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Panetta to Tell China U.S. Military Refocus on Asia is no Threat

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta next week is expected to attempt to convince officials in China that the announced U.S. military "rebalancing" toward the Asia-Pacific is not aimed at countering their nation's increasingly capable armed forces, the New York Times reported.

At the same time, Panetta has to convince doubters the Pentagon's so-called "pivot" toward Asia is not mere words but will be backed by new deployments of U.S. ships, weaponry and military personnel.

A recent independent study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies faulted the department for not providing enough information on how its promised rebalancing would be implemented and where the funding for the initiative would come from amid looming defense budget cuts.

During visits to China, Japan and New Zealand, the U.S. defense chief will explain "that we continue to be what we have been now for seven decades; the pivotal military power in the Asia-Pacific region, which has provided peace and stability," Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Times.

Carter said the continued drawdown of deployed forces in Afghanistan and Iraq would free up manpower and resources that could be sent to the Asia-Pacific region.

Some strategic B-52 and B-1 bombing aircraft currently based in Southwest Asia and the Middle East will be refielded to bases in the Pacific. The Pentagon is also in talks with regional partner nations to host U.S. early warning radars. Earlier this year, Panetta said three-fifths of Navy warships would be deployed to the Pacific, a change from the existing even split between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

"People in the region want to see us walk the walk. These are the steps that we will take to do that," Ashton said.

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