Thu, Jan 03, 2013 - Page 9 News List

US remains committed to the security of the Asia-Pacific region

As part of its efforts to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region, the US is strengthening its alliances with Asian allies through joint training and exercises

By Leon Panetta

These four pillars reflect the US Department of Defense’s comprehensive approach to contributing to a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region in the 21st century. This rebalance is a long-term strategy, and last year we laid a foundation for its long-term success.

Nevertheless, questions and misperceptions remain. Some have concluded that the rebalance is directed at China. It is not. A key component of the rebalance is a healthy, stable and continuous military-to-military relationship with China, based on sustained and substantive dialogue that enhances our ability to work together and to avoid any kind of miscalculation.

I had a successful visit to China in September last year, and I am clear-eyed but optimistic about the future of this important military-to-military relationship. As the US seeks stronger defense ties with China and countries throughout the region, we expect and welcome other countries’ efforts to build ties with China and the US alike.

Some argue that instability and turmoil in the Middle East will prevent us from implementing the rebalance. Our new defense strategy and budget makes clear that it will not. The US military is a global force that can walk and chew gum at the same time. Even as we rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region, we will retain a significant presence in the Middle East to deter aggression and promote stability.

Finally, some question whether, given the US’ fiscal constraints, the US military can make the investments necessary to implement the rebalance. To be sure, the US is facing a new fiscal reality and the defense budget must be reduced by US$487 billion over the next decade. However, budgets are about priorities, and we have clearly made the Asia-Pacific region a priority. We have a detailed plan for the rebalance in our budget, and we have made decisions that will make our military more cost-effective, efficient and productive.

The US is and always will be a Pacific nation. The US has fought and spilled precious blood to give the nations in the Asia-Pacific region the opportunity to achieve prosperity and security. We remain committed to improving the lives of all of those who are part of the Pacific family of nations. The purpose of the rebalance is to fulfill that commitment to the dream of a better and more secure 21st century.

Leon Panetta is the US secretary of defense.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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