Gates to Reinforce U.S. Relations With Australia, Malaysia

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates will leave tomor­row night for a whirl­wind trip to Aus­tralia and Malaysia, where he will rein­force the U.S. com­mit­ment to the region with a long­stand­ing U.S. ally and an increas­ing­ly close part­ner, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell told reporters today.

Gates will join Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and their Aus­tralian hosts, For­eign Min­is­ter Stephen Smith and Defense Min­is­ter John Faulkn­er, in Mel­bourne for the 25th anniver­sary Australian-U.S. min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ings, Mor­rell announced.

The annu­al AUSMIN meet­ings, as they’re known, alter­nate between the Unit­ed States and Aus­tralia. Gates attend­ed his last Aus­tralian ses­sion in Can­ber­ra in 2008.

This year’s talks with cov­er a broad range of for­eign pol­i­cy, defense and strate­gic issues, includ­ing ongo­ing mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Mor­rell said.

He not­ed that Aus­tralia is the largest non-NATO con­trib­u­tor to the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, with more than 1,500 troops serv­ing there, pre­dom­i­nant­ly in Uruz­gan province in Region­al Com­mand South.

The dis­cus­sions also will focus on the U.S.-Australia partnership’s role in Asia’s over­all secu­ri­ty envi­ron­ment, Mor­rell said. The par­tic­i­pants also will address their efforts to help the region con­front its human­i­tar­i­an, devel­op­men­tal and envi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges and to help part­ner nations build capac­i­ty in issues rang­ing from dis­as­ter relief to mar­itime secu­ri­ty.

“This year’s gath­er­ing is an occa­sion to reflect on the strength and resilien­cy of the U.S.-Australian alliance, a bond between two democ­ra­cies of shared … cul­ture, inter­ests and val­ues, while also con­sid­er­ing the path for­ward togeth­er,” Mor­rell said.

The meet­ings, orig­i­nal­ly sched­uled for Jan­u­ary, were post­poned fol­low­ing the Haiti earth­quake so Gates and Clin­ton could remain in Wash­ing­ton to help in man­ag­ing U.S. assis­tance efforts, Mor­rell not­ed.

From Aus­tralia, Gates will trav­el to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to meet with Prime Min­is­ter Dato Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Razak and Defense Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Zahid Hami­di.

Fol­low­ing on Clinton’s ses­sions there this week, Mor­rell said, Gates’ vis­it is “anoth­er sig­nal of our deep­en­ing rela­tion­ship with Malaysia.”

Gates and his Malaysian hosts will focus on strength­en­ing their bilat­er­al mil­i­tary ties and build­ing on the increas­ing num­ber of joint exer­cis­es con­duct­ed over the past six years, he said. They also are expect­ed to dis­cuss Malaysia’s con­tri­bu­tions to glob­al human­i­tar­i­an and peace­keep­ing mis­sions and to explore addi­tion­al areas for future coop­er­a­tion.

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

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