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American Forces Press Service

Panetta Aims to Fortify Alliances on Asia-Pacific Tour

By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2012 – To strengthen alliances with partners in the Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta will prepare for a three-country trip across two continents, Press Secretary George Little said in a briefing today.

“We look forward to this opportunity to further advance our long-term strategy of rebalancing with the Asia-Pacific [region],” Little said.

The first stop on the trip, he said, will be Perth, Australia.

There, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey and Commander of U.S. Pacific Command Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III will join Panetta for the annual U.S.-Australian Ministerial.

Panetta’s first trip to Australia as Defense Secretary will enable him to thank Australia for their contribution to efforts in Afghanistan, Little noted.

“This year’s Australia Ministerial will also provide an opportunity to review the alliance’s progress on the successful Marine Corps and Air Force deployments to Northern Australia and to discuss the next steps in this important cooperation,” he said.

From Australia, the secretary will travel to Thailand.

“The important U.S.-Thailand alliance has served both our countries well for nearly 60 years and our two governments are eager to establish a forward-looking strategic vision … that builds on our already close cooperation,” Little said.

The final stop, he said, will be Cambodia, where the secretary will join 10 other defense chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at their annual retreat in Siem-Reap.

“Secretary Panetta will emphasize the importance of ASEAN unity for regional stability and will communicate U.S. support for ASEAN-led defense cooperation,” Little said.

The secretary’s visit to the region, along with that of Secretary Clinton, reflects the commitment of the U.S. to the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific, Little noted.

“Secretary Panetta has made this one of his highest priorities because he believes that it is the right strategy for the future, security and prosperity of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

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