Washington: Underlining that the US is not asking ASEAN nations to choose between it and China, a top Pentagon offcial has said that the countries in the region should not be forced to make choices.
"We are not asking you to choose between US and China," Peter Lavoy, the Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, told reporters on Thursday.
This was the message delivered by Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel during his meetings with ASEAN countries counterparts in his just concluded trip to the region.
"He (Hagel) said the world simply does not work this way on Friday. The nature of globalisation and increasing inter dependence in the world means that countries should not be forced to make these choices," he said.
"It is not in the interest of any country to do so and it is not in our interest to ask any country to do that. That was very well appreciated," Lavoy said.
Hagel also participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defence ministers` conference in Brunei.
Joining the ASEAN ministers for a "plus" session were defence ministers from China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Australia and the United States.
"The meetings were not about China, but the fact that China is a major player in the region, there is great appreciation for the nature of our policy on China today," he said, adding that each of the interlocutors were extremely positive about the rebalance.
The ASEAN leaders, Lavoy said, are appreciative of the "constant, steady and very very robust insistence" in US engagement with the Chinese both directly and in public settings that they need to recognise and uphold the principles that govern international conduct in particularly the freedom of navigation and the need to peaceful resolve dispute, including territorial disputes, maritime disputes.
During the meetings, each of the interlocutors, he said, were "extremely positive" about the Asia Pacific rebalance.
"They in prticular expressed appreciation that rebalance is not defense oriented thing," he said.
Hagel also held a full schedule of activities during the day with Asian leaders and also spent the nights dealing with interagency partners on Syria.
Speaking on Myanmar, Lavoy said the Obama Administration has a phased approach to enhancing relationship with Yangon.
"We have a phased approach to enhance relationship with Myanmar based on the premise of improvements in political reforms and on other issues most notably the relationship between the Myanmar Government and ethnic groups and also Myanmar`s connection to the DPRK (North Korea)," he said.
Lavoy`s remarks came days after Hagel`s meeting with his Myanmar counterpart in Brunei. This was the first such meeting between the defense ministers of the two countries in more than two decades.