Dempsey confers with crucial pacific allies
PERTH, Australia, Nov. 12, 2012 – After meeting with his Australian counterpart here today, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has met with the military leaders of America’s three closest allies in the Asia-Pacific region during his current overseas trip.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey met Gen. David Hurley, chief of Australia’s defense force, upon his arrival for the annual ministerial consultations between the United States and Australia.
Earlier today, the chairman met with Gen. Shigeru Iwasaki, chief of staff of the Japanese joint staff. Yesterday, he met with his South Korean counterpart Gen. Jung Seung-jo following a full day of meetings in the South Korean capital of Seoul and a trip to Korea’s Demilitarized Zone.
In an interview, Dempsey said the alliances among the United States, South Korea, Japan and Australia are the most enduring in the Asia-Pacific. “What I’m trying to do is rise above the very topical and tactical issues and to gain some clarity and consensus on how we can find our way forward together,” he added.
Reason exists to pursue multilateral architectures in the Asia-Pacific region, “but we have to take into account their preferences,” the general said. He noted that a number of significant exercises have taken place in the region, citing the Thai-hosted Cobra Gold and the U.S.-sponsored Rim of the Pacific exercises as examples of multilateral cooperation among the region’s nations.
Asia-Pacific nations also are working more closely together in the counterpiracy mission from the Straits of Malacca to the Gulf of Aden.
Generally, the allies in the Pacific are comfortable with bilateral relations with the United States as a step toward multilateral relations, the chairman said.
During his trip to South Korea, Dempsey visited U.S. and South Korean troops at the Demilitarized Zone. Though he has been to Korea a number of times, it was his first visit to the frontier between the North and South.
“What I was struck by was 60 years of vigilance and partnership, and what that has meant,” he said. “This generation of young Korean and American service members are following in the footsteps of previous generations. I felt damn glad to have them up there.”
While he and Jung discussed the changes in North Korea, Dempsey said, they didn’t dwell on them. “We took stock of activities over time, whether it’s the obvious ones like the shelling of islands of the sinking of the Cheonan, or GPS jamming or the missile tests,” he said. “Then we looked at not only what we should be doing to better prepare ourselves for whatever the future security situation brings up.”
The alliance is successful, but it is going to change, the chairman said, noting that he and Jung discussed what needs to happen to transition to the strategic alliance of 2015. The United States will remain committed to the defense of South Korea, he explained, but the command relationship will change, and he and Jung discussed the path the two countries are on and what still needs to happen.
In Australia, Dempsey will join Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta in meetings with their counterparts. “This shows we are paying more attention to the Asia-Pacific,” he said. “How that will manifest itself will be determined.”
Dempsey said he expects the conversations to run the full gamut of issues both nations are concerned with, including force posture and partnering, freedom of navigation, counterpiracy, and all things that affect the maritime domain.
“I will also try to encourage a conversation about how in the Asia-Pacific there is a nexus or convergence of maritime issues with space issues with cyber issues,” he said. “This convergence is worthy of our time to think through together.”