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Gates: U.S. Continues to Build, Strengthen Asian Relationships

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2007 – The United States hasn’t let Asia slip from its radar screen in light of operational demands in Iraq, Afghanistan and other hot spots, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates assured Asian defense and military leaders here today.

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on June 2. Gates is in Singapore to attend the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

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“In fact, far from neglecting Asia, the United States is more engaged than ever before,” Gates told representatives of 25 countries participating in the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Gates said the U.S. is building on its long history of engagement with Asia to strengthen existing relationships in the region and build new ones to confront current challenges, including terrorism.

The secretary cited the United States’ historical roots as a Pacific nation committed to stability and peace in the region and the price it has paid over the past century in both lives and treasure to live up to that commitment.

“We are an Asian power with significant and long-term political, economic and security interests,” he told the audience. “Our commitments elsewhere notwithstanding, we will fulfill our commitments in Asia.”

The United States has been “extraordinarily busy” reshaping and strengthening its security ties in the region in recent years, he said. As part of that process, it has formed new bilateral relationships and renewed and modernized others.

Gates cited the U.S. relationships with South Korea and Japan as examples. As South Korea is assumes more responsibility for its own defense, the United States is reducing its military footprint there. Similarly, the United States is realigning and repositioning its forces in Japan while cooperating in new areas, such as missile defense.

These moves shouldn’t be viewed as a U.S. retreat from the region, he said, but rather as an effort to create stronger, more balanced security partnerships. “In carefully calibrating and refining each of these important relationships, we are guided by one overarching principle: to make each relationship more relevant, more resilient, more responsive and more enduring,” he said.

Gates pointed to improved U.S. relationships elsewhere in the region, including expanded ties with India and Mongolia and the reestablishment of military-to-military relationships with India and Pakistan that were cut off in the late 1990s.

Meanwhile, he said, the U.S. also has been active in key regional initiatives focused on counterterrorism, non-proliferation, missile defense, maritime security, and crisis response.

U.S.-Asian relationships and the security benefits they yield offer a blueprint for the cooperation needed to confront violent extremism and other emerging threats, he said.

No single country, however wealthy or powerful it might be, can face these threats alone, he said. They demonstrate “the need for civilized nations to come together in new and dynamic ways -- as we are doing in Asia,” he said.

Gates said the cooperation demonstrated in Asia, which has had a longstanding impact on the region’s security, is proving even more important today. “Through commitment, partnership, cooperation and resolve, we are overcoming current challenges to our freedom, prosperity and security as we overcame the threats of the past,” he said.

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Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Shangri-La Dialogue

Related Articles:
Gates, Asian Defense Leaders to Focus on Regional Security

Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates meets with Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on June 2. Gates is in Singapore to attend the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit. Photo by Cherie A. Thurlby  
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