Pacom Nominee Calls Regional Allies Bedrock of Strategy

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2012 — Japan, South Korea and oth­er tra­di­tion­al allies will remain the bedrock of U.S. strat­e­gy in the Pacif­ic even as the nation reach­es out to oth­ers, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s nom­i­nee to lead U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand said dur­ing a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing today.

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Lock­lear III, cur­rent­ly the com­man­der of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and NATO’s Allied Joint Force Com­mand will suc­ceed Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard at Pacom if the Sen­ate approves his nom­i­na­tion.

The Unit­ed States needs to remain in the Asia-Pacif­ic region, Lock­lear said, not­ing that since World War II, the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary has pro­vid­ed the secu­ri­ty that has allowed Asian nations to pros­per.

“Our secu­ri­ty pos­ture in that … part of the world has under­pinned … much of the progress that’s been made not only in mil­i­tary area, but in all areas of progress with our allies, our part­ners and, in some ways, Chi­na,” he said.

Chi­na is the largest econ­o­my in the area and is impor­tant to the Unit­ed States in numer­ous respects, Lock­lear said. He wants to strength­en the ties between the Chi­nese and Amer­i­can mil­i­taries, he added, envi­sion­ing a part­ner­ship with Chi­na that would be “coop­er­a­tive, but com­pet­i­tive.”

“We are an Asian pow­er. “We’re a Pacif­ic pow­er. We’re a glob­al pow­er,” he said. “We have inter­est in that part of the world. And I believe that the Chi­nese and oth­er peo­ple in that part of the world need to rec­og­nize that we do have U.S. nation­al inter­ests there, and we have the inter­ests of strong allies there.”

Greater coop­er­a­tion between the Chi­nese and Amer­i­can mil­i­taries would serve to reduce ten­sions and give greater clar­i­ty and greater trans­paren­cy to rela­tions, the admi­ral said.

“It will be my plan to … improve our mil-to-mil rela­tion­ships with a recog­ni­tion that there are things we won’t agree on — that greater trans­paren­cy is good for all of us to avoid mis­cal­cu­la­tion,” he added.

In the end, Lock­lear said, the objec­tive in Asia is a secure, sta­ble envi­ron­ment that allows nations to grow and pros­per in peace.

One area of con­tention with Chi­na is com­pet­ing inter­ests in the South Chi­na Sea. The region is an impor­tant sea line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, the admi­ral said, and any set­tle­ment in the region must be done peace­ful­ly and with­in the rule of law.

To that end, Lock­lear told the sen­a­tors, he sup­ports the Sen­ate rat­i­fy­ing the Law of the Sea Treaty and believes the Unit­ed States should be a mem­ber of the Unit­ed Nations ini­tia­tive.

“It allows us a bet­ter mech­a­nism to be able to have a legal dis­cus­sion that pre­vents us from hav­ing mis­cal­cu­lat­ed events,” he said. “Over­all, it pro­vides us a frame­work for a bet­ter future secu­ri­ty.”

The admi­ral said he is con­cerned about the sta­bil­i­ty of the Kore­an penin­su­la. “It’s in our best inter­ests to ensure that we main­tain a strong deter­rent there,” he said. Kim Jong Un has just assumed pow­er in North Korea, and the Unit­ed States and its allies are watch­ing the tran­si­tion care­ful­ly, he said.

“Day by day, so far, so good,” he added. “But it’s yet to be deter­mined how this will play out in the mid-to-long term.”

Lock­lear said he believes North Korea has changed over the past decades, not­ing that the North Kore­ans are using more asym­met­ric activ­i­ties to pro­voke the South and its allies.

“I am very much con­cerned, and we should cer­tain­ly stay vig­i­lant,” he said. “And if con­firmed, I will assure you it will be one of my high­est pri­or­i­ties.”

Train­ing local forces to han­dle secu­ri­ty in their own coun­tries under­pins the new U.S. defense strat­e­gy guid­ance, Lock­lear said, promis­ing to work with allies and part­ners on coun­tert­er­ror­ism oper­a­tions. These oper­a­tions are crit­i­cal “to not only their secu­ri­ty, but our secu­ri­ty,” he added.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)