Panetta announces new strategy with Asia
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta shakes hands with Japanese Senior Vice Defense Minister Shu Watanabe at the Asia Security Summit in Singapore.
June 2nd, 2012
05:56 PM ET

Panetta announces new strategy with Asia

By CNN's Liz Neisloss

SINGAPORE (CNN) - As part of a "rebalancing" with Asia, the United States will enhance military-to-military cooperation with China while also boosting the capabilities of its allies in the region, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Saturday.

Panetta detailed the new defense strategy to a gathering of Asia's military leaders, saying the majority of U.S. warships would move to Asia.

"By 2020 the Navy will reposture its forces from today's roughly 50-50 split from the Pacific and Atlantic to a 60-40 split in those oceans," Panetta said.

"We will also invest - invest in cyber, invest in space, invest in unmanned systems, invest in special forces operations," he said. "We will invest in the newest technologies. And we will invest in new technology to mobilize quickly, if necessary," Panetta said.

Along with enhanced military cooperation, Panetta emphasized diplomacy and a "rules-based order" that includes "open and free commerce, and open access by all to their shared domains of sea and air" - a current point of friction in the South China Sea between China and regional nations. Panetta called for disputes to be resolved without coercion or the use of force.

The defense secretary was kicking off his eight-day trip to Asia, geared toward explaining the U.S. strategy.

The so-called U.S. 'tilt' to Asia includes beefing up the strength of its regional allies such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

"We will play an essential role in promoting strong partnerships that strengthen the capabilities of the Pacific nations to defend and secure themselves," Panetta said.

Asked if helping the militaries of regional allies would raise the potential for conflict, Panetta said, "I don't think we should take the attitude that just because we improve their capabilities that we are asking for more trouble."

Panetta said the United States should "do everything we can" to help those countries defend themselves, but at the same time, the U.S. would "encourage them ... to abide by an international set of rules and standards and order."

The increased regional involvement by the United States has raised concerns about tensions with China and suggestions it represents a threat to China.

"I reject that view entirely," Panetta said, calling the U.S. shift "fully compatible with the development and growth of China. Indeed, increased U.S. involvement in this region will benefit China."

Panetta said the United States will work to improve communication with China with an aim to "build trust" between the two nations.

Looming over the discussions in Singapore is the conflict between China and various regional nations - such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan - over the South China Sea.

The South China Sea, nicknamed "the second Persian Gulf" because of its potential for massive oil and gas reserves, is also a key passageway for the world's oil and is home to enormously valuable fisheries.

A crisis in the area has the potential for major economic damage to the United States as well. As one of the busiest sea lanes in the world, disputes in the South China Sea could have a major impact on shipping by forcing costly rerouting.

According to estimates by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, $5.3 trillion of trade passes each year through the South China Sea; U.S. trade accounts for $1.2 trillion.

There have been several disputes recently, with concern that such incidents could spark military action.

Speaking to the gathering by the International Institute of Strategic Studies (Asia), which included defense ministers and top military officials from 27 countries, Panetta said the U.S. supports the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN's) development of a binding code of conduct for the South China Sea area.

On the other side of the U.S.-Asia strategy is an emphasis on building the U.S.-China relationship. "The key here is to try to strengthen mil-to-mil so that we can have greater transparencies ... and to take steps to confront mutual challenges," Panetta said.

He said the United States was "clear eyed" about its relationship with China. "We're not naive about the relationship, and neither is China. ... But we also both understand that there really is no other alternative but for both of us to engage."

"We have also agreed on the need to address responsible behavior in cyberspace and in outer space," Panetta added.

Panetta said he plans to visit China sometime this summer.

The U.S. decision to play a larger role in Asia comes against the backdrop of rising military spending in that region while the U.S. trims its own military in the face of massive deficits.

Defense spending in Asia has been projected to surpass Europe's this year. "There is no doubt that it will continue to increase in the future," Panetta said.

To offset U.S. budget realities, the United States will "sharpen the technological edge of our forces," Panetta said.

He said the U.S. military "will be smaller, and it will be leaner, but it will be agile and flexible and quickly deployable and will employ cutting edge technology in the future."

Panetta detailed how the United States will spend its money with "investments" in rapid deployment technology and in capabilities that will help the U.S. deal with the realities of long distances in the Pacific such as "new aerial refueling tankers, a new bomber, an advanced maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare aircraft."

Under required budget cuts by Congress, the Department of Defense must reduce the planned budget by nearly half a trillion dollars over the next decade.

Despite financial constraints, Panetta said, there is a "detailed blueprint" for meeting regional goals and its fiscal responsibilities.

"Make no mistake - in a steady, deliberate and sustainable way, the United States military is rebalancing and is bringing an enhanced capability ... to this vital region," he said.

Also present at the conference, U.S. Republican Sen. John McCain said U.S. budget cuts will affect the outlined Asia strategy.

"At some point, and I think we are at that point, we will not be able to carry out the commitments," McCain told reporters. He said money for additional ships could be found by spending less on the redeployment of U.S. marines out of Okinawa, Japan, and by getting the "cost, waste and mismanagement" of weapons systems in the Pentagon under control.

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. RCDC

    I think China is about to invade it's South East Asian neighbors. Philippines and it's Asian neighbors should prepare for defense. Chinese admiral just ordered to shoot on Philippine navy in Panatag island a few days ago and waiting for further orders from their commandant. I think it would be wise for the Philippines to modernize and prepare for the unexpected while promoting peace.

    July 3, 2012 at 5:44 am | Reply
  2. Louise

    America is bankrupt. Would you let someone who is bankrupt look after your security? America does not have a plan to get its house in order, it does not have a plan to balance its budget let alone pay off its government debt. Currently it does not look like the US has much of a future.

    By 2020 every country in Asia will have China as its largest trading partner and having America moving its military into the region is not going to change that. Countries in Asia get on a lot better with each other than the US media lets on.

    June 26, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Reply
  3. some guy

    Boring!... nowadays wars are all about cooperation. If you have beef with some country just militarily joint excersize with them till both of you are tired. or just do your routine excersize in front of each other and go sleep in the barracks. No wonder even women want to be in combat now! Over preparation and under utilization is the mantra of todays armies. When will two nation grow a pair and duke it out with thousands of troops planes, tanks and ships. the good old manly way of WW 2. No wonder young men playing COD and getting yelled at by women, old men, moms the world for not being a man. and women want to take part in combat , because its all like fox hunting now where you can be on your horse and aim with your rifles sitting relaxed and kill a Fox , which only has its teeth to defend itself from 200 Fox Hunters.

    June 5, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  4. krm1007 ©™

    The American invasion of Afghanistan brought to the forefront the irrelevance of India as a nation. With a population of over 1.2 billion people there was no value that this nation could bring to the table. Their soldiers (ragtag) 1.2million continue hiding in the trenches scared from Talibans. A few teenage Talibans invaded the country and held it hostage for days on end showing how useless India is. It was embarrasing for the world to observe this humiliation of a nation that was being touted as a regional power and more embarassing for the Americans who had set up the security apparatus in India with assistance from another country. All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put humpty dumpty back together again.

    June 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  5. krm1007 ©™

    PAKISTAN.....The New Gateway to Central Asia and Europe.
    With a population of over 180 million most of whom are well educated, English speaking, entrepreneurial and a cultural and social fit with Central Asians...Pakistan will now become the new face and gateway to Central Asia and Europe. Pakistan will thus span this region and provide the impetus for growth, prosperity and unity among these countries. These are new and exciting times for Pakistanis who should now look forward to their new leadership role aligned with Central Asia and Europe rather than the Subcontinent. We wish them much success as they have sacrificed the most during the past 30 + years creating a new world order.

    June 3, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • Dustin Goldsen

      I hope for their sake that is true, however Pakistan currently has some serious problems to overcome. It is a very unstable place with a government that has to walk a tight rope between powerful religious extremist and people who want a more western approach. They will have to drag a large part of their population kicking and screaming into the 3rd millennium to resolve those problems.

      June 4, 2012 at 2:02 am | Reply
      • Emily Bernstein

        Pakistan has been fighting other people's wars and spending their coffers dry. Not to mention the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis killed or injured. Pakistan needs to quit being a good samaritan and let others fight their own wars and spend money for it while doing so.

        June 4, 2012 at 8:57 am |
  6. AlexShch

    Frankly, it appears that nobody in China or Russia takes seriously anything what current US administration, especially Secs. Clinton and Panetta, say at this point.

    Everybody simply wait for the outcome of November elections, then the end of the following lime-duck cession, and only then, after the end of January 2013, when the new US administration will be more or less in place and not bound by domestic electoral agenda, a meaningful conversation can begin. It happened before many times, perhaps starting with Khruschev completely discarding Pres. Eisenhower after July 1, 1960 shootdown of US plane, and last time it happened in 2008, when GWB was discarded in summer (multiple reasons). Same happened to Clinton before. Perhaps among recent US presidents only transition from Reigan to elder Bush have avoided this farewell cooling down.

    There is nothing unusual, we have entered inter-season: all shows are over, and new ones will begin only after a while.
    What is slightly unusual this time is that the current administration managed to screw it up basically on a perfectly paved flat surface: there are no major or urgent problems, sources of tensions, etc., but they screwed it up any way.

    June 3, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Reply
    • Dustin Goldsen

      This administration took over from an administration that responded to an attack against America by invading the wrong country, nearly restarted the cold war and allowed relations with our allies to deteriorate to such an extent that John McCain said he would need preconditions before talking to Spain. The current GOP candidate premisses more of the same claiming that Russia is our worst geopolitical foe. And you think going back to those folks would be an improvement in foreign policy?

      June 4, 2012 at 2:07 am | Reply
  7. Bangash

    This mean Paneta wish to continue sucking blood of poor nations through further militarization in world politics. This is indeed bad luck of entire humanity That Americans have extraordinary dependence on MIC and all these deaths and destruction are in fact main source of American economy and in this way this Dracula style is main source of livelihood for prevailing American way of life. No doubt America is in a position to decide on own terms but world history is witnessed to this fact that all such big ones have always met very humiliating fate and succeeding generations have been condemning them even today. What is saying in above statement is in no way different from what Hitler had been thinking of the world but for that whole world including America has condemned him. So how the fate of America can be different from that of Hitlor when both are riding same horse.

    June 3, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  8. woof211


    Space based weapons? Sorry kid but we don't have any. Nor are we likely to deploy any. They are too damned inefficient and too damned expensive. Where are you getting your information from? Robert Heinlein?

    May 30, 2012 at 1:01 am

    "We will also invest – invest in cyber, invest in space, invest in unmanned systems, invest in special forces operations," he said. "We will invest in the newest technologies. And we will invest in new technology to mobilize quickly, if necessary," Panetta said

    June 3, 2012 at 3:46 am | Reply
    • Leif

      Spy satellites.

      June 3, 2012 at 4:02 am | Reply
  9. Jy

    China has very right as US to defend its national interest, such as natural resources within its 200-mile economic border, which treaty the US never rectified. We should use every available resource to bring the country out of the deep recession we are in. Pursuing an bullying strategy wins us no friends.

    June 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Reply
    • AlexShch

      "...treaty the US never rectified" –> should be "...never ratified"

      June 3, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  10. JL

    America engaged with allies in Asia Pacific was long overdue. It is better late than never, we are the only country has the trust and good intentions to safe guard peace and securities in the region from our allies and friends. China should not fear this new development unless it has other intentions or motives. We have every rights to enhance our allies and friends capabilities to protect their sovereignty per international laws (UNLOS). China has no right to complain and crying about it but must explain itself why all these offensive weapons development in recent years? When there is no external threat.

    June 2, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Reply
    • Funny

      You mean UNCLOS? The US hasn't ratified it yet (:- You mean others need to obey UNCLOS but not the US, right? Just like domestically, you can't be the police, the judge and the lawmaker internationally!

      June 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Reply
    • Funny

      BTW, only the US is allowed to have offensive weapons? know why every country wants to develop nuclear weapons. The reason is that the US threatens everyone with nuclear weapons!

      June 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Reply
    • Threat to the world

      JL, who has hundreds of military bases around the world? Who stations troops in every corner of the world? Who conducts military exercises every second at everyone's doorsteps ? Now you find the threat to humanity!

      June 2, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply

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