Connect to share and comment

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

The US Navy will deploy 60 percent of its fleet in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced.

US Navy Asia Leon Panetta 03 06 2012Enlarge
The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier on a port call in Hong Kong. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says most US warships will be moved to Asia by 2020, as part of America's new military strategy in the region. (ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

More from GlobalPost: Standoff in South China Sea

"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.

More from GlobalPost: Will US military get involved in China-Philippines standoff?

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.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120602/leon-panetta-us-navy-asia-2020