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The Defense Department is looking for a little help from its friends overseas as the Pentagon and White House try to break Senate opposition to an international treaty on maritime law.

Meeting with the defense chiefs of several Asian powers during the Shangri-La defense talks over the weekend, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took the opportunity to continue his push for Senate ratification of the controversial Law of the Sea treaty.

“The United States believes it is critical for regional institutions to develop mutually agreed rules of the road that protect the rights of all nations to free and open access to the seas,” Panetta told Asian defense leaders during the high-level security conference on Saturday.

Ratification of the international pact, which would create de facto rules for the Pacific waterways, would fall “in line with these rules and international order that is necessary” to maintain peace in the Pacific, according to Panetta.

Panetta’s remarks were specifically geared toward generating support for the treaty among regional allies in the Pacific, according to Patrick Cronin, an expert in Asian-Pacific security issues at the Center for a New American Security.

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