WASHINGTON DC - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has visited Cambodia for talks aimed at expanding military alliances in southeast Asia, in advance of President Barack Obama's trip for a regional summit.
Panetta, who met with counterparts from 10 southeast Asian nations in Siem Reap on Friday, touted the benefits of Washington's recent strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific.
"This is in many ways the new era of U.S. relationship of this region," he said. "It is based on the principle of rule of laws. It is based on our presence to try to help to develop the capability of these nations. It is based on partnership and it is based on the common goal of advancing peace and prosperity and opportunity of all people and all nations of the Asia-Pacific region."
Panetta, who is on his third visit to Asia since June, announced the Pentagon is increasing the size and number of its military exercises with partners in the region.
He also said that he stressed to Cambodia's leaders and other regional actors the need for human rights, respect for the rule of law, and a more complete political system.
Panetta's visit comes one day before President Barack Obama departs for the ASEAN and East Asia Summit in the Cambodian capital. Obama's three-day trip will also include short stops in Thailand and Burma.