Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel will reassure allies in a trip to East Asia this week that the US intends to "follow through" on its promised strategic shift to the Pacific region, American officials said.
In his first trip to the region since he took over as defence secretary in February, Hagel is expected to discuss Washington's "rebalance" towards Asia and recent tensions with North Korea in meetings with his counterparts at a Singapore conference.
"The focus is really to follow through this year," said a senior US defence official. "Last year, we were sharing with the region the new strategic guidance. This year is really about showing that that strategic guidance, the rebalance, is under way."
US President Barack Obama last year unveiled a new security strategy that emphasised a shift towards the Asia-Pacific, reflecting worries over China's growing military power.
But a budget impasse in Washington has triggered automatic cuts to US military spending, raising concerns in East Asia that America's promised rebalance could be derailed.
At the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual summit organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, Hagel is due to meet numerous defence ministers from the region and deliver a policy speech on Saturday.
"We have a lot to talk about," he said.