Willard Details Pacific Command’s Mission, Scope

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2011 — Man­ag­ing the rela­tion­ship with Chi­na and grow­ing the rela­tion­ship with India are two of U.S. Pacif­ic Command’s key objec­tives, the organization’s com­man­der said.

Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard also told reporters attend­ing the Asia-Pacif­ic Eco­nom­ic Con­fer­ence in Hawaii that the com­mand must counter the threats posed by North Korea.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma host­ed the APEC meet­ing in Hon­olu­lu, where Willard and Deputy Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advi­sor Ben Rhodes high­light­ed Amer­i­can secu­ri­ty con­tri­bu­tions to the region.

The Unit­ed States is a Pacif­ic pow­er with about 320,000 uni­formed mem­bers, civil­ians and con­trac­tors assigned in the region, Willard said. U.S. forces, he added, are for­ward deployed in Japan and South Korea and post­ed aboard ships through­out the region.

Willard detailed the five areas of focus in the region, with Chi­na lead­ing the list. The U.S. rela­tion­ship with Chi­na, he said, is under­go­ing tremen­dous change giv­en China’s eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary advance­ments.

U.S. mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary pol­i­cy with Chi­na, the admi­ral said, is to encour­age the Chi­nese to be more trans­par­ent about their mil­i­tary and mil­i­tary spend­ing. U.S. and Chi­nese forces, he said, are con­duct­ing search and res­cue exer­cis­es and are exchang­ing stu­dents at all lev­els.

“One of my char­ters is to improve the rela­tion­ship, mil-to-mil, between the Unit­ed States and the Chi­nese,” Willard said.

Anoth­er focus is on North Korea. Since the 1953 Kore­an War Armistice Agree­ment end­ing the shoot­ing on the penin­su­la, the admi­ral said, the Unit­ed States and its allies have been deter­ring North Korea and main­tain­ing the armistice across the Demil­i­ta­rized Zone.

“And in this day,” he said, “North Korea is pos­ing addi­tion­al chal­lenges in terms of nucleariza­tion, pro­lif­er­a­tion, the sta­bil­i­ty con­struct with­in North Korea, and of course, they’re under­go­ing suc­ces­sion.”

The Unit­ed States is work­ing with ally South Korea to deter provo­ca­tions such as last year’s North Kore­an sink­ing of the South Kore­an Navy ship Cheo­nan and the attack against Yeon­pyeong Island. “We’ll con­tin­ue to rein­force the alliance, con­tin­ue to strength­en it,” Willard said.

Anoth­er focus is on transna­tion­al threats rang­ing from nuclear and mis­sile pro­lif­er­a­tion to traf­fick­ing in humans and drugs, to vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions.

“We’re laid down in the south­ern Philip­pines, con­tin­u­ing to con­tain the Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiyah, two extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions that threat­en both the sta­bil­i­ty of the south­ern Philip­pines and the region,” Willard said.

In South Asia, the Unit­ed States is work­ing to con­tain Lashkar-e-Tai­ba, a Pak­istani-based extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion that attacked Mum­bai. “We find our­selves work­ing with part­ners in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lan­ka and Mal­dives to build their capac­i­ties to deal with this orga­ni­za­tion inde­pen­dent­ly,” the admi­ral said.

India, with a large, grow­ing econ­o­my and the largest democ­ra­cy in the world, is anoth­er focus for Pacif­ic Com­mand.

“We have … a strate­gic part­ner­ship that con­tin­ues to grow, both gov­ern­ment-to-gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary,” Willard said of U.S. rela­tions with India.

India has the largest mil­i­tary in South Asia, the admi­ral said, yet the U.S.-India mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship is rel­a­tive­ly new.

“We were not par­tic­u­lar­ly close dur­ing the Cold War, and when we did begin to reen­gage, those rela­tion­ships were inter­rupt­ed fol­low­ing nuclear tests in the late 1990s,” he said. “From a mil­i­tary stand­point, we’ve been engaged with India for only about sev­en or eight years.

“We engage with the Indi­an armed forces across all the ser­vices,” the admi­ral con­tin­ued, “and we con­tribute to issues such as pira­cy in the Gulf of Aden and else­where in the Indi­an Ocean region, and broad­er mar­itime secu­ri­ty through­out the region.”

Pacom also main­tains good rela­tions with many oth­er nations in the region, the admi­ral said. Aus­tralia, Japan, South Korea, Thai­land and the Philip­pines are treaty allies, and the com­mand also main­tains ties with key friends such as Indone­sia, Viet­nam, Sin­ga­pore, Malaysia and oth­ers in the region.

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