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Panetta to Explain New Defense Strategy in Asia-Pacific Region

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, May 31, 2012 – Call it a pivot or a refocusing or a reemphasis or a rebalancing, the bottom line is that the U.S. military strategy in the Asia-Pacific region is changing, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is on the road to explain the changes to friends and allies in the region.

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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta shakes hands with a Singaporean official upon arrival in Singapore, June 1, 2012. Panetta is participating in the Shangri-La Dialogue, a meeting with defense counterparts from across Asia. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Speaking to reporters after meeting at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, Panetta stressed that while the U.S. military already has a strong presence in the region, it will strengthen even more over the next five to 10 years. “Our goal to help build a region that enjoys peace, prosperity, security and stability,” he said.

Panetta is set to describe the changes during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 2.

There are 330,000 U.S. service members in the Pacific Command area now, and Panetta anticipates the proportion of the total military in the region will rise.

The strategy is based on key shared principles, Panetta said. One principle is that the Asia-Pacific must be “a rules-based region that relies on international rules and international order,” he said. This means that nations must adhere to agreed-upon rules such as the Law of the Sea Convention and other international agreements.

The second principle on which the U.S. strategy is based is that of building partnerships for the future and modernizing the relationships with current allies. The U.S. is a treaty ally with Japan, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. The U.S. wants to build on capabilities with allies, and also build other relationships with the nations in the region ,Panetta said.

“Part of that is to build a closer relationship with China as well – to build better military-to-military relations, to be more transparent in that relationship,” he said. “This is critical to the goals of the future.”

This strategy is not about containing China. “This is about bringing China into that relationship to try to deal with common challenges we all face,” Panetta said.

These challenges include delivering humanitarian assistance, combating terrorism, defeating narcotics traffickers, countering piracy and others.

The American military also wants to strengthen power projection capabilities in the region. Panetta said there will be new platforms and capabilities for troops in the area.

Panetta stressed the United States is implementing a very new strategy in the region.

“We’re moving away from the Cold War strategy where you build permanent bases and basically impose our power on the region,” the secretary said. “We’re moving toward a very innovative and creative relationship in which we develop these rotational deployments, that we work with these countries to develop these capabilities, that we strengthen these partnerships for the future.”

All commanders must be creative in looking for ways to make these rotational deployments work, he said. And he will also listen to the leaders of partner nations.

“I’m going to be listening to all of these countries and what kind of assistance makes sense in developing that partnership relationship,” he said. “To make this work it can’t be just the military. It’s got to be diplomatic, economic, trade, building relations that build prosperity and security in the region.”

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Leon E. Panetta

Related Sites:
Special Report: Travels With Panetta

Click photo for screen-resolution imageU.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, left, and Thai Defense Minister Sukamphon Suwannathat meet in Singapore, June 1, 2012, before the annual Shangri-La Dialogue. The two defense leaders discussed their ongoing commitment to a strong U.S-Thai alliance. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo   
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