Military News

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Joint Statement of the U.S.-Republic of Singapore Meeting at Shangri-La


Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen met today in Singapore, which also marks Secretary Panetta’s first attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD).

During their meeting, Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng discussed a wide range of regional security and defense issues.  Minister Ng welcomed the United States' strong participation in regional forums like the SLD and ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), which facilitate open dialogue and help to build mutual confidence and understanding.

Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng both noted the important role the ADMM-Plus plays in strengthening practical cooperation among the militaries of the ADMM-Plus members through exercises and exchanges.  These interactions promote greater understanding, build confidence and help to bring about stable military-to-military relations among the key stakeholders in the region.  Secretary Panetta reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to continue enhancing its engagement of regional countries and work closely with partners like Singapore in strengthening regional peace and stability.

Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng also affirmed the close and longstanding bilateral defense relationship between the United States and Singapore, and the shared strategic perspectives between both sides.  They welcomed the good progress made in deepening bilateral defense cooperation since the signing of the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) in 2005.  In this regard, Minister Ng conveyed Singapore’s in-principle agreement to the U.S. request to forward deploy up to four Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) to Singapore on a rotational basis. Minister Ng and Secretary Panetta noted that both navies will work together to finalize the deployment details and arrangements.  The LCS will not be based or homeported in Singapore, and the LCS crew will live on board the LCS for the duration of their deployment.  Secretary Panetta reaffirmed that the LCS deployment would strengthen U.S. engagement in the region, through the port calls at regional ports, and engagement of regional navies through activities such as exercises and exchanges.

Secretary Panetta and Minister Ng also affirmed both countries’ commitment to continue exploring joint initiatives to further operationalize the SFA and facilitate U.S. engagement in the region.  They noted that the United States and Singapore were working toward increasing the complexity of existing bilateral exercises, such as the incorporation of Navy elements into Exercise Commando Sling, currently a bilateral Air Force exercise.  This modification would enhance interoperability across the military services of both countries.  Both sides were also working toward enhancing joint training opportunities, including through the use of the Murai Urban Training Facility in Singapore for more regular joint training by the U.S. Marines and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) from 2013 onward.

Finally, Minister Ng thanked Secretary Panetta for U.S. support of the SAF’s training detachments in the United States, while Secretary Panetta expressed appreciation for Singapore's useful contributions to Afghanistan and the international counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.

Chairman Meets With Singapore Defense Officials


By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

SINGAPORE, – Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent the day here meeting with Singapore’s defense officials and visiting the island nation’s military facilities.

Tomorrow is the first full day of the 11th annual Asia security conference known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, which the chairman will attend for the first time. Defense leaders and officials from 27 Asia-Pacific nations will attend the sessions, and both Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will meet with several of those officials as well as attend general sessions focused on regional security issues.

The chairman started today at the U.S. Embassy, where he met with U.S. Ambassador David I. Adelman and his country team. Marine Corps Col. David A. Lapan, the chairman’s spokesman, said the meeting focused on the strong U.S.-Singapore military relationship.

That relationship is outlined in the 2005 Strategic Framework Agreement between the two countries, and includes a regular exchange of visits between defense leaders as well as exercises such as Commando Sling, an annual event begun in 1990 to provide combined air combat training for fighter units from the two nations’ air forces.

Dempsey also handed out coins to U.S. Marines serving in the embassy detachment and stood for photos with them.

The chairman then traveled to the Singapore Ministry of Defense, where he met with Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, Chief of Defense Forces Lt. Gen. Neo Kian Hong and the chiefs of Singapore’s army, navy and air force.

During Singapore Defense Minister Ng’s Pentagon visit in April, he and Defense Secretary Panetta discussed the planned rotational deployment of a U.S. littoral combat ship squadron.

Dempsey said earlier on this trip that the LCS deployment will begin next year, with a member of his staff serving as the commander of the first rotational unit.

Dempsey also visited Sembawang Air Base in northern Singapore, where he received a briefing on the development and operations of the Singapore armed forces, known as the SAF, and took an area familiarization flight on a SAF helicopter.

Lapan said the Singapore military is not only a strong bilateral partner but also a catalyst for regional security cooperation. “They have one of the best-trained and equipped militaries in [the] Asia-Pacific,” he added.

The chairman’s trip continues tomorrow with a full day of Shangri-La Dialogue sessions, anchored by Panetta’s opening address in the morning.

Southcom’s Engagement Program Promotes Human Rights


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

MIAMI  – An active theater engagement program at U.S. Southern Command is making notable progress in promoting respect for human rights within regional militaries, the command’s human rights coordinator reported.

“Throughout our entire area of responsibility, many nations in this region have had a history of human rights abuse in the past 20 or 30 years,” Leana Bresnahan acknowledged in an interview with American Forces Press Service.

Bresnahan credited Southcom’s human rights policy, the first for a U.S. combatant command when it was issued in 1990, and its standup five years later of the first COCOM human rights office, with helping reverse that course.

“This emphasis on human rights is something that is unique for a combatant command,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gerald W. Ketchum, director of Southcom’s theater engagement directorate. “But the reality is that it is integral to everything we do.”

Southcom’s human rights office represents an institutional statement of U.S. values and the command’s commitment to maintaining a robust human rights program in the region, Bresnahan said.

“Human rights are part of our national values, our history, our traditions,” she said. “The bottom line is -- it is what we do as a nation.”

That principle underpins U.S. engagements with countries around the world, and is written into foreign security assistance laws. The so-called Leahy Law, for example, prohibits U.S. military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity.

“We are prohibited from providing security assistance or any other DOD-funded training to a unit of a foreign national military if there are credible allegations of gross human rights abuse unless there has been effective action to investigate and prosecute those human rights abuses,” Bresnahan said.

That congressional mandate provides the carrot that has helped Southcom inculcate respect for human rights within the region, she noted.

Bresnahan said she’s been encouraged, as the region has put decades of military dictatorship and conflict behind it and embraced democracy, at how open regional partners have been to the human rights message.

The American Convention on Human Rights, for example, established the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect and promote human rights, as well as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to enforce these rights.

“The transformation has been amazingly positive, and the militaries serving in these countries today are receptive to the human rights message,” Bresnahan said. “They know that human rights are an issue, and there is a great deal of awareness. They are aware of their responsibilities and open to assistance.”

As part of its charter, Southcom’s human rights office works with regional militaries to help them develop doctrine that encompasses human rights principles and training programs that introduce them to their forces. The staff also works with them to help strengthen their internal control systems and increase cooperation with civilian authorities.

These efforts are particularly important and relevant, Bresnahan said, in the few countries where the governments call on their militaries to help local police forces provide internal security.

Ketchum emphasized that the United States strives to be a facilitator, supporting partners in their efforts and promoting shared values. “We are not dictating what people should be doing,” he said. “We provide forums and minimal resourcing that allows everyone to come together on this issue. We emphasize the importance of it and try to help where we can as they develop their own path for training, for integrating that into institutions, into how they develop their doctrine.”

“And we have had some real success stories in providing support,” he said.

The training focuses at every level, through classroom courses and field training exercise scenarios to senior-level military colleges and seminars.

The Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation at Fort Benning, Ga., integrates human rights into every course it provides to Latin American mid-level officers and noncommissioned officers every year, Bresnahan said.

Meanwhile, the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies in Washington is introducing more human rights into its strategic-level curricula for senior-level officers and civilians. In addition, the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies incorporates respect for human rights into training it provides at the schoolhouse in Newport, R.I., and around the region through its mobile education teams.

But equally important, Bresnahan said, is the troop-level training conducted predominantly by partner-nation military members themselves.

Often the U.S. military members’ biggest contribution, she said, is the example they set. “The respect that partner nation militaries have for the U.S. military is tremendous,” she said. “These guys in uniform are the best messengers you can get. It is very powerful.”

Every member of Southcom’s staff as well as service members traveling or operating in its area of responsibility are required take an online human rights course and carry a pocket-sized card describing the command’s human rights policies. The reverse side covers the so-called “five Rs” of human rights: recognize, refrain, react, record and report.

“They need to recognize what a human rights violation is, refrain from committing a violation, react if they see one being committed by someone else, and if they can’t prevent it, immediately record it and report it up their chain of command,” Bresnahan said.

While acknowledging that some military members initially questioned why they were getting involved in human rights training, she said, “increasingly, our own military personnel are realizing the influence they can have on this issue.”

U.S. State Department and other governmental as well as nongovernmental organizations share that assessment. “They recognize that our military people have a level of influence on other militaries that they might not have,” Bresnahan said.

With recognized successes, Ketchum acknowledged that the mission isn’t yet complete.

In some cases, Southcom can’t support a partner nation because of its human rights record. “Some of our countries are challenged and we really want to help, but human rights remains an issue that is going to have to be discussed and overcome,” he said.

Navy Vice Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, Southcom’s deputy commander, said that’s a challenge the command struggles with as it engages in the region. “Human rights are important, and countries that ask us at the leadership level to come in and work with them know we are going to advocate human rights,” he said.

“And we often advocate strongly for providing support to a country that may have had a long past human rights issue,” Kernan continued. "We remain very sensitive to human rights abuses, but our perspective in some cases is that we would like to work with willing partners and promote human rights through side-by-side engagement.”

“This, as well, affords us the opportunity to build a more expansive partnership across a number of other common interest areas,” he added.

Bresnahan emphasized the increasingly complex security challenges the region’s military forces are being tasked to meet, and warned that promoting respect for human rights is a long-term effort. “One should never assume the war has been won,” she said. “Like freedom itself, respect for human rights requires constant vigilance.”

Joint Statement of the U.S.-Republic of Korea-and Japan Meeting at Shangri-La


U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Republic of Korea (ROK) Minister of Defense Kim Kwan Jin, and Japan Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe shared views on the regional security situation and reaffirmed the value of trilateral defense cooperation at their meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue on June 2, 2012. 

The three ministers concurred that North Korea's continued provocations including its sinking of the ROK corvette CHEONAN and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, and its missile launch in April 2012, pose a serious threat to the peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia, and the world.  North Korea needs to understand that it will achieve nothing by threats or by provocations, and that such behavior will only deepen its international isolation.

The three ministers reaffirmed the April 16, 2012 Presidential Statement of the UN Security Council, demanding that North Korea comply with its obligations under UN Security Council Resolutions 1718 and 1874, including that it abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.  They welcomed that the Security Council made clear its determination to take action in the event of a further North Korean launch or nuclear test.  The ministers reaffirmed that North Korea’s provocative behavior threatens all three countries and will be met with solidarity from all three countries.  They agreed to continue to reinforce trilateral policy coordination in order to deter North Korean provocations. 

The three ministers affirmed the importance of trilateral collaboration for regional peace and stability, and they decided to expand the scope of this collaboration that includes humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, protecting the freedom of navigation, and non-proliferation.  They also decided to pursue Defense Ministerial trilateral meetings at the Shangri-La Dialogue in the future.