Panetta said Washington would also work to increase the number and size of bilateral and multilateral military training exercises it conducts in the region. Officials said last year the United States carried out 172 such exercises in the region.
CHINESE REACTION MUTED
China’s Foreign Ministry said today it hoped the United States will respect Beijing’s regional interests, after the U.S. defense secretary announced plans to shift most of his country’s warships to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.
China’s relatively mild reaction to the U.S. announcement highlighted its reluctance to risk outright confrontation with Washington despite friction. The Foreign Ministry also brushed aside a question about an alleged spy scandal involving the United States.
“At present, the grand trend and broad aspiration of the Asia-Pacific region is towards seeking peace, fostering cooperation and encouraging development,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in answer to a question about the U.S. announcement about naval priorities.
“All sides should strive to preserve and promote regional peace, stability and development. The approach of artificially stressing military security, enhancing military deployments and strengthening military alliances is out of keeping with the times,” Liu said at a daily news briefing.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Saturday the Pentagon would reposition its naval fleet so that 60 percent of its battleships would be in the Asia-Pacific by the end of the decade, up from about 50 percent now.
“The Asia-Pacific is the region where Chinese and U.S. interests most overlap, and we welcome the United States to play a constructive role in the region,” Liu said.
“We also hope that the United States will respect the interests and concerns of all sides in the Asia-Pacific, including China.”