Latest Stories

Pentagon chief to stress US ‘pivot’ in Southeast Asia tour‎

Chuck Hagel. AP Photo

KUALA LUMPUR — US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel kicks off a Southeast Asian tour on Sunday meant to stress Washington’s so-called “pivot” back towards the Asia-Pacific but with attention diverted by trouble in the Middle East.

The Pentagon chief’s week-long trip is part of a concerted effort by Washington to rebalance America’s strategic priorities towards the Asia-Pacific.

But crises in the Middle East continued to demand Hagel’s attention, particularly accusations that the Syrian regime had carried out a chemical weapons attack that left hundreds dead.

He told reporters aboard his plane that the US military had provided President Barack Obama with a range of options for possible intervention and forces had been redeployed as required.

With Egypt in turmoil after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and a subsequent crackdown, Hagel also spoke Saturday night to Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about the volatile situation, US officials said.

On Sunday, Hagel is due to meet his Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein as well as Prime Minister Najib Razak, before delivering a speech later.

US officials said Washington wanted to cultivate military ties with Malaysia and other governments in Southeast Asia to ensure stability in the region and to encourage a peaceful resolution of territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

China’s assertive stance over the waterway has raised concerns in Washington.

Beijing claims virtually all of the South China Sea and has stoked rising concern among rival claimants, particularly the Philippines, of a gradual takeover of disputed islets.

The Pentagon is offering help to Southeast Asian countries with ships, aerial reconnaissance, joint training and other initiatives as they try to better monitor their coastal waters.

A senior defence official, briefing reporters travelling with Hagel, rejected speculation that budget cuts hitting the Pentagon’s military spending would spell an end to the “pivot”.

“There’s a myth out there,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But he said “reports of the end of the rebalance, that we can’t fund the rebalance, are greatly exaggerated”.

“We have adequate means to support this strategy and to do so for the foreseeable future,” the official added.

The United States was increasing the number of ships based in the Asia-Pacific and pursuing agreements with a number of countries to allow ships, aircraft and troops to rotate through key ports and airfields, while avoiding permanent American bases, the official said.

US defence officials are negotiating an accord with the Philippines to allow for the rotation of more US forces and military assets through the country on temporary deployments.

After his two-day stop in Malaysia, Hagel heads to Indonesia and then Brunei for a gathering of defence ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The discord in the South China Sea is expected to feature high on the agenda of the ASEAN discussions in Brunei on Wednesday and Thursday, officials said.

Hagel is due to meet his Chinese counterpart, General Chang Wanquan, on the sidelines of the ASEAN session, after having hosted the general in Washington earlier this month.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Middle East , Pentagon , Southeast Asian , US defense

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  2. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  3. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  4. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  5. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  6. Massive infra spending set
  7. South Korea president shouted down by distraught parents
  8. Passengers denied chance to escape sinking South Korea ferry
  9. OFW brings MERS virus to Philippines
  10. Lacson’s wife loses diamond earring to thieves but recovers jewelry quickly with police arrest
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  4. MH370 co-pilot made mid-flight phone call – report
  5. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  6. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  7. ‘Wife of Jesus’ theory papyrus not fake – Harvard study
  8. Gay college instructor arrested for oral sex with student
  9. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  10. Palace: We can’t blame increase in population on Vitangcol
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Pork payoffs to newscasters Erwin Tulfo, Del Prado, others bared
  4. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  5. Model Helena Belmonte wished ‘to slash her wrist and hope to die’
  6. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  7. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  8. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  9. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  10. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct


  • Easter crucifixions draw huge crowds
  • Gunmen kill 20 at Sudan UN base–US envoy
  • S. Korea ferry rescue stalls as anger spreads
  • Sub dives deeper in hunt for missing MH370
  • US urges Myanmar to ease tensions
  • Sports

  • Heat seek Three-peat but Spurs, Pacers top seeds
  • Can Spurs get back at Heat? Can they survive West?
  • Hopkins, 49, seeks win for the ageless
  • LeBron still No. 1 with NBA’s most popular jersey
  • Pacquiao back in PH, heads home to wife, kids
  • Lifestyle

  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • This is not just a farm
  • Entertainment

  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Whoopi Goldberg debuts as marijuana columnist
  • ‘X-men’ director accused of sex assault on teen boy
  • Cannes film festival launches race for 2014 Palme d’Or
  • Jones, Godard, Cronenberg in competition at Cannes
  • Business

  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Oil prices mixed ahead of long Easter weekend
  • US stocks end mostly higher after earnings deluge
  • Total says makes ‘very promising’ oil find off Ivory Coast
  • ‘Chinese Twitter’ firm Weibo to go public in US
  • Technology

  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Filipinos #PrayForSouthKorea
  • Taylor Swift tries video blogging, crashes into fan’s bridal shower
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • Last call for nominations to ’14 Presidential Awards
  • San Francisco business coalition slams proposed tax on sugary drinks
  • A ‘time-travel’ production of ‘Les Miserable’ at Stanford
  • Filipina Maryknoll sister honored for years of service
  • Malaysia quarantines 64 villagers over MERS virus
  • Marketplace