Panetta to Highlight Regional Cooperation in Asia
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2011 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is scheduled to depart tomorrow for Indonesia, Japan and South Korea, his first visit to Asia as head of the department, senior defense officials said today.
During the first leg of his trip, Panetta is scheduled to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro. Those discussions will focus on the Indonesian armed forces’ continuing transformation, as well as U.S.-Indonesian military-to-military cooperation in areas including maritime security, peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, a senior official said.
While in Indonesia, the secretary also will visit a gathering of defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the official added. ASEAN member nations are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The ASEAN ministerial offers Panetta a “wonderful” opportunity for high-end engagement with the assembled ministers and a chance to emphasize the United States’ commitment to the Southeast Asia region, the official said.
After leaving Indonesia, Panetta will travel to Japan to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and other senior Japanese leaders, including new Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa, a second senior official said.
The secretary’s meetings in Japan include a “rich agenda of issues,” such as the enduring U.S. commitment to its alliance with Japan, regional security, arms sales, export controls, ballistic missile defense, and the planned realignment of U.S. forces there, the official said.
Panetta also is scheduled to visit U.S. and Japanese troops during his stop there.
Panetta’s final scheduled stop is South Korea where he will take part with Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin in the 43rd Security Consultative Meeting, and also meet with President Lee Myung-bak and senior South Korean officials.
The secretary is scheduled to visit U.S. and South Korean troops during the final leg of his trip.
“The secretary will reinforce our commitment to the U.S.-[Republic of Korea] alliance, as well as our commitment to deter North Korea and, if deterrence fails, to prevail in any conflict,” the official said.