Saturday, June 05, 2010

Gates Describes U.S. Approach to Deterrence in Asia

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

June 5, 2010 - A U.S. defense posture in Asia that is more geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable is necessary in deterring conflict in today's world, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. Gates addressed the first plenary session of the ninth annual "Shangri-La Dialogue," an Asia security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Conventional military bases, Gates said, are not the sole yardstick for measuring the U.S. presence in the region and its associated impact and influence. "Rather," he said, "we must think about U.S. 'presence' in the broader sense of what we achieve in the region: the connections made, the results accomplished."

This, he explained, includes the work of medical teams and engineers, as well as partner militaries that are more professional and capable of contributing to international efforts to deal with the most vexing challenges the United States and its Asian partners face.

"These kinds of activities reflect a priority of the overall United States security strategy: to prevent and deter conflict by better [employing] and integrating all elements of our national power and international cooperation," the secretary said. "As we have learned, military capabilities are critically important, but by themselves, [they] do not deter conflict. Sustained diplomatic, economic and cultural ties also play vital roles in maintaining stability and improving relationships.

"The history of the past 60 years in this part of the world," he continued, "has proven that historic tensions can be overcome, instability can be avoided, and strategic rivalries are not inevitable."

The U.S. approach to its policy in Asia and its overall defense posture has been shaped by a series of strategy reviews over the past year, Gates said. "These reviews were shaped by a bracing dose of realism, and in a very sober and clear-eyed way assessed risks, set priorities, made tradeoffs, and identified requirements based on plausible real-world threats, scenarios and potential adversaries."

An effective and affordable U.S. defense posture, the secretary explained, requires a broad and versatile portfolio of military capabilities across the widest possible spectrum of conflict. With regard to Asia, he said, the United States is increasing its deterrent capabilities in the region.

"First, we are taking serious steps to enhance our missile defenses with the intent to develop capabilities in Asia that are flexible and deployable – tailored to the unique needs of our allies and partners and able to counter the clear and growing ballistic missile threats in the region," he said.

The United States is renewing its commitment to a strong and effective deterrence that guarantees the safety of the American people and the defense of its allies and partners, Gates said. President Barack Obama is committed to reducing the role of nuclear weapons in the quest for a world without them, he noted. "But as long as these weapons exist," he added, "we will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal."

The forward presence of substantial U.S. forces is another example of the strong U.S. commitment and deterrent power in the region, as has been the case for six decades, Gates said, though a global posture review scheduled to be completed by the year's end already has made one general trend clear.

"The U.S. defense posture in Asia is shifting to one that is more geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable," he said. "The buildup on Guam is part of this shift, as well as the agreement reached on basing with Japan – an agreement that fittingly comes during the 50th anniversary of our mutual security alliance and transcends any individual policymaker." Plans call for more than 8,000 U.S. Marines to move to Guam from the Japanese island of Okinawa by 2014, and for a U.S. Marine air base on Okinawa to relocate on the island.

Gates noted that the economic growth and political development the Asia-Pacific region has enjoyed over the last several decades was not a foregone conclusion.

"Rather," he said, "it was enabled by clear choices about the enduring principles that we all believe are essential to peace, prosperity and stability." Those principles, he said, include:

-- Free and open commerce;

-- A just international order that emphasizes rights and responsibilities of nations and fidelity to the rule of law;

-- Open access by all to the global commons of sea, air, space, and now, cyberspace; and

-- The principle of resolving conflict without the use of force.

"Simply put," he said, "pursuing our common interests has increased our common security. Today, the Asia-Pacific region is contending with new and evolving challenges, from rising powers and failing states to the proliferation of nuclear and ballistic missiles, extremist violence and new technologies that have the ability to disrupt the foundations of trade and commerce on which Asia's economic stability depends."

Confronting those threats, he told the delegates, is not the responsibility of a single nation acting alone.

"Rather," he said, "our collective response will test our commitments to the principles I just mentioned – principles that are key to the region's continued prosperity. In this, all of us have responsibilities we must fulfill, since all will bear the costs of instability as well as the rewards of international cooperation."

Asia-Pacific Nations Must Address Provocations, Gates Says

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

June 5, 2010 - Asian nations must act in the face of provocations as part of their responsibility to preserve peace and reinforce regional stability, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. In remarks opening the first plenary session of the "Shangri-La Dialogue," an Asia security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Gates specifically referred to North Korea's sinking of the freighter Cheonan on March 26 that left 46 South Korean sailors dead.

"This sinking is far more than a single, isolated incident with tragic results for the sailors and their families," he said. "It is, rather, part of a larger pattern of provocative and reckless behavior. As I pointed out last year at this forum, North Korea has for some time faced the choice of continuing as a destitute, international pariah or charting a new path. Since then, the North Korean regime has only further isolated itself from the international community."

The United States and other nations have consulted closely with South Korean officials since the sinking, Gates said.

"My government has offered full support to our ally in this difficult hour," he said. "We will conduct combined military exercises with South Korea and support action in the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, we are assessing additional options to hold North Korea accountable."

All nations in the region share the task of addressing such provocations, the secretary said. "Inaction would amount to an abdication of our collective responsibility to protect the peace and reinforce stability in Asia," he said. "North Korea must cease its belligerent behavior and demonstrate clearly and decisively that it wants to pursue a different path."

U.S., Japan, South Korea Express Solidarity

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

June 5, 2010 - The top defense officials of the United States, Japan and South Korea today pledged their nations' continued solidarity in the aftermath of North Korea's sinking of the freighter Cheonan on March 26 that killed 46 South Korean sailors. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-young made brief statements before their trilateral meeting as part of the "Shangri-La Dialogue" Asia security summit here.

Gates noted that the first such meeting took place during last year's Shangri-La Dialogue, and said it proved to be an ideal forum for discussing a range of common security interests.

"Obviously, today's conversation, like last year's, will largely focus on North Korea and its ongoing threat to regional stability, as highlighted by the unprovoked attack on the Cheonan," the secretary said.

Gates said he told Kim yesterday and reiterated to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak today that "the United States stands by and steadfastly supports our ally," and added that he's pleased Japan also has stood by South Korea in response to the incident.

"Attacks like that on the Cheonan undermine the peace and stability of not just the Korean peninsula, but the region as a whole," he said. "To do nothing would set the wrong precedent. The international community can and must hold North Korea accountable. The United States will continue to work with the Republic of Korea, Japan and our other partners to figure out the best way to do just that."

Speaking through a translator, Kitazawa noted the importance of today's trilateral meeting against the backdrop of rising tension on the Korean peninsula.

"I trust that this will serve as a strong message to the international community as well as to North Korea," he said, "and I very much hope that the three countries will be able to show our strong determination."

Also speaking through a translator, Kim expressed delight that the three defense leaders could meet here again, as they did last year.

"I also believe that we are creating great momentum, especially at a time when the security situation in the peninsula and the region are so sensitive," he said. He added that through the Cheonan incident, the three nations are able to further strengthen their security cooperation ties through close coordination and cooperation.

Kim thanked the United States and Japan for their support of South Korea. "And I would like to ask you again for your continued cooperation and support as we take this matter to the United Nations Security Council, and as we take other measures as well," he added.

Gates Urges Positive U.S.-China Military Relations

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

June 5, 2010 - Economic and political cooperation between the United States and China has flourished despite differences over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, and the same should be true of the military relationship between the two countries, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

In a speech opening the first plenary session of the ninth annual "Shangri-La Dialogue," an Asia security summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Gates noted that although the arms sales have been going on for decades, China has cited them as its reason for breaking off interactions between the U.S. and Chinese militaries.

"For a variety of reasons," Gates said, "this makes little sense." He pointed out that U.S. arms sales to Taiwan have been going on throughout the decades since the 1979 normalization of relations between the United States and China. In addition, he said, the United States has demonstrated for years that it does not support independence for Taiwan.

"Nothing – I repeat, nothing – has changed in that stance," he said.

And because China's accelerating military buildup focuses largely on Taiwan, Gates added, U.S. arms sales are important to maintaining peace and stability across the Strait of Taiwan and throughout the region.

Considering all this, he said, President Barack Obama's decision in January to sell selected defensive weapons to Taiwan should have come as no surprise.

"It was based on well-established precedent and the longstanding belief of the U.S. government that a peaceful and non-coerced resolution to the Taiwan issue is an abiding national interest, and vital for the overall security of Asia," the secretary said.

Though the United States and China disagree on this matter, Gates told the delegates, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan over the decades since normalization have not impeded closer political and economic ties or closer ties in other security arenas of mutual interest.

"Only in the military-to-military arena has progress on critical mutual security issues been held hostage over something that is, quite frankly, old news," he said. "It should be clear to everyone now – more than 30 years after normalization – that interruptions in our military relationship with China will not change United States policy toward Taiwan."

Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have advocated a positive military-to-military relationship between their countries, Gates noted. "The United States Department of Defense wants what both Presidents Obama and Hu want: sustained and reliable military-to-military contacts at all levels that reduce miscommunication, misunderstanding and miscalculation," he said.

The absence of military-to-military relationships between the United States and China has a cost, Gates added. "I believe they are essential to regional security and essential to developing a broad, resilient U.S.-China relationship that is positive in tone, cooperative in nature and comprehensive in scope," he said. "The United States, for its part, is ready to work toward these goals."

Gates had hoped to visit Beijing while he was in the region to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, but Chinese officials conveyed the message recently that the timing wasn't right. While en route to Singapore earlier this week, the secretary expressed his chagrin to reporters.

"I'm disappointed that the [People's Liberation Army] leadership has not seen the same potential benefits from this kind of a military-to-military relationship as their own leadership and the United States seem to think would be of benefit," he said.