Gates: U.S. Seeks Stronger Security Relationships in Asia

MELBOURNE, Aus­tralia, Nov. 6, 2010 — Arriv­ing here this morn­ing for a sum­mit aimed at strength­en­ing the U.S.-Australia alliance, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates called it part of a broad­er, inclu­sive U.S. effort to strength­en secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ships through­out the region.

Gates, speak­ing with reporters dur­ing the 20-hour flight here, cit­ed a “pret­ty ambi­tious agen­da” for tomorrow’s Australian-U.S. Min­is­te­r­i­al meet­ings. Gates, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair­man Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will meet with Aus­tralian For­eign Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd and Defense Min­is­ter Stephen Smith for talks cov­er­ing a broad range of for­eign pol­i­cy, defense and strate­gic issues.

With dis­cus­sions hit­ting tra­di­tion­al secu­ri­ty issues as well as mis­sile defense and space sur­veil­lance, Gates cit­ed a “very old alliance” that is demon­strat­ing its abil­i­ty to expand to cov­er new areas of inter­est or con­cern.

Those talks will explore new areas in which the two coun­tries can work togeth­er “in a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial way,” with pos­si­ble new activ­i­ties in Aus­tralia, he said.

Not­ing that the Defense Depart­ment is work­ing on a glob­al pos­ture review, Gates said the Unit­ed States is “look­ing at ways to strength­en and per­haps make more robust our pres­ence in Asia.”

He empha­sized, how­ev­er, that the Unit­ed States has no inter­est in cre­at­ing new mil­i­tary bases in Aus­tralia or any­where else in Asia. Rather, he said, the focus will be on “how do we enhance the rela­tion­ships we already have?”

Gates called the ini­tia­tives part of U.S. efforts to engage more with Asia and the Pacif­ic region. He cit­ed enhanced naval, coun­tert­er­ror­ism and counter-pira­cy coop­er­a­tion with numer­ous coun­tries in the region, par­tic­u­lar­ly dur­ing the past 18 months. That includes Clinton’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Asso­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Nations Region­al Forum in Thai­land in July and the East Asia Sum­mit in Hanoi, Viet­nam, last month, as well as Gates’ atten­dance at a defense min­is­ters’ meet­ing in Hanoi last month.

“This isn’t about Chi­na at all,” he said of the activ­i­ties. In fact, he cit­ed areas that the Unit­ed States and Chi­na share an inter­est, such as human­i­tar­i­an and dis­as­ter relief assis­tance.

“This is more about a con­tin­u­ing U.S. pres­ence and build­ing these rela­tion­ships” in the region, he said.

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

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