Panetta Outlines Goals for Asia Trip
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, Oct. 21, 2011 Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta today told reporters traveling with him on a three-nation trip to Asia that his visit brings a “clear message” to the region.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta conducts a press conference with reporters aboard a U.S. Air Force E-4B aircraft on his way to visit with defense leaders and U.S. troops stationed in the Asia-Pacific region, Oct. 21, 2011. Panetta discussed the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, NATO operations in Libya, and the importance of U.S. alliances with Indonesia, Japan and South Korea. Panetta issued a statement on Iraq as well. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The United States “will remain a strong Pacific force, … and we will maintain s strong presence in the Pacific in the 21st century,” the secretary said.
That presence is dedicated to maintaining a continuing presence and promoting security in the region, he added.
Panetta noted while this is his first trip to Asia as defense secretary, he has visited various regions there in the past as a member of Congress, as President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, and as CIA director.
“This is an important time to visit that region,” the secretary said. “There are very important economic, diplomatic and security issues that are being discussed.”
The United States intends to remain a “strong force for peace and prosperity” in Asia, Panetta said, and his goal for this visit is to strengthen existing alliances and build new partnerships to improve regional security.
Indonesia, the first stop on his tour, provides “great leadership in promoting regional cooperation, and we will continue to support them in that effort,” he said.
Japan, which the secretary will also visit, shares a historic alliance with the United States, Panetta said, and his visit will underscore U.S. commitment to that alliance and to continue working with Japan in the region.
The secretary also will travel to South Korea, “another historic alliance that we are working in partnership with to try and protect their security,” he said.
In partnership with South Korea, Panetta said, his goal as defense secretary is to ensure that “we are working together in dealing with the threats that come out of North Korea, and if there are provocations, that we work together to confront those provocations.”
The situation with North Korea always has been one of either accommodation or provocation, Panetta said. “At the present time, it appears that they’re trying to be accommodating in some ways … and obviously, we want them to do that,” he added.
The secretary said his message on China during this visit is that the United States wants to develop a cooperative relationship. It’s important for the United States to build a military-to-military relationship with China, he explained, because it is a major power in the region.
Panetta said he believes Chinese leaders recognize that relationship would require them to be more transparent and to recognize international rules, “so that all countries can … enjoy navigation rights, right of passage, but more importantly, can enjoy a degree of security in that part of the world.”