Officials Clarify Maritime Initiative Amid Controversy
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, Jun. 4, 2004 The U.S. initiative concerning Pacific waterway security does not call for new U.S. bases and military organizations to be part of the equation, defense officials asserted here.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld looks out at the Changi
Naval Base harbor while visiting Singapore June 4, 2004. Rumsfeld was in the
southeastern Asian republic to talk to sailors and Marines aboard the
amphibious assault ship USS Essex and to attend the International Institute of
Scientific Studies Conference. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison Jr.,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Seeking to clarify perceptions about the initiative, Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters traveling with him on June 2 that certain aspects of congressional testimony given by Navy Adm. Thomas B. Fargo, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, were "misreported" and that the erroneous reports came to be widely taken as fact.
Today, Rumsfeld told a group of Asian journalists here that the Regional Maritime Security Initiative is an idea still in its early stages. It is subject to consultation and discussion with countries in the region, he said, and it doesn't threaten sovereignty.
"Any implication that it would impinge in any way on the sovereign territorial waters of some countries would be inaccurate," he said. "It just wouldn't."
Navy Adm. Walter F. Doran, the Pacific Fleet commander, made the same assertion to reporters traveling with Rumsfeld, and added that Fargo's testimony did not imply that establishing new U.S. bases and units or stationing elite forces in the region are part of the initiative, as reports have indicated.
The initiative, Doran said, started out in normal navy-to-navy contacts with counterparts in the western Pacific region, and the idea is to build on those contacts and discussions to raise maritime situational awareness in the region.
Each nation concerned, the Doran pointed out, tends to define maritime security in the context of what it sees as its own particular concerns, whether it be drug smuggling, trafficking in people, piracy or the movement of bad people from one place to another.
The initiative, he said, is an attempt to encourage the sharing of information.
"Each nation would decide on its own how they would participate in it," Doran noted. "It is not necessarily a U.S. lead or a U.S. control. There is certainly no implication or attempt to portray something that would show a standing U.S. force or more gray hulls (acting like a) cop on the beat pulling people over, or doing anything like that."
If a group of nations would agree to share information and act within their own laws and international law on activities having to do with maritime security, "that would be a huge step forward for all of us," he said.
Doran said there is no "grand scheme" to put the United States in charge of policing the Pacific waterways, but the United States is a Pacific nation, the admiral noted, and does have a role and an interest in maritime security in the region.
"I don't rule out a U.S. presence, because we are present," he said. "The United States 7th Fleet out of Yokosuka, Japan, has been present in these waters for over 50 years, and I think has had a tremendously stabilizing effect on the region."
The Straits of Malacca, where the Indian and Pacific oceans meet near Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, is the focus of the Regional Maritime Security Initiative, the admiral said, because of its amount and types of maritime activity.
"We have a fair degree of idea of what's moving in the air," Doran said, "but we don't have that with what's moving on the seas around us."
Again emphasizing that the initiative still is in its infancy, the admiral stressed that it's about raising awareness, not the U.S. profile in the Pacific. "This is not an alliance, it is not a treaty (and) it doesn't set anything else up," he said. "It would be a protocol that would allow us and give us a regimen by which these types of information would be shared."