U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday lashed out at North Korea for “reckless and provocative” acts and criticized China for a secretive expansion of its military power.
Panetta, who arrived at this U.S. air base on the second leg of a weeklong Asia tour, spoke out about North Korea and China in an opinion piece published Monday by Japan’s Yomiyuri newspaper before his arrival.
He wrote that Washington and Tokyo share common challenges in the Asia-Pacific.
“These include North Korea, which continues to engage in reckless and provocative behavior and is developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, which pose a threat not just to Japan but to the entire region,” he wrote.
Panetta’s strong language comes as U.S. and North Korean officials gather in Geneva for talks that Washington says are aimed at determining whether Pyongyang is serious about returning to nuclear disarmament talks.
Japan also worries about North Korea and is one of five countries that have jointly tried to persuade the North Koreans to cap and reverse their nuclear arms program. The other four are the U.S., China, Russia and South Korea.
‘Troubling lack of transparency’
Panetta is on his first trip to Asia since taking over the Pentagon’s top job in July, and has been assuring allies in the region that the U.S. military will maintain a strong posture in the Pacific despite looming defense spending cuts at home.