Panetta: New Asia focus not aimed to contain China

By Lolita C. Baldor

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 19 2012 6:24 a.m. MDT

Xi stood to greet the American delegation in a lavish room in the Great Hall of the People and energetically shook Panetta's hand. Once seated, he said Panetta's visit "will be very helpful in further advancing the state-to-state and military-to-military relations between our two countries."

Panetta told Xi that the two Pacific powers have common concerns and that he is confident they will be able to improve their dialogue.

While Panetta's meetings with Chinese leaders this week touched on many of the disagreements between the two countries, his address to the academy stressed the need for each nation to trust the other and try to cooperate and communicate more. It is time, he said, to stop focusing on areas of dispute and suspicion and see the potential in areas where the two nations can work together.

Panetta's message to the Chinese troops built on his speech at the security conference in Singapore earlier this year, when he introduced America's new military focus on the Pacific to Asian nations.

He told the academy gathering Wednesday that America's future security and prosperity would be linked to Asia more than any other place in the world, but that it also is a region threatened by terrorism, nuclear proliferation, piracy and natural disasters. This is Panetta's first visit to China as defense secretary, and he is the first Pentagon chief to visit the academy.

While he did not specifically mention the new planned radar system in Japan that he announced earlier this week in Tokyo, Panetta issued a broader declaration that any such missile defense move by the U.S. was aimed directly at North Korea.

Pyongyang's moves to enrich uranium and test ballistic missiles are a direct threat to the security of Asia and the United States, he said, adding that "ballistic missile defense systems are designed to foster peace and stability in the region."

Follow Lolita C. Baldor on Twitter: http://twitter.com/lbaldor

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