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Asian leaders welcome U.S. shift to Asia

Dec. 20, 2012 at 6:47 AM

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 (UPI) -- Asian leaders are welcoming the U.S. Defense Department rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, a senior U.S. defense official said.

"The rebalance is -- and continues to be -- a very welcome initiative by friends in Southeast Asia and beyond," the official, speaking on background, told Pentagon reporters.

The rebalancing, or the Asia-Pacific pivot, comes as the United States winds down operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and at a time of China's growing military might and assertion of territorial claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.

Asian and U.S. leaders have discussed the rebalancing effort and are seeing the strategy take effect, the official said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the policy underscores that the United States is, and will remain, a Pacific power but he added the moves aren't aimed at any nation.

This week in Germany, U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the rebalancing is necessary.

"I think there is now a growing recognition and appreciation that this is a ... real initiative that is moving forward," the official speaking on background said.

He said Asian leaders are discussing what comes next and asking what they should be doing in return.

The official said the United States, while having good bilateral relations with nations in the region, would like to see more multilateral efforts as were discussed at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Indonesia.

"You've seen more engagement with that entity (ASEAN) over time and I think that will continue," he said.

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