US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on Monday said Asia's security challenges must be dealt through international diplomacy and multilateral negotiations.
The defense secretary made the remark during a speech delivered to the Vietnam National University-Hanoi as he arrived for the ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting along with the bloc's eight partners, including the US and China, on October 12.
"The US and Vietnam, as well as other nations in the region, also share a common interest in maritime security and freedom of access to the global commons," he told the university audience. "We find that relying exclusively on bilateral relationships is not enough."
Gates praised Vietnam's leadership in ASEAN this year, particularly its efforts to bring together defense ministers from throughout the region to build "tangible" cooperation on security and non-traditional issues, including maritime security, peacekeeping, and humanitarian and disaster relief.
It was the first such defense meeting of its kind.
Gates' agenda includes reaffirming the US' engagement in the region in addition to mending defense relations between the US and China following US' arm sales to Taiwan that worth more than $US6 billion. A senior Chinese official called the deal as the biggest obstacle plaguing the two nations' defense ties.
Vietnam's Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said the meeting would focus on discussing defense cooperation in the region to maintain peace and security, while the issue of East Sea and related territorial disputes would be brought up during other side-line bilateral and multilateral meetings.
During a separate briefing, Guan You Fei, Deputy Head of External Relations with China's defense ministry, said China considers the situation in the East Sea "stable" and not a matter involving China-ADMM+ or China-ASEAN.