The United States has spelled out its maritime
security strategy so that all nations understand the American position, David
Shear, the assistant secretary of defense for Asian-Pacific security affairs,
said during a Pentagon news conference today.
The U.S. will continue to use diplomacy, multilateral
institutions and continued engagement to protect free and open access to
maritime Asia, while focusing on safeguarding the freedom of the seas,
deterring conflict and coercion, and promoting adherence to international law
and standards, Shear said.
And he reemphasized previous statements by U.S.
officials that the United States takes no position over competing claims for
land claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
“We have a vested interest in ensuring that the
claims are resolved peacefully and without conflict or coercion,” Shear said,
adding, “however, there are several trends -- including rapid military
modernization growing resource demands and territorial maritime disputes --
which have the potential to create instability in this vital region.”.
China’s expansion of disputed features and artificial
island construction in the Spratly Islands is a concern, he said.
“While land reclamation is not new, and China is not
the only claimant to have conducted reclamation, China’s recent activities
outweigh other efforts in size, pace and nature,” he said.
Investing in Capabilities in Asia-Pacific
Shear made it clear the United States will maintain
the necessary military presence and capabilities to protect U.S. interests and those
of allies and partners against potential threats in maritime Asia.
The United States, he said, is strengthening its
military capacity in the region to deter conflict and coercion and respond
decisively when needed.
“DoD is investing a new cutting-edge capability,
deploying our finest maritime capabilities forward, and distributing these capabilities
more widely across the region,” he said. As Defense Secretary Ash Carter has
said, “the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever
international law allows, as U.S. forces do all around the world,” Shear said.
The United States will continue working with allies
and partners across the region to build their maritime capacities.
“We’re building greater interoperability and
developing more integrated operations with our allies and partners,” he said.
U.S. officials are leveraging defense diplomacy to
build greater transparency, reduce the risk of miscalculation or conflict and
promote shared maritime rules of the road, Shear said.
U.S. officials are working with Chinese leaders and
with regional officials to put risk reduction measures in place, he said. There
is already an agreement for ship-to-ship encounters, Shear noted, adding that he
hopes to see an agreement for air-to-air encounters by the end of the year.
The United States is working to strengthen regional
security institutions and encourage development of an open and effective
security architecture, Shear said. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations
is an increasingly important DoD partner, he said, and the department is
working closely with that organization.
“Through these venues, we aim to promote candid
conversations about ongoing challenges in the maritime domain and encourage
greater information-sharing and cooperative solutions,” he said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)