Rumsfeld Connects with Counterparts at Asia Security Summit
Washington - U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld participated in a series of bilateral meetings with his Asian counterparts on the sidelines of the fifth annual Asia Security Summit, which took place in Singapore June 3-4.
The conference, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, is organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and brings together defense ministers of more than 20 nations. Priority topics for the 2006 conference included growing violence in Afghanistan, instability in East Timor and China's military buildup.
Rumsfeld delivered a keynote address on the U.S. role in Asia's emerging security structure on the opening day of the conference. (See related article.)
U.S. READY TO INCREASE EAST TIMOR ASSISTANCE TO AUSTRALIA
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with Australian Defense Minister Brendan Nelson on June 3, Rumsfeld said the United States would consider providing extra assistance to Australia's peacekeeping efforts in East Timor.
"The government of Australia is taking the lead and doing a very good job," he said. "They've asked us for a relatively modest amount of assistance, which we've been happy to provide, and needless to say we'd be willing to consider anything that they might propose to us."
Nelson expressed appreciation for current levels of U.S. assistance, which he called "appropriate."
At least 20 people have been killed and tens of thousands forced from their homes in violence that broke out in the East Timorese capital of Dili in April, following a decision by the government to dismiss hundreds of soldiers who had deserted their barracks in protest of alleged discrimination in promotions. Australia deployed 1300 peacekeeping troops in May at the request of the East Timorese government. New Zealand, Portugal and Malaysia also have sent peacekeeping troops and police to East Timor to disarm warring gangs.
"STEADY IMPROVEMENT" IN U.S.-INDIA MILITARY COOPERATION
In a press conference following a meeting with India Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee June 3, Rumsfeld said the United States greatly values its military-to-military relationship with India.
"Over the past five or six years, the relationship between the U.S. and India, from a military-to-military standpoint, has been on a steady improvement," he said. "It is multifaceted at this stage. ... And we certainly expect to see that our areas of common interest will continue to bring us together … in the months and years to come."
Mukherjee said bilateral cooperation has progressed smoothly since the two countries signed a framework agreement on defense-related issues in June 2005. (See U.S.-India: Strengthening a Global Partnership.)
SUCCESSFUL U.S.-MALAYSIA COUNTERTERRORISM COLLABORATION
Rumsfeld also met with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak June 4 to discuss bilateral military cooperation and counterterrorism efforts.
"[W]e've developed an excellent military-to-military relationship and cooperation with respect to counterterrorism, which is beneficial to both of our countries," Rumsfeld told reporters after the meeting.
The secretary expressed appreciation for Malaysia's contribution to peacekeeping efforts in East Timor.
Najib cited the recent arrest of several militants from the Darul Islam separatist group in the Malaysian state of Sabah, on the island of Borneo, as evidence of Malaysia's commitment to regional security.
INCREASING MONGOLIA'S PEACEKEEPING CAPABILITIES
Rumsfeld met for the first time June 4 with Mongolian Defense Minister Mishigiyn Sonompil, who took office in January.
"We've been working closely with the Ministry of Defense of Mongolia with respect to their desire to develop additional capabilities for peacekeeping," the secretary told reporters after the meeting. "We recognize, as the world does, that there's a need for peacekeepers and the work that the Mongolian armed forces have done in both Afghanistan and Iraq has been impressive and enormously helpful."
Rumsfeld said the United States plans to join Mongolia in an upcoming multinational exercise that is intended to strengthen regional cooperation in peacekeeping. The exercise, called "Conquest," is scheduled for late summer.
Following the Shangri-La conference, Rumsfeld was scheduled to travel to Vietnam on June 4 and to Indonesia June 6.
Transcripts of the secretary's press conferences following his bilateral meetings in Singapore are available on the Department of Defense Web site.