US Defence Secretary to Tour USS Freedom within Visit to Asia-Pacific Region

The U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will travel to Hawaii, Singapore and Brussels beginning this week, senior defense officials announced on May 28.

Hagel will speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, officials told Pentagon reporters during a background briefing.

The annual conference draws defense and security experts from across the Asia-Pacific region. One official noted Hagel will attend the dialogue for the first time this year as defense secretary, but that as a senator, he helped to found the event in 2002.

 “He’s spoken a number of times at the forum, and he’s really looking forward to going back now,” an official said. This will be Hagel’s first trip to Asia as secretary, the official said, but his father served in the Pacific theater in World War II, and both Hagel and one of his brothers served together in Vietnam.

“He has a personal commitment to the security of Asia,” the official added.

There will be “a lot of focus on follow-through” at this year’s event, one official said. He noted that last year, then-Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta gave a speech outlining initiatives accompanying the U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region. Two of those steps — moving a littoral combat ship to Singapore and deploying Marines to Darwin, Australia — have taken place in the intervening year, the official said, and Hagel will discuss those and other issues with counterparts from the region. The secretary also will tour the USS Freedom, the first littoral combat ship in the region.

Officials said Hagel’s schedule in Singapore includes a number of bilateral meetings and two trilateral meetings: one with South Korean and Japanese ministers, and another with Australian and Japanese counterparts.

En route to Singapore, the secretary will visit U.S. troops and military leaders during a stop in Hawaii, the official said. Hagel’s travel will wrap up with a gathering of defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, the official said.

Press Release, May 30, 2013