Rumsfeld: Global Cooperation Critical, Not Just Desirable
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 3, 2006 More nations are freer than ever before, yet freedom is increasingly under assault from violent extremists and rogue nations, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today told defense ministers of Asian and Pacific nations meeting here this weekend.
"In the present security environment, cooperation among free nations is not simply desirable, it is critical," Rumsfeld said in a speech at the International Institute of Strategic Studies' Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Rumsfeld said this forum is valuable because it allows countries with like interests to meet and discuss transnational issues. "These gatherings are an important reminder of just how far many nations have come, not only in economic and political development, but in achieving a good measure of reconciliation after the conflicts of the past century," he said.
The secretary was critical of groups that are not as inclusive as this one. For example, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asia Summit, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization have formed and met without U.S. participation. Rumsfeld said these groups have the right to include, or exclude, whomever they wish, but he questioned the effectiveness of this exclusivity.
"I think a test ought to be what's going to be the most beneficial to the goals that most free countries have: namely of a peaceful, stable world with (prosperity) and economic opportunities for their people," he said.
Terrorism, weapons proliferation, narcotics and piracy are global problems and will take transnational cooperation to solve. "Our personal preference is for organizations that are inclusive and that, thereby, have a better chance of being successful in addressing some of the critical and, indeed, dangerous problems that face the world," Rumsfeld said.
He noted that 70 to 80 nations are cooperating to win the global war on terrorism and that some 60 nations have joined President Bush's Proliferation Security Initiative.
"Small, exclusive groups tend not to be able to effectively do the job," Rumsfeld said.
He questioned why China and Russia would back Iran's bid for inclusion in the Shanghai Cooperation Initiative, which claims to be dedicated to defeating terrorism. "It strikes me as passing strange that one would want to bring into an organization that says it's against terrorism one of the nations that's a leading terrorist nation in the world -- Iran," Rumsfeld said.
"Here you have Iran that, by everyone's testimony, is the leading terrorist nation in the world. It's supporting Hamas; it's supporting Hezbollah; it has a long record of being engaged in terrorist activities," he continued, "and to think that they should be brought into an organization with the hope that it would contribute to an antiterrorist activity strikes me as unusual."
Rumsfeld also briefly revisited a concern he presented at length in this forum in 2005: a lack of transparency in China's defense budget. "As we discussed last year, a lack of transparency with respect to their military investments understandably causes concerns for some of their neighbors," he said.
He stressed that the United States doesn't begrudge China the right to make its own decisions on prioritizing its spending, but the rest of the world also has a right to know why China is making these decisions. "China would benefit by demystifying to some extent the reasons why they are investing in what they are investing, in my view," Rumsfeld said.
The secretary explained that the United States is also a Pacific nation and will remain fully engaged in the region.
"When you think about it, the transformation of much of the Asia-Pacific region within the span of my life this past half-century -- from war to reconstruction to reconciliation, from poverty to prosperity and growth, from dictatorships to representative political systems -- it's been nothing short of remarkable," he concluded. "And by continuing to work together in constructive ways -- while mindful and respectful of the different perspectives and the different histories and the different interests, the different circumstances of each country -- we can ensure that in the coming decades in this hemisphere it will be freer, more peaceful, and more prosperous for all of our citizens and, indeed, for generations to come."