Panetta makes first Asia trip as Defense chief

AP News

10/22/2011 7:47:15 AM - AP News

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in Indonesia's resort island of Bali to begin his first visit to Asia as Pentagon chief.

Panetta arrived Saturday on an overnight flight from Washington and will begin a series of meetings Sunday.

He told reporters flying with him that his main message in talks with Indonesian and other Asian leaders is that the United States intends to remain a "Pacific force" for decades to come.

An important backdrop to Panetta's weeklong Asia tour is the intense pressure at home to slash defense spending as part of a deficit-reduction effort.

Panetta will also visit Japan and South Korea.