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Gates Departs on Nine-Day World Trip

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates left today on a nine-day trip around the world aimed at reinforcing relationships with some countries he has yet to visit as defense secretary.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Admiral Timothy J. Keating, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, greets Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and his wife Becky upon their arrival at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, Feb. 20, 2008. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Gates will visit U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, participate in annual bilateral talks with Australia, and discuss security matters with his counterparts in Indonesia, India and Turkey.

The Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations are the principal forum for bilateral talks between the two allies. It brings the U.S. secretaries of state and defense together with their Australian counterparts, along with other senior officials from both countries.

The trip also coincides with the day the Navy plans to try to shoot down a dead U.S. intelligence satellite. The window for the shoot-down opened this morning after the landing of the space shuttle Atlantis.

Defense officials said yesterday that they are evaluating the situation and will advise the secretary when they have a shot to take. President Bush has empowered Gates to order the shoot-down, and based upon the advice he gets, he is prepared to do so during this trip, officials said yesterday.

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Robert M. Gates

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