Defense chief Leon Panetta said today that America's new military focus on the Asia-Pacific region is not intended to threaten Beijing. Panetta appeared to offer an olive branch to the communist power, saying the often feuding rivals must learn to work better together. "We both understand the differences we have, we both understand the conflicts we have, but we also both understand that there really is no other alternative but for both of us to engage and to improve our communications and to improve our (military) relationship," he said at a security conference in Singapore.
Panetta's speech was designed to give a more detailed explanation about the new defense strategy. It puts more focus on the Asia-Pacific, including plans to increase the number of US military personnel, warships, and other assets in the region over the next several years. Specifically, he said that by 2020, about 60% of the fleet will be assigned there. Currently, the Navy has about 285 ships, split evenly between the Atlantic and Pacific. Questioners asked whether adding US military to the region might embolden smaller nations to trigger more conflicts. "I don't think we should take the attitude that just because we improve their capabilities that we're asking for more trouble," he said. (Read more Leon Panetta stories.)