‘Europe must rethink defense’ after US naval shift to Asia

Agence France-Presse
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said questions relating to Europe's defense framework have emerged due to the US shift, and are also exacerbated by Washington's defense spending cut

SINGAPORE – France said Sunday, June 3, that Europe needed to rethink its defense strategy as the US repositions the majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said questions relating to Europe’s defense framework have emerged due to the US shift, and are also exacerbated by Washington’s defense spending cut.

“In the coming 10 years, the US budget for defence is going to be diminished by about $500 billion,” he said at a news conference after attending the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual security summit in Singapore.

“On the other hand, the United States have announced that they would give a priority to the Asia-Pacific region. Somewhere there will be a hole and it will be in Europe,” he added.

Addressing the conference Saturday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Washington would gradually shift its naval fleet so that by 2020 it would have 60% of its ships in the Pacific, up from the current 50%.

Currently, the US has a 50/50 split between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic, which covers Europe.

The decision to deploy more ships to the Pacific, along with expanding a network of military partnerships in the region, was part of a “steady, deliberate” effort to bolster the US role in an area deemed vital to America’s future, Panetta said.

The move reflects US concern over China’s rising economic and military might but Panetta insisted the strategy was not a challenge to Beijing.

Le Drian said European nations had to reassess their defense situation after Panetta’s remarks.

“This means the Europeans must take into account this very solemn speech and Europeans must ask themselves how they conceive their future defense always in the framework of the Atlantic Alliance,” he said.

The United States is a key member of the 28-nation, Brussels-based North Atlantic Treaty Organization. – Agence France-Presse

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