U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta sits next to USNS Richard E. Byrd chief mate Fred Cullen as they take a water taxi to the ship in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam (Jim Watson/Courtesy Reuters).
Elizabeth Leader is a Research Associate for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The visit of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to Southeast Asia last week reaffirmed the Obama administration’s commitment to an expanding U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific. Although the administration has remained relatively mum in recent weeks about the so-called “pivot” (leading some to speculate that the strategy’s political viability was undergoing reassessment), and despite the looming threat of massive cuts to the U.S. defense budget, Panetta asserted the position in a June 2 address in Singapore: “Make no mistake — in a steady, deliberate, and sustainable way the United States military is rebalancing and bringing an enhanced capability development to this vital region.” Here, we highlight the most important takeaways from Panetta’s nine-day trip, and their implications for both U.S. policy and the regional dynamic.
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