"We have got the challenges of dealing with rising powers in Asia. We have got the challenge of, you know, dealing with countries like Russia, rising countries that - like India and others.
"All of that represents the kind of challenges that we are going to have to deal with in this world of the 21st century," Panetta told PBS News Hour in an interview. A transcript of the interview, taken yesterday, was provided by PBS News Hour.
Panetta's remarks came within hours of the Pentagon releasing its defense strategic review which said that the US is investing in long-term strategic partnership with India. The strategy document unveiled by the US President Barack Obama identified China as one of the major security threat to the US in the long term and puts Asia on a bigger priority.
"The United States is investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the broader Indian Ocean region," said the strategy document.
Earlier in the day at a Pentagon news conference, Panetta had said that the US faces challenges from rising powers in Asia, but had not named any country. "We're facing challenges from rising powers in Asia. And we're facing a situation in the Middle East that continues to be in turmoil.
"So, what we've got to do is to be able to have a flexible, adaptable, agile force that can deal with a myriad of challenges in today's world. "That's what we've got to be able to develop," he told the PBS in his interview.
This is for the second time in recent months that Panetta has identified India as a challenge among rising powers in Asia. "We face the threats from rising powers -- China, India, others -- that we have to always be aware of and try to make sure that we always have sufficient force protection out there in the Pacific to make sure they know we're never going anywhere," Panetta had said on November 17.
However, Panetta's spokesman George Little had said that the Defense Secretary strongly values a close relationship with India and sees it as a nation of increasing prominence and power.
"The Secretary strongly values a close military relationship with India, which he sees as a nation of increasing prominence and power. He doesn't view India as a threat," Little had said.
"The United States and India work together on a regular basis to find ways of cooperating around common security interests. We're committed to pursuing even stronger cooperation in the future," he had pointed out.
In his PBS interview, Panetta said that the US wants to build relationship with China. "Well, the United States is a Pacific power. And we have always had a presence in the Pacific. China is a Pacific power as well. And we recognize that.
"And, frankly, my view is that we need to continue to work with China, continue to build a relationship with China, because they are a power, because our economy -- our economies are related, because there are other relationships that we have in that area," Panetta had said.
He said US has a common interest with China in dealing with the threats that exist in the Pacific, "stability of Korea, one example, the whole issue of being able to have commerce move freely through the oceans in that area, the whole issue of nuclear proliferation, the whole issue of dealing with humanitarian crises and disasters." He added, "All of these issues in the Pacific and the possibility that any one of those could develop the kind of challenge that would demand US power being invoked, that's the reason we have got to focus an emphasis on the Pacific region."
Earlier in the day, the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, told reporters that the US President Barack Obama, and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton "desire for a strong, growing, robust partnership with India".