(Via Ho’okele News)
Next week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will convene the first U.S.-hosted meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hawaii, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, press secretary for the Defense Department, said Thursday.
Following the meeting, Hagel will travel to the Asia-Pacific region for visits with his counterparts in Japan, China and Mongolia, Kirby added.
The trip will be Hagel’s fourth official visit to the Asia-Pacific, a region of growing importance and emphasis for U.S. foreign policy and its defense strategy, the press secretary said.
“The secretary extended this invitation to ASEAN ministers in his speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue last June [and] participated in the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus last August,” Kirby told reporters.
Increased and expanded DOD engagement with ASEAN members has been a priority for Hagel, the admiral noted, and the secretary has worked with Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, to focus on making the upcoming historic gathering a success.
Kirby said the ASEAN meeting will identify ways to strengthen multilateral security cooperation in the region and build more robust partnerships between military and civilian agencies to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.
Toward that end, Hagel has invited leaders from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development to join the meeting and is pleased the NOAA and USAID leaders will attend, the admiral added.
According to the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, DOD leaders expect the frequency, scale and complexity of future humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions to increase, Kirby said.
“Secretary Hagel believes the United States and our partners must be prepared for that reality,” he noted.
From Hawaii, Hagel will travel to Japan for his second visit there as defense secretary.