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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will convene the first US-hosted gathering of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ defense ministers in Honolulu, Hawaii, this week, making good on his promise during last June’s Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore. The meeting, known as the ASEAN Defense Ministers Ministerial, reflects Hagel’s priority to expand Defense Department engagement with the 10-nation group, said Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby last week. Hagel has worked with US Pacific Command boss Adm. Samuel Locklear to set up the historic meeting and build ties with the organization, said Kirby. The meeting will focus on ways to expand multilateral security cooperation in Southeast Asia and ways to build partnerships between militaries and civilian agencies to ensure better humanitarian response and disaster relief operations. Hagel also has invited officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Agency for International Development to attend. Following the ministerial, Hagel will travel to Japan, Mongolia, and make his first trip to China. (AFPS report) (Kirby transcript)