealand, which allowed for some broad­er lev­el of defense engage­ment, … albeit still not a return to the alliance that we used to have with New Zealand before they imple­ment­ed anti-nuclear leg­is­la­tion,” the offi­cial said. “But it will be a good chance for the sec­re­tary and the min­is­ter to dis­cuss how to move for­ward with this new pol­i­cy and where we can explore coop­er­a­tion.”

New Zealand’s role in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province is one such top­ic, the offi­cial said. “They’re look­ing at refin­ing their con­tri­bu­tion based on the sit­u­a­tion on the ground and our pol­i­cy,” the offi­cial said. “Since Bamiyan is arguably one of the safer provinces, [we’re] look­ing at how we can adjust that so that it can be turned over to Afghan secu­ri­ty forces when appro­pri­ate.”

Gates also will have a bilat­er­al meet­ing with Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor. The sec­re­tary vis­it­ed India ear­ly this year, the senior offi­cial not­ed, and this meet­ing will be a chance to press for­ward with the U.S. defense engage­ment with India. The meet­ing between Gates and Menon will take place just after a strate­gic dia­logue here between Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Indi­an For­eign Min­is­ter Somana­hal­li Mal­la­iah Krish­na in Wash­ing­ton, the senior defense offi­cial not­ed.

Anoth­er bilat­er­al meet­ing is sched­uled between Gates and his Viet­namese coun­ter­part, Lt. Gen. Phung Quang Thanh Sr. “The engage­ment with Viet­nam is a real focus that we’re try­ing to build,” the offi­cial said. “It’s going at its own mea­sured pace.” Gates and Thanh have met in Wash­ing­ton and at last year’s Shangri-La Dia­logue, he not­ed, and the meet­ing this week will seek to con­tin­ue that momen­tum and to “see where this can go and where we can real­ly both ben­e­fit togeth­er as Viet­nam is becom­ing an even larg­er play­er in the region.” With Vietnam’s emer­gence as a lead­ing pro­po­nent for mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism in the region, the offi­cial added, it’s expect­ed that Gates and Thanh will dis­cuss Asian secu­ri­ty issues at large as well as bilat­er­al mat­ters.

Anoth­er senior defense offi­cial brief­ing reporters on back­ground said a bilat­er­al meet­ing in Sin­ga­pore with South Kore­an Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young will give Gates and Kim an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss the appar­ent North Kore­an sink­ing of the South Kore­an frigate Cheo­nan on March 26, which killed 46 sailors.

“The sec­re­tary will con­vey to the min­is­ter our full sup­port for the way in which the Kore­an gov­ern­ment has been han­dling the cri­sis, that our com­mit­ment to the defense of Korea is and remains unequiv­o­cal, and that we’re com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing to work with Korea and our oth­er allies and part­ners in the region to try to lessen the threat that North Korea pos­es to region­al sta­bil­i­ty,” the offi­cial said.

On June 5, Gates will meet briefly with Mon­go­lian Defense Min­is­ter Luvsan­van­dan Bold, in part to thank him for Mongolia’s con­tri­bu­tions as “res­olute and good part­ners in Afghanistan,” the offi­cial said. Lat­er, he’ll meet with Sin­ga­pore­an Defense Min­is­ter and Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Teo Chee Hean. Gates always appre­ci­ates get­ting Singapore’s views on what’s going on in the region and shar­ing the U.S. per­spec­tive, the offi­cial said.

“In addi­tion to being a good region­al play­er, [Sin­ga­pore also is] a con­trib­u­tor to Afghanistan,” the offi­cial said. “So that’s some­thing they’ll talk about as well.”

Gates also will par­tic­i­pate in a tri­lat­er­al meet­ing with his South Kore­an and Japan­ese coun­ter­parts, a prac­tice that began at last year’s Shangri-La Dia­logue.

On June 6, Gates will fly to Baku, Azer­bai­jan, where he’ll meet with Pres­i­dent Ilham Aliyev, and the next day, he’ll meet with Defense Min­is­ter Col. Gen. Safar Abiyev. About a quar­ter of the sup­plies bound for U.S. forces in Afghanistan pass through Azer­bai­jan.

“The sec­re­tary has not real­ly had a chance to engage with them,” Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said, “and this is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for him to express our appre­ci­a­tion, and also to fig­ure out how we can work bet­ter togeth­er to main­tain the lev­el of sup­port that is now flow­ing through Azer­bai­jan.”

After meet­ing with his coun­ter­part in Azer­bai­jan, Gates will trav­el to Lon­don, where he’ll meet with lead­ers of Britain’s new gov­ern­ment. The sec­re­tary will meet with Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron on June 7 and with Defense Min­is­ter Liam Fox and For­eign Sec­re­tary William Hague the next day.

On June 9, Gates will trav­el to Brus­sels, Bel­gium, for a meet­ing of NATO defense min­is­ters. When the NATO meet­ings con­clude June 11, the sec­re­tary will fly to Ger­many, where he’ll vis­it wound­ed war­riors at Land­stuhl Region­al Med­ical Cen­ter and speak at the Kaiser­slautern High School grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mo­ny before head­ing back to Wash­ing­ton.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)