US to bolster military presence in Asia-Pacific: Panetta

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Washington, Jun 1: Embarking on a strategic tour of Asia including India, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said that Washington was planning to bolster its military presence in the Asia-Pacific through alliances rather than setting up bases. Asserting that US was serious about shifting focus to the region, Panetta told reporters on the way to Singapore that a new strategy focused on Asia would bring more troops and high-tech weapons to project American power in the region over the next decade.

Instead of setting up large bases, US military forces, including naval ships, aircrafts and troops, would be deployed on short assignments for joint exercises, training and operations with partner countries. Elaborating on expanding US military footprints in Southeast Asia, Panetta was quoted by Pentagon as saying: "We are moving towards a very innovative relationships in which we will develop rotational deployments."

The US's 'power projection' in the Pacific would be enhanced by investments in new technologies, he said. Panetta's comment come amid growing concerns about China's increasingly aggressive posture. The Pentagon, in its latest report on China, said that Beijing is developing offensive weapon platform like carriers, anti-ship missiles and cyber warfare capabilities. The US defence chief said the new strategy was aimed at re-balancing the military deployment in the area and he had discussed how to carry out the Asia strategy with US Pacific Command chief Admiral Samuel Locklear in Hawaii.

The US currently has 3,30,000 service members in the Pacific Command area and Panetta anticipates the proportion of the total military in the region will rise. The US Defence Secretary is set to describe the changes during a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on Saturday.

PTI

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