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Pentagon chief reassures Singapore leader of rebalance toward Asia

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday reassured Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of the U.S. commitment to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.

That happened when Hagel hosted Lee for a working lunch at the Pentagon, according to a statement from Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.

Hagel "made clear the United States and the Department of Defense remain committed to the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region and that in the future there will be even more opportunities for closer collaboration between the United States and Singapore," the statement said.

They also discussed regional security issues, including "territorial issues in the East and South China Seas," and "how nations can work with one another to peacefully resolve" them.

These issues apparently refer to the maritime disputes between China and several regional nations.

Though China's sovereignty over a number of disputed islands in those waters is well backed by historic and factual proof, China has always supported solving the disputes through peaceful means and bilaterally.

Singapore is important for the U.S. strategy to "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region, and will host up to four forward-deployed Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) on a rotational basis. The first of these ships, the USS Freedom, is en route to Singapore and will arrive later this month.

The pivot to Asia strategy is a key element of the Obama administration's foreign policy, for which Washington has invested a considerable portion of its military and diplomatic resources in a bid to protect its interests and expand its influence in the region whose fast economic growth drives the global recovery.

As the Pentagon is constrained by budget cuts, the strategy's sustainability is questionable. During Monday's meeting, Hagel also accepted an invitation to travel to Singapore for the Shangri-La dialogue, a regional security forum, next month, and will use the trip to reassure its allies and partners in the region.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130406/pentagon-chief-reassures-singapore-leader-rebalance-toward-asia