The U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has begun an eight-day trip to meet with defense counterparts in Japan, China and New Zealand. Panetta is making his third trip to Asia as defense secretary. Panetta's visit will further advance engagement on the U.S. strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, the American Forces Press Service reported on Saturday citing officials.
Citing the officials, the reported noted that in support of the rebalance, department leaders plan to increase the U.S. naval presence in the Asia-Pacific, expand training exercises with regional partners, deploy forces rotationally to locations throughout the region, and prioritize military capabilities most relevant to the region.
The secretary will first meet with the Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto, and the two will discuss a wide range of issues including the realignment of U.S. forces in Japan and Japanese concerns over safety of the Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft the United States is deploying to Japan. The secretary will also visit U.S. troops while in Japan.
After Japan, Panetta will travel on to China, at the invitation of Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie, according to officials. While in China, they added, Panetta will meet with top Chinese civilian and military leaders.
The China visit will allow Panetta to deepen the military-to-military engagement with that country, which is a priority for the secretary, officials said.
Citing the officials, the report said the United States will not achieve security and prosperity in the 21st century without a constructive U.S.-China relationship, including a stronger military-to-military relationship.
In New Zealand, Panetta will build on progress made this summer when he and Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman signed the Washington Declaration, the report said.
by RTT Staff Writer
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