Defense chief to attend isle Change of Command
Defense Secretary Robert Gates will fly to Hawaii next week to be on hand as Navy Adm. Timothy Keating assumes control of the U.S. Pacific Command, according to the Pentagon.
It is customary for defense secretaries to preside over ceremonies marking the arrival of new leaders at the military's regional commands.
Earlier this week, Gates officiated at a Tampa, Fla., ceremony where former Pacific Commander Adm. William J. Fallon succeeded Gen. John Abizaid as the top officer for U.S. forces in the Middle East.
Gates' visit to Hawaii will be his first since he became defense secretary in December.
The Pacific is one of the more critical commands for the military as it encompasses some of the world's most rapidly growing economies, major U.S. trading partners and important sea lanes for commerce.
It also includes potential security flash points like Taiwan, North Korea and enclaves for al-Qaida-linked terrorists in Southeast Asia.
It also covers China, one of the world's most rapidly growing economic and military powers.
The U.S. Senate approved Keating's nomination to head the Pacific Command this week.
Keating told the Senate Armed Services Committee he would closely watch China's military development if he were confirmed. He added that he would make sure Taiwan was able to defend itself if attacked by rival China. Beijing views the self-governing island as a renegade province.
A Navy pilot, Keating was most recently head of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
The admiral has significant experience in the Pacific, including a stint as commander of an aircraft carrier group based in Yokosuka, Japan.
He served as an aide to a Pacific commander in the 1980s.
Keating succeeds Fallon, who was the top military officer in the Pacific from February 2005 through this month.