- Troop increases: The United States has 320,000 troops in the Pacific region, and the Pentagon has promised there will be no reductions as troops are drawn down in Afghanistan and other parts of the world. The already large military presence is one reason there has been skepticism that an additional 2,500 marines in Australia, a move Mr. Obama announced last autumn, amounts to more than show. It did, however, provoke a sharp response from Beijing.
"The Marine issue is really a blip in the larger pivot to Asia," said David J. Berteau of the private Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a co-author of a report last summer that criticized the Pentagon for not sufficiently explaining how it would carry out and pay for the pivot. "If you have a fly on your glasses, it looks really big and you can't see past the fly. But it's still just a fly."
Pentagon officials nonetheless say that the marines are an important symbol of the United States' long-term commitment to the Pacific. Under an agreement with Australia, the Pentagon anticipates that the company of 250 marines that arrived in Darwin in April for a six-month rotation will grow to a battalion of 1,000 marines in 2013. By 2016, assuming more housing is built, the marines are expected to number 2,500.
- More military exercises: Unlike building new ships and fighter jets, having joint training with other countries in Asia is relatively inexpensive and can be done fairly quickly. The United States has not only increased the number of exercises but also opened them up to more countries, a powerful message to China that the United States is working to improve the capabilities of the militaries in its strategic backyard.
This summer, India and Russia participated for the first time in Hawaii in the world's largest international maritime exercise, Rim of the Pacific, but the United States excluded China, drawing a protest from Beijing. China is invited to the next Rim of the Pacific, in 2014.
In another acknowledgment of Chinese sensitivities, the Japanese government canceled a joint amphibious landing on a remote island near Okinawa that was to have been part of an enormous annual exercise of the U.S. and Japanese militaries last week. The cancellation was an effort not to provoke China, which is locked in a dispute with Japan over the control of uninhabited islands near Okinawa.
- More ships: Mr. Panetta has said that by 2020, the United States will have 60 percent of its ships in the Pacific and 40 percent in the Atlantic, compared with the current 50-50 split. The Pentagon has not specified what kinds of ships or how many would make up the 60 percent, but Mr. Panetta has said they would include six aircraft carriers and a majority of the U.S. Navy's cruisers, destroyers, submarines and littoral combat ships.
- Strengthened military ties: The Pentagon's efforts to shore up alliances and increase military cooperation with allies in Asia has already prompted negative reactions from China. In September, Japan and the United States reached a major agreement to deploy a second U.S. advanced missile-defense radar on Japanese territory, which was also immediately criticized by the Chinese. Over the past year, the Obama administration has stepped up talks with the Philippines about expanding the U.S. military presence there, including more frequent visits by U.S. warships.
- More attention to Asia: One measure of the region's growing importance is that Mr. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now hold a secure one-hour video conference every other week with the top commander for Asia and the Pacific, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III. Pentagon officials say the frequency is similar to that of video conferences with American commanders in war zones.
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