Sunday, November 21, 2010

Summit Helps ‘Reset’ U.S.-Russia Relations, Obama Says

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 20, 2010 – The NATO-Russia Council Summit that took place in Lisbon, Portugal, offers another step toward the reset of relations between the United States and Russia, President Barack Obama said today.

“We see Russia as a partner, not an adversary,” Obama told reporters during the NATO Summit’s final press briefing.

During the NRC meeting, he said, NATO leaders and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to deepen their cooperation on Afghanistan, counternarcotics efforts and a range of 21st century security challenges.

“Perhaps most significantly,” Obama said, “we agreed to cooperate on missile defense, which turns a source of past tension into a source of potential cooperation against a shared threat.”

The NRC, established at the NATO-Russia Summit in Rome in 2002, is a mechanism for consultation, cooperation and joint action in which NATO member states and Russia work as partners on a range of common security issues.

The alliance suspended formal meetings and cooperation in some areas after Russia’s military action in Georgia in August 2008, then decided in March 2009 to resume formal meetings. The NATO secretary general chairs these meetings.

In Lisbon, a joint statement issued by Medvedev and his counterparts from the other 28 NRC member states said the council would resume theater ballistic missile defense exercises and identify opportunities for Russia to cooperate with NATO’s new territorial missile defense capability by June 2011.

“Here in Lisbon we are laying the foundations for stronger ties between our 29 nations than has ever been the case until now, which is why today marks a fresh start in NATO-Russia relations,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

“As evidence of our determination to cooperate together,” he added, “I am pleased to be able to announce today the completion of arrangements that will allow for the expanded transit of equipment to the [International Security Assistance Force] mission via the Russian Federation. I thank President Medvedev for his support.”

The council also approved a joint review of common security challenges that will guide NATO-Russia security cooperation, agreed to expand cooperation in support of the Afghan government, and committed to making better use of the NRC to manage crises.

On counterterrorism, the NRC said it would strengthen cooperation by jointly developing technology to detect explosives, countering terrorist threats to civil aviation and exchanging information about terrorism.

Russia confirmed its interest in resuming its support to NATO’s counterterrorist operation, called Active Endeavour, in the Mediterranean Sea.

To fight the maritime security threat of piracy and armed robbery at sea, NRC member states said they will expand existing tactical level cooperation through joint training and exercises.

Rusmussen said the most significant thing about the list of NATO-Russia common security challenges is what’s not there -- each other.

“The NATO nations and Russia have today agreed in writing that, while we face many security challenges, we pose no threat to each other. That, alone, draws a clear line between the past and the future of NATO-Russia relations,” he said.

Obama also announced that the United States would host the next NATO summit in 2012.

Mullen Calls North Korea’s Actions ‘Very Dangerous’

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 21, 2010 – Revelations that North Korea has secretly built a large uranium enrichment facility validates long-standing concerns about that nation’s nuclear intentions and is a destabilizing force in the region, the top U.S. military officer said today.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week ” TV programs this morning.

“The assumption certainly is that [North Korea] continues to head in the direction of additional nuclear weapons,” Mullen said. “They are also known to proliferate this technology, so they’re a very dangerous country.”

According to a story that appeared yesterday in The New York Times, North Korean officials allowed visiting Stanford University professor Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, to tour a sophisticated new uranium enrichment plant that North Korea has built in secret and may have been built with foreign help.

“I’ve been concerned for a long time about instability in that region and North Korea has been at the center of that,” Mullen said. “We’ve worked hard with other countries to try to bring pressure on them” to comply with strict United Nations Security Council resolutions related to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

“This in fact violates United Nations Security Council resolutions 1718 [2006] and 1874 [2009],” Mullen said. “And it violates what they said they’d do in 2005 with respect to getting to the six-party talks [aimed at addressing the country’s nuclear program]. So they’re a country that routinely we are unable to believe they will do what they say.”

North Korea is the greatest threat to peace in Northeast Asia and the focal point of the defense posture on the peninsula. North Korea is believed to have at least 1.5 million military members along with its nuclear capabilities.

In March, North Korea torpedoed and sank the South Korean navy ship Cheonan, killing 46 sailors.

In October, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young participated in the 42nd Security Consultative Meeting here, after which they told reporters that the U.S.-South Korea military alliance has never been stronger.

Both men called on North Korea to end provocative actions like the Cheonan attack.

The news that the ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has anointed his son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor has the alliance preparing to defend against all possible North Korean threats.

“We have to continue to bring pressure on [Kim Jong-il],” Mullen said, specifically through the six-party-talk countries -- Russia, China, the United States, Japan and South Korea.

President Barack Obama “sent out a team to each of the capitals this weekend to re-engage. That’s where we are right now and I’m sure we will continue to do that,” Mullen said.

“We’ve been engaged with China for an extended period of time with respect to North Korea,” Mullen added. “A great part of this will have to be done through Beijing.”