DOD News Briefing with Adm. Locklear from the Pentagon
ADMIRAL SAMUEL J. LOCKLEAR: Well, good morning, and aloha. I'm glad to be here to talk to you today about the Pacific Command, where we are today and where we see ourselves heading in the future.
Since the last time I was here, we have continued to move forward on our rebalance initiative efforts as directed by President Obama. As you all know, the rebalance draws on the strengths of the entire U.S. government, including policy, diplomacy, trade, and of course, security. And that's the area that I work in.
For me, the rebalance has been and it continues to be about strengthening relationships, adjusting our military posture and presence, employing new concepts, capabilities and capacities to ensure that we continue to effectively and efficiently contribute to the stability and security of the Asia Pacific as we protect U.S. national interest.
And, of course, the keys to success will be innovative access agreements, greatly increased exercises, rotational presence increases, efficient force posture initiatives that will maximize the dollars that we are given to spend.
And it also is by putting our most capable forces forward, as well as our newest, most advanced equipment to ensure we effectively operate with our allies and partners across a wide range of operations as we work together for peace and stability.
I was asked to keep these opening remarks a little shorter than the last time, so I can get to your questions. So I'd like to finish up with a couple of thoughts.
The rebalance is based on a strategy of collaboration and cooperation, not containment, and that the United States is a pacific power and will remain a pacific power, and we at PACOM look forward to doing our part to keep Asia Pacific hopeful, peaceful and secure for decades to come.
LT. COL. STEVEN WARREN: I think we'll take our first question right here.
Q: Good morning. Thank you for the briefing. My name is Betty Lin. I'm with the World Journal.
And could you address the growing Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea and the East China Sea? And given China just announced that they're going to intercept the foreign ships that go into their territorial waters that they claim. So are you going to participate in upcoming defense consultative talks with the Chinese? And what kind of message would you like to convey to them? Thank you.
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, thank you for that question.
Of course, the issues that are being faced today in the South China Sea and other areas in the north and central East Asia I think are quite complicated because of the nature of the territorial disputes, some of them historic, some of them now driven by the need for access to resources in those areas. And that’s, I think, to some degree has motivated some of the activities that you're seeing there.
The U.S. position, as you know, is that we don't take sides on territorial disputes. There's many of those around the globe, not just in the South China Sea, but we do want them resolved peacefully, without coercion. And that we call on all the parties there, including the Chinese, to ensure that as they approach these problems, that they do so in a way that avoids conflict, that avoids miscalculation, that uses the vehicles available today through diplomacy and through those legal forums that allow them to get to reasonable solutions on these without resorting to coercion or conflict.
And so, it's important, I think, to -- as we go forward, to ensure that all parties remain calm about these things and that we don't unnecessarily introduce warfighting apparatus into these -- into these decisions or into these discussions.
LT. COL. WARREN: Craig?
Q: Admiral, I'd like to ask a broad question about North Korea if I could. You know, it's been a little while now since Kim Jong Un has taken over. I just want to ask, has there been any sign that North Korea's military and security policy strategy has changed since he has come on board? Or really do you see it as a continuation of how they act in their approaches under, you know, his predecessors?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I think it's -- we're still in the wait-and-see stages. There had been -- I believe you can take a look at the last number of months. There have been, I think, a number of signs that might lead you to believe that the new regime leadership is going to take a more, I would say, rational approach to how they deal with their own economy and how they deal with their own people, and how they deal internationally.
And so I think that, generally, there's been a feeling that there might be some hope there. However, now we are approaching, once again, a potential violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, and we encourage the leadership in North Korea to consider what they are doing here and the implications on the overall security environment on the Korean peninsula, as well as in Asia.
Q: To follow up, anything new? I mean, we've been hearing some rumblings for some time that there might be some activity on that front. Anything new that you can provide in terms of insights into launches or things like that?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I think you're tracking it pretty well, I think through the media today. There are indications, declared indications, of their intention to do a -- what they would call a peaceful satellite launch.
We believe it is still contradictory to the U.N. Security Council resolutions that, because of the nature of the type of missile that they will be firing and the implications it has for ballistic missile type of activity somewhere down the road, and the destabilizing impact that will have on the security environment throughout the region, not just on the peninsula.
Q: Thank you.
LT. COL. WARREN: Ms. Barb Starr from CNN.
Q: Can you follow-up on some of that? What's your assessment? They say they've solved their -- whatever problems they had with their April failed launch. What have you seen? What's your assessment? How could they have solved the problems? Who might have helped them? Do you see Iran in there possibly helping them? Who else?
And do you think he's doing this in response to hardliners in his own government? Why would he be doing this?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I think the professed reason is to probably do it in conjunction with the anniversary or the -- of the 17th, which was widely reported in the paper -- in the newspapers.
But, you know, my -- our assessment is that their desire to continue down this road is motivated by their desire to ensure that their capability -- and they're now a self-proclaimed nuclear state -- their ability to be able to demonstrate to the world that they have the capacity to be able to build missiles and have the missile technology to be able to use it in ways of their choosing down the road.
And this, as I said earlier, would be very destabilizing, I think, to the -- not only to the region, but to the international security environment.
To who's helping them and my assessment of their ability to be able to launch this missile, I think that they have progressively gained better technology over time and they have progressively gained that through a number of methods over a number of years and decades.
To the degree that they will be more successful than they were last time in such a short period of time and what they've done to correct it, I can't tell you how they assess that. We'll just have to -- should they choose to go ahead with it, we'll just have to see how it goes.
Q: What assets are you moving into the region to monitor this test?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I won't go into the specifics of how we -- how we or our allies position ourselves to ensure that we understand what's happening, but we do watch this very carefully, watch it very closely.
Of course, in my role as the PACOM commander, my number one priority is to ensure that we have properly reassured our allies and that we have properly defended our own homeland and we will position our assets necessary to do that.
LT. COL. WARREN: New York Times, Thom Shanker.
Q: Very much related to that, on a recent trip to the region by Secretary Panetta, he announced the deployment of an X-band radar to one of our allies. Can you give us a status update on that program?
And are other efforts underway or envisioned to increase broadly missile defense, our posture there and that of our allies and partners?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Yes, well, I have nothing further to add than what Secretary Panetta announced. We are continuing to discuss that with our allies -- Japanese allies -- to determine the timing and location and where that would be. So I have nothing more to add on that.
However, when it comes to ballistic missile defense, first of all, it's a complex problem. This is a problem that affects all of our partners and allies in the region as well as our homeland. And that we will continue to look for opportunities to be able to strengthen our partnerships and our capabilities with our allies to be able to deal with the threats as they emerge and we're doing that today.
Q: Are you speaking specifically to any partners or allies about additional X-band radar, PAC-3 interceptors, anything else?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: At this point in time, we're not -- I'm not prepared to talk about any of the details of that. I would just say that we continue to look for opportunities to improve our capabilities as the threat set changes and grows.
Q: Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. You were recently in India on your first trip. Can you give us a sense of what kind of relations PACOM wants to have with India and what would be your priorities with the Indian navy and the military?
And recently, the U.S. was included as a dialogue partner with Indian Ocean Rim - Association for Regional Cooperation. How is it going to help you in your activities in the Asia Pacific region?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, let me start with your last question first. As far as the Indian Ocean organization that you related to that we are a -- we're not a part of, but we're invited as an observer to it.
In general, throughout the Indo-Pacific region, first you have to understand the breadth and scope of that region. It's well over half of the people in the world live in that region. All the major economies are in that region, including ours. Seven of the 10 largest armies are in that region.
You can put all the continents in the world in the Pacific Ocean. You can put them all in the Pacific Ocean and still have room for another Africa, another Canada, another United States and another Mexico. And that's just in the Pacific. And the Indian Ocean is vast as well.
So you have this really large, very dynamic -- you can't even call it a region -- it's half the world -- where you have historical ties between countries -- bilateral, multilateral -- and you have this -- there is no one security organization that's able to deal with things such as a NATO. And I don't think you'll ever get to that because it's such a vast and diverse region.
And so we have to rely on and have to support these multilateral organizations that allow us to capitalize on where we have like interests, and to not be afraid to allow other countries to lead in those areas.
So, now to the earlier question, you know, we very much support India military, India taking a leadership in the security issues in and around the Indian Ocean. And we are looking for opportunities to participate and interoperate with them where we can.
I have been directed by the president to seek a -- as all of the parts of our government have -- to seek a long-term security relationship, a partnership with India. And that covers a lot of different areas, but in the military area we look for opportunities to interoperate with each other. And we are headed in that direction.
LT. COL. WARREN: Kevin Baron.
Q: Sir, I'd like to just ask about China's aircraft carrier, because in this town, you know, we hear that it's a sign of, you know, inevitable conflict or it's, you know, rickety Soviet, you know, bucket not to worry about. Should Americans worry about this thing?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, you know, my assessment is that if I were China and I was in the economic position that China is in, and I was in a position of where I have to look after my global security interests, I would consider building an aircraft carrier. And I might consider building several aircraft carriers.
So the real question is whether we should be concerned with them or not. Like any other country that builds aircraft carriers is whether or not those types of platforms will be successfully integrated into a global security environment that's a peaceful one.
And they have a role in maintaining the peaceful global security environment. If the issue is that they are not part of that global security environment, then I think we have to be concerned about them.
Q: So which is it?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I think we're -- we -- we're hopeful that they're part of the security environment, and we're doing everything we can possible with our -- with the Chinese, at least on the mil-to-mil, to try to bring them into the security environment in a way that -- it's already fairly mature globally -- in a way that they are a productive part of that environment.
Q: Mike Evans from The Times.
Admiral, since the strategy was changed to refocus efforts towards your area of the world, what would you say are the most important capabilities you've actually been able to add to Pacific Command from what you had before?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I'd like to note we've only been at the rebalance, you know, publicly for less than a year. So strategies often take time to be able to get assets and policies in place.
But I think the most important thing was -- was what we did at the beginning was the fact that we looked at the world, a post-Afghanistan, you know, area, and we said as we re-shape our force for the future, where do our primary interests lie?
And I think the most important thing was that the president put out a strategy that said that this was a priority for us now. And he said that publicly to the world, and that at all levels of government, including in the military, we have moved forward to ensure our allies in the region that this is actually a priority for us and we are going to do it.
So I would note that president was in Cambodia right after the election. And then he was in Burma. And Secretary Clinton moves widely throughout the region, as does Secretary Panetta. And the amount of activities that I do and my forces do has been a prompt jump in what we've done in the past.
And we're looking for opportunities to do more exercises. We are doing more of things already. I think it's visible to our allies and I think it's visible to our partners and visible to the region.
We often want to jump to the, well, where's the next submarine or aircraft carrier, and that's always the signal. And we will over time -- as you've heard Secretary Panetta say, we will rebalance our Navy toward the Pacific. And we'll -- I've already mentioned in my opening remarks, we're rapidly moving our most capable assets into the region because of some of the ballistic missile defense threats we face and those types of things.
So I think it's not about one thing. It's about a holistic approach, and what I do on the military side is only one aspect of it. It's got to be tied to what's happening in the economic side, what's happening in the diplomatic side. And so we're working hard with a whole-of-government approach that accomplishes this strategy.
Q: Sorry, one quick question. Have you started to do or plan to do rotational B-52 deployments to northern Australia?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, you know, we're having a -- you saw the outcome of the AUSMIN and what was there. We have a wonderful relationship and alliance with our Australian counterparts, particularly in the mil-to-mil area.
And the two countries we are continuing to look at opportunities were we might partner better to be able to provide, you know -- provide a better security structure in that part of the world, which has growing importance, I think, to the global security environment and the global economic environment.
Q: My name is Donghui Yu with China Review News Agency of Hong Kong.
You mentioned before that you'd like to see a mature military-to-military relationship with China. And Secretary Panetta and Secretary Mabus have invited China to join the RIMPAC exercise of 2014.
How do they respond to that? And have you have any contact -- further contact -- with the Chinese counterpart regarding the military-to-military exchange program in 2013? And how would you deal with the new Chinese military leaders?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Yes. Well, I -- first of all, let me say that I think the mil-to-mil relationships in the last couple of years have -- between us -- have been quite historic.
They have increased and they have endured what, in the past, might have made them be truncated. So they've endured, you know, diplomatic issues that in the past might have stopped them and we've continued to have the mil-to-mil.
As I've said before, I've been to -- I was invited to Beijing twice. I've visited with my counterparts there.
Just yesterday, in my headquarters, the deputy chief of the PLA Navy was in Hawaii with a -- in my headquarters receiving briefings on the future activities that our navies will do together, looking, talking through the issues of the Rim of the Pacific exercise, which you mentioned that will happen in 2014.
We have a growing ability to have a dialogue at the military level that's frank and open and we do that through consultative talks that we do on a periodic basis. And then we build a calendar of events on the areas where we think we can have the most opportunity to have success working together. We build that calendar of events.
And so far, we're having a very good record on meeting those objectives and actually completing them. Right now, I believe there's, in this timeframe, I don't know exactly, but there's an HA/DR exercise that we are doing in a bilateral way between the U.S. military and PACOM and with the PLA.
So I just sent letters to my counterparts congratulating them on their promotions and hoping that we continue to have a good and open dialogue.
Because, in the end, it's -- you know, we have the responsibility -- the PLA and the U.S. military have a responsibility to have a good dialogue and a good relationship. It's in the best interest of not only regional security in Asia, but also global security.
LT. COL. WARREN: Front row here.
Q: Amy Butler with Aviation Week. I'd like to follow up on Thom -- the answer you gave to Thom regarding missile defense and dig a little deeper if possible.
How concerned are you about the potential loss of the use of SBX as an asset in your region? And the fact that the missile defense program here in the states hasn't produced a successful intercept with the BMD interceptor since 2008?
And as a follow-on to that, can you go into what you think your vision should be for adapting the PAA that is in Europe into Asia? Because leaders here said they would like to do some sort of PAA in Asia.
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, you ask a lot of questions in there.
Well, let me talk about the SBX in general. You know, the SBX was built as a research and development platform. It wasn't designed to be in a long-term ballistic missile defense architecture. It still has benefit in research and development.
But since it was built, my estimation is that the overall sophistication of the BMD capabilities have grown, and it's grown globally so that the need to have SBX in that role has diminished over time because other capabilities are mature enough to be able to not have to have it.
As far as the ability for the interceptors to be productive, I think you have to look across all of technologies that we pursue in BMD, and recognize the significant technological challenges that have been associated with that program.
And really I think you have -- in the timeframe that we have had to develop these systems, I think we have done the technological part of the -- this ballistic missile defense have done really amazing things in that -- in that timeframe to be able to produce the capabilities that are there now. And I'm confident that they are going to produce the result that you are asking about in the near future.
As far as the overall, how you would put a PAA -- in Europe, I came from Europe in my last position, and again, I think it goes back to a discussion for me about -- about Europe versus the size and immensity and vastness of this region -- the region, even the Pacific region, but in the Indo-Pacific -- and trying to apply that exact model to defense of this area, I think, would be a stretch for me.
However, I think there are opportunities as we look at our alliances, as we look at our growing partnerships, as we look at multilateral organizations who are investing in ballistic missile defense capabilities of their own. If they are properly networked and properly put into an organizational construct where they can work together, you will, in effect, have a type of PAA architecture.
And I think that will happen over time. It will require information sharing between countries who may have not done that before, and may be a little uncomfortable with it. But I think that as the security environment changes, that there will be good opportunities for that to occur, and we will pursue those.
Q: Just a follow-up. In Europe, you have NATO as at least an organizing construct. You don't have that in the Pacific. So when you talk about networking and linking things together, what is your construct to do that? (Inaudible) -- bilateral? Is the U.S. going to be a broker?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, you know, we are -- we have historically had a hub-and-spoke bilateral relationship strategy in this part of the world. And so -- and now we are seeing the need for more multilateral organization.
So inherent in multilateralism are the discussions about these type of collective security type of initiatives that you might pursue, using the technologies that you are able to buy and be able to operate.
So I think there is a way ahead here.
Q: Thanks, Admiral. My name is David Alexander. I'm from Reuters.
You mentioned Burma a little bit earlier. Can you talk a little bit about where military-to-military relations are with Burma and how you see them developing in the coming couple of years?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Right. Well, you know, first the mil-to-mil in Burma, are a -- you know, we're in the follow on the State Department and the decisions on where to go forward. So we'll be supporting commander to the State Department on this.
My opinion is that -- as we -- as the State Department and the leadership and the Congress and everyone works through any issues that might have in the past prevented mil-to-mil, that we -- there are areas in our mil-to-mil relationships that we can be productive in early on that will help a government who -- and a military who have -- who are seeking reform to be able to do things with them that will help them understand and help them be more productive in that reform, particularly as it relates to how you build a military that's subservient to a -- to the -- to a civilian leadership.
How do you build a military that values rule of law, that values human rights, and can calculate that into its organizational construct and its training? And we can add value in those areas and we're prepared to do that.
LT. COL. WARREN: We have time for two more. We'll go to Justin and then Kristina.
Q: Thanks. Yes, Justin Fishel with Fox News. I wanted to ask you about the strategic shift to your region, to PACOM region.
Are you concerned that this shift could be considered premature, considering there are still real problems in the Middle East if you look at Syria, where the U.S. is at risk for being drawn into a serious conflict there, with chem weapons. There's obviously real concerns about Iran as well. Is the shift occurring before the job is done in the Middle East?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, I would go back to the -- the president's strategy on this and take a look at it. Didn't say that we would only -- we'd shift everything that we have in the military or in our -- in our -- across our government into the Asia Pacific. It prioritized the Asia Pacific, but it also talked about an enduring requirement for us to be present and in a security role in the Middle East as well.
So, you know, we're talking about, I think, a near-term perspective on this. You know, we're -- we see a glide slope in Afghanistan. Yes, the Middle East is -- has issues and has historically had issues that will require, I think, U.S. -- obviously U.S. leadership, but also will require a certain level of military security over time.
And we will have to balance that as we look at the size and nature of our force structure. And, you know, what we have, the assets that we have to be able to accomplish it.
But I'm convinced that we can do both in the long run. And I'm convinced that we are on a good glide slope in the Asia Pacific that will allow us to realize that over the next number of years.
Q: Kristina Wong with The Washington Times. Thanks for coming to speak with us.
According to news reports, U.S. officials have said several Navy ships have moved into the region. Can you talk about why we're sending ships to the region?
And also, the number one concern with North Korea's planned missile launch, whether it's that they're violating U.N., you know, international regulations or whether we are worried that they can actually launch a ballistic missile that could reach the U.S.
So what's the number one concern with that and why we're moving ships to the region?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Now, the moving of ships would be today, moving them today, or in the long run?
Q: In -- today or in this week.
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Okay.
Well, we move ships around the region all the time. We have -- we actually have a fairly robust forward-deployed naval force that's actually, you know, stationed in that part of the world. So we do move them around for exercises. We move them around for contingencies.
And in this case, you know, it should seem logical that we'll move them around so we have the best situational awareness that we have.
And to the degree that those ships are capable of participating in ballistic missile defense, then we will position them to be able to do that. And so, we will go forward with that as we did in the last time (inaudible).
A lot of this is about, number one, is so we understand what's going on. I'd say, second to that, is so that we understand, if they do violate the Security Council and launch a missile, what kind is it? What is it about? Where does it go? Who does it threaten? Where does the parts of it that don't go in -- that don't go where they want it to go, where do they go? And what are the consequences of that?
And eventually I think -- your question about, you know, what are our concerns as far as homeland defense, I think you're -- you know, from my perspective at PACOM, I have to -- I have to, number one, kind of worry about reassuring our allies and ensuring that we have that well done.
I also have a homeland defense requirement for Guam and for the Marianas and for other states in the -- in that part of the world.
But I also have a supporting role to ensure that homeland defense, should at some point in time there be a nation that decided to attack the homeland with a ballistic missile, that I am positioned to be able to support my other commanders -- Northern Command, Strategic Command -- to be able to influence that in a way that we control the outcome of it.
Q: What is the likely U.S. response, given that North Korea will likely launch a missile in the next few weeks?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, you'd have to refer -- I'd have to refer you to the State Department or to OSD on that. That's not my lane to see what that response would be.
Q: But you're monitoring the situation very closely?
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Very closely.
LT. COL. WARREN: Sir, thanks a lot. If you've got any closing comments, we'll wrap up.
ADM. LOCKLEAR: Only that I appreciate all of you taking the time to come and do this.
The Asia Pacific is a very complex region, but I believe that if we work this right, that we can continue to provide a -- to have a productive, generally safe, generally secure environment in the Asia Pacific that we've enjoyed for the last roughly about 50 or 60 years, that I think has given rise to a lot of economic growth, a lot of democratization, a lot of things that have been good for a growing global economy and a growing, you know, humanity -- growing humanity.
And so I think we have the opportunity to do that and my job is to ensure that that's where -- the direction we head.