Pentagon chief to visit Singapore, Europe next week

WASHINGTON - Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel will embark Wednesday on a 12-day trip that will take in Singapore before heading to Europe for talks with NATO allies.

The tour will begin with a brief stop at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, where the US defense secretary will receive briefings on missile defense, his office said.

Two dozen GBI interceptors are deployed in Alaska to deal with the ballistic threat from North Korea in particular.

Hagel will then travel to Singapore to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, a major annual forum dedicated to the security of the Asia-Pacific region, which runs from May 30 to June 1.

There, he will call once again for strengthening partnerships with countries in the region as part of the US "pivot" towards Asia, and hold a series of meetings with defense ministers, though Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby would not specify with whom.

Hagel's fifth trip to the Asia-Pacific "is an important opportunity to build on the momentum we've achieved in strengthening our engagement and our alliances and partnerships in the Pacific region," Kirby said.

Hagel will then attend a June 3-4 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.

"He views this as a particularly important meeting, of course, as it is the first since Russia's incursions into Ukraine and the last before September's NATO Summit in Wales," said Kirby.

The spokesman added that Hagel "believes our European allies must use this crisis as an opportunity to revitalize NATO and enhance their commitments to collective defense."

Hagel will then travel to Romania and from there to France.