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WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will soon be traveling to China and Japan, amid escalating tensions in the region including tussles over several disputed islands in the East China Sea.
This will be Panetta's third trip to Asia in 11 months, reflecting the Pentagon's ongoing shift to putting more military focus on the Pacific region. The trip will also include a stop in New Zealand.
Panetta's stop in Japan is also likely to include discussions about the deployment of V-22 Ospreys there. Thousands of people have protested the hybrid aircraft's planned use, saying they are unsafe.
The Pentagon plans to deploy 12 of the aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter but fly like a plane. U.S. officials have assured Japanese leaders the Ospreys are safe.