Panetta calls China, India 'threats'

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"We face the threats from rising powers, China, India, others that we have to always be aware of, and try to make sure that we always have sufficient force protection out there in the Pacific to make sure they know we're never going anywhere," Panetta said.

Panetta's remarks come amid President Obama's trip to the Pacific region and his announcement that the U.S. is moving troops there.

The Pentagon sought to clarify Panetta's remark, as spokesman Capt. John Kirby told reporters afterward that “any suggestion that he was implying that either country was a military threat is just false.”

“He was referring instead to the challenges these rising powers face within themselves, challenges that we share with them as we try to forge better relationships going forward in a very turbulent, dynamic security environment," Kirby said.