By Ed Payne, CNN
Reaction to North Korea's nuclear test - its third since 2006 - poured in Tuesday from around the world:
Barack Obama, U.S. president:
"This is a highly provocative act that ... undermines regional stability, violates North Korea's obligations under numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions, contravenes its commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and increases the risk of proliferation.
North Korea's nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs constitute a threat to U.S. national security and to international peace and security. The United States remains vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and steadfast in our defense commitments to allies in the region."
"The danger posed by North Korea's threatening activities warrants further swift and credible action by the international community. The United States will also continue to take steps necessary to defend ourselves and our allies."FULL STORY
By Larry Shaughnessy
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta leaves Wednesday on a nine-day trip to Asia to bring allies there up to speed on the United States' new Pacific-orientated defense strategy.
"Basically the core of what we are trying to do with the swing through Asia, is to give a comprehensive account to partners and everyone in the region about what the rebalance to the Asia/Pacific will mean in practice," a senior defense official said while briefing reporters about the trip.
The trip starts in Honolulu where Panetta will meet with Adm. Sam Locklear, head of U.S. Pacific Command, who will join Panetta for much of the trip.
By Larry Shaughnessy
The phrase is tailor-made for headlines: Pentagon budget cuts. But the new strategy announced Thursday in a rare news conference with both the president and the secretary of defense is not all about subtraction. In some areas there will be an increase in spending.
President Barack Obama called the cuts being considered "difficult ones." But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "As we reduce the overall defense budget, we will protect, and in some cases increase, our investments."
Here's a breakdown of some major changes spelled out in the strategy:
– Special Ops: Special Operations units are troops who carry out the riskiest, most difficult missions, like the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Panetta wants their budget increased. The new strategy says "we will continue to build and sustain tailored capabilities appropriate for counter terrorism and irregular warfare. We will also remain vigilant to threats posed by other designated terrorist organizations, such as Hezbollah."
– Asia: Both Obama and Panetta, as they have in the past, promised to increase U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. "We'll be strengthening our presence in the Asia-Pacific, and budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region," Obama said. That would include 2,500 Marines who will be training on a base in northern Australia.
"We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will also expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests," Panetta said.
– Cyberspace: Panetta also made clear that the Pentagon must invest more in cyberdefense. "Modern armed forces cannot conduct high-tempo, effective operations without reliable information and communication networks and assured access to cyberspace."
– Troops: Panetta said Thursday that "the U.S. joint force will be smaller and it will be leaner." Making joint force smaller and leaner will mean the Army and the Marine Corps are facing a cut in their "end strength." Because the Army and Marines did the bulk of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Navy and Air Force have been cutting their end strength for years. That means any significant cuts will come from the ground forces. One way that could happen is with significant cuts in U.S. presence in Europe.
"We are going to have a smaller and leaner force," Panetta said.
– Benefits: Panetta said some savings may come from benefits for the troops. "We want to maintain the quality of benefits that flow to our troops and to their families. ... That's a key red line for us. We're going to maintain those. But at the same time, we have a responsibility to control costs in those areas as well, and that's part of what we will present as part of our budget.
All the ideas put forth Thursday are, so far, just ideas. No specifics have been proposed; that will likely happen after the President's State of the Union address. Then it would go to Congress, where, one might say, "all bets are off."
In an interview on the sidelines of the East Asian Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told CNN's Brianna Keilar that what is going on in Syria is "very disturbing" and said the opposition is changing, and becoming "well armed and prepared to take action against the Syrian government."
Clinton also spoke about her upcoming trip to Burma, the first by a U.S. Secretary of State in over 50 years. The trip will present an opportunity to test recent political and economic reforms recently enacted by the military junta in the Southeast Asian nation. "How real it is, how far it goes - we will have to make sure we have a better understanding than we do right now," she said in the interview.
And as President Obama announced an agreement with the Australian government earlier this week that would eventually allow over two thousand U.S. Marines to be stationed at an Australian military base on the northern coast of the country, Clinton told CNN the Marines would not be a "hostile presence" meant to counter China.
President Barack Obama announced an agreement with Australia Wednesday that will expand military cooperation between the long-time allies and boost America's presence in the region, Dan Lothian and Lesa Jansen report from Canberra, Australia.
It is a continued effort by the U.S. to maintain a buffer against China, whose growing military capabilities has unsettled many American allies in the region.
As Charley Keyes reported on Security Clearance on Tuesday, the announcement a signal than a significant expansion for the U.S. military.
Under the agreement, up to 250 U.S. Marines will be sent to Darwin and the northern region of Australia for military exercises and training. Over the next several years their numbers are expected to climb to 2,500 - a full Marine ground task force.
At the news conference, Obama insisted fear wasn't driving the enhanced military initiatives.
"The notion that we fear China is mistaken," the president said at the Australian parliament building. China has a looming military presence in the region.
Read more details on the military plans on CNN's 1600 blog
By Senior National Security Producer Charley Keyes
How does a U.S. president faced with budget constraints at home travel halfway around the world and make new military promises to Australia? The answer - very carefully.
"This announcement may be less than advertized," says Patrick Cronin, of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
So get ready for some polished diplomatic language when President Barack Obama talks in Australia this week about more U.S. warships and American troops coming to Australian ports and Australian bases.
Obama may be sending in the Marines to northern Australia but there aren't going to be very many of them and they will be living in Aussie barracks. As for American warships coming to call in Western Australia near Perth, they will be using already existing facilities.
So as Obama is careful to expand U.S.-Australian cooperation on the cheap, he will paint the picture of new military cooperation in broad strokes in case the details are classified or still being thrashed out. Too many specifics may rile up budget-cutters back in Washington, or incite Australian critics worried that cozying up to the U.S. military will offend the number-one customer for Australian products - China. FULL POST