Locklear Warns of Territorial Disputes Escalating to Conflict
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2013 Amid reports of an incident between China and Japan near the Senkaku Islands, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific reiterated the need to resolve territorial disputes peacefully and to develop a code of conduct to support the process.
Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told the U.S. Indonesia Society in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday that territorial disputes have occurred throughout history and will undoubtedly continue into the future.
But the admiral warned during a media roundtable about the stress these disputes inflict on the security environment – and the potential they pose for conflict if not resolved.
Nations of the world need to come together to settle their differences over parts of the South China Sea and other contested areas diplomatically so they don’t escalate, he said.
Military conflict “would have global impacts that we should not even contemplate,” he warned. “We should not even allow it to enter into our dialogue … and not allow it to happen.”
The United States does not take sides in border disputes, he emphasized, but will continue to do everything in its power to support steps being taken by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and others to promote peaceful resolution.
Locklear didn’t get into specifics when asked about reports that a Chinese navy warship targeted a Japanese warship with its weapons radar near the Senkaku Islands last month. He said, however, that it rings a warning bell about how quickly territorial differences can turn dangerous.
“There must be real care in ensuring that the governments involved and leadership of those governments understand the potential for miscalculation if those systems are used incorrectly,” he said.
The U.S. perspective to both Japan and China, he said, is that “we need to be very, very careful in ensuring we don’t see escalation that could lead to miscalculation that could lead to unintended consequences.”
Locklear reiterated his call for a code of conduct that provides a framework for resolving these differences. He expressed hope that ASEAN and nations in the region including China will “feel a sense of urgency” and reinvigorate the stalled discussions toward reaching one.
“The question is, can we have a system of rules that allows us to work together with this with diplomacy rather than military power?” he said
Establishing this code “will give diplomacy breathing room and give diplomacy time to work, because it will take some time,” he said.