Locklear: Asia-Pacific Strategy Focused on Long-term Regional Stability
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 15, 2012 The United States will remain an enduring presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and the nation is increasing its focus there to ensure a peaceful, secure and prosperous future, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command told an Australian think tank today in Canberra.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III addressed the Kokoda Foundation at its annual dinner, speaking about implications for Australia of the U.S. “pivot” to the Indo-Pacific. That rebalance is a cornerstone of the defense strategic guidance issued earlier this year, which recognizes the region’s growing economic and military importance.
Noting the region’s broad challenges that transcend national borders, Locklear said he’s struck by the recognition that no single governance mechanism exists to manage relationships, and no single organization provides a framework for conflict resolution.
“What exists instead is what I will refer to as a ‘patchwork quilt’ of interwoven security relations,” he said.
“Our ‘patchwork quilt relationships’ in the Indo-Pacific have been shaped by history, and by our shared interests, and are increasingly driven by our economic interconnectedness,” he said. “They range from historic bilateral alliances to mature and emerging multilateral forums that focus on converging interests and security concerns.”
These relationships sometimes struggle to be effective when their member states’ interests diverge, Locklear said. He noted, for example, that more nations are increasingly shifting military resources from internal security matters to external ones as they seek to preserve their own access to the global commons.
That, Locklear said, begs an important question regarding the region’s future.
“In this extremely diverse and complex environment that must rely on a patchwork quilt of security relationships to ensure relative peace, can we, together, create an Indo-Pacific security environment that is resilient enough to withstand shocks and aftershocks that will occur in this complex environment, all the while maintaining relative peace and stability?” he asked.
Locklear acknowledged that he doesn’t know the answer. “But I do know my children and grandchildren are counting on me to try,” he said.
Looking to the future, Locklear said the U.S. rebalance toward the Indo-Pacific will help chart the way toward that goal. It draws on the strength of the entire U.S. government, including policy, diplomacy, trade and security, he explained. As part of that effort, the U.S. military will transform “to be more agile, more efficient, more technologically advanced, more lethal and ultimately, a better-suited military to the task of securing U.S. interests around the globe,” he said.
Locklear dismissed criticism that the rebalance is actually a containment strategy in disguise.
“It is not,” he said. “The rebalance is based on a strategy of collaboration, not containment, and focuses on three major elements: strengthening relationships; adjusting our military posture and presence; and employing new concepts, capabilities and capacities.”
These new approaches will “ensure we continue to effectively contribute to the patchwork quilt of the security environment and protect U.S. national interests,” Locklear said.
Modernizing and strengthening the United States’ five Pacific treaty alliances is the keystone of the rebalance, the admiral told the group.
“From the military commander’s perspective, I can tell you that these alliances bring with them years of mutual trust and respect, significant interoperability and information sharing, a common view of regional security landscapes and challenges,” he said.
They also provide a base for multilateral relationships to grow, he said, noting the United States’ efforts to reach out to nations.
Locklear also recognized the strengthened U.S. commitment to multilateral forums, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asia Summit, which President Barack Obama will attend next week in Cambodia.
As the United States works with its allies and partners to establish a force that’s not only ready, but geographically postured to respond to crises, Locklear said leaders hope to increase regional engagements.
“Keys to success will be innovative access agreements, greatly increased exercises, rotational presence increases and efficient force posture initiatives that will maximize every dollar spent,” he said. “And finally, we will put our most capable forces in the Indo-Pacific … to ensure we effectively operate with our allies and partners across a wide range of operations, as we collectively work for peace and stability.”
Topping the list, he said, will be the United States’ most advanced ships, submarines, aircraft, air and missile defense technologies, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, along with command-and-control architectures. “And, of course, the most highly trained soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the world,” he said.
The United States will have to maintain an enduring role in the region, “informed by the imperative that we cannot fail to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific,” Locklear said. “It should not be an option.”
America’s stabilizing role in the region over the last half century will continue into the future, he said.
“America is a Pacific power … and we look forward to the hard work ahead to do our part to keep this amazing Indo-Pacific hopeful, peaceful and secure for decades to come,” the admiral said.
Wrapping up a two-week visit to Australia, Locklear said he recognized progress made in advancing the historic U.S.-Australia alliance during the Chiefs of Defense Conference last week in Sydney and the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations that wrapped up yesterday in Perth.
“From where I sit, our alliance is as strong as ever and remains one of the most important in the world,” he said. “I am encouraged by what our nations will continue to accomplish as we move together to the next century.”