Gates, Counterparts Discuss Growing Relationships
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, June 4, 2010 The importance of furthering military-to-military relationships was a common theme in five meetings Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates had here today with U.S. partners as part of the annual Asia security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. Video
In addition, Gates told reporters after the meeting, he sought help from all five countries in the training effort for Afghanistan’s security forces.
The secretary’s first bilateral meeting of the day was with Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro.
“I commended their defense reforms in recent years,” Gates said, “and the way those reforms have enabled broadening of defense cooperation and engagement.”
In addition, Gates cited the symbolic importance that would result from the world’s largest Islamic democracy pitching in with the Afghanistan training effort. The two defense leaders also discussed the modernization of the Indonesian military, Gates added.
After his meeting with New Zealand Defense Minister Wayne Mapp, Gates said the two men discussed completion of the New Zealand Policy Review, which “now opens the way for broadening cooperation for the first time in roughly a quarter of a century between New Zealand and the United States.” Nuclear-powered ships and nuclear weapons have been barred by law from using New Zealand’s waters, ports, land and airspace since 1987.
The secretary pointed out that his meeting today with Shiv Shankar Menon, India’s national security advisor, took place at almost exactly the same time that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was meeting with India’s external affairs minister.
“In a way,” Gates said, “it’s symbolic of the global connection, if you will, between the United States and India, and the tremendous improvement in relations and opportunities for cooperation.”
Gates added that he and Menon also discussed defense trade and foundational agreements that are important to further progress. India is contemplating bids for its next medium, multi-role fighter aircraft, Gates added, so he took the opportunity to praise the U.S.-made F-16 and F/A-18 as “high-quality competitors.” The need for export controls on both sides of the U.S.-India relationship was another topic in their meeting, the secretary said.
Gates also said he received an invitation from Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh to attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers meeting in Hanoi in October. They also discussed the U.S.-Vietnamese defense policy dialogue coming up in August, the secretary said, and he thanked Thanh for Vietnam’s proposals to accelerate the pace of work on identifying U.S. servicemembers still listed as missing in action there by opening 13 new areas for U.S. searchers.
Gates and Thanh also talked about opportunities for increasing bilateral U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation, the secretary added.
In his final bilateral meeting of the day, with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae Young, Gates said he expressed his condolences to the families of the 46 sailors lost when North Korea sank the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan on March 26, as well as admiration for the way South Korean government has responded to “this serious provocation.”
In addition, Gates said, he reaffirmed full U.S. support going forward. “I did say that I thought that we should ensure that our coordinated response should accomplish two objectives,” he said. “The first was to reassure the public in the Republic of Korea that our alliance will effectively ensure their security; and second, that our coordinated response enables our initiatives to enhance our capabilities to deter and, if necessary, respond to any further provocation.”
Gates will deliver the keynote address in the Shangri-La Dialogue’s first plenary session tomorrow morning.