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American Forces Press Service

U.S. Committed to Asian-Pacific region, Chairman Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2004 - Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers' trip to Japan, Mongolia, China and Australia reemphasized to leaders in the region that the United States is interested and committed to progress in the region, said senior defense officials.

Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent about 60 hours aboard a C-17 transport plane getting around the region.

In Japan, he met with senior military and government officials. The island nation is the economic power in the region, and the United States and Japan have what officials described as an excellent military-to-military relationship. Officials said the Japanese decision to send troops to help rebuild Iraq is a "watershed" event in the nation's history.

The chairman discussed U.S.-Japanese defense ties, the threat posed by North Korea, Japanese participation in missile defense, the threat of proliferation and ongoing efforts in the war on terrorism. An official characterized the talks as "friendly and frank." He said the U.S. delegation spent as much time listening to the Japanese view of the world as explaining the American positions.

The chairman next visited Mongolia. Although it's a poor country, Mongolia is providing forces to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some 178 Mongolian soldiers - infantrymen, engineers and medics - are operating with the Multinational Division Center/South in Hillah. Myers met with the president and with military leaders.

Officials said the Mongolians were very earnest in their desire to help. Myers and his delegation discussed the needs of the Mongolian military and programs the United States can institute to help.

The United States may ship excess defense articles to the Mongolians and help them with professional military education programs, officials said. Specifically, the Mongolians want to develop a professional NCO corps, and the U.S. military will help them in that process, they added.

Myers flew into Beijing and met with senior military and civilian officials. The chairman led the first foreign delegation to visit the Chinese manned space flight center, and met with military and civilian leaders. Officials said the meetings were "cordial." The relationship still has a long way to go to be considered normal, they said.

Officials said there was "congruence" in U.S. and Chinese views on a non- nuclear Korean peninsula. Myers thanked the Chinese for their help on the issue. The Chinese asked about the U.S. position on Taiwan. The chairman reiterated President Bush's statement made in December: the United States adheres to a One-China policy made possible by peaceful means.

The chairman next traveled to Australia, where he met with Prime Minister John Howard and other government and military leaders. The purpose of those meetings was to thank the Australians for their efforts in the war on terrorism and to address on-going military-to-military ties.

"It's impossible to overstate how close we are to the Australians," said a senior defense official. The official said the alliance is based on shared values. The Australians recognize the threat terrorism poses, the official added, especially after the terrorist bombing in Bali that killed 88 Australians.

The chairman discussed on-going operations, regional issues and continuing U.S.-Australian projects - most notably the Australian participation in the Joint Strike Fighter project.

At each stop, the chairman emphasized that the United States is a Pacific nation. He spoke of the need for the United States to remain committed to the region.

The trip was a study in contrasts. Myers went from well-below-freezing temperatures in Mongolia to mid-90s in Townsville, Australia. He went from the towers of Tokyo to the rural capital of Canberra. He went from the economic boom of Beijing to the struggling economy of Ulan Bator. The trip demonstrated the variety in the region, and the need for U.S. commitments to the region, officials said.

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