Conflict & Justice

Leon Panetta: US Navy to move most warships to Asia by 2020


A general view shows the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on May 22. The US Navy Nimitz class supercarrier from which Osama bin Laden was buried at sea was in Hong Kong for a port call.



Most of the US Navy's fleet will be in Asia by 2020, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced.

According to CNN, he insisted that the increased US military presence was not designed to contain China's growing dominance in the region, however, saying that on contrary Washington hoped to "build trust" with Beijing.

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"By 2020 the navy will reposture its forces from today's roughly 50-50 split from the Pacific and Atlantic to a 60-40 split in those oceans," Panetta told annual Asia security summit the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore today, according to the BBC.

"That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, combat ships and submarines."

He added that the US would step up military training exercises conducted with its regional allies, as part of "promoting strong partnerships that strengthen the capabilities of the Pacific nations to defend and secure themselves."

Panetta rejected the suggestion that the strategy represented a challenge to China, saying that increased US involvement in the region was "fully compatible" with Chinese development and would even benefit it by improving mutual security.

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China and the US "both understand that there really is no other alternative but for both of us to engage and to improve our communications and to improve our [military-to-military] relationships," Reuters quoted Panetta as saying. "That's the kind of mature relationship that we ultimately have to have with China."

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry told Xinhua on Thursday that, while Beijing welcomed constructive US involvement in Asia, "we also hope the US will respect China's interests and concerns in the region."

China is particularly concerned with defending its territorial claims in the South China Sea, CNN said, an issue which has led to disputes with US allies in the region including the Philippines and Vietnam.

Panetta is on a week-long tour aimed at explaining America's new military strategy in Asia, a region which President Barack Obama has described as a "top priority" of US security policy.