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Rumsfeld, on Asia tour, hints of shifts in US forces there
( 2003-11-14 15:51) (NY Times)

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld opened a six-day tour of Asia and the Pacific on Thursday, hinting at substantial changes in how American forces are deployed in the region.

Mr. Rumsfeld said the American military was emerging from an era of "static defense" built around a global chain of giant bases. Instead, he said, forces will be repositioned regularly among a potentially larger number of bases as required to meet any threats.

In his first trip to Asia since returning to the Pentagon for a second tour as defense secretary, Mr. Rumsfeld stressed that he was carrying no formal proposals for discussion in coming days with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.

But he said preliminary planning had evolved to the point where it was important to discuss "important conceptual changes" in talks with these two vital American allies.

"The United States has for several years now been very systematically reviewing our arrangements in the world, in various countries, and our force deployments," Mr. Rumsfeld said aboard the KC-10 tanker that flew his delegation to its first stop in Guam, an American territory viewed as an increasingly important base.

The United States has had "some preliminary conclusions," he said, and "we now are at a stage where we can begin discussions with our allies and with the Congress."

Decisions on the size, number and location of American bases in Asia, as well as troop strength and deployments of combat aircraft and warships to the region, cannot be separated from pending questions on the evolving military structure worldwide, he said.

It also is certain that Congress will weigh in, as future deployments abroad will affect the approaching discussion on base closings and realignments in their home districts.

The politically charged question of possible troop contributions by Japan and South Korea to the Iraq stabilization mission is also on the agenda, officials said.

"We'd like assistance," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We'd like troop assistance, we'd like humanitarian assistance, we'd like financial assistance."

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