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Hagel wraps up Hawaii meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations

By William Cole

LAST UPDATED: 2:14 p.m. HST, Apr 3, 2014

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrapped up the ASEAN defense ministers gathering Thursday saying the group held "an extremely valuable meeting here in Hawaii."

Hagel said the meeting with the 10 defense officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "affirmed the deepening bonds of friendship between our nations and the growing opportunities that exist for us to partner together."

Natural disasters and humanitarian crises "will be the defining security challenges of the 21st Century," Hagel said at a news conference at the Kahala Hotel and Resort. 

Singapore proposed using Changi Naval Base as a regional humanitarian assistance, disaster relief crisis coordination center, Hagel said.

"This could be an important venue for nations in the region to coordinate military responses to disasters, and it's an idea that we're going to pursue," he said.

Thursday's discussions with ministers addressed a range of regional security issues, including improving maritime security cooperation and tensions in the South China Sea, Hagel said.

"I told the ministers that the United States is increasingly concerned about the instability arising from the territorial disputes in the South China Sea," he said, without mentioning China. It's important that all claimants "avoid the use or threat of force or intimidation or coercion," he said.

Hagel also addressed the shootings Wednesday at Fort Hood in Texas.

"I've been staying in touch with Army leaders, our senior (Defense Department) leaders, and will continue to do so," he said. "We need to let investigators do their work to help us all understand exactly how this happened."

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