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U.S. 'Committed' to East Asian Peace, Prosperity

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, May 30, 2003 – The United States remains "committed" to peace and prosperity across East Asia, a senior U.S. defense official noted May 29.

The official spoke with reporters en route here, traveling aboard an Air Force KC-10 aircraft with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz at the start of a trip to Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Singapore is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.

Wolfowitz is slated to address the second annual Asian Security Conference May 31, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies here, the senior official said.

East Asia, including India, "is going to be the most significant source of world economic growth over the next 50 years," the senior defense official pointed out.

"The United States understands how important East Asia is," the senior defense official emphasized, adding, "The future security and stability of East Asia is critical to our national security."

Therefore, the United States has an important role to play in ensuring a peaceful, stable, prosperous East Asia, the senior defense official said.

"And we are committed to playing it," he asserted.

For the most part East Asia is a part of the world "where people are pretty good at solving problems," the senior defense official observed. He noted that Wolfowitz had also attended last year's Asian Security Conference in Singapore.

And, the official continued, venues like that conference, attended by senior-level defense and other officials from 20 nations, is a good place to discuss East Asian regional issues.

The deputy defense secretary is also scheduled to travel to South Korea, arriving June 1, the senior defense official said. In consultations with South Korean officials, the United States is "looking at ways," he remarked, to realign its military force posture in South Korea. Currently, about 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea.

However, the official emphasized, any U.S. military restructuring in South Korea would be made "to make those forces more effective and to strengthen the deterrent" against any possible military moves by North Korea. Wolfowitz is also slated to meet with U.S. troops while in South Korea, the official noted.

North Korea is "going up a blind alley" regarding its purported development of nuclear weapons, the senior defense official noted. The United States, Japan, South Korea, China and Russia, he emphasized, all strongly oppose nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

Also, Wolfowitz is slated to meet with the Japanese defense minister and other officials June 3 in Tokyo, the senior defense official noted.

The U.S.-Japan alliance, according to the U.S. State Department, remains a key component of U.S. security interests in Asia. And Japan is also a valued U.S. partner in the war against global terrorism.

Singapore, a former British crown colony, has been an independent nation since 1965. An island city-state of just over 4 million people, Singapore is located between Malaysia to the north and Indonesia to the south.

Singaporeans "have made a huge contribution" to security efforts in the East Asia region, the senior defense official said, by allowing the U.S. Navy to access some of their naval facilities.

Wolfowitz is scheduled to return to Washington on June 3.

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