U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is meeting with several of his Asian counterparts Friday in Singapore, ahead of the start of the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference. Gates says he hopes to relay to Washington's Asian allies that the United States remains committed to the region, no matter what.
Gates' meeting with Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen was the first of several bilateral meetings Friday at the Shangri-La hotel.
The two issued a joint statement praising what they called their countries' “excellent and longstanding bilateral defense relationship.” They also noted Singapore's contributions to the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan and to international counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden.
Minister Ng also joined Secretary Gates in voicing support for Washington's continued engagement in the region and for its cooperation in addressing transnational security threats and enhancing regional security.
Speaking to reporters en route to the conference Thursday, Gates praised the opportunity to meet with allies, especially as Washington works to remain influential in Asia in the face of potential budget cuts.
“I think as the kinds of problems that the world is facing make it more difficult to have, to be successful with a unilateral approach, the opportunity to build these partnerships becomes even more important,” he said.
This is Gates' fifth and final Asia Security Summit as U.S. defense secretary.
He is also scheduled to meet with Japan's defense minister, Malaysia's prime minister and his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie.
This is the first time China has participated in the Shangri-La Dialogue at the level of defense minister.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies is sponsoring the event, which is in its 10th year. The group's director-general, John Chipman, is scheduled to deliver a keynote address Friday evening. Secretary Gates speaks Saturday morning.
Delegates from 27 countries are in attendance. The dialogue lasts from Friday until Sunday.