WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2011 — The Asia-Pacific region is the engine of global economic growth now, and the U.S. Pacific Command is a strong force for stability in the area, Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard said at a Foreign Press Center news conference here today.
Willard has been in command of U.S. Pacific Command for 16 months. He said the same issues that confronted the command when he arrived still exist.
Pacom provides security for the Asia-Pacific region, the admiral said, by ensuring international access to sea and air lines of communication and commerce, and fostering good relationships with countries across the area.
The Asia-Pacific region remains the center of gravity for global prosperity and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Willard said.
“I look forward to U.S. Pacific Command continuing to contribute to the security of this critically important part of the world,” he said.
Two nations in the region -– China and India –- are becoming global superpowers. Willard said he is focused on developing military-to-military relations with China, and making those relationships with India –- already good -– closer.
Willard discussed his command’s thinking as part of the Global Posture Review for American forces. The posture review looks at the positioning of all American forces and the means it takes to deliver those forces to trouble spots.
“The posture of U.S. Pacific Command forces is a holistic discussion: It’s more than just the forward basing in Japan and South Korea. It involves a discussion of my deployed forces as well,” the admiral said.
American forces are concentrated in Northeast Asia due to history and necessity, Willard said, noting the United States has pledged to defend Japan. Also, he added, there are 28,000 U.S. forces in South Korea that are a force for stability on the peninsula.
America has vital national interests throughout the Asia-Pacific region, Willard said.
“I am required to be present in Southeast Asia, South Asia and Oceania, and I have to do so through the deployed forces and sustainment of forces at great expense,” the admiral said of Pacom’s presence across the region.
Meanwhile, Pacom is maintaining that presence while it works with U.S. allies in the region, Willard said.
Currently, he said, the U.S. footprint in the Asia-Pacific region has “to do with how to adjust the disposition of where those forces operate from to relive some of the economic and other pressures on U.S. Pacific Command.”
Japan remains a cornerstone for the U.S. efforts in the region, Willard said. The relationship between the U.S. military and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, he said, is long-standing and very close.
“We have discussed and continue to encourage the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to provide for the larger Asia-Pacific region as they can,” the admiral said. “They have supported us in the past during Operation Enduring Freedom in the Indian Ocean region, and they continue to engage with many partners in the Asia-Pacific.”
The admiral also answered questions about Chinese missiles.
“Certainly, they have a formidable missile capability that has continued to grow,” he said. “We watch this very carefully. The idea that, in combination with other [People’s Liberation Army] capabilities, this could constitute a broader anti-access or area denial threat to the region — be that Japan or the Philippines or Vietnam or the Republic of Korea — and can become a regional concern.”
Willard said it is important that China “be open with and prepared to dialogue with” the United States and other countries of the region.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)