Admiral Describes Evolving U.S.-Asia Relations, 21st Century Maritime Strategy
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 26, 2007 Warm and transparent relationships with emerging Asian nations are key in today’s global ideological struggle, and a forthcoming U.S. maritime strategy will consider the modern security and economic landscape, a top military official said today.
During a conference on National Security Strategy and Policy at the Ronald Reagan Building here, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chief of naval operations, addressed an auditorium packed with military and private-sector members and reporters.
Mullen said he hosted his Chinese naval counterpart in the U.S. in April and traveled to China in August to enhance the nations’ military-to-military relationship.
To diversify its force structure from a ground-heavy force to one with increased air and sea power, China is investing in high-end technology that will greatly expand its naval capabilities there in 10 to 20 years.
The admiral expressed trepidation over the level of China’s military investment and said that an anti-satellite missile China launched in January also is cause for concern.
He acknowledged that, as a sovereign nation, China is acting within its right to beef up military might. “But what we’ve asked for is more transparency and more of a strategic understanding of why these capabilities are being developed, (and) what their expectations are for the use of those capabilities down the road,” Mullen said.
Mullen said a dialogue between the United States and China, possibly spurned on by military relations, could prevent strategic miscalculations and help the U.S. better understand the emerging Asian power and the implications of such growth.
“The peaceful evolution of China -- being the huge economic engine that it is -- is a good thing not just for the Chinese people or for the region, but for the world,” he added.
Speaking about U.S. relations with other Asian countries, Mullen called Japan a “very critical partner.” Like the United States, Japan supports global stability and economic prosperity. He added that Japanese military officials share his “uncertainty” over China’s aggressive investment in new military technologies.
The admiral said he is encouraged by recent joint maritime operations with Japan and India. A benefit of such operations, Mullen said, is that young servicemembers of various nationalities are able to interact.
“(These operations) speak to the idea of many different countries working with each other on the military side across the full spectrum,” he said. “When I’m in these countries, one of the things I try emphasize with every leader is the need to have exchanges with our young officers.
“We invest there now so that when they become more senior, they’re not working for the first time to establish relationships,” he continued.
The admiral said such international exchanges are the result of globalization, or the notion that the world’s nations and people have become -- and continue to grow -- more interdependent. In this shifting environment, Mullen said, cooperation within the international economy likely will create partnerships in the field of global security.
The cumbersome foreign military system, a complex procurement mechanism that delivers private-sector supplies to foreign buyers, is inhibiting smooth exchanges on the United States’ end of global production, Mullen said. He added that he advocates making a simpler system to foster enhanced economic partnering.
Mullen alluded to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat,” in which the author posits that just as democratic nations abstain from fighting each other, nations that cooperate in a global economy, or supply-chain, will not fight. The motive that pacifies such partners, Mullen said, is that neither desires to disrupt a common value system.
Such shifting security and economic considerations will factor into a doctrine outlining U.S. maritime strategy, Mullen said. The doctrine will be presented next month at the International Seapower Symposium in Newport News, Va.
Mullen called the strategy a work in progress that’s in its final stages and said the doctrine represents input from hundreds of experts representing combatant commands and joint partners, including the U.S. Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“(Such expertise) helps us look above and beyond,” Mullen said. “That is, to get our heads above operations and tactics and look well beyond the horizon.”