Asian defense ministers are meeting in Singapore for an annual conference on regional security that will include efforts to fight terrorism. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is there to meet with his Asian counterparts and is expected to warn the terrorist threat posed by groups like al-Qaida remains high in the region.
As he prepared to address his Asian counterparts, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld told American sailors and Marines on a U.S. naval ship that there is every indication terrorists are regrouping and preparing to strike again, not only at the United States but around the world.
"I think one reasonably has to expect that that intention is there," he said.
The United States has been in consultations with at least 21 countries in the Asia Pacific region on an issue of top concern, countering the terrorist threat to one of the world's busiest shipping routes, the Straits of Malacca, the heavily traveled waterway between Indonesia and Malaysia.
Mr. Rumsfeld says groups linked to al-Qaida remain active following the deadly terrorist bombing in Bali two years ago.
"I know that the only way we're going to deal with this problem is to recognize that it's truly global, that we have to bring all elements of national power to bear on it," he said. "You simply can not wait for another attack and expect to defend against it. We have to go out and find those terrorist networks."
U.S. officials are especially concerned about the vulnerability of the Straits of Malacca, a shipping route for as much as half of the world's oil supply and a quarter of its commerce, and where reports of sea piracy are common. Any attack on the waterway could have a devastating impact on world economies. The top commander of American Naval forces in the Pacific says the United States is discussing with its Asian allies ways to step up monitoring of these shipping routes and is looking for better regional cooperation.
But the idea has drawn a mixed response, with countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia concerned it could lead to American forces launching raids into their own territorial waters. U.S. officials dismiss such concerns as largely due to inaccurate reporting, with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld telling Asian journalists Friday whatever is decided will be done in full consultation with Asian allies.