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Panetta Tells Chinese Cadets Not to Suspect U.S. Motives in Asia

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a group of engineering cadets at a Chinese military academy on the outskirts of Beijing that the U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific region wasn’t made to alarm China.

While there has been talk of suspicion and lack of trust between the two militaries, there are “areas of common security interests,” Panetta told the cadets. There is “potential for us to work together in defense of those common interests.”

Invoking U.S. President Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing 40 years ago that paved the way for diplomatic relations with China, Panetta said military ties must be set in the context of the broader relations between the two countries. “One day it will be your responsibility to help carry the U.S-China relationship forward,” Panetta said in prepared remarks.

Panetta’s visit to the Engineering Academy of PLA Armored Forces, a training school for armored officers, is the first by a top U.S. defense official to such a school, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

Despite budget cuts in the U.S., the Pentagon was committing more military resources to the region because of rising threats, Panetta said, citing the case of North Korea.

The U.S. was beefing up missile defense capabilities in the region because of North Korea’s ballistic missiles, which constitute “a direct threat to the security of Asia and the U.S.,” Panetta said.

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