Hagel pushes 'pivot' in Asia talks as Syria clash looms
JERUDONG, Brunei (AFP) - Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel assured Asian nations on Wednesday that Washington's long-term "pivot" to the region was not just rhetoric even as an escalating confrontation with Syria dominates his immediate crisis planning.
US officials said Mr Hagel also called for restraint in the disputed South China Sea at a gathering in Brunei of defence ministers from the Association of South-east Asian Nations, China and elsewhere.
The two-day Asean meeting is the main event of Mr Hagel's week-long trip to Southeast Asia but the mounting crisis between Syria and the West has repeatedly intruded.
He told the BBC that American forces were in place and "ready to go" if ordered by President Barack Obama to punish the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.