Gates, Asian Defense Leaders to Focus on Regional Security
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, June 1, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here this evening to meet with defense leaders from 25 nations participating in the sixth annual International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, right, walks with Singapore's Minister of Defense Teo Chee Hean, left, upon being greeted on his arrival in Singapore, June 1, 2007. Gates is in Singapore to attend the 6th International Institute for Strategic Studies conference, known as the Shangri-La dialogue. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed participants tonight to the three-day conference, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue after the hotel where it’s held.
Joining Gates at his first Shangri-La Dialogue are Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
“One of the central messages for our participation in the conference is that while we are fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a global war on terror, we have no intention of neglecting Asia,” Gates told reporters during a stop at the Pacific Command headquarters, in Hawaii, while en route here. “We have been … a Pacific power for a very long time, and we intend to continue to be one.”
This statement speaks to concerns expressed by some in the region that the United States has lost focus of Asia’s importance, particularly as demands in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased during the last 18 months, a senior defense official told reporters on background.
“Suggestions that we have allowed our current distractions in Iraq and Afghanistan to in some way lessen our commitment to Asia and reduce the level of activity here are without foundation,” he said.
In his keynote address tomorrow, Gates plans to address some of the sweeping activities and initiatives under way that demonstrate U.S. commitment to the region, the secretary told reporters. The scope of these efforts “makes quite clear that we remain deeply … (and) actively engaged,” he said.
Gates cited the important partnerships, friendship and allies the United States maintains in the region and the breadth of Pacific Command’s operations here.
“Pacific Command is certainly involved in the war on terror, but the range of activities (it) has under way completely independent of the war on terror with our friends in the region is just extraordinary,” Gates said.
In his address tomorrow, Gates is expected to emphasize the stake all Asian countries have in the struggle for freedom in Central Asia and to express appreciation to those who have stepped up to the plate to provide support in the war on terrorism.
Gates noted today that the United States’ Asian partners “play a critical role in the war on terror.” Australia, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Fiji, Mongolia, Tonga and New Zealand are making or have made significant contributions to the efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Some of the Asian countries have been victims in the war on terror and are strong allies in pursuing al Qaeda and other terrorist groups associated with al Qaeda,” the secretary said.