U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is on the road to explain the changing U.S. military strategy in the Asia-Pacific to friends and allies in the region.
Speaking to reporters after meeting at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii on Thursday, Panetta stressed that while the U.S. military already had a strong presence in the region, it would strengthen even more over the next five to ten 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 on Saturday.
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, that is critical to the goals of the future," according to him.
He made it clear that the strategy is not about containing China, but "about bringing China into that relationship to try to deal with common challenges we all face."
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 and added that there would be new platforms and capabilities for troops in the area.
He stressed that 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."
He called on "all commanders to be creative in looking for ways to make these rotational deployments work." And he will also listen to the leaders of partner nations.
Earlier, Panetta told troops at Camp H.M. Smith in Hawaii, his first stop on a week-long Asia-Pacific tour, that "the personnel at U.S. Pacific Command are at the forefront of changes to American defense strategy."
by RTT Staff Writer
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