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Panetta Heads to Asia to Back Allies, Avoid Riling China

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is heading to his first visit to Asia since the Pentagon said in January it would “rebalance” military strategy toward a region President Barack Obama has called critical to U.S. interests.

Panetta’s challenge is to assure the Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and other nations in the region that the U.S. supports them while stopping short of confrontation with China, according to Stephen Biddle, senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.