Bilateral Meetings Mark ‚Full Day‘ for Gates in Hanoi

HANOI, Vietnam, Oct. 11, 2010 – In what he described as „a very full day,“ Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met here today with Vietnamese leaders and some of his counterparts who have come to the Vietnamese capital for tomorrow’s inaugural meeting of defense ministers from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and eight other countries with a stake in the region.

Gates spoke with reporters who traveled here with him to summarize the day’s activities.

A highlight, he said, was an invitation from Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie during their bilateral meeting for Gates to visit Beijing, signaling an apparent end to the Chinese suspension of its military-to-military relationship with the United States. Gates told reporters he accepted the invitation, though details of the timing remain to be worked out.

Separate meetings with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Lt. Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, the country’s defense minister, Gates said, covered a full range of issues pertaining to the two countries‘ bilateral military ties, including ways to expand the relationship.

Defense security dialogue, maritime security, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and search and rescue capabilities were among the areas discussed for possible expansion of the U.S.-Vietnamese military relationship, the secretary said.

„And then we talked about some additional areas, such as a formal relationship between the [U.S.] National Defense University and its Vietnamese counterpart, more exchanges in professional military education and so on,“ he added.

In his meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, Gates said, the two leaders discussed areas of mutual interest in the plan for more than 8,000 U.S. Marines to move to Guam from the Japanese island of Okinawa by 2014, and for Marine Corps Air Station Futenma on Okinawa to move to another location on the Japanese island.

„I talked about the intricate connection between Futenma and Guam and how they need to remain linked and need to move forward,“ Gates said. The Japanese government already has provided almost $800 million for construction on Guam, he noted.

In the final bilateral meeting of the day, Gates and Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin discussed ways to expand military cooperation between the United States and the Philippines, as well as regional security issues.

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

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