US defence chief to renew military ties in Thailand
PERTH, Australia (AFP) - US Defense Sectretary Leon Panetta headed to Thailand on Thursday on an Asian tour designed to cultivate strong security ties across the region as a counter-weight to China's rise.
US plans to tentatively reopen military contacts with neighbouring Myanmar for the first time since the 1980s are also expected to feature in Panetta's talks in Bangkok, which has lobbied Washington for a rapprochement with Myanmar's armed forces.
In a week-long trip to Asia, his third since June, Mr Panetta departed for Bangkok after taking part in annual strategic talks with Australia in Perth, where officials unveiled plans to station a powerful US Air Force radar and space telescope.
The Pentagon chief's trip has been overshadowed throughout by a snowballing sex scandal in Washington that forced the resignation last week of ex-general and CIA director David Petraeus over an extramarital affair.