Who is Panetta meeting in Singapore?
Singapore – Following his keynote address at the 2012 IISS Shangri-la Security Dialogue, Defense Minister Leon Panetta embarked on a series of bilateral and small group meetings here, taking the action behind the scenes. Highlighting the prominence of the South China Sea issue here, Panetta held his first bilateral meeting with Philippines Secretary of National ...
Singapore – Following his keynote address at the 2012 IISS Shangri-la Security Dialogue, Defense Minister Leon Panetta embarked on a series of bilateral and small group meetings here, taking the action behind the scenes.
Highlighting the prominence of the South China Sea issue here, Panetta held his first bilateral meeting with Philippines Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, the latest in a series of senior level interactions between the two allies that takes place amid rising tensions between the Philippines and China. In his speech, Panetta directly addressed the strengthening of the U.S.-Philippines relationship and the U.S. vision for the way forward in resolving the growing regional maritime dispute.
"We are energizing our alliance with the Philippines," Panetta said. "Last month in Washington, I joined Secretary Clinton in the first-ever "2+2" meeting with our Filipino counterparts. Working together, our forces are successfully countering terrorist groups. We are also pursuing mutually beneficial capability enhancements, and working to improve the Philippine’s maritime presence."
Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is also here in Singapore, will travel next to the Philippines, as Panetta goes on to Vietnam and then India. Panetta reiterated the U.S. policy toward the South China Sea issue in his speech, emphasizing that the U.S. is not taking sides but wants China to sign on to a binding code of conduct that will govern such disputes.
"We are paying close attention to the situation in Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea," he said. "The U.S. position is clear and consistent: we call for restraint and diplomatic resolution; we oppose provocation, coercion, or the use of force; we do not take sides on the competing territorial claims; but we do want this dispute resolved peacefully, and in a manner consistent with international law. We have made our views clear to our close treaty ally the Philippines, to China, and to other countries in the region."
In a readout of the Panetta-Gazmin meeting, Pentagon spokesman George Little said the two leaders reaffirmed their respective commitments to the 1951 mutual defense treaty an pledged to increase U.S.-Philippines military cooperation in a range of areas, including cyberspace; and expanding joint information sharing, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities.
"The cornerstone of the existing and any future enhancements of our security relationship will be to assist with capacity building of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, safeguard stability in the region, and increase interoperability so that we can effectively provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction together," Little said.
Next, Panetta went straight into a trilateral meeting Japanese Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe and South Korean Minister of Defense Kim Kwan-Jin. After that, Panetta will attend another trilateral meeting, this time with Japan’s Watanabe and Australian Minister of Defense Stephen Smith. Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka was supposed to come to Singapore but pulled out at the last minute due to an impending cabinet reshuffle that might see him lose that post.
Before Panetta leaves town, he will have a series of short meetings with local leaders, including a bilat with Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, a meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loon, and a pull-aside with Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
We’ll have read out of those meetings after they occur. Watch this space. Of course, Panetta won’t have any meetings with senior Chinese officials here in Singapore, because none of them decided to attend.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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