Panetta held a trilateral meeting with South Korean National Defense Minister Kim Kwan Jin and Japan Parliamentary Senior Vice Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe to discuss joint operations against North Korea.
The meeting follows a press report in the United States that US and South Korean special forces have conducted infiltrations operation into North Korea to gather intelligence on secret underground military facilities.
Army Brigadier General Neil Tolley, commander of US special forces in South Korea, told a conference in Florida that North Korea has dug thousands of tunnels in the 60 years since the end of the Korean War. "The entire tunnel infrastructure is hidden from our satellites," Tolley said. "So we send ROK soldiers and US soldiers to the North to do special reconnaissance."
While an aide to Tolley later claimed that he "misspoke," the general's remarks, as reported by the press, were unequivocal. According to The Hill web site, "Tolley told attendees during a special operations industry conference in May that elite US troops have been dropped behind North Korean lines to pinpoint the specific locations of Pyongyang's vast network of underground military bases. American commandos have identified hundreds of underground munitions facilities, along with thousands of subterranean artillery positions""
The report gives a glimpse of the real posture of the United States military in the region, behind the usual diplomatic blather about peaceful intentions and defending the "free world." US imperialism is the most powerful and aggressive military force on the planet.
Panetta's bilateral meeting with Singapore Minister of Defense Ng Eng Hen finalized the agreement for the stationing of four US littoral combat ships in the island state. These ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments, particularly against mines, submarines and small, light surface craft.
General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the ships would be rotated in and out of Singapore for six to ten months at a time. The sailors will live on board and not stationed or home-ported in Singapore. But the result is that at any one time, some 300 US navy personnel will be in Singapore, keeping watch over the adjacent Strait of Malacca. The ships will also move about the region, to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere in southeast Asia.
Following the Singapore conference, Dempsey traveled to the Philippines for meetings with President Benigno Aquino III and Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Philippine naval forces recently confronted Chinese vessels over access to the Scarborough Shoal, a small group of islets and reefs in the South China Sea.