Strategy Guidance Underscores Asia-Pacific Region

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 — The new defense strat­e­gy guid­ance Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced yes­ter­day under­scores the grow­ing strate­gic impor­tance of Asia and the Pacif­ic, the com­man­der of U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand said.

Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard told par­tic­i­pants at the Hawaii Mil­i­tary Part­ner­ship Con­fer­ence yes­ter­day the strat­e­gy rec­og­nizes chal­lenges as well as oppor­tu­ni­ties in a region where change is the only con­stant.

“There is always a lot occur­ring in the Asia-Pacif­ic region, and it is nev­er sta­t­ic,” Willard told the forum. He not­ed that dur­ing his 39 years of mil­i­tary ser­vice, much of it served in the Pacif­ic and Indi­an Ocean regions, “there has nev­er been what I would call sta­bil­i­ty.”

The Unit­ed States has tai­lored its pos­ture in the region over the years, while the region itself has changed in “dynam­ic, dynam­ic ways,” eco­nom­i­cal­ly as well as polit­i­cal­ly, the admi­ral explained.

The new strat­e­gy guid­ance reflects those changes, Willard said, pro­vid­ing a strate­gic vision intend­ed to guide the mil­i­tary through 2020 with its heavy focus on Asia and the Pacif­ic.

It rec­og­nizes that U.S. eco­nom­ic and secu­ri­ty inter­ests are inex­tri­ca­bly linked to devel­op­ments in the vast, 39-nation region, he told the group.

“Accord­ing­ly, while the U.S. mil­i­tary will con­tin­ue to con­tribute to secu­ri­ty glob­al­ly, we will of neces­si­ty rebal­ance toward the Asia-Pacif­ic region,” he said, quot­ing the guid­ance direct­ly.

U.S. rela­tion­ships with Asian allies and key part­ners will remain crit­i­cal to the region’s future sta­bil­i­ty and growth, Willard said. So while strength­en­ing exist­ing alliances that have pro­vid­ed a vital foun­da­tion for region­al secu­ri­ty, he said, the Unit­ed States also will strive to forge clos­er ties with emerg­ing region­al part­ners.

Willard rec­og­nized India’s as well as China’s emer­gence as “two Asian giants dri­ving eco­nom­ic devel­op­ments in the region.”

He cit­ed invest­ments toward a long-term strate­gic part­ner­ship with India so it can serve as “a region­al eco­nom­ic anchor” and enhance secu­ri­ty in the broad­er Indi­an Ocean area.

Not­ing China’s rise as a region­al pow­er, Willard under­scored both China’s and the Unit­ed States’ inter­est in build­ing a coop­er­a­tive bilat­er­al rela­tion­ship that pro­motes region­al peace and sta­bil­i­ty. He shared con­cerns expressed in the strat­e­gy about China’s lack of trans­paren­cy about its strate­gic inten­sions, empha­siz­ing that greater clar­i­ty will help avoid fric­tion in the region.

Mean­while, Willard not­ed the empha­sis in the new guid­ance in work­ing with allies and oth­er region­al states to main­tain peace on the Kore­an penin­su­la, par­tic­u­lar­ly in light of North Korea’s new lead­er­ship.

U.S. Pacif­ic Com­mand and U.S. Forces Korea are watch­ing that sit­u­a­tion close­ly to deter­mine if the suc­ces­sion will go smooth­ly, Willard said, and to assess any changes with­in North Korea or its rela­tions with its allies, includ­ing Chi­na and Rus­sia.

Look­ing to the future, Willard said, the new strate­gic guid­ance rec­og­nizes that a bal­ance of mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ty and pres­ence will be crit­i­cal to main­tain­ing peace, sta­bil­i­ty, the free flow of com­merce and U.S. influ­ence through­out the region.

As the new strat­e­gy is imple­ment­ed, Willard com­mend­ed the 330,000 mem­bers of Pacom – sol­diers, sailors, air­men, Marines, Coast Guards­men, civil­ian employ­ees and con­trac­tors – stand­ing watch in Asia and the Pacif­ic.

“They are proud, they are very accom­plished and their sin­gu­lar goal is to main­tain the secu­ri­ty, if not the sta­bil­i­ty, of the Asia-Pacif­ic region,” he said.

“We will con­tin­ue to main­tain the watch and deal with the ever-evolv­ing Asia-Pacif­ic the­ater as it becomes cen­tral to the secu­ri­ty focus of our coun­try for the first time, in my expe­ri­ence,” he said.

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

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