Washington: Faced with the prospect of a massive defense cut in the wake of weak economic conditions in the country, American Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asserted that the US will never surrender its status as a global power and a global leader.

"As we examine our geographic priorities, it's important to remember that we can and we will do more than one thing at a time. US security commitments are not zero-sum.
   
"And even as we enhance our presence in the Pacific, we will not surrender our status as a global power and a global leader," Panetta said in his remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.

His comments came at a time when US is wooing Asian countries large and small to help America's security agenda and is anxious to build some regional political balance to the rising might of China.

"As a country with global interests and responsibilities and with a military with unique global strength and reach, America will remain committed to global security," Panetta said.

He added, "In particular, we will continue to defend our shared interests in free and open commerce, the rule of law, freedom of movement across the global commons of air and sea and space and cyberspace, which is ultimately the bedrock of our security and our prosperity and that of our allies."

Two regions stand out as being home to particularly vexing challenges, Panetta said adding that it is apparent to all that the Asia-Pacific region is going to be a principal force behind world economic growth, with lines of commerce and trade that are constantly expanding and security challenges that are growing in complexity.

"In the Middle East, another region crucial to the global economy and US interests, we've seen dramatic changes as a result of the Arab spring.

"We've seen continuing violence. We see continuing extremism. We see continuing instability and the threat from Iran continues to pose challenges," he said.
   
The Defence Secretary said even as US draws down its forces in Iraq and begins to pull down its surge forces in Afghanistan, "we also have to maintain a strong presence in the Middle East and work closely with our allies and our partners to bolster multilateral cooperation in countering threats emanating from al-Qaeda, from Iran and elsewhere."
   
He said given the global nature of security challenges and the global interests that are at stake, US needs to build multi-lateral structures that will enable all of its allies and all of partners to better cooperate to counter common threats.

"That includes encouraging Canada and our European allies to join us in meeting common challenges -- whether it's in Asia-Pacific or in the Middle East or throughout the Western Hemisphere -- and enabling them to do so through NATO when appropriate," he said.

(Agencies)