2012-07-04 (from Global Times) — Admiral Samuel Locklear (Locklear), head of the US Pacific Command, recently visited Beijing for talks with his counterparts in China’s PLA. The military role of the US in the Asia-Pacific region has long drawn attention, especially since its pivot to this region. What will be the future strategy of the US military in the region? How does the Pentagon view China’s rise? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wen talked to Locklear on these issues.
GT: Many Chinese see the US military as a threat to China. As head of the US Pacific Command, what can you do to reduce this sense of threat?
Locklear: I have US military responsibility from the west coast of the US to the Indian Ocean.
There are a number of security challenges as well as opportunities. For instance, we are responsible for the defense of our homeland, and the continued development of the five allies we have in this region.
Besides, we also need to ensure that maritime freedom of access remains part of the global commons and allows all nations to prosper.
We have things we don’t agree with China. But instead of concentrating on the areas where we diverge, we should concentrate on the areas where we converge.
There are many areas that we have agreements on. This area is more prone to some of the world’s most serious natural disasters than any part of the world.
So we should have a security environment where the PLA participates with the US, with other partners, and with our allies, in a security network where we can respond to humanitarian disaster relief, work together on medical science, and control the spread of pandemics.
GT: The situation in the South China Sea looks dangerous, and some worry that a war may break out in this region. What would you do if this really took place?
Locklear: That’s a hypothetical situation, and we shouldn’t talk about that. We can imagine many hypothetical wars all over the world.
The US position is that we don’t take sides on territorial disputes, but we do want these disputes to be managed in a peaceful way, to be done in forums under a basic set of rules and laws, where there is no coercion by any party.
This is done to the mutual benefit of all the people who are dealing with these disputes.
This is not just in the South China Sea. There are territorial disputes all over the world. But there are mechanisms being developed globally that allow countries to come together and jointly solve these issues. I think ultimately there will be peaceful solutions.
One of my main concerns is to ensure that there is freedom of access to the global maritime commons, and that the freedom of movement is ensured. This is continually brought up about the China Sea, which indicates frictions. I can see there is an opportunity for miscalculation here.
If you approach these with proper dialogue in a proper forum, you will avoid conflict.