WASHINGTON, November 3, 2015 — Defense Secretary Ash Carter today met with several counterparts representing nations from across the Asia-Pacific region during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting – Plus, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, according to statements provided by Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook.
Carter held a bilateral meeting with the Minister of National Defense of the People’s Republic of China General Chang Wanquan. The U.S. defense secretary opened the meeting by reaffirming the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, which he said preserves the peace, stability, and openness of the region. He said U.S.-Chinese military-to-military relations can contribute to regional understanding.
During the discussion, Carter identified two security issues still affecting U.S.-China relations — tensions in the South China Sea and disagreements in cyberspace. Carter reiterated that the U.S. takes no position on maritime disputes in the South China Sea, which he said should be resolved peacefully. He called on all parties to permanently halt reclamation and militarization activities, and noted Chinese President Xi Jingping’s statement during his recent state visit that China is “committed to respecting and upholding the freedom of navigation and overflight that countries enjoy according to international law,” and that “China does not intend to pursue militarization.” Carter affirmed to the minister that the U.S. will continue to defend the principle of freedom of navigation, and will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.
Regarding cyberspace, Carter expressed U.S. concerns about cyber threats to companies and citizens. He reiterated U.S. support for the common understanding reached between U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping that both governments will work together to investigate cyber incidents, promote appropriate norms of state behavior in cyberspace, and refrain from conducting or knowingly supporting the cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property.
At the close of the 40-minute meeting with the Chinese minister in Malaysia today, Carter accepted a previous invitation from President Xi Jingping to visit China. The two sides agreed to work out the details for a visit next spring.
Carter also held an extensive bilateral meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani, where the U.S. defense secretary welcomed the enactment of the Peace and Security Legislation in Japan. Both ministers expressed support for the establishment of the new Alliance Coordination Mechanism and the Bilateral Planning Mechanism, a key implementation effort for the new bilateral defense guidelines, which were released in April this year.
Futenma Replacement Facility
Carter and Nakatani also discussed U.S. force realignment; both expressed strong commitment to the Futenma replacement facility.
They also exchanged views on the ongoing host nation support negotiations, trilateral cooperation with Southeast Asian partner countries, and defense equipment and technology cooperation. Carter particularly praised Nakatani’s recent meeting with South Korean Defense Minister Han Min-koo, highlighting the importance of trilateral cooperation between Japan, South Korea, and the United States for regional stability.
The two leaders also discussed the rapidly evolving security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, including the East China Sea and the South China Sea. They affirmed their governments’ determination to conduct maritime operations in accordance with international law.
U.S.-Indian Defense Relationship
Carter also held a bilateral meeting with Indian Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar. Carter reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to strengthening the defense relationship with India.
Carter and Parrikar highlighted the critical role that ASEAN plays in the region, and discussed ways that the United States and India can work together to realize shared security goals in the Indian Ocean region.
Carter is scheduled to host Minister Parrikar in Washington, Dec. 10, during the minister’s first visit to the United States.
The U.S. defense secretary also met with Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen. The meeting followed on previous defense-related consultations between the two officials earlier this year.
U.S.-Singapore Defense Relationship
Carter expressed his commitment to enhancing the bilateral defense relationship. The two leaders also exchanged views on regional security issues, including recent developments in the South China Sea. Carter relayed his appreciation for Singapore’s vocal support for freedom of navigation in the region, and looked forward to welcoming Ng to the Pentagon in December.
Carter’s also held a bilateral meeting with Philippine National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. The two leaders reaffirmed the strength of the U.S.-Philippines alliance and the enduring ties between the two nations.
U.S. Commitment to Philippines is ‘Ironclad’
Carter welcomed the opportunity to discuss regional security issues with one of America’s closest allies in the Asia-Pacific and stressed that the U.S. commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad.
Gazmin expressed Philippine support for U.S. forces’ activities in the South China Sea, and welcomed closer cooperation with the United States in Philippine force modernization efforts.
Meeting With Thailand’s Minister of Defense
Carter also met with Thai Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. This was the first meeting between the two leaders.
The secretary expressed his commitment to the 182-year-old alliance with Thailand, and the two leaders exchanged views on regional security issues.
Carter relayed his hope to see democracy fully restored in Thailand in order to fully realize bilateral defense cooperation between the two nations.