U.S. Partners Encourage Pacom Commander
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2012 Upon returning to U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii after visiting three Asia-Pacific nations, the top U.S. commander in the region said he’s encouraged by their willingness to partner more closely with the United States in what he called a foundation of the U.S. strategy there.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, with Thailand's Chief of Defense Force Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn in Bangkok, Oct. 15, 2012. U.S. Pacific Command photo by Army Staff Sgt. Carl N. Hudson
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III has returned to Camp H.M. Smith after visiting senior officials in Bangladesh, India and Thailand. During every engagement, the admiral explained why, as it draws down its forces in Afghanistan, the United States is increasingly turning its attention to the Asia-Pacific.
Locklear recognized the region’s large populations, large militaries and new and growing economic powerhouses during an Oct. 16 discussion with reporters in Bangkok.
The relative peace the region has enjoyed for almost seven decades has enabled national economies to prosper, he noted. “The goal is to continue that,” he said, promoting security and stability through enhanced regional cooperation.
It’s a whole-of-government approach, he said, that includes not just military, but also includes economic, diplomatic and information initiatives.
“The end state, we hope, is a continuation of a collective security environment where all nations are able to participate,” Locklear said. He cited the range of operations that could include countering terrorism, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, stemming the flow of transnational threats such as drugs and human trafficking, and enhancing cybersecurity, among others.
Ultimately, Locklear said, U.S. rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region involves “building partnerships and ability to work together on these security issues that will impact the region in the future.”
That begins with the historic U.S. allies in the region, including Thailand, he said.
During his visit there, Locklear met with Chief of Defense Force Gen. Thanasak Patimaprakorn, Permanent Secretary for Defense Thanongsak Apirakyothin and other leaders to discuss ways to strengthen the U.S.-Thailand military-to-military relationship.
But the rebalance also involves building capacity among new regional partners and encouraging others to forge new relationships with the United States, he said.
Asked by a reporter, Locklear said he hopes these relationships are seen as “productive, in the eyes of China” and that Chinese leaders recognize that the U.S. rebalance is not meant to threaten or exclude China or any other country.
“This is not about a single nation,” the admiral said. “It is about this issue of: How do you foresee a future were you have all countries participating in a security environment that leads to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. And you can’t leave any one country out of that.”
Locklear underscored the point. “The importance of the rebalance is looking at, How do you bring everyone, including China, into a security relationship that allows peace and prosperity, even through trying, difficult times where countries may disagree on this issue or that issue without it leading to military confrontation,” he said.
He recognized areas in which China and the United States already are beginning to forge a military-to-military relationship. Their navies recently participated in joint counterpiracy operations, he noted, and leaders are exploring other areas in which they could work together, including health and medicine and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
In addition, the United States has invited China to participate in the next Rim of the Pacific naval exercise, in 2014. Twenty-two nations participated in this year’s RIMPAC. “We hope that in 2014, the People’s Liberation Army navy will find a way to send a ship and be full partners in that,” Locklear said. “This is the best way forward.”