SIEM REAP, Cambodia (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday that the U.S. would participate in three Southeast Asian military exercises next year.
Panetta was in Cambodia for talks with his counterparts from 10 Southeast Asian nations in advance of President Barack Obama's visit next week.
The defense chief said the exercises will be a humanitarian and disaster relief exercise hosted by Brunei; a counterterrorism exercise co-sponsored by the US and Indonesia; and a maritime security exercise led by Malaysia and Australia.
Panetta's talks at a luxury hotel were not expected to yield major new defense initiatives but reflected Obama administration interest in deepening security ties across the region.
The increased U.S. focus on Asia will be long-lasting and will include economic and diplomatic efforts in addition to security cooperation, Panetta said.
He was in Bangkok on Thursday to sign a statement updating U.S.-Thai security relations. Panetta also announced a review of ethics training among the U.S. military officer corps.
Cambodia was the final stop on Panetta's weeklong Asia-Pacific tour, which began in Australia.
He was heading back to Washington where an unfolding sex scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, a much honored retired general, and Gen. John Allen, who leads the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, is dominating much of the news.