MILITARY

On first trip to Asia as defense secretary, Carter emphasizes the positive: region is stable

  • In this Friday, April 10, 2015 photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, right, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Han Min Koo upon his arrival at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea. Carter was on his first visit to Asia since becoming defense secretary in February.  He met Friday with President Park Geun-hye and senior members of her government. Earlier in the week he was in Japan. Aides said Carter intended to discuss the South China Sea situation with U.S. officials at Pacific Command in Hawaii on Saturday.  (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

    In this Friday, April 10, 2015 photo, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, right, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Han Min Koo upon his arrival at the Defense Ministry in Seoul, South Korea. Carter was on his first visit to Asia since becoming defense secretary in February. He met Friday with President Park Geun-hye and senior members of her government. Earlier in the week he was in Japan. Aides said Carter intended to discuss the South China Sea situation with U.S. officials at Pacific Command in Hawaii on Saturday. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)  (The Associated Press)

  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter reacts as he looks around the wreckage of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, that sank and killed 46 sailors onboard in 2010 near the maritime border with North Korea, at a naval base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilomters (44 miles) south of Seoul Friday, April 10, 2015. Seoul says the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan was caused by a North Korean torpedo. (AP Photo/Jung Yeon-je, Pool)

    U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter reacts as he looks around the wreckage of the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, that sank and killed 46 sailors onboard in 2010 near the maritime border with North Korea, at a naval base in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilomters (44 miles) south of Seoul Friday, April 10, 2015. Seoul says the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan was caused by a North Korean torpedo. (AP Photo/Jung Yeon-je, Pool)  (The Associated Press)

No news is good news. That might have been the bumper sticker for Ash Carter's first tour of Asia as secretary of defense.

It was mostly quiet on the Eastern front. Carter consulted with Japanese and South Korean leaders, gave pep talks to American troops and repeatedly remarked that compared to the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific is calm and on a prosperous track.

That's a welcome respite from crisis for a Pentagon chief not yet two months into his tenure.

It's also a reminder of why the Obama administration's much-advertised pivot to Asia, after more than a decade of all-consuming war in Iraq and Afghanistan, keeps getting overshadowed by rising towers of trouble in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere across the Middle East.