Gates to Stress US Commitment to Asia at Singapore Forum

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 3:05 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he will stress America's continuing commitment to Asia during an upcoming security forum in Singapore.

Gates spoke to reporters in Hawaii during a stopover on his way to the Shangri La Dialogue, which will be attended by defense ministers and military chiefs from across the Asia-Pacific region. China is sending its defense minister, Liang Guanglie, to the annual event for the first time.

Gates, who retires at the end of June, said the critical message he is bringing to the forum is that despite potential budget restrictions, the U.S. will continue to build relationships with its friends and allies in the region.

The United States will also be represented at the forum by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who will meet top officials and private citizens in Hong Kong during a stopover on his way to Singapore.

Defense Department officials said Gates will also speak more specifically than in the past about U.S. operations and capabilities in Asia.

The officials said Gates will hold bilateral meetings with several defense ministers, including China's Liang, Toshima Kitazawa of Japan and Theo Chee Han of Singapore. He will also meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

They said Gates welcomes the meeting with Liang as an opportunity to build on recent improvements in military-to-military relations between the two countries.

China's state media said Liang will speak at the forum about China's international security cooperation. The Communist Party-controlled Global Times quoted an analyst as saying the forum offers China a chance to increase the transparency of its defense modernization.

The forum, which runs from Friday to Sunday, is hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a Singapore think tank. The meeting takes it name from the Shangri La Hotel, where it has been held for the past five years.