Gates Emphasizes Value of Expanded Regional Dialogue

HANOI, Viet­nam, Oct. 12, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates today praised the Asso­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Nations for invit­ing eight defense min­is­ters from out­side its 10-nation mem­ber­ship to join their ASEAN coun­ter­parts here to dis­cuss region­al secu­ri­ty issues togeth­er for the first time.

In his remarks at the con­fer­ence, Gates thanked the orga­ni­za­tion for pro­vid­ing a “broad­er Asian forum to allow region­al defense offi­cials to dis­cuss issues of com­mon inter­est.”

“As I have said before, the Unit­ed States is a Pacif­ic nation and a res­i­dent pow­er in Asia,” he said. “We have been for many years and will con­tin­ue to be in the future. Because both our his­to­ry and our future are inter­twined with yours, we believe it is essen­tial to be able to work on com­mon secu­ri­ty chal­lenges togeth­er.”

The sec­re­tary not­ed that nations in the region have made con­sid­er­able progress in over­com­ing past ani­mosi­ties and estab­lish­ing new part­ner­ships, and he urged his coun­ter­parts to work toward tak­ing those rela­tion­ships a step fur­ther.

“What is now essen­tial is that these bilat­er­al rela­tion­ships be sup­ple­ment­ed by strong mul­ti­lat­er­al insti­tu­tions,” he said. “These insti­tu­tions enable us to build reg­u­lar habits of coop­er­a­tion to address shared inter­ests, while allow­ing for can­did dis­cus­sions about those areas where we may dis­agree.”

Reg­u­lar dia­logue and coop­er­a­tion among nations are the build­ing blocks for the trust and con­fi­dence nec­es­sary for enhanc­ing secu­ri­ty, Gates said.

“To do so, we must estab­lish both shared ‘rules of the road’ and pur­sue greater trans­paren­cy – mean­ing that as we improve our mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties, we must dis­cuss these devel­op­ments togeth­er,” he added. “This pro­vides assur­ance that our capa­bil­i­ties are not direct­ed against oth­ers in the region and that they will be used for com­mon ends.”

The first step, Gates said, is reaf­firm­ing com­mit­ment to four prin­ci­ples:

— Free and open com­merce;

— A just inter­na­tion­al order that empha­sizes the rights and respon­si­bil­i­ties of nations and fideli­ty to the rule of law;

— Open access by all to the glob­al com­mons of sea, air, space and cyber­space;

— The prin­ci­ple of resolv­ing con­flict with­out using force.

“Agree­ment on these fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples is impor­tant now more than ever,” Gates said. “Asia faces a wide and grow­ing range of chal­lenges in the 21st cen­tu­ry.”

Among those chal­lenges, the sec­re­tary said, are extrem­ist vio­lence, cli­mate change and pan­dem­ic dis­ease, com­pe­ti­tion over scarce resources, unsolved bor­der dis­putes, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of weapons of mass destruc­tion and their means of deliv­ery, and con­tin­u­ing provo­ca­tions by North Korea. The coop­er­a­tion of all nations present at today’s forum is essen­tial to these issues being addressed suc­cess­ful­ly, he added.

ASEAN mem­ber nations are Brunei Darus­salam, Cam­bo­dia, Indone­sia, Laos, Malaysia, Myan­mar, the Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore, Thai­land and Viet­nam. In addi­tion to Gates, defense min­is­ters from Aus­tralia, Chi­na, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Rus­sia are here for the meet­ing.

Viet­namese Defense Min­is­ter Lt. Gen. Phung Quang Thanh invit­ed Gates to the ASEAN meet­ing in June while both were attend­ing the annu­al “Shangri-La Dia­logue” region­al secu­ri­ty con­fer­ence in Sin­ga­pore. Yes­ter­day, Gates told reporters who trav­eled here with him that he saw the val­ue of the forum imme­di­ate­ly.

“I was the first of the eight [non­mem­ber] min­is­ters to accept com­ing to this meet­ing,” he said. “I said yes as soon as Gen­er­al Thanh asked me.” The sec­re­tary said all of the nations rep­re­sent­ed at the meet­ing have com­mon con­cerns and com­mon inter­ests, and the forum pro­vides them with an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss how to pull togeth­er to meet the chal­lenges they face.

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

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