Pentagon chief tries to keep Asia in focus with second trip

Sun Online Desk

13th November, 2019 02:38:28 printer

Pentagon chief tries to keep Asia in focus with second trip


Barely four months into his tenure, Pentagon Defense Secretary Mark Esper is making his second trek across the Pacific.

And yet it is the Middle East - most recently a near-war with Iran and an actual war in Syria - that in Washington commands more attention and demands more American troops, reports AP.

Esper's Asia visits illustrate the central feature of a revamped US defense strategy: Focus first on China as a threat to US global predominance, rather than remain bogged down in a generation-long fight against extremist groups.

Esper was flying to South Korea on Wednesday for consultations on jointly defending against North Korea, whose nuclear arsenal remains a key focus for Pentagon war planners. His weeklong trip is expected to include a meeting in Bangkok with China's defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe — their first direct contact other than a Nov. 5 video phone call.

With China's disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea in mind, Esper also will visit Vietnam, a former US enemy, as well as the Philippines, a longtime ally.

The Vietnamese, who contest some of China's claims in the South China Sea, have increasingly looked to Washington as a security partner, despite political differences.

Esper's first overseas trip after winning Senate confirmation in July was to Asia.