Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Panetta says US committed to being Pacific power

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Japan on Monday hoping to persuade Tokyo to relocate a military base which Washington says is vital to its role as a Pacific power.

In his first trip to Asia as Pentagon chief, Panetta is seeking to reassure allies that the US remains engaged in the region as a counterweight to the growing might of China.

Part of that engagement, he will tell Japanese officials, means moving ahead with the planned relocation of a marine airbase on an island chain in the south that is home to around half of the nearly 50,000 US troops stationed in Japan.

Panetta's Asian tour has already taken him to Indonesia where he told regional figures that budget cuts at home would not stymie Washington's engagement in the Pacific, even as he offered rare praise for China.