|U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam.|
The United States is moving big time into Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia and other Southeast Asian nations in order to counter the growth of China.
"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
- The United States Navy will be back at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam.
- By 2020 some 60% of the American navy will be in the Pacific.
- The Philippines is bringing American troops back to the islands.
- Cambodia signs a military agreement with China.
Things are getting stranger and stranger in Southeast Asia. The growth in the Communist Chinese economy, the Chinese military and their push into the South China Sea for oil has set off a wave of nations re-adjusting their alliances.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam this last week. This was a former port used by U.S. forces in the Vietnam War and could play a pivotal role in the American military's shift towards the Asia-Pacific.
Panetta's visit to Cam Ranh Bay was the first by a Pentagon chief since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, and the highly symbolic trip reflected Washington's efforts to deepen ties with its former enemy as it seeks to counter China's growing power.
"Access for US naval ships into this facility is a key component of this relationship and we see a tremendous potential here," he told reporters on the deck of the USNS Richard E. Byrd, an American naval cargo ship currently at the port.
With new plans to shift the majority of the U.S. naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020, Panetta described the deep-water harbour as strategically vital.
Chinese Navy Live Fire Drills
|Defense Secretary Panetta reviews Communist Vietnamese troops on his visit.|
Vietnam - The U.S. and Vietnam signed a memorandum on defense cooperation last year and Panetta met with high-ranking Vietnamese officials, including the defense minister, in Hanoi during his two-day visit to discuss how to fulfill the agreement.
Cam Rahn Bay is one the region's best natural harbours and the United States sees it an ideal spot to bolster an American naval presence in the contested South China Sea.
Vietnam recently started allowing foreign navies, including the United States, to use Cam Rahn Bay to resupply and undergo repairs. But the number of visits per year is restricted, and US commanders would like to have expanded access to the harbour, possibly including warships, analysts say.
Panetta's trip reflected the transformation of US relations with Vietnam as well as a growing rivalry between China and the United States, with the South China Sea at the centre of the competition.
Philippines - Oil. Oil. And more oil in the South China Sea. And China wants every damn drop. With that in mind talks of broadening military cooperation with the Philippines have been under way since last year. Comrade Barack Obama's regime has announced a strategic "pivot" toward the Asia-Pacific region.
In November Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Manila and proclaimed continued military support from the deck of a warship.
The Philippines, which kicked U.S. forces bases off their soil in 1992, expects a "greater number" of United States warships to visit the country as Washington increases its military presence in Asia in the coming years, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Over 600 American Army troops are already in the Philippines.
Cambodia - Chinese defense minister signs a military agreement with Cambodia. China will establish a military training facility in Cambodia and provide other defense aid to its Southeast Asian ally in agreements struck during a visit last week by the Chinese defense minister Liang Guanglie to Phnom Penh.
Under an agreement signed on Monday by Liang and his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh, Beijing will provide its southern neighbor with U.S. $17 million in military aid and construct a military training facility in the country. Tea Banh called the bilateral agreement “extremely important” for Cambodia in a press briefing in Phnom Penh after the signing ceremony.
“The Chinese minister has agreed to accept Cambodian military officers for military training in China and also to train as instructors,” Tea Banh added. “China will also assist by providing medical supplies for the Cambodian military,” he said.
Tea Banh said Liang's visit was beneficial to strengthening relations between the two countries across all sectors, but particularly in terms of military ties.
He called Chinese assistance a “great contribution to improving the Cambodian army's capacity in national defense."
During the signing ceremony, the two ministers pledged to support each other on the international stage..
(Channel News Asia) (Radio Free Asia - Shadow Boxing) (China-Cambodia Pact)
|A China - Cambodia Treaty.|
China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (L) and his Cambodian counterpart Tea Banh (R) sign a military cooperation pact in Phnom Penh, May 28, 2012.
|Soon 60% of the United States of Navy will be deployed to the Pacific.|