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Rumsfeld to Speak at Asian-Pacific Defense Ministers Conference

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 2, 2006 – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld arrived here this evening to meet with regional allies and participate in the fifth annual Asia Security Summit arranged by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Rumsfeld will deliver a speech tomorrow on Asia's emerging security architecture to high-ranking representatives of more than 20 nations in attendance at the conference, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Rumsfeld and his aides stressed that the United States is firmly committed to helping countries in this region in any way possible.

"This administration came into office with the view that Asia was becoming strategically more important than ever with the end of the Cold War, and we have never forgotten that," a senior defense official traveling with Rumsfeld said on background.

The secretary views this conference as a valuable opportunity to meet with his counterparts in Asian and Pacific countries. "The secretary's visit here demonstrates our commitment to Asia and to the friends and allies that we have in this region," DoD spokesman Eric Ruff said on the plane en route here.

Though the U. S. military is heavily engaged in the Middle East, U.S. officials haven't neglected their commitment to building relationships in Asia. The disastrous tsunami in the region in December 2004 and a massive earthquake in May in Indonesia provided the United States the opportunity to demonstrate its goodwill and commitment to the people of this region, the official said.

"While we're busy in the Middle East, we have not forgotten there are other strategically important things going on, particularly here (in Asia)," he said.

In a short news briefing after he landed, Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him that he appreciated the inclusiveness of this conference. "The United States is very much a Pacific nation," he said. Officials explained that some multilateral forums in this region have recently made moves to exclude U.S. participation.

While he is here, Rumsfeld will meet individually with several other defense ministers. He called the opportunity to schedule these meetings in one place "an enormous convenience."

After he leaves Singapore, Rumsfeld will visit Vietnam and Indonesia before heading to Brussels, Belgium, for a meeting of defense ministers of NATO countries.

Rumsfeld will discuss a growing military-to-military program with both Vietnamese leaders and Indonesian leaders on his visits to those countries.

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