Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hagel Arrives in Seoul on Third Asia-Pacific Trip

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

SEOUL, South Korea, Sept. 29, 2013 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here today on a weeklong Asia-Pacific trip that also will include a visit to Tokyo.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefs reporters during a flight to Seoul, South Korea, Sept. 28, 2013. Hagel will visit South Korea and Japan during a weeklong trip. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Noting that this is his third trip to the region as secretary, Hagel said global and economic trends make the Asia-Pacific region one that will be important in shaping and defining the future. “So it’s important that the United States pay attention, and continue to strengthen and enhance our relationship here,” he added.

Here, the secretary will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-South Korea alliance; participate in the 45th Security Consultative Meeting; preside over the U.S. Forces Korea change of command ceremony and visit U.S. and South Korean troops.

The mutual defense treaty between the United States and South Korea “has served the interests of both our nations very well for the last 60 years, and also the Asia-Pacific,” the secretary said.

Senior defense leaders -- including Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command -- also are here for the consultative meetings and the change of command.

Hagel is scheduled to meet and attend a state dinner with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during his stay here.

He also is scheduled to visit U.S. troops both here and in Japan later this week.

The secretary’s main purpose for visiting Tokyo is to take part, along with Secretary of State John F. Kerry and their Japanese counterparts, in “two plus two” consultations between U.S. and Japanese foreign and defense ministers.

This event is the first time such high-level meetings have occurred in Japan’s capital, and come as the Japanese government reportedly is considering the future roles of Japan’s self-defense forces. The two U.S. leaders also will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinz┼Ź Abe.

“Especially at a time when the United States, in particular, is focused on internal domestic issues -- beginning with the budget [and] whether we’re going to have a budget [or] whether there will be a shutdown -- I think it’s very, very important that we continue to assure our allies in this region … we are committed to these alliances,” Hagel said.