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India, China rise makes Asia important: US

With the rise of China and India as world powers, Asia is becoming more important to America as Asian markets and suppliers drive the US economy, according to a senior US official.

With the end of the war in Iraq, we have more 'bandwidth' to focus on the future," said Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defence for policy, who is leaving at the end of this week, according to the defence department website.

"Obviously we will do what we need to prevail in Afghanistan, but as we think more and more about the future we see both the challenges and opportunities arising out of Asia," she said.

The rise of China and India as world powers reinforces the trend, but the US must cultivate other nations in Southeast Asia, Flournoy said. Also important, she noted, is the continued and deep alliances with Japan and South Korea.

"The United States is a Pacific power and has always played a unique role in underwriting the security under which all that dynamism and economic growth has been based," Flournoy said. But could Asia remain stable without the US? "It's hard to imagine that with so much competition and periods of great tension and even conflict," she said.

"It is something that even countries that are not our allies - like China and other countries in the region - all tend to acknowledge that the United States plays a stabilising influence and they don't want us to leave."

The Middle East and Central Asia remain areas of turmoil, but Flournoy felt good about the responsible conclusion in Iraq. "And I think we've turned around the strategy in Afghanistan," she said.

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