US to move majority of warships to Asia-Pacific
The US is set to reposition its Navy fleet with the majority of its
warships to be assigned to the Asia-Pacific by 2020. But this military
strategy has nothing to do with US-Chinese rivalry in the region, the
Defence Secretary assures.
The US would reposition its Navy so that 60 percent of its warships
would be assigned to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020, compared to about
50 percent now, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told senior civilian
and military leaders from about 30 Asia-Pacific nations at an annual
security forum in Singapore.
"Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the
Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China. I reject that
view entirely," he said. "Our effort to renew and intensify our
involvement in Asia is fully compatible... with the development and
growth of China. Indeed, increased US involvement in this region will
benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the
But in laying out core US principles in the region, Panetta made
clear Washington opposed any attempt by Beijing to make unilateral moves
in its push for territorial rights in the oil-rich South China Sea.
Panetta's comments came at the start of a seven-day visit to the
region to prove to its Asian allies that it intends to remain a crucial
military and economic power in the region to counterbalance China's
growing influence. The trip includes stops in Vietnam and India, and
comes at a time of renewed tensions over competing sovereignty claims in
the South China Sea, with the Philippines, a major US ally, and China in
a standoff over the Scarborough Shoal near the Filipino coast.
The US aims to reassure its allies that Washington would act to
counterbalance China's growing influence on the South China Sea as part
of its foreign policy known as the "pivot to Asia".
Panetta said the US will be committed to alliances instead of new
permanent bases and mentioned treaties with Japan, South Korea,
Thailand, the Philippines and Australia as well as partnerships with
India, Singapore, Indonesia and others. Panetta said Washington also
would work to increase the number and size of bilateral and multilateral
military training exercises it conducts in Asia-Pacific. Officials said
last year the US carried out 172 such joint drills in the region.
Panetta reiterated he was committed to a "healthy, stable, reliable
and continuous" military-to-military relationship with China, but
underscored the need for Beijing to support a system to clarify rights
in the region and help to resolve disputes.
"China has a critical role to play in advancing security and
prosperity by respecting the rules-based order that has served the
region for six decades," he said.