Locklear Welcomes Closer U.S.-China Cooperation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 Recognizing the United States’ growing strategic partnership with China, the top U.S. commander in the Asia-Pacific region expressed hope today that commitments by the U.S. and Chinese presidents will promote communication, understanding and closer cooperation between their militaries.
Speaking to reporters at the Foreign Press Center here, Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the U.S. Pacific Command commander, emphasized the importance of communication between allies and partners, including China, in a highly interconnected world.
“To have the militaries not communicating with each other just doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.
“It is a different world. We are very connected in many, many ways across our societies,” Locklear said. “So it is important that military leaders … establish a relationship that lets us understand each other.”
Understanding leads to a degree of transparency, and transparency leads to a degree of trust, he continued. “And trust leads to an ability to prevent miscalculation,” he added.
Locklear acknowledged that the United States and China – like any other countries – won’t always share the same views. “There will always be things that countries disagree about. That is just the nature of the world,” he said. “There are always going to be friction points that can lead to a potential miscalculation.”
But “the last place you want those miscalculations occurring is at the military level,” he said. “So the more understanding we have of each other, I think the less chance of those miscalculations occurring.”
Locklear expressed optimism over an agreement by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jingping to promote that closer cooperation. Meeting in June for two days of informal talks, the presidents agreed that North Korea should denuclearize, and they pledged to work together to resolve cybersecurity and other issues.
“What President Barack Obama and President Xi Jingping said was that we are going to look at some ways to improve that mil-to-mil connectivity so we have the right dialogue, and that it is in the right place and in the right time,” Locklear said. “And we are doing that.”
Speaking last week with American Forces Press Service, Locklear noted steps in the right direction, from bilateral meetings between U.S. and Chinese military leaders to port visits by both navies’ ships.
The next major development, to take place in May, will be China’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific, the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise. This represents a big commitment from China, Locklear said, because Chinese ships will operate alongside other allied and partner navies and under U.S. command and control.
“It will give them the opportunity to see and be seen in a multilateral light that will be beneficial to security environment as we go ahead,” he said. “It sort of puts them out with the rest of the team [and] lets them be part of that team.”
Ultimately, developing a strong U.S.-China military-to-military relationship will take time, Locklear recognized.
As China continues to rise as a regional and global power, he said, in some respects its leaders feel “they are entering a security environment and a world order environment where they didn’t get to set the rules – some of those rules they don’t agree with.”
“If they choose a path of coercion to solve [that], I think that will be disastrous,” he said.
But with a role in encouraging North Korea to eliminate its nuclear-weapons program, Locklear said, China has the opportunity to be a leader in promoting security, economic growth and stability across the region.
The big question moving forward will be whether China chooses to be a “net user or net provider of security,” he said. “We hope it will be a net provider, and I think there is potential for that to happen.”