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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Admiral Locklear in the Pentagon Briefing Room

Presenters: Commander, U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III
January 23, 2014
ADMIRAL SAMUEL J. LOCKLEAR:  Aloha.  And good morning.  And I'm sorry I'm a couple of minutes late.  I know your time is very valuable, and I appreciate you standing by.
 
It's always great to have an opportunity to sit down to talk with you about what's going on in the Pacific or in the Indo-Asia Pacific, my particular area of responsibility.  It's been a while since I've been here in Washington, and a lot is happening during that time.  We assisted the Philippine government as they dealt with the aftermath of a super-typhoon, the Operation Damayan, and the joint task force that was led by Lieutenant General Wissler, they did an excellent job.  It was a multinational operation, and there was a quick transition in that operation to the armed forces of the Philippine and ultimately to the government of the Philippines to be able to continue that recovery.
 
But the effort was, I think, quite successful.  And it demonstrates the overall value of working together on HA/DR [Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief]-related training and initiatives so that we can respond more quickly and more effectively in these type of things and types of events.  And I think it paid big dividends, the things we've been doing in this AOR.
 
As you know, about -- about 80 percent, I'm told, of all natural disasters happened within the area of responsibility that I look at every day.  And so being able to respond in that way was a good sign, I think, of our alliances, of our partnerships, and the multilateral training that we're doing together.
 
I also traveled to Thailand and Vietnam.  We've all been seeing the political unrest in Thailand.  But it's important, I think, to highlight that the Thai military has responded favorably in support of their government, a democracy that's working through these challenges.  In my time talking with both the government and the military leadership highlighted their efforts to maintain peaceful, democratic processes.  And we hope them all the best.
 
The trip to Vietnam marked the first time that a PACOM commander has visited there since both of our nations' presidents signed the comprehensive partnership here in D.C. in July of 2012.  And we're working closely with the Vietnamese military and we're looking for opportunities to expand and grow our partnerships and work together, especially when it comes to humanitarian disaster relief operations.
 
It was clear to me that, despite our history as two countries we share together, that we today -- in today's world, we share many common interests.  Maintaining peace and security in the region is foremost in their minds, as well as in ours.  In fact, the second PACOM sponsored disaster management center opened in Vietnam while I was traveling in country, which is indicative of the type of the things that we're doing together.
 
And, finally, before I take your questions, I'd like to mention my remarks to the Navy Surface Warrior Convention, the SNA convention that I spoke at last week.  As you may or may not know, I'm a surface warrior, as well.  I have many years of experience in almost every location around the globe.  So it's important to me that at forums such as that that I address the Navy's future surface warrior leaders, hear them and understand what their concerns are, as well as industry that supports them, because they will ultimately have to buy, man, train and equip not only the current force we have, but the force of the future.  And they have to be ready to address the growing challenges that they will likely face across the entire Indo-Asia Pacific and the world.
 
The comments I made were not about America's rebalance to the Asia Pacific, because that is well on track.  We're making the progress, and from the PACOM commander's perspective, we are doing the things that we have committed and said we would do to the rebalance.  But my comments were about the growing sophistication and the capabilities of today's weapon systems and our changing relative dominance with those systems.
 
The rapid technological advancement of warfare capabilities and the proliferation of these capabilities across the globe will challenge us in the future, and we have to continue to address that.  We must also ensure that we invest in the proper mix of defensive and offensive capabilities for our ships, and that's who I was talking to were people that man and equip ships, and that the capabilities that they have are both lethal and dominant when required, and they must continue to strive for that.
 
So with that, I'll stop and take your questions.
 
STAFF:  Phil, you want to start us off?
 
Q:  Sure.  Getting to that last point you made, so you do not think that the U.S. is losing -- ceding ground or losing ground in its dominance in the Pacific to China?  And can you speak a bit about your comments on weapons systems?  What weapons systems do you think that China is -- is developing more quickly than the United States at this point?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, China is only one weapon developer in the world.  There's many weapons developers.  In fact, I've said over time that the Indo-Asia Pacific is the most militarized region in the world.  And where there -- because of growth of economies, because they have money to invest, because of a growing defense requirements by countries, they are all in many ways pursuing the militarization.  I mean, they're buying weapons, and they're buying 21st century weapons.  They're not the same weapons systems that we dealt with 30 years ago.  They are -- they're in this age.
 
And so when we talk about U.S. relative dominance, maybe the right way to look at this would be, after World War II, throughout most of the world, we built a U.S. military that was unequaled in technology.  And over time, we contributed our own selves to the development of militaries and development of defense capabilities for peaceful purposes, and we have moved those technologies to other partners and to allies.
 
And so it only stands to reason that -- that our relative dominance in those technologies and those weapons systems will have diminished over time.  That's not something to be afraid of; it's just to be pragmatic about it.
 
And so as we look forward to a world that -- that will have -- continue to have defense challenges, and we continue to buy, build and procure systems, we have to think carefully about the types of systems and where we make the most investments so that we maintain the type of edge that military leadership have -- in this country have endured for the last few decades.  So it's not just about any one particular country.
 
STAFF:  Tom?
 
Q:  Admiral, I wonder if you could take us back to that incident between the Cowpens and the Chinese ship, you know -- I don't know how long ago it was, weeks ago -- tell us exactly what happened there.  You know, how dangerous was that situation?  You know, we likely will be seeing more situations like that as tensions increase in the East China, South China Sea, between China and the U.S., and also Japan.  
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, the incident was widely reported.  And I think that it was commented on by the leadership here in the Pentagon, as well as by me.  And, in fact, there was a demarche that was sent -- that we sent formally to -- and the demarches are -- those are not -- those are fairly routine globally.  I mean, we want to communicate to someone that we've been really concerned about something that has -- that has happened.
 
So in this case, there was an interaction in international waters, in international airspace that we routinely operate in and that the Chinese were conducting what they claim to be carrier operations that they believe have been properly notified.  Those notification procedures were a question.  And the -- I don't think that the people that were on the Cowpens -- in fact, I'm sure -- were not aware of any notification of that.
 
At any point was the situation dangerous?  I wasn't on the bridge of the ship, so I can't tell you how the CO felt about it.  I would probably characterize it as more as unnecessary and probably more unprofessional.  And that -- but we have to understand, I think, as we look at this part of the world, and we look at the growing number of navies that are operating and the growing number of security concerns that are in this region, we have to expect the militaries are going to have to encounter and operate around each other.  And in this case, we have to expect that the U.S. and the Chinese navies are going to interact with each other.
 
So this just highlights to both of us, to both the PLA and to the U.S. military, that we have to do better at being able to communicate with each other in a -- in a way that allows us to not lead to miscalculation that won't be productive in the security environment.
 
And so we will continue to talk about this.  In fact, we're having -- we've had defense officials in Beijing the last two days.  And I'm sure that they have talked about this.  We have a mechanism in place with the Chinese where we meet routinely to talk about maritime incidents, how we interact with each other.
 
So will we see more of these in the future?  We will interact more with each other in the future.  My hope is that we will learn to interact -- continue to learn and to progress in the professional that we exhibit towards each other.  This is the best way forward.
 
Q:  You say unprofessional.  Do you mean unprofessional on the part of that Chinese skipper?  Or just a general sense of, you know, unprofessionalness on the part of the Chinese navy?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, I don't know if it's unprofessional or whether it was lack of experience.  I mean, one of the things that our -- that I told my -- my leadership and my sea captains is that, you know, when we're operating in this area -- I mean, first, we talked to each other on bridge-to-bridge telephone, right, radio telephones to work this out.  And we speak in English, and other countries don't.  They speak -- they're speaking -- or they speak in English, but they're not speaking in their native language.
 
And so there's an extra calculation you have to figure into what someone's trying to tell you when they're speaking the second or third language that they speak and you're speaking in your primary language.  And so we have to take this into consideration to make sure that we have -- that we have looked at all aspects of this.  
 
In the end, the U.S. military, my forces in the Pacific AOR, will operate freely in international waters, international airspace.  That's the bottom line.  We will operate there.  And we'll operate professionally, and we'll operate peacefully for the purpose of peace.  And that's the message to all the militaries that are operating in that region.
 
STAFF: Lalit
 
Q:  Thank you.  India is going for a massive modernization effort (inaudible) forces.  One of the campaigns which I hear from the Indian defense experts is that U.S. is not willing to share one of the latest technologies (inaudible) which India wants for defending its country, defending its borders.  Do you have to say anything on it?  And where do you see India's role in your (inaudible) 
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, if you go back to the defense guidance or the strategy that was signed by President Obama, one of the things that I'm directed to do, as the U.S. government is, but on the military side is to develop a long-term strategic relationship with India.  And we're moving in that direction.
 
And one of the cornerstones of that long-term key relationship is to learn how we -- learn how we go forward or to go -- figure out how we go forward in many of our procurement areas.  Where we share a similar interest and we share similar capabilities, how do we partner together in those?
 
The systems are different.  And the Indian government and military recognize that their procurement system is different than our procurement system and that we're working through how to streamline those differences or to make those differences not so apparent so that we can move forward with some of the key technologies and key capabilities that we want to develop.
 
And so I think the road ahead is a good road.  I think we have a plan, but it will take time.
 
Q:  And this second part, what role do you see for India (inaudible) rebalance (inaudible) 
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, I think, in the long run, certainly the -- the -- the Indian Ocean and India's role in security in a peaceful Indian Ocean is critical.  And we welcome that role.  And so to the degree that India chooses to -- to take on that role and to participate with us and with other partners in global security, with a central force on the Indian Ocean, this is a good thing.
 
STAFF:  Ichiro
 
Q:  Admiral, I have a question with regard to those sailors who participated in the disaster relief operation off the coast of Japan three years ago.  Congress directed DOD to conduct a research about possible, you know, radiation dose for those sailors.  Do you have any specific plan how to conduct this research yet?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  I'm going to have to refer you to the Department of the Navy for that, even though I'm sitting here as an admiral and these forces were in the command of PACOM at that time, that the -- we're the -- as they're looking at this issue.
 
I would refer you to the Department of the Navy.  I think they have an ongoing investigation to look at, what are the -- what are the things that need to be looked at with a timeline of how you get to resolution.  But my guess is that they'll give you an answer that tells you they have a plan and that -- that they're in execution to look at it.
 
Staff:  Now let's go to Paul.
 
Q:  Admiral, Paul Shinkman U.S. News and World Report.  Going back to China for a second, about a year ago, in the wake of China testing their new aircraft carrier, you had said that you didn't fault the Chinese navy for expanding, but that it was their responsibility to fit into the global security environment.
 
With all that's happened in China this past year, I wonder if you can give us an update on -- on how you feel about their behavior and whether they're on -- on -- on path to actually fit into that.
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, certainly, as I look globally at China, I think there are some positive aspects of how they're using their military forces in a productive way.  They participated in Operation Damayan in the Philippines.  They provided disaster relief.  They're operating, I think, more frequently in multilateral exercises that are being done throughout the region, and as we've talked about, they're planning to come to RIMPAC, so that's still well on track.  As you go into the Gulf of Aden, they're operating further away from home and participating in the security in -- in those particular regions. 
 
So I think in -- in that context -- and, oh, by the way, our relationship -- I think our bilateral relationship has been -- I would give it a passing grade for the last year.  And I would say that because we have been able to continue our mil-to-mil bylaws, our mil-to-mil relationships, our mil-to-mil -- you know, mil-to-mil exercises together, even though there has been churn in the region, particularly in the local region that's -- that's close to -- close to China.
 
Now, in regard to their activities in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, I think it's yet to be determined about what -- how that will -- how that will play out.  Ultimately, China needs to be a regional leader.  Their military needs to be a regional leader.  It needs to coexist in that part of the world with our allies and with our militaries, and we need to work together for the mutual security.
 
But there -- I think they're going to have to work hard to get through some of the issues, the territorial disputes they're having with their neighbors.  And you know we don't take sides on the territorial disputes, but we do expect them to be done peacefully.  And I think they have to think carefully about, you know, the introduction of things like ADIZs, like they did in the past, and how they go forward with that in the future, and to be open and have a dialogue with people before they do it.  
 
Q:  Thank you very much.  I have two questions.  In next months, United States and South Korea will take a drill for the Key Resolve military exercises.  North Korea has been asking for these exercises to stop.  What is the United States' position about that?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, we don't plan to stop the exercises.  The exercises are a part of the alliance, a cornerstone of how we train and maintain the alliance.  So as long as the people and the government of South Korea and the people and the government of the United States of America want this alliance and there's a threat that -- that appears to -- to continue in North Korea, then this exercise will go on.  It shouldn't be alarming.  It's not a change.  We do these every year.  And we're going to continue to do them as long as the risks on the Korea peninsula persist.
 
Q:  One more question.  The sudden change in North Korea, South Korea and the United States have any specific plan to (inaudible) 
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  I didn't understand your question.
 
Q:  Sudden change in North Korea, in case of sudden change in North Korea?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Oh, in case of a sudden change?  You know, we've been doing -- as you know, and the officials in -- in South Korea will tell you the same, is that we do -- as an alliance have done for years detail planning for many different types of scenarios of what might unfold on the Korea peninsula.  And one of those would be a rapidly changing situation that would require a stabilization of the peninsula.
 
So that planning is ongoing.  It will continue to be refined this year and next year, and as long as the possibility for -- for -- for provocation or possibility for war on the peninsula exist.
 
STAFF:  Luis.
 
Q:  Sir, on the rebalance to Asia, do you foresee any new deployments that would underwrite that strategy?  What we seem to have seen, really, is the replacement of -- the rotation of assets with the same capabilities thus far.  Anything new in mind?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Yes, well, I mean, I think if you -- if you kind of start from the top of the -- of the -- Northeast Asia, first, this year, the Japanese and the U.S. will look at the defense -- a defense review, which is -- which hasn't been done since the '90s, and we will look at the -- what that means for the alliance of the future and what the laydown of forces should be, so that's one thing.
 
The second thing is that we have -- appear to be moving in a positive direction on the Futenma Replacement Facility in Okinawa, where the landfill was signed, and we very much appreciate the support of the Japanese government in moving that forward, and that will -- once that happens, and that facility is built, that will allow us then the realignment of the Marine forces throughout the Asia Pacific in accordance with the -- what you would refer to as a DPRI plan that has been briefed to you all, I think, widely.  It would allow them, some to relocate to Guam and ultimately some to relocate to Hawaii.
 
And then there's an initiative with the Marines and the Air Force that we are pursuing with our Australian partners, as well.  So that's kind of in the land domain.
 
We're also looking at the infrastructure that we have together with our allies over (inaudible) in each of our alliance countries to ensure that -- that our shared infrastructure or the infrastructure that they have and that we would partner with them to use is set for the 21st century.  
 
So on top of that, we have the additional deployment of LCS's.  The first one that we sent, I think, kind of on an early timeline has finished, and that deployment has been, I think, overall successful.  And that will follow in the number of months, once the LCS's are in place, into deployments of up to three or four out of Singapore at any particular time.
 
So these are just kind of on the periphery.  We're also -- I've also asked each of the services to go look at -- or each of my components, service components to look at, how do you maximize the force that we have in being today as it rebalances to the Asia Pacific.  So we have initiatives in -- in the Marine Corps, we have initiatives in the Navy, which means LCS's and additional submarines, and I think that long term we would be looking at the possibility of foreign deploying more maritime assets throughout the theater.
 
The Army, which is kind of new to the -- new to this -- to the Asia Pacific in the last could of decades, is looking at opportunities of how do you take an army that is coming after -- out of Afghanistan and has been in COIN operations for the last basically two decades, and to put them in the Asia Pacific in a meaningful way that allows them to partner with our allies and with our partners and our growing strategic partners in a meaningful way and how them -- have them available for crisis response, if necessary.  So there's concepts like Pacific pathways that are being talked about.  There are concepts at this point in time, but overall, I'm supportive of these initiatives.
 
So we have a lot going on.  We've also looked at -- around the edges of things that we do that maybe don't get quite so much splash, but we've looked at maybe realigning some resources to the Asia Pacific center, which is a great venue for us to bring in our partners, our allies, military and civilian leadership to talk about our shared security interests.
 
So that's kind of in a nutshell a few things we're doing, but the plan is on course.
 
STAFF:  Dan.
 
Q:  Just on two -- two fronts.  On the Korean peninsula, what was behind the decision to increase the number of forces there (inaudible) armored unit?  And then I have a question about the East China Sea.
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Yeah.  Well, the decision to do the rotational armored unit there was -- was not prompted by any particular change in the -- in the tactical or strategic environment on the peninsula.  It was looked at from a -- from a component -- army component perspective, as how do you best maintain the capability on the peninsula in the -- in the century we're in with the resources that we have in a way that would be most effective support for General Scaparrotti and his -- and his CFC team there.
 
So it got played out like it was a big strategic move, but in reality, it was just part of the pre-planned decision we had made in the alliance to make sure we had the most capable forces on the peninsula and the way that -- reflective of the way we rotate -- we're increasingly rotating and using forces in this century.
 
Q:  And then on the East China Sea, how would you assess the current state of tensions between Japan and China?  And how -- how much of a risk is there that a miscalculation or some kind of incident can trigger a conflict?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, I am concerned.  I would say that -- I think there's -- any time you have two large powers, two large economic powers, two large military powers that have a disagreement that they're not talking to each other about, that has no clear diplomatic end state in sight, that the cost calculation can grow, because you will have -- in this case, you just have primarily maritime security forces that are in and around those contested islands.
 
But those are -- you know, in many cases, those are young -- you know, young naval officers or young civilian mariners who are out there, going to -- making those decisions.  So we have to continue to encourage restraint.  We have to continue to encourage professionalism.  And we have to continue to hope that there will be diplomatic dialogue and a solution to this, because it's not productive for the region and it -- it needs to be ultimately resolved.
 
Q:  Thanks (OFF-MIC) follow-up question about East China Sea.  Have you talked to your Chinese counterpart about the ADIZ?  How did they respond?  Did you send (inaudible) of military (inaudible) to this area?  Thank you.
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Yeah, the question of have we -- have we talked to the Chinese about the ADIZ?  The answer to that is yes.  The question is, did we know about it before they established it?  We're not directly notified.  And, you know, we certainly were not -- the fact that they established an ADIZ, I think, is -- of less concern to me than the way that it was done.  It would have been better if it has been announced and had been discussed with the neighbors and with the partners in the region.  And it had some caveats inside of the way they established that we fundamentally don't agree with and will not acknowledge.
 
So our operations have not changed.  And we will continue to operate in international airspace and do our operations, just as we do around -- anywhere else in the world, not just in this part of the world.
 
Q:  Admiral, Colin Clark, Breaking Defense.  Did the Chinese test a hypersonic vehicle?  And how would you assess the strategic impact of such a test?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, I didn't see the test, but I've been told that they tested it.  And you all reported it pretty widely, so I believe there's credibility in your reporting.  The Chinese, as other nations are, are pursuing hyperglide, hypersonic technologies.  
 
And so I'm -- the fact that they are testing -- I think this is just one of many -- as I talk about earlier in my remarks, this is just one of many highly technical militarized systems that -- that -- whether the Chinese are developing them or we're developing them or Europeans are developing -- that will continue to complicate the security environment with high-tech technology and the systems.  And we will have to figure them into the calculation of how we're going to maintain a peaceful security environment in the future.
 
STAFF:  I think we have time for one more question.  Sir?
 
Q:  Hi, (inaudible) from Defense News.  Good to see you again, sir.  Two-part question.  First, are you convinced that the Chinese -- in the event of an incident, whether it's an incident between Japan and China, for example, or -- or between us in the future, a Cowpens incident that ends up somewhat more sporty, that they're actually going to answer the phone and they have the crisis response mechanisms in place?  Because one of your predecessors, going back about 12 years ago, found nobody was really answering the telephone when something really bad happened.  And I have one follow-up question after that.
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Yeah.  Well, I think you'd have to ask the Chinese and the PRC if they're going to answer the phone or not.  And...
 
Q:  Well, when you call, do they answer the phone now?  And...
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Yeah, I would say that we -- that both in the region and in our mil-to-mil relationship, that we need to move forward to -- to allow that type of direct dialogue in crisis situations.  We've said this on many occasions.
 
I know that Chairman Dempsey, Secretary Hagel, and at that level that there are an occasional attempt and opportunities to have dialogue at that level.  And would that work at the time of a crisis?  We would hope it would work.  
 
But internal to the PACOM AOR, I don't have the ability to pick up the phone and talk directly to a PLA or PLA navy admiral or general at the time of a crisis.  And we need to work on that.  So we've talked about it, but things take time.
 
Q:  And the other question is, do we -- it seems as though we repeatedly are surprised when things like the ADIZ happens.  Are we on our part and with our allies doing enough to imagine what next is coming out of Beijing and figure where we need to be collectively so that it's a little bit more of a joined up response, because there has been a little bit of criticism on how the response was?  Are we doing enough to think ahead as to what -- frankly, if you look out there, Beijing is fairly logically and consistently trying to achieve over the long term.
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, I guess if we keep getting surprised, we're probably not doing enough.  But we're working at it.  I don't think we were necessarily surprised by the ADIZ issue.  I think that's a mischaracterization.  I think we anticipated that there could have been -- I mean, that there were some signals at least in some open press that there might have been an opportunity for an ADIZ to be established.
 
I think we were a little bit surprised by the way it was announced and the manner it was -- you know, how fast it was sprung on -- sprung on the region and the fact that it was an ADIZ that just kind of was directed at one central issue, not just the general defense of someone's territorial air space.
 
Sir:  Sir, I think we've reached our -- our time, unless you want to take one more.
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  I'll take one more.  Since I was late, that's...
 
STAFF:  Yes, sir.  (OFF-MIC)
 
Q:  (OFF-MIC) last week (inaudible) about the North Korea and (inaudible) behavior, so how do you evaluate their WMD capabilities and their young leader?
 
ADM. LOCKLEAR:  Well, I think that the young leader is -- for me is very difficult to determine -- in fact, unpredictable, I believe, is the best -- best way I've seen.  I think that his behavior, at least the way it's reported and the way we -- the way we see it and sense it, makes me -- makes you -- would make me wonder whether or not he is always in the rational decision-making mode or not.  And this is a problem.
 
It's a problem because of the -- the continued nuclearization of the country, the continued pursuit of missile technologies, which threaten not only the peninsula, but threaten the region, and eventually now they'll threaten the globe if -- if it's not constrained.
 
So in the end, we must demand a total denuclearization of North Korea.  It's in the interest of not only South Korea and the United States, but of all the people in the region.  And now it's in the best interests of everybody in the world.  So the way ahead with -- with the new leader there is not clear to me, but I think that it -- it is a potentially very dangerous place. 
 
Thank you very much.