(Via Ho’okele News)
Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal
Defense Media Activity – Hawaii News Bureau
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosted the 2014 Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Forum held in Hawaii from April 1 to April 3 as part of a 10-day long trip across the Asia-Pacific region where Hagel spoke with ASEAN defense ministers.
It was the first time for the forum to be held in the United States.
The forum included a roundtable discussion at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Inouye Regional Center. The focus was on humanitarian and disaster relief, a matter of concern in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Humanitarian assistance and natural disasters are with us every day and will continue to be,” Hagel said. “The more we continue to understand the science behind those natural disasters, the more we can communicate and coordinate our efforts to help each other.”
Rajiv Shah, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator, joined the secretary in leading the ASEAN roundtable.
“Natural disasters have cost the world roughly $300 billion and 30,000 lives in the last two years alone,” Shah said. “This is a unique opportunity for us to learn together how we can be supportive of your efforts as defense ministers, often called in when times are toughest and expected to perform under conditions of little information and extreme crisis.”
The ASEAN contingent then toured the U.S. Navy amphibious transport dock USS Anchorage, the most decorated ship of its kind on the west coast that can launch versatile airframes like the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey to disaster areas where others can’t breach. After the tour, Hagel spoke about the importance of the ASEAN collaboration and cooperation.
“The focus was on our efforts to bring our capabilities together as countries who share our futures, our interests and our histories in the Asia-Pacific region,” Hagel said. “We started the day focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief but we can do more, we will do more, we are doing more. I think there is ample evidence on how we can collaborate and cooperate.”
Hagel provided examples of ASEAN collaboration including the response to the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. He also pointed to the collective response by the ASEAN countries to last fall’s destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
“In both cases, nations in the region were able to set aside rivalries and differences and instead work together,” Hagel said.
“At the same time, both cases underscore the reality that nations must engage in more practical security cooperation ahead of time in order to work together more effectively when challenges arise.”
Hagel emphasized that the forum underscores the need for Asia-Pacific nations to work together in providing regional security as well as bringing aid and relief to countries affected by natural disasters.