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Gates looks to defuse tensions on China trip

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Defense Secretary Robert Gates hopes to defuse tensions with China’s growing military when he visits Beijing next week in the latest US bid to forge a security dialogue with the country’s skeptical generals.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, seen here in Afghanistan in 2010.

The trip, to include a tour of a nuclear weapons command center, carries hefty symbolism, with military relations marred by recurring strains and Washington increasingly impatient with Beijing’s stance toward North Korea.

Gates will leave Washington early Saturday. After three days of talks in China, he will head to Tokyo on Wednesday and Seoul on Friday for meetings focused on the volatile crisis on the divided Korean peninsula.

With Chinese President Hu Jintao due in Washington for a pivotal state visit on January 19, both sides are anxious to show progress in defense ties, which China has repeatedly suspended over US arms sales to Taiwan.

“This was something the Chinese very much wanted to do in advance of that trip (by Hu). They want to get this relationship back on track and working in a positive direction,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Friday.

The visit comes a year after Beijing broke off military relations in protest against a multibillion-dollar arms package for rival Taiwan.

Gates embarks on the journey “encouraged” and “optimistic” that military relations can be placed on a more solid foundation, said Morrell, but he acknowledged that previous efforts have produced only fleeting progress.

Days before the US defense chief’s trip, photographs appeared showing a prototype of China’s first stealth fighter, the J-20, at an airfield in the southwest.

The images of the fighter jet coincide with mounting concerns in the Pentagon about China’s increasingly assertive and capable military, including the development of anti-ship missiles that could undercut America’s navy.

Although China may be years away from fielding fully-capable anti-ship missiles or warplanes to rival US fighters, analysts say it is steadily gaining ground.

In his first visit to China since 2007, Gates is scheduled to hold an array of meetings with top officials, including President Hu and his counterpart, General Liang Guanglie.

On Wednesday Gates will visit the army’s Second Artillery Corps headquarters outside of Beijing, which is China’s nuclear command center.

The United States has long sought to open up regular discussions with the Chinese on nuclear, space and cyber weaponry. By talking to officers overseeing the atomic arsenal, Gates hopes to lay the groundwork for such a dialogue, officials said.

Aware of the Asian juggernaut’s rise, the United States for years has appealed to China to back a more “durable” dialogue — similar to US-Soviet exchanges during the Cold War — to avoid miscalculations.

But China has instead opted to sever ties in order to register its displeasure with Washington, particularly over billions of dollars in weapons deals to Taiwan.

“They will probably have some strong words about future arms sales to Taiwan,” said June Teufel Dreyer, an expert on the Chinese military and a professor at the University of Miami.

Because China senses its economic and military might expanding, Gates will not be in a strong negotiating position, she told AFP.

“He will be perceived as begging to get the military relationship back on track, enabling Beijing to ask ‘what do we get out of this?'”

Pentagon officials insist Gates is not out to plead with China.

“China will need to buy into the framework and the logic we see for the military-to-military relationship for its own reasons and in pursuit of its own interests, not because we ask them to,” Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia, said in a speech Thursday.

China’s fast-growing military will also be on the agenda when Gates travels to Japan on January 13-14, where he will hold talks with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa.

Tokyo last month announced a shift of strategy in which it would bolster its defenses in the south to address concerns about China’s armed forces as well as the threat posed by North Korea.

On Friday, Gates makes a brief stop in Seoul to discuss how to prevent tensions from escalating with North Korea in meetings with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and the new defense minister, Kim Kwan-jin.

“China has a very important role to play here as well, to get Pyongyang to understand that its current course and its current behavior is extraordinarily dangerous and destabilizing,” said a senior defense official, who asked not to be named.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, North Korea took further steps to mend ties with the South, suggesting talks within weeks and reopening an office to encourage cooperation on the fractured peninsula.

The latest offer from Pyongyang followed an apparent easing in tensions, which have soared since the North shelled the South’s frontline Yeonpyeong island on November 23, killing four people.


Source: SGGP

Citing deficit, Gates moves to cut US defense budget

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2011 at 4:10 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Citing “dire” fiscal pressures, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed deeper cuts than planned in US military programs, scaling back ground forces for the first time since the 1990s.

Gates, in a compromise with the White House, said the 78 billion dollars in cuts and other measures would result in a slower pace of growth in defense budgets over the next five years, despite earlier plans to keep spending at a higher rate.

The proposed cuts will require reducing the size of the Army and the Marine Corps in 2015-16, with the Army reducing its force by 27,000 troops and the Marines by 15-20,000, he told a news conference.

The US Army and Marines have not faced reductions since the post-Cold War cuts in defense spending in the 1990s, and the size of the ground force — unlike the Air Force and Navy — has expanded since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

AFP file – A US soldier gets a hand to climb a wall during a patrol in Arghandab Valley, Afghanistan.

The decision reflected the shifting political climate in Washington, with the spotlight on the government’s deficit overshadowing a long-running focus on national security after 2001.

The Pentagon chief said he would have preferred to avoid such cuts, “but this country’s dire fiscal situation and the threat it poses to American influence and credibility around the world will only get worse unless the US government gets its finances in order.”

As a major portion of the US budget, “the Pentagon cannot presume to exempt itself from the scrutiny and pressure faced by the rest of our government” to scale back spending, he said.

Some Republican leaders in Congress promptly criticized the proposed budget as a threat to the military’s health, while some budget hawks have argued for much deeper cuts in defense spending.

Gates said the Pentagon needed to steer a middle course without dramatic cuts, but insisted the bureaucracy had to change the way it operated.

“This department simply cannot risk continuing down the same path — where our investment priorities, bureaucratic habits, and lax attitudes towards costs are increasingly divorced from the real threats of today, the growing perils of tomorrow, and the nation’s grim financial outlook,” he said.

Despite talk of fiscal constraints, the vast American defense budget still far exceeds other countries and comes as European allies face drastic cutbacks to core military programs.

Gates had hoped to avoid any cuts that directly affected the fighting force but said the reductions in the Army and Marine Corps will not come until 2015 — when Washington hopes Afghan forces will take over responsibility for their country’s security.

The Army is currently at 569,000 troops, after a temporary increase of an additional 22,000 troops, and the Marine Corps has about 202,000 personnel.

The proposed defense budget for fiscal year 2012 will reach 553 billion dollars, growing at a modest rate of three percent, he said. But future budgets will gradually be scaled back to zero real growth in 2015 and 2016, Gates said.

Gates, mindful of a growing push to rein in the country’s deficit and national debt, has for months signaled plans to find tens of billions in savings in the defense budget with the aim of preserving key military programs.

The department found 150 billion dollars in savings that were meant to be plowed back into the defense budget, but the White House demanded a cut of 78 billion in military spending over the next five years.

The Pentagon used savings in overhead costs of 54 billion dollars to meet the White House request, but Gates still had to find an additional 24 billion.

The additional savings were found by adjusting economic forecasts for budgets in coming years, streamlining plans for the F-35 fighter and cutting the Army and Marine Corps, he said.

Gates confirmed that the cuts included cancelling an amphibious landing craft favored by the US Marine Corps, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which he said had been plagued by repeated delays and rising costs.

Apart from cancelling the amphibious craft, Gates also proposed changes in the costly F-35 fighter jet program, putting the troubled Marine version of the aircraft on a two-year “probation” to resolve persistent technical problems.

For more cost savings, Gates proposed streamlining the Defense Department’s “sprawling intelligence apparatus,” maintaining a freeze on hiring civilians for three years, eliminating more than 100 general and senior officer positions and scrapping nearly 400 internal reports.

Source: SGGP

12 more border gates to drop immigration declaration

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm

U.S.A.–Vietnam relationship is important for the region, says Gates

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 3:51 am

U.S.A.–Vietnam relationship is important for the region, says Gates

QĐND – Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 20:44 (GMT+7)

PANO – U.S Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, was welcomed to the Hall of Hanoi National University by hundreds of students of the university and cadets from Military Science Academy.

His first visit to Hanoi as Secretary of Defence coincides with the city’s 1,000 year Anniversary, the 15th anniversary of Vietnam–U.S.A. diplomatic relations and 10 years after U.S President Bill Clinton’s visit to this very university.

The younger generations of the U.S.A. and Vietnam now live in a peaceful environment and better mutual understanding than in the war era and the time U.S.A. imposed economic embargoes on Vietnam.

Gates’ official visit to Vietnam at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart, General Phung Quang Thanh, and his participation in the first ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, signal the rapid development in the two countries’ diplomatic ties.

ADMM Plus gathers defence ministers and representatives of defence ministers from 10 ASEAN countries and the association’s eight dialogue partners. It is good news as defence heads from 18 countries gather in Hanoi, a city for peace, to discuss peace and cooperation in Asia Pacific.

Gates said that he agreed “right on the spot” when General Thanh invited him to attend the first ADMM Plus, a forum expected to provide opportunities for peace, stability and cooperation.

The U.S.A.–Vietnam relations started after the Vietnam War when the two sides committed to find missing soldiers from the war.

He said that the Vietnamese government returned the remains of some U.S. service members as a gesture of goodwill, said Gates.

“And it was this initial cooperation that led us to where we are today – with a vibrant relationship that now spans a range of issues – trade and investment, education and health, and most relevant to my remarks, security and defence,” said Gates in his speech.

Earlier, in his introduction about Mr. Gates, Vu Minh Giang, Deputy Director of Hanoi National University, mentioned President Clinton’s visit to the education institution. He reminded Gates of Clinton’s regret that Vietnam and U.S. lost many chances to cooperate in the past, solely due to a lack of mutual understanding.

Listing the collaborative efforts of the two sides over the years, Gates held that these would provide invaluable opportunities to build knowledge and trust between the two countries’ defence institutions.

“The growing U.S.A.–Vietnam relationship is not only important for the U.S and Vietnam but also for the region as a whole,” Gates stressed.

He said that Vietnam has been a leader in promoting greater multilateral cooperation.

“It’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year is an excellent example,” said Gates.

“In fact, Vietnam’s vision to push forward on such collaboration is one reason I’m here today,” he added.

When promoting mutual understanding can help promote cooperation, peace and Vietnam–U.S.A. relationship, ADMM Plus is a cornerstone forum that lays foundation for cooperation in a sensitive area of security and defence.

“This meeting represents a historic and very welcome move to a higher level of regional security dialogue, with defence ministers formally coming together for the first time to build tangible coopreation on range of security issues,” Gates stressed in his speech to the students.

He said that, by allowing defence ministers to more exchange of views and by developing the operational infrastructure for future efforts, this forum will build trust and transparency in the whole region.

While ADMM Plus can build those, it is reasonable to believe that not only the youth in Vietnam and U.S.A., but also in the region, can live in their tomorrows, a future of peace and prosperity.

Ngoc Hung

Source: QDND

Gates, Petraeus differ over Afghanistan exit

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates insisted Monday the July 2011 date to start withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan was set in stone, putting him at odds with his top Afghan war commander.

Gates and General David Petraeus were in lock-step on the need for a gradual withdrawal, but a series of interviews exposed discord over the flexibility of the start date given last November by US President Barack Obama.

AFP/File – US soldiers patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers in Kukaran in Kandahar province.

“There is no question in anybody’s mind that we are going to begin drawing down troops in July of 2011,” Gates told The Los Angeles Times.

But Petraeus, asked in a separate interview whether he could reach that juncture and have to recommend a delay to Obama because of the conditions on the ground, replied: “Certainly, yeah.

“I think the president has been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions-based,” he told NBC television’s “Meet the Press” program on Sunday.

“The president and I sat down in the Oval Office and he expressed very clearly that what he wants from me is my best professional military advice.”

Afghanistan, with the help of its Western backers, is trying to build up its army and police so that they can take responsibility for security from US-led NATO forces by the end of 2014.

The Taliban, toppled in a 2001 US-led invasion, still control large swathes of the south and have put up stiff resistance to a surge of 30,000 more US troops due to swell American numbers to 100,000 in the coming weeks.

US public support for the near nine-year war and Obama’s handling of it are at an all-time low, according to opinion polls here, while the death toll for American troops hit a record monthly high in July of 66.

Both Gates, in the LA Times, and Petraeus, in a series of interviews with NBC, The New York Times and The Washington Post, sought to reassure a skeptical public that the American-led coalition can succeed in its aims.

Petraeus told The New York Times he did not just want to preside over a “graceful exit,” while Gates suggested some security responsibilities could begin to be transferred to Afghan forces as early as early next year.

Obama’s mid-2011 deadline to begin a limited withdrawal has been strongly criticized by some who believe it sent out the message America is not in the fight for the long-term and boosted the Taliban’s resolve to wait it out.

Others attack him for not pulling out troops fast enough as they believe US and NATO forces are bogged down in an unwinnable conflict.

Petraeus, giving his first major interviews since assuming command of more than 140,000 coalition troops in Afghanistan last month, also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Taliban with “blood on their hands.”

The general, who helped turn around the Iraq war for Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush — partly by wheeling and dealing with warring factions — said a new reconciliation and reintegration strategy aimed at persuading Afghan insurgents to change sides was “fairly imminent.”

There is “every possibility, I think, that there can be low- and mid-level reintegration and indeed some fracturing of the senior leadership that could be really defined as reconciliation.”

In his interview with The Washington Post, Petraeus said 365 insurgent leaders and 2,400 rank-and-file fighters have been killed or captured over the past three months.

The operations have led “some leaders of some elements” of the insurgency to begin reconciliation discussions with the Afghan government, he told the newspaper, characterizing the interactions as “meaningful.”

Petraeus formally took over command of the Afghan war in July after Obama dismissed General Stanley McChrystal after he and his staff made disparaging comments about senior US administration figures.

The interviews came hours before the website announced that the total number of foreign troops killed since the start of the Afghan war in 2001 had topped 2,000, including 1,226 Americans and 331 from Britain.

Last week, the United Nations said the number of civilian casualties in the Afghan war had risen sharply in the first six months of this year to reach 1,271 Afghans. Another 1,997 people were wounded.

Source: SGGP

Gates plans to slash ‘top-heavy’ Pentagon hierarchy

In Uncategorized on August 10, 2010 at 11:22 am

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Defense Secretary Robert Gates moved to slash a “top-heavy” military hierarchy, announcing plans to close a major command, eliminate at least 50 posts for generals and admirals, and cut back on the use of contractors.

Mounting the most ambitious Pentagon reform in a decade, Gates said harsh fiscal and economic realities require that it “make every dollar count” as it fights two wars and equips itself to confront potential adversaries elsewhere.

(AFP file) A US soldier patrols with Afghan National Army soldiers in Kandahar province.

President Barack Obama applauded the effort, acknowledging that “change is never easy.”

“These reforms will ensure that our nation is safer, stronger, and more fiscally responsible,” he said in a statement.

US defense budgets have doubled to some 700 billion dollars a year since 2001, but Gates warned that the Pentagon now needs to tighten its belt to sustain and modernize the US force.

At a press conference, he unveiled a series of measures targeting the proliferation of personnel in his own office, in military headquarters, defense agencies and intelligence-related units.

“The culture of endless money that has taken hold must be replaced by a culture of restraint,” he said.

US military bureaucracies “have swelled to cumbersome and top-heavy proportions, grown over-reliant on contractors, and grown accustomed to operating with little consideration to cost,” he said.

Gates said he would recommend closing the Norfolk, Virginia-based US Joint Forces Command, which was set up to oversee training and foster coordination among the US military services.

The command costs 250 million dollars a year to run, employing 2,800 military and civilian personnel and some 3,000 contractors. Its responsibilities will be turned over to the Joint Staff.

Its new commander is the outgoing head of US military operations in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno. The Senate confirmed Odierno to the job in July.

Gates said that he told Odierno that “his assignment is the same as Iraq, to work himself out of a job and then I’ll find a new and better one for him.”

Gates also questioned the need for US four-star generals in Europe for each of the military services, and directed a review of all top positions to be completed by November 1.

“At a minimum, I expect this effort to recommend cutting at least 50 general and flag officer positions and 150 senior civilian executive positions over the next two years,” he said.

“These reductions would represent 50 percent of the total growth in senior military and civilian positions since 2000,” he said. “That’s the minimum.”

In the meantime, he ordered a freeze on the number of positions in his office, defense agencies and at combatant commands for the next three years, and said no positions would be created to replace contractors.

Since September 2001, the number of generals and admirals has grown by more than 100, and there were now 40 four-star positions, Gates said. He put the increase in the number of senior civilian positions at more than 300.

“We need to create a system of fewer, flatter and more agile and responsive structures, where reductions in rank at the top create a virtuous cascading downward and outward,” he said.

Additionally, he ordered a freeze in the number of senior executives in defense intelligence organizations and a comprehensive review of the department’s intelligence activities to eliminate “needless duplication.”

Gates also took aim at the Defense Department’s ballooning contractor forces, which he said had grown to be 39 percent of its total workforce.

“Based on the data available after one year, I’m not satisfied with the progress made to reduce our over-reliance on contractors,” Gates said.

“Accordingly, to accelerate this process and achieve additional savings, I have directed that we reduce funding for service support contractors by 10 percent a year for each of the next three years,” he said, exempting Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon had said in June that it plans to save 100 billion dollars in operating costs over five years, in order to adapt to tighter budgets.

It was unclear how much money will be saved by the measures announced Monday, or how much support Gates will find for them in the US Congress, whose members jealously protect military-related jobs in their own states.

But Gates said the Pentagon budget needs to grow by two to three percent a year to sustain its current force structure and invest in modernization programs — one to two percent more than the defense budget is projected to grow.

To avoid a loss in military capabilities, “that spending difference will need to be made elsewhere in the department,” he said.

Source: SGGP

US 2011 drawdown in Afghanistan ‘limited’: Gates

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

Amid growing clamor against the war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has cautioned that large numbers of US troops will remain even after a “limited” July 2011 drawdown.

Despite mounting casualties and public doubts, Gates said Sunday the US-led force was making headway and Taliban insurgents would not be able to wait out American forces because a major troop withdrawal was not on the horizon.

“I think we need to reemphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011,” said Gates, referring to a deadline set by President Barack Obama for the start of a withdrawal.

“My personal opinion is that drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers,” he told ABC’s “This Week.”

Asked if the Taliban could simply “run out the clock” until the mid-2011 target, Gates said that he would “welcome that, because we will be there in the 19th month, and we will be there with a lot of troops.”

 Afghan children look on as US soldiers take part in a patrol in the village of Rambasi, Dand District on the outskirts of Kandahar earlier this year.

The war has become increasingly unpopular with the American public and among Democratic lawmakers, amid a rising US death toll and a lack of confidence in Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The United States also faces questions about whether it can win back Afghans from a resurgent Taliban without remaking Afghanistan in the sort of nation-building exercise it has pledged not to undertake.

Defending the US war effort, Obama told CBS’s “Early Show” that Washington’s goals were “fairly modest” and that the United States had no plans to turn Afghanistan into a Western-style democracy.

“What we’re looking to do is difficult, very difficult, but it’s a fairly modest goal, which is, don’t allow terrorists to operate from this region,” he said in an interview broadcast Sunday.

“That can be accomplished,” he added. “We can stabilize Afghanistan sufficiently and we can get enough cooperation from Pakistan that we are not magnifying the threat against the homeland.”

The US-led invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks ousted from power the Taliban regime and scattered Osama Bin Laden and members of his Al-Qaeda network.

But in almost nine years since, a Taliban insurgency has become increasingly emboldened despite the presence now of almost 150,000 NATO and US troops.

Complicating the situation is a lack of faith in Karzai, who returned to power after elections generally regarded as fraudulent, and faces accusations of corruption and even ties to the drug trade.

The international coalition is also seeing signs of wear — and shrinkage.

Dutch troops ended their mission in Afghanistan Sunday in the first significant drawdown of troops from the Afghan war.

The Netherlands’ deployment began in 2006 and has cost the lives of 24 soldiers.

Switzerland is the only country to have withdrawn its forces until now, bringing its two soldiers home from Afghanistan in March 2008, NATO said.

Canada is withdrawing its entire force of 2,800 troops in Afghanistan next year, while Britain and the United States have signalled that some troops will also leave in 2011 with an overall aim to end combat operations in 2014.

Obama has staked his term in office on success in the war and campaigned on a platform of devoting greater attention to the conflict.

But as the deadline he set for beginning troop withdrawals approaches, there has been little tangible progress, and key Democratic allies have said they expect US troops to begin coming home soon.

Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the administration needed to explain that the fight was key to US national security.

“They should be talking about… the way in which they have actually put al-Qaeda under pressure,” he said on CNN’s “GPS” program. “To walk away from that or to diminish that I think… history would be pretty harsh in its judgment.”

Gates’s comments Sunday echoed remarks by Vice President Joe Biden who has said that as few as 2,000 troops might withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2011.

But the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said Sunday that Americans wanted to see a more significant troop withdrawal.

“Well, I hope it is more than that,” Pelosi told ABC, referring to the 2,000 figure offered by Biden. “I know it’s not going to be turn out the lights and let’s all go home on one day.”

A total of 413 foreign troops have died in the Afghan war so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on that kept by the website.

Two more foreign soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, NATO said.

Source: SGGP

Leaked Afghan war files a ‘dangerous’ risk: Gates

In Uncategorized on July 30, 2010 at 3:18 am

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said leaked US documents on the Afghan war posed grave risks for Americans in battle and for US relationships in the region.

Gates vowed the Pentagon will “aggressively investigate” and prosecute those behind the leak and had asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help in the probe.

The leak of 92,000 classified documents by the website WikiLeaks contained no surprises and did not call into question the US strategy in the Afghan war, Gates and the US military’s top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, told a press conference.

Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblowing website ‘WikiLeaks’, speaks during a press event in London

Gates, however, said “the battlefield consequences of the release of these documents are potentially severe and dangerous for our troops, our allies and Afghan partners, and may well damage our relationships and reputation in that key part of the world.”

The leak exposed sources and methods for US intelligence agencies and allowed US adversaries to learn about military tactics and procedures, said Gates, clearly angry over the episode.

The founder of the Wikileaks website, Julian Assange, has defended the release of the files, saying he hoped it would spark a debate about the war and that his site had checked for named informants before distributing the papers.

But Admiral Mullen said there were better ways to question the war and that Assange may have blood on his hands.

“Mr Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing, but the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family,” he said.

Gates promised a thorough probe to find out how the “massive breach” occurred, to identify who was responsible, and to assess what information was compromised.

The military will take additional steps to protect classified information and to safeguard the lives of US service members as well as Afghans possibly endangered by the leaks, Gates said.

The unprecedented leak jeopardized the trust vital to gathering intelligence in the field, said Gates, a former CIA director.

“We have considerable repair work to do,” to fix relations damaged by the leak, he said.

“That is one of the worst aspects of this, as far as I’m concerned. Will people trust us?

“Will people’s whose lives are on the line trust us to keep their identities secret? Will other governments trust us to keep their documents and their intelligence secret?”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday condemned the release of the documents, saying it could endanger the lives of Afghans cooperating with the US-led force.

Gates declined to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that authorities had evidence linking an army soldier, already accused of leaking a classified video from Iraq, to the leaked Afghan war documents.

Private First Class Bradley Manning was charged earlier this month with illegally releasing a video of a helicopter attack as well as State Department documents.

The Pentagon chief said the leak will force the military to review how it shares intelligence with soldiers on the battlefield.

In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military has worked to ensure soldiers deployed on the front line had the latest intelligence, entrusting troops with sensitive information.

“We want those soldiers in a forward operating base to have all the information they possibly can have that impacts on their own security, but also being able to accomplish their mission,” Gates said.

He said he would be discussing with commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq whether to “change the way we approach that, or do we continue to take the risk.”

Source: SGGP

Clinton, Gates in South Korea to show support

In Uncategorized on July 21, 2010 at 3:24 pm

The US diplomatic and military chiefs paid an unprecedented joint visit Wednesday to the border with North Korea in a show of support for South Korea after a deadly naval attack blamed on Pyongyang.

Watched through the window by a curious North Korean soldier, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates entered a meeting room straddling the borderline and briefly set foot on the North’s side of the room.

Clinton and Gates are leading a high-powered US delegation to the South as a gesture of solidarity following the sinking of a warship in March that killed 46 sailors.

South Korea, its US ally and other countries, citing findings of a multinational investigation, accuse the North of torpedoing the Cheonan warship near the disputed sea border — a charge it denies.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at Seoul Air Base on July 21, 2010.

The incident has sharply raised tensions on the peninsula. Gates and his South Korean counterpart Kim Tae-Young Tuesday announced a major joint naval exercise starting this Sunday as a deterrent to the North.

The South’s defence ministry said it would be the first in a series of about 10 joint naval drills in coming months.

Clinton and Gates, visiting the border truce village of Panmunjom in heavy rain, talked to US and South Korean soldiers posted there.

Unlike the rest of the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) bisecting the peninsula, the border at Panmunjom between communist North and capitalist South is marked only by a low line.

“It struck me that although there may be a thin line, these two places are worlds apart,” Clinton told reporters.

“The Republic of Korea (South Korea) has made extraordinary progress. In contrast, North Korea has not only stagnated in isolation, the people of the North have suffered for so many years.”

It was Clinton’s first visit to the DMZ area, which her husband — then-president Bill Clinton — described during a 1993 visit as “the scariest place on earth”.

“We continue to send a message to the North that there is another way,” she said, referring to US pledges of major aid if Pyongyang scraps its nuclear weapons programme.

“Until they change direction the US stands firmly on behalf of the people and government” of South Korea.

Gates also noted that the South continues to grow and prosper.

“The North, by contrast, stagnates in isolation and deprivation. And as we saw with the sinking of the Cheonan, it continues its history of unpredictable and at times provocative behaviour.”

He said the Panmunjom visit was intended to show appreciation to US and South Korean troops maintaining the armistice that ended the 1950-53 war, “but also to send a strong signal to the North, to the region and to the world that our commitment to South Korea’s security is steadfast”.

The top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, also voiced concern at Pyongyang’s perceived unpredictability during a visit to US troops at Camp Red Cloud, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the DMZ.

The DMZ, whose approaches are guarded by minefields and razor wire, has bisected the peninsula since the war. The US has stationed troops in the South ever since the conflict, and currently has 28,500 there.

“We are all concerned, all the neighbours, concerned about what happens in Pyongyang, and where this leadership goes. He’s a pretty unpredictable guy,” Mullen said, referring to leader Kim Jong-Il.

“The last thing in the world that I want to see happen, that anybody wants to see happen, is to have conflict break out.”

The man nominated to head the US spy community told US senators in Washington Tuesday that he fears a possible “dangerous new period” of direct attacks by the North on its southern neighbour.

James Clapper was making a written response to questions by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Clinton and Gates later visited the War Memorial in Seoul to pay tribute to the war dead and the sailors killed in the Cheonan.

They were to hold “two plus two” talks Wednesday afternoon with South Korean counterparts, and issue a joint statement expected to touch on ways to strengthen the alliance and deal with North Korea.

Source: SGGP

Hanoi halts plan to build five entrance gates

In Uncategorized on July 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

The capital city will not carry out a planned project to build five welcome gates for the upcoming Thang Long-Hanoi millennial celebrations, announced the Chairman of Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen The Thao at the 21st session of the Hanoi municipal People’s Council on July 15.

                       A design of welcome gate

Instead Hanoi will be decorated with ornamental flowers, trees and posters. Money collected from businesses to build the welcome gates will be used for resolving pressing social issues and to renovate urban areas, he added.

The city previously planned to revoke over 14,000 square meters of land to build five welcome gates, at a total capital of around VND50 billion (US2.5 million) on roads including Phap Van-Cau Gie, Bac Thang Long, National Road No.5, the National Highway No. 1A and Lang-Hoa Lac.

The city received many opinions from scientists, experts, architects and the public. Most of opinions said that it is waste of money to build unnecessary entrances. The authorities should use VND50 billion to support the poor and resolve social problems.

Furthermore, the Vietnam and Hanoi Architects’ Associations together with many experts did not agree over the design of the proposed welcome gates.

The mayor also pledged that the implementation of decoration works for the grand celebration would be finished before August 15.

Source: SGGP