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World reacts to Obama's new military focus on Asia

Chinese newspapers call on China to assert itself, while India and African nations ponder the implications of becoming 'strategic partners' with the US. 

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / January 6, 2012

Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington man the rails as the ship pulls out of Hong Kong after a five-day port visit in this November 14, 2011 file photo. President Obama unveiled a defense strategy on Thursday that would expand the US military presence in Asia but shrink the overall size of the force as the Pentagon seeks to reduce spending by nearly half a trillion dollars after a decade of war.

Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Erin Devenberg/U.S. Navy/Reuters/File

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Was that a collective sigh, or a gasp?

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President Obama and his Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced yesterday that the US military would essentially go on a diet, after one of the largest ramp-ups in military spending since World War II.

Reaction across the world thus far has been muted, and in the case of China – the country Mr. Panetta identified as an emerging threat in November – there has been no official reaction at all, as the Monitor's Peter Ford points out today.

In addition to ending its military presence in Iraq, and drawing down forces over the next few years in Afghanistan, the US military will also reduce its massive presence in Europe – a legacy of the cold war – and shift more of its assets to the Asia-Pacific region to counterbalance the growing economic and military strength of China.

In Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere on the globe, the US will “use innovative methods to sustain US presence, maintaining key military-to-military relations and pursuing new security partnerships as needed,” Mr. Panetta told reporters in Washington.

Reuters news agency reported that neither the Chinese Defense Ministry nor the Foreign Ministry responded to faxed inquiries today. But the Global Times, a strongly nationalist newspaper based in Beijing, urged China to continue to assert itself and develop "long-range strike abilities."

China should come up with countermeasures. It should strengthen its long-range strike abilities and put more deterrence on the US. The US must realize that it cannot stop the rise of China and that being friendly to China is in its utmost interests. 

It’s a plan that is both ambitious, and rather less innovative than it might at first appear to be. Many of the cost savings and “smaller footprint” ideas announced by Mr. Obama and Panetta were first broached by defense officials in the Clinton and Bush administrations, most notable former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

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