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Panetta to meet with China leaders, tour navy base

U.S. Secretary Defense LePanettsecond left prepares give 'Challenge Coins' U.S. military personnel stationed YokotAir Base YokotJapan Monday Sept. 17 2012.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, second left, prepares to give "Challenge Coins" to U.S. military personnel stationed at Yokota Air Base in Yokota, Japan, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Panetta, who is on the first official stop of a three nation tour to Japan, China and New Zealand, said Monday that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to put a second defense system in Japan aimed at protecting the country from the threat of a missile attack from North Korea. The exact location of the radar installation has not yet been determined. It will be in the south, U.S. officials said, but not in Okinawa. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)

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Updated: September 17, 2012 8:10AM

BEIJING — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in China where he may get a frosty reception from officials unhappy with America’s expanded military presence in the Asia-Pacific region.

His three-day visit comes amid escalating tensions over territorial disputes involving China and Japan, and questions about whether the U.S. is backing its Japanese allies in those disagreements.

This is Panetta’s first trip to China as defense chief, and it is expected to include several historic visits, including meetings with the country’s leaders. Panetta’s stay in China was extended in recent days so that he could visit a key naval base where he will see a Chinese submarine and frigate.

According to U.S. defense officials, Panetta plans to press China to seek ways to peacefully resolve regional territorial disputes.

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