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US 'seeks to rebalance' efforts in Asia-Pacific
Publication Date : 02-02-2013
The top American troop commander in the Asia- Pacific says the United States has no plans to set up more military bases in the region.
Rather, it wants to "rebalance" its efforts to work with long- standing partners across all fields in a way that protects everyone's interests in the Asia-Pacific.
"The rebalance is a strategy of collaboration and cooperation," said Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the US Pacific Command.
"That's including bringing a rising China into the security environment in a way that they feel their interests are protected, as well as where the people around them are comfortable in that environment."
He hopes that both the US and China can look past areas where they differ, and focus on converging interests like preventing piracy and terrorism, protecting sea lanes of communication and disaster relief response.
As part of this effort to build trust, the US had last year invited the Chinese military to Hawaii for the next Rimpac maritime exercise involving countries on the Pacific Rim in 2014, he noted.
His nuanced remarks come a year after American political leaders announced a much-heralded pivot to the region, which saw US troops deployed in Darwin. They also sought access to a network of bases in the region, amid rising tensions in the South China Sea over maritime territorial disputes.
But tensions have continued to escalate, with some pressing their claims more actively than others.
Japan is also expanding the role of its military, while the Philippines has sought international arbitration in its dispute with China over Scarborough Shoal.
Adm Locklear took up his post last March after commanding Nato-led operations that helped Libyan rebels overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. He was speaking in a teleconference from Hawaii to some 60 journalists in the region.
The Pacific Command oversees some 350,000 US troops and over half the Navy's fleet. Adm Locklear, who will visit Jakarta next week, said Indonesia plays a key role in maritime security too.
Dr Tan See Seng of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies felt that while Chinese officials may welcome Adm Locklear's call for cooperation, there remain entrenched reservations.
"But defence cuts in the US also mean this would be a calibrated rebalancing," he told The Straits Times. "I don't think America would want to be drawn into a conflict either. This could be a message to its regional partners: Please don't draw us into your problems any more so than we wish to be in."
Asked if the US would step in should specific tensions escalate, Adm Locklear said the US did not take sides in any territorial disputes, except its own.
"What we do expect is that these disputes will be done in a fashion that is peaceful, without coercion, and that ultimately will be satisfied and decided between governments without military intervention," he added. "To even contemplate that there will be use of force… is unacceptable."