US to Station Majority of Warships in Pacific

Posted June 2nd, 2012 at 3:15 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the United States will shift the majority of its warships to the Asia-Pacific region over the next several years as part of a new strategic focus on Asia.

In Singapore Saturday, Panetta told a conference of defense officials from 30 Asia-Pacific nations that the U.S. Navy would reposition its forces from the current approximately 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to 60 percent of naval forces in the Pacific and 40 percent in the Atlantic.

The defense secretary also told delegates at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue that the redeployment would be completed by 2020. He pledged to expand U.S. military exercises in the Pacific and port visits in areas such as the Indian Ocean.

A key flashpoint in the region is the South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely as its own. But Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines also have territorial claims there.

Panetta assured the delegates that the redistribution of naval forces is not about containing China. He said Washington will not take sides in territorial disputes, and wants Beijing to support a system to clarify rights in the region and help to resolve disputes.

The defense secretary is on a weeklong trip to Asia, which will include stops in Vietnam and India.