'US to strengthen network of defence alliances'



Washington: At a time when the US is forced to cut its defence budget due to current economic crisis, the country is working on to strengthen its network of defence alliances across the globe to retain its status as a world power, the Pentagon leadership said.

"One important way that we are going to do this is to strengthen our network of defence alliances around the globe," US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Thursday at a Pentagon news conference, while answering the question as to how the US military is going to be able to project power and to maintain presence in a global world in an era of declining resources.

The new defence strategy is designed to allow us to accomplish that goal, he said.

"It is fair to say that a vital pillar of this defence strategy that we released this year is the important work of developing and deepening ties to other nations, developing their capabilities and building new alliances and partnerships to promote security. This is one of the keys to the defence force that we're trying to build for the 21st century," Panetta said.

"This system of defence alliances and security partnerships is one of America's greatest national security assets. No other nation in the world really has this asset. These relationships are sound investments in an era of fiscal challenges and they really do pay dividends," he said.

"They allow us to defend our interests while developing more militaries that can shoulder the burden of the international security environment," he added.

A day earlier, Panetta met his South Korean counterpart as part of their regular dialogue with allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Our goal there is to continue to strengthen the 60-year alliance that we have with the South Koreans for the future," he said.

"Earlier this month I consulted with a number of our European allies and ISAF partner nations at the NATO defence ministerial, where we came together to affirm our commitment to the international mission in Afghanistan. NATO is a proven alliance, one that has conducted successful operations in Libya, Kosovo and Afghanistan," he added.

“Before the NATO meeting, I met with my counterparts from the Western Hemisphere as part of the Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas."

"And at that conference, nations of this hemisphere agreed on a concrete plan to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, really one of the first steps that that ministerial group has taken in a way that brings all of these nations together. What they did reflects a new era, I believe, of broad and constructive defence cooperation in the Americas," he said.

Adding that the goal is to continue these efforts, he said.

In early November, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he would be travelling to Australia to participate in the annual AUSMIN meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"I'll be meeting with Asian defence ministers in Cambodia at the Asian defence ministers meeting," he said.

"General Dempsey will also be travelling soon to the Middle East," he said. The US and Israel Defence Forces are conducting an exercise called Austere Challenge. "It's the largest exercise we have held between our two militaries. The goal of this historic three-week exercise is to improve our combined ability to defend against missile attacks by exercising our active missile defence and air defence forces and systems,” he said.

"As with all of the exercises that we conduct alongside our allies and partners, this is all about teamwork and making sure that our forces have the capability to be able to cooperate when necessary. Using rotational deployments under our new defence strategy, we will be conducting more of these kinds of exercises with nations across the globe," Panetta said.

PTI