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US eyes more Asian defense talks

by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 1, 2011
Asian and US defense chiefs should consider meeting more frequently to smooth out relations after last year's inaugural talks in Vietnam, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The October talks brought together defense ministers from 18 nations including the United States and China at a time of tension in much of Asia over Beijing's growing military might.

Robert Scher, the top Pentagon official handling Southeast Asia, said that the Hanoi meeting "fills a critical gap" as the region needs more communication on security issues along with "candid discussion where we may disagree."

"We really need to capitalize on the momentum generated following the successful inaugural" meeting, Scher, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, said at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.

"We should also look and consider whether or not we want to have these ministerials on more than a once-every-three-year basis," he said.

The joint statement by the defense ministers in Hanoi said that the next such meeting would take place in 2013 in Brunei.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates held talks in Hanoi with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie after tensions over US arms sales on Taiwan. Liang also held a rare meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa in the wake of friction over Tokyo's arrest of a Chinese captain in disputed waters.

The other defense chiefs in the talks came from the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with Australia, India, New Zealand, Russia and South Korea.

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