America will seek to station around 60 percent of her naval warships in Asia within eight years. Leon Panetta, US Defence Secretary, said the increased presence in the Asia-Pacific region would not be affected by budget problems and cutbacks, since the Defense Department had enough money in its five-year budget plan. This is the first admission by a senior American official of a shift towards Asia and how the US intends to meet the challenge offered by the rise of nations in that region such as China.
Speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue conference in, Panetta said: “It will take years for these concepts, and many of the investments we are making, to be fully realized. But make no mistake, in a steady, deliberate and sustainable way, the United States military is rebalancing and brings enhanced capabilities to this vital region.”
Panetta who is on a nine-day trip across Asia, with planned stops in Vietnam and India, said the U.S. would expect to deploy more enhanced and high-tech submarines and fighter aircraft, along with new electronic warfare and communications systems.
Panetta said a key area of dispute was the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely as its own. However Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines also have territorial claims there.
Panetta did not criticise China’s role in this dispute.