NATO Secretary General Details Asia Trip, Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 19, 2013 NATO’s partnerships with Japan and South Korea are key to facing security challenges and ensuring stability in the region, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said today in Brussels.
In a news conference at NATO headquarters, Rasmussen discussed his recent trip to Asia and the agenda at the alliance’s upcoming foreign ministers meeting.
“This was the first-ever trip by a NATO secretary general to the Republic of Korea,” he said. “I met with President Park [Geun-hye], ministers and members of parliament. I also visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone, where I was briefed on the current state of affairs by the United Nations Command.”
The secretary general also noted another first during his visit to Japan.
“I signed the first NATO-Japan joint political declaration with Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe, a declaration which will chart the future course of our partnership,” he said. “I also met members of the government and parliament.”
Although they all are separated by geography, Rasmussen noted, Japan and South Korea are important partners for NATO.
“We share fundamental values, such as individual liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law,” he said. “We share the need to face common security challenges that go well beyond borders. And we share the determination to play an active role in promoting that security and stability.”
With the growing tensions surrounding the statements and actions of North Korea, the NATO secretary general said it is “understandably” a major concern for Japan and South Korea.
“I recalled NATO’s strong condemnation of North Korea’s missile launches and nuclear tests, which pose a serious threat to regional and international peace, security and stability,” he said. “I urged North Korea to refrain from any further provocations and to fulfill its international obligations to fully implement all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.”
Rasmussen said he also commended all efforts to seek peaceful solutions through dialogue, and stressed that NATO’s global perspective does not mean “we seek a presence in the Asia-Pacific region.”
What it does mean, he said, is that the alliance seeks to engage with the Asia-Pacific region and already is doing valuable work with its partners in the region, noting efforts by South Korea and Japan alongside the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
“In Afghanistan, hundreds of troops from the Republic of Korea serve alongside their partners in ISAF in the east of the country,” Rasmussen noted. “Japan has given great support to the Afghan forces, and has led the way in key areas such as literacy and education.
“And we are also working together to counter the threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden,” he continued. “I thanked the leaders of both countries for all they are doing.”
Rasmussen said all three looked at what more they can do in the future in the areas of counterterrorism, counterpiracy, nonproliferation, disaster relief and cyber defense. “All these are challenges which reach across borders, and we can deal with them much more effectively if we do it together,” he added.
The secretary general also talked about the foreign ministers meeting set to take place April 23 at NATO headquarters, where representatives from 22 non-NATO countries will join the alliance’s top diplomats to discuss contributions to ISAF.
“Later this year, we will reach a significant milestone, as Afghan forces take the lead for security across the country,” he said. “At the same time, ISAF’s main effort will shift from combat to support. The milestone will mark the progress we have made. By the end of 2014, Afghan forces will be fully responsible for security in their country.” But NATO’s commitment to support them will continue to the end of 2014 and beyond, he added.
The NATO secretary general said he expects a full agenda at the foreign ministers meeting.
“At this meeting, I also expect we will reach agreement on the means to ensure transparency and accountability in the way our future financing for the Afghan security forces is managed,” he said. “This will be a significant step in sustaining the strength of the Afghan forces, as well as the public support in donor countries for this vital effort.”