Singapore: The US defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking at an annual security forum in Singapore on Saturday, announced to deploy 60 percent navy fleet up from about 50 percent now to the Asia-Pacific region by 2020 as part of a new military strategy. He further added that it will maintain six aircraft carriers in the region. 
Panetta also sought to dispel the notion that the shift, after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, was designed to contain China's emergence as a global power. He acknowledged differences between the world's two largest economies on a range of issues, including the South China Sea.

He said it was part of a "steady, deliberate" efforts to bolster the US role in an area deemed vital to the United States' future, and insisted the switch in strategy was not a challenge to China.

The U.S. Defense Secretary was at the start of a seven-day visit to the region to explain to allies and partners the practical meaning of the US military strategy unveiled in January that calls for rebalancing American forces to focus on the Pacific.

Under the plans the Navy would maintain six aircraft carriers assigned to the Pacific. Six of its 11 carriers are now assigned to the Pacific but that will fall to five when the USS Enterprise retires this year.

Panetta said he was committed to a "healthy, stable, reliable and continuous" military-to-military relationship with China but underscored the need for Beijing to support a system to clarify rights in the region and help to resolve disputes.   

"China has a critical role to play in advancing security and prosperity by respecting the rules-based order that has served the region for six decades," he said.   

Speaking at a function, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said, "Maritime freedoms cannot be the exclusive prerogative of a few; we must find the balance between the rights of nations and the freedoms of the world community."

Reacting to the US decision regarding deployment of more warships in the region, China warned US by saying that it was no time to "make waves" in the disputed South China Sea.

"It is advisable for some to refrain from muddying the waters and fishing therein," said Chinese news agency, referring to the sea, which is part of the Pacific and the subject of overlapping territorial claims.

China claims the sea in full, and it is also claimed in whole or part by Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"As regards the South China Sea tensions, it is some other claimants, whether emboldened by the United States' new posture or not, that sparked the fire and have been stoking the flames," said the agency.

It was Beijing's "genuine wish" to turn the South China Sea "into a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation," added the agency, in the commentary entitled "Not to make waves in South China Sea."


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