Hagel Discusses Asia-Pacific Issues with Counterparts
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, June 1, 2013 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met separately here with a number of his counterparts from the Asia-Pacific region while attending the annual Shangri-La Dialogue.
During yesterday’s opening dinner, Hagel spoke with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and discussed the importance of strong military ties between the two nations, according to Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, who is traveling with Hagel.
Little said the two learned over the course of the conversation that they served in combat on different sides in the Mekong Delta in 1968. Both were wounded in fighting. The prime minister invited Hagel to return to Vietnam, Little said, and the secretary looks forward to a future visit.
Today, Hagel held separate meetings with Korea Minister of Defense Kim Kawn-jin and the Philippines Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, Little said.
“Secretary Hagel and Minister Kim discussed the security situation on the Korean peninsula, the advancement of the U.S.-ROK Alliance and the importance of trilateral security cooperation with Japan,” Little said.
The two discussed the North Korean threat and agreed that enhanced collaboration to deter further provocations was necessary, Little said. He added they also discussed the need to upgrade alliance capabilities in the coming years.
“The two defense leaders agreed that the U.S.-ROK Alliance is one of the most successful in modern history, and that it must be further strengthened in light of the North Korean threat and other regional and global security challenges,” Little said.
During Hagel’s meeting with Gazmin, the secretary emphasized the importance of the Philippines as a treaty ally and the United States’ commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty, Little said. Hagel also stressed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation in the region, he added.
“The leaders also discussed deepening bilateral defense cooperation including work towards increasing rotational presence of U.S. forces in Philippines to address common challenges,” Little said.
That presence would augment an already robust U.S. force operating in and out of the Philippines, a senior defense official traveling with the secretary said. The increased rotational presence would consist primarily of air and naval assets, the official said, with some ground force involvement in training exercises with the Philippines’ forces.
Officials from both countries will be working on the proposal over the coming months, the official said, and “We hope to have progress by the end of the year.”
Hagel also participated in a trilateral meeting with Kim and Japanese Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera, which a senior defense official with Hagel’s delegation here characterized as “very, very positive.”
In a joint statement following the meeting, the three ministers expressed the common view that North Korea’s nuclear and missile program and continued acts of provocation, including a long-range ballistic missile launch in December 2012 and a nuclear test in February are serious threats that undermine peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the region and around the world.
In the statement, the three ministers strongly called for North Korea to comply with its U.N. Security Council-imposed obligations to abandon all nuclear weapons and programs. They also supported the council’s expressed determination to take further significant measures in the event of an additional North Korean missile launch or nuclear test.
The three ministers affirmed in their joint statement that they will continue their collaboration to deter North Korean threats of nuclear and missile development and further provocative acts.
They also reaffirmed the importance of trilateral cooperation, based on common values and shared security interests, and their nations' cooperative efforts to contribute to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe.
The statement also expressed the three ministers’ agreement to expand mutual efforts in counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden, in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation, in search and rescue exercises and in counter-proliferation efforts.
Hagel also met in a trilateral forum with Onodera and Australian Minister for Defense Stephen Smith. In a joint statement following the meeting, the three outlined strategic goals for trilateral cooperation:
-- Build a community of interest in the region that promotes peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law and that establishes defense cooperation as a regional norm.
-- Strengthen capacity to respond to regional challenges, including regional disasters, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, through increased practical cooperation.
-- Promote freedom of navigation and maritime security in the region's sea lanes, and other international rights.
-- Improve regional defense capacities to support long term regional peace and stability.
-- As a stabilizing regional presence, build confidence and encourage transparency within the region.
The three ministers pledged in their statement to continue progress on the action plan they agreed on here last year to promote a dynamic, flexible trilateral defense relationship to enhance the security and prosperity of the region.
Hagel will also meet with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and later travel to Brussels for meetings with NATO defense ministers.