WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta leaves Sunday on his fourth trip in just over a year to the Asia-Pacific region, an area now defined as central to U.S. national interests and military strategy.
Panetta will be joined next week in Perth, Australia, by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of U.S. Pacific Command, for annual U.S.-Australia ministerial meetings.
During the stop, Little said, Panetta will thank Australia for its major contributions to the war in Afghanistan, and review what Little said were positive outcomes of recent rotations of U.S. Marines and airmen to the country.
From Australia, Panetta will head to Thailand to meet with leaders there. The final stop is in Cambodia, for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial summit. Panetta has called the association a model for conflict resolution in a region fraught with competing territorial claims.