Speaking at a security conference in Singapore U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta indicated that by 2020 60 per cent of the U.S. fleet would be in the Asia Pacific region. No doubt China will take note and up its military spending.
Panetta said::"Make no mistake, in a steady, deliberate and sustainable way, the United States military is rebalancing and is bringing an enhanced capability development to this vital region," Panetta also said that U.S. budget problems and cutbacks would not interfere with these changes. It seems that social programs and the social safety net are entitlements that can be scrapped but not the U.S. global military presence. Panetta claims there is money in the Pentagon five year budget plan to achieve his goals.
There are areas of dispute in the South China Sea with competing claims by Taiwan,, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines all having completing claims. There is thought to be oil in some of the disputed areas but there are also clashes over fishing rights.
Panetta downplayed the obvious, that the U.S. wants to limit Chinese influence in the area. Panetta said he is looking forward to visiting China later. He even saw the two countries increasing military ties and cooperation on anti-drug policies and aid.Panetta even claimed that the increased U.S,. presence will benefit China and improve regional security. During his trip Panetta is scheduled to stop also in Vietnam and India. For more see this article.