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Hagel Meets with Asian Defense Leaders in Singapore

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2014 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with defense leaders from five Asian nations on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in statements today.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Dr. John Chipman, director-general and chief executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, talk before delivering opening remarks at the preliminary session of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 31, 2014. DOD photograph by Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutler

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

The secretary met with defense leaders from Japan, Vietnam, China, South Korea and Malaysia while participating in the major forum where key leaders in the Asia-Pacific region gather each year to discuss security challenges and opportunities.

Hagel and Japanese Defense Minister Onodera Itsunori discussed a range of regional and global security issues, including Chinese maritime claims and military activities, North Korean provocations, and the situation in the Ukraine, Kirby said.

The secretary reiterated the strong support of the United States for Japanese efforts at defense reform and modernization, and to working closely together with the leadership of the Japan Self-Defense Force to improve mutual cooperation and capabilities.

Hagel and Onodera restated their commitment to finishing the review of the Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation by the end of the year, Kirby said, and Hagel thanked Onodera for Japanese efforts to move forward with the Futenma Replacement Facility.

The secretary also reiterated the U.S. commitment to plans for realigning U.S. forces on Okinawa, the admiral said.

During Hagel’s brief meeting with Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong, the leaders exchanged views about issues important to the United States and China and to the region, Kirby said.

Hagel reiterated the U.S. position that all regional disputes be solved peacefully through diplomacy and in keeping with international law.

The secretary also encouraged China to foster more dialogue and deeper relationships with neighboring nations, the admiral said, and pointed to PLA participation this year in the U.S.-sponsored Rim of the Pacific multinational exercise, as an example of how such relationships can be improved.

During Hagel’s meeting with Vietnam Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, the leaders discussed several security challenges facing the region, including mutual concerns over recent provocative behavior by the Chinese in the South China Sea, Kirby said.

Hagel thanked the Vietnamese for their continued leadership within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, the admiral said, and the leaders reaffirmed ASEAN’s growing role in addressing regional issues such as maritime security and disaster response.

Hagel also thanked Thanh for Vietnam's support for U.S. efforts to locate American service members still missing in action in Vietnam, and for hosting Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ upcoming visit to Vietnam.

Thanh invited Hagel to Vietnam to continue building cooperative defense ties, Kirby added, and Hagel said he looked forward to a visit later this year.

During the secretary’s meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin, the leaders discussed a range of shared security concerns, the admiral said, including the North Korean state of affairs, the importance of ballistic missile defense and the continuing improvement of South Korea’s defense capabilities.

Hagel and Kim restated the importance of the U.S.-South Korea strategic alliance as central to the region's continued stability and security, Kirby said.

The secretary also met in Singapore with Malaysian Defense Minister Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. Their discussion covered a range of mutual security issues, Kirby said, including ongoing tensions in the East and South China Seas and the U.S. rebalance to the region.

Hishammuddin thanked Hagel for his continued support to ongoing search efforts for Malaysia Airlines flight 370, the admiral said, and Hagel thanked the minister for his support of the nations’ strong military-to-military relationship and for Malaysia's contributions to ASEAN and other productive regional relationships.

The secretary reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific, Kirby said, and both leaders agreed on the need for continued dialogue and regional cooperation through exercises, exchanges and operations.

Hagel’s next stops on his 12-day trip to countries in Asia and Europe include Brussels for a NATO defense ministerial, Romania, Paris, and then Normandy to commemorate with President Barack Obama the Allied victory in World War II and the sacrifice and courage manifested on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinAFPS)

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels with Chuck Hagel
Photo Essay: Hagel Participates in Bilateral Meetings in Singapore

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