"As we examine our geographic priorities, it's important to remember that we can and we will do more than one thing at a time. US security commitments are not zero-sum.
"And even as we enhance our presence in the Pacific, we will not surrender our status as a global power and a global leader," Panetta said in his remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.
His comments came at a time when US is wooing Asian countries large and small to help America's security agenda and is anxious to build some regional political balance to the rising might of China.
"As a country with global interests and responsibilities and with a military with unique global strength and reach, America will remain committed to global security," Panetta said.
He added, "In particular, we will continue to defend our shared interests in free and open commerce, the rule of law, freedom of movement across the global commons of air and sea and space and cyberspace, which is ultimately the bedrock of our security and our prosperity and that of our allies."