WASHINGTON - US defense chiefs on Friday downplayed Turkey's deployment of troops and military vehicles toward its border with Syria, saying the movements didn't appear aimed at escalating tensions with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

A Turkish official on Thursday described the movement as a precaution after Syrian air defenses shot down a Turkish warplane a week ago.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta noted that Turkey has maintained troops along the border.

"And I wouldn't read too much into the movements that have been in the press," Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon.

Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, added that "I wouldn't read that as provocative in any way."

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