Asian Leaders Welcome U.S. Rebalance, Official Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 5, 2013 As leaders across Asia welcomed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel during his recent trip there, they also welcomed the U.S. rebalance to Asia, the acting assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs told reporters here today.
In a meeting with reporters to discuss the trip, Peter R. Lavoy noted that the secretary visited Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines during his nine-day trip. He also participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers conference in Brunei. Joining the ASEAN ministers for a “plus” session were defense ministers from China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
“Each of his interlocutors was extremely positive about the rebalance,” Lavoy said.
All of the nations appreciated the fact that the rebalance is a whole-of-government approach to the Asia-Pacific region that is not limited to the military sphere, Lavoy said, but focuses on trade, investment, diplomacy, political engagement and defense. “It’s important that we have balance within the rebalance as well,” he added.
Asian leaders also showed satisfaction in the way the United States is resourcing and operating the rebalance, Lavoy said.
President Barack Obama, Hagel and Secretary of State John F. Kerry all have spent significant time in the region. Hagel is returning to Asia next month, as is the president.
Hagel’s trip also demonstrated U.S. global reach to the defense ministers, Lavoy said. As the secretary was in Asia, the Syria situation was heating up, he noted. The secretary held a full schedule of activities during the day with Asian leaders and also spent the nights dealing with interagency partners on Syria.
“He was doing Syria by night and Asia by day,” Lavoy said. “It really impressed upon his interlocutors that the U.S. really brings incredible capacity wherever it goes. We’re able to walk and chew gum at the same time.”
In Malaysia, the secretary discussed the deepening defense relationship, including possible sales of F-18s to the nation. They also discussed competing claims over the South China Sea. Malaysia is leading an effort to create a code of conduct for the region that would include China. Lavoy said the United States strongly supports the effort.
In Indonesia, the secretary discussed the close military-to-military relationship between the two nations. The United States is selling AH-64 Apache helicopters to Indonesia, and one example of the closeness of the relationship is the creation of an alumni association for Indonesian and U.S. military personnel who attended each country’s military schools, Lavoy told reporters. This includes the president, who graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
In the Philippines, Lavoy said, Hagel discussed progress in the framework agreement to provide U.S. forces the opportunity to operate on a rotational basis on Philippine territory. This, he explained, will allow U.S. and Philippine forces to train together.
“There have been two rounds of negotiations on the framework agreement, and we have two more rounds,” he said. “Our expectation … is we would try to get this done in the next few weeks.”