Willard Cites Need for Asia-Pacific Stability

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)

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