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Panetta Affirms Commitment to South Korea's Defense


U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta delivers a speech to U.S. military soldiers at Yongsan U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea, October 26, 2011.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta delivers a speech to U.S. military soldiers at Yongsan U.S. military base in Seoul, South Korea, October 26, 2011.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has reaffirmed the American commitment to protect South Korea against provocations from the North.

Panetta's comments came Wednesday, in an address to U.S. troops shortly after arriving in Seoul on the final leg of an Asian tour.

His address echoed comments in an essay published Wednesday in a major South Korean newspaper. Writing in the Chosun Ilbo daily, Panetta said the U.S. and South Korean militaries stand prepared to defeat North Korea should it ever force war upon the allies.

The defense chief will attend meetings Thursday and Friday with senior South Korean government and defense officials.

Panetta has delivered a similar message throughout his tour, which included stops in Indonesia and Japan.

On his arrival in Japan on Monday, he promised the United States will not reduce its military presence in East Asia in spite of coming budget cuts at home.

Panetta's Tokyo talks also dealt with controversial plans to transfer a key U.S. military base in Okinawa to another location on the island. Japanese Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa told him Tuesday that Japan will complete an environmental assessment on the plan by the end of this year.

The two officials also reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Japan security alliance as a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Panetta is making his first visit to Asia since he moved from CIA director to defense secretary in July.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

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