Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is about to embark on his first official trip to a foreign country‚ and his destination, China, says something about the Administration’s military priorities.Before the trip, however, comes a security summit with leaders from India, Vietnam and Singapore. In preparation for the summit, Panetta gave an address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis that further reinforced the Administration’s new focus on Asia and the Pacific Rim. The BBC reports:
Speaking to naval graduates in Annapolis on Tuesday, he said the US should strengthen existing ties with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines, and form “robust partnerships” with South East Asian nations.“One of the key projects that your generation will have to face is sustaining and enhancing American strength across the great maritime region of the Asia-Pacific,” he told the new naval officers.The Pentagon chief also spoke about the need to ”strengthen defence ties with China, even as its military is ”growing and modernising”.
This may be the clearest statement yet that the Administration is fully committing itself to the Game of Thrones in Asia. The security meetings with countries around China’s perimeter, the defense agreements and military bases in Pacific nations, and the reaffirmation of America as a “maritime nation” all point to a strategic shift in the Pacific; now the Defense Secretary is openly spelling out the intent behind these plans.This is one of the most dramatic strategic shifts America has undertaken since the end of the Cold War, and it will likely prove more expensive over time than the Administration hopes. Nonetheless, it is the right policy for the United States and for the world. We commend the Administration for enacting it.