Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
Story by Donna Miles
MELBOURNE, Australia - Arriving here Nov. 6 for a summit aimed at strengthening the U.S.-Australia alliance, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called it part of a broader, inclusive U.S. effort to strengthen security relationships throughout the region.
Gates, speaking with reporters during the 20-hour flight here, cited a "pretty ambitious agenda" for tomorrow's Australian-U.S. Ministerial meetings. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Navy Adm. Mike Mullen will meet with Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith for talks covering a broad range of foreign policy, defense and strategic issues.
With discussions hitting traditional security issues as well as missile defense and space surveillance, Gates cited a "very old alliance" that is demonstrating its ability to expand to cover new areas of interest or concern.
Those talks will explore new areas in which the two countries can work together "in a mutually beneficial way," with possible new activities in Australia, he said.
Noting that the Defense Department is working on a global posture review, Gates said the United States is "looking at ways to strengthen and perhaps make more robust our presence in Asia."
He emphasized, however, that the United States has no interest in creating new military bases in Australia or anywhere else in Asia. Rather, he said, the focus will be on "how do we enhance the relationships we already have?"
Gates called the initiatives part of U.S. efforts to engage more with Asia and the Pacific region. He cited enhanced naval, counterterrorism and counter-piracy cooperation with numerous countries in the region, particularly during the past 18 months. That includes Clinton's participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum in Thailand in July and the East Asia Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last month, as well as Gates' attendance at a defense ministers' meeting in Hanoi last month.
"This isn't about China at all," he said of the activities. In fact, he cited areas that the United States and China share an interest, such as humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.
"This is more about a continuing U.S. presence and building these relationships" in the region, he said.