ASIA - The Pentagon has increased its allocation for foreign military financing and training programmes for South-east Asia to US$90 million (S$115 million), up 50 per cent from four years ago, as the United States government "rebalances" its defence diplomacy ties with countries in the region.
US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said President Barack Obama's government wants to improve the military capabilities of South-east Asian nations that it views as its partners. Providing new defence technology and equipment will reflect the rising prominence of this region to the US.
Mr Hagel revealed the steep rise in the extent of financing in a speech to Malaysian officers at the Ministry of Defence on Sunday.
Under the foreign military financing programme, the US gives out grants and loans so countries can purchase its defence equipment and services.
"We are also increasing commercial defence trade and ultimately moving towards co-production and co-development of new platforms with our closest partners in the region," he said.
This, he explained, will allow the US to share its technology and expertise to deepen its security partnerships in the region.
Mr Hagel is visiting Kuala Lumpur for the first time, as part of a week-long trip to Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei, where he will attend the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting this week.
He said cyber security and maritime security will be among US priorities at the meeting, as the US strengthens its defence engagement with ASEAN countries through joint military exercises and regional cooperation.