printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Asia-Pacific U.S. Military Overview

FPC Briefing
Adm. Timothy Keating
PACOM Commander
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
July 28, 2009

Date: 07/28/2009 Location: Washington DC Description: Adm. Timothy Keating, commander, PACOM, briefs on the U.S. military mission in the Pacific region at the Washington Foreign Press Center on July 28, 2009. © State Dept Image

11:15 A.M. EDT


MODERATOR: Welcome to the Foreign Press Center. Today, we have Admiral Timothy Keating. He has been the commander of the military in the Pacific region for about two years now. So he’s here to talk about military missions in that region. So help me welcome Admiral Keating.


ADM KEATING: Thank you, Nicole, very much, and good morning and aloha, as we like to say. It’s nice to be with you this morning. I thought I would take a minute or two and kind of frame the United States Pacific Command for you for those of you who may not be as familiar as others.

We’re the largest regional combatant command in terms of population, in terms of personnel assigned, in terms of geography. We’ve got about 325,000 men and women in uniform and DOD civilians in our command. We go from, essentially, the West Coast of the United States to the East Coast of Africa, North Pole to South Pole, India, China, Mongolia, eastern half of Russia. We are engaged in a broad range of operations, as you would perhaps suspect.

We have just finished updating our strategy, copies of which can be made available to you. It’s dated April of 2009. And in this new strategy, we emphasize partnership, readiness, and presence. Examples of the application of our strategy right this minute include Pacific partnership. We have a Navy ship that has been to Samoa and Tonga. It is on its way to the Solomon Islands. On it are representative doctors, nurses, dentists, engineers, and veterinarians, not just from the United States military, but nongovernmental organizations and friends from Australia, New Zealand, and Japan who are making ports of call in countries who are a little somewhat disadvantaged, providing medical help, dental help, veterinary calls in Samoa. They made almost 700 house calls, if you will, to take care of whatever pet or beast of burden needed attention, in addition to building – helping upgrade some schools and so on.

At the same time, we have on kind of the other end of the spectrum, operation – Exercise Talisman Saber off the northeast coast of our strong ally, Australia. It’s a very high-end bilateral military exercise with soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, ships, submarines, all kinds of assets in a very high-end, technologically challenging linked exercise between the United States and Australia.

As Nicole mentioned, I’m in my third year at United States Pacific Command. It’s the best job in the world. And I look forward to your questions.

MODERATOR: Just remember to wait for the microphone, state your name and your organization.

ADM KEATING: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Nadia Tsao with Liberty Times. I have two question. First one is that this is the first time you participated in the U.S., you know, economic strategic talk. We would like to know your role and, you know, what kind of outcomes or productions that will come from this meeting for your participation.

And the second question that we heard you told Voice of America in an interview that U.S. Government is considering to sell F-16 to Taiwan. I wonder, could you elaborate that a little bit? Thanks.

ADM KEATING: Yeah. Let me take it in reverse order. I’m not sure that’s exactly what I said to Voice of America. The Taiwan military has requested F-16s. The United States Government will go through a process, as we go through – the government goes through for any foreign arms sales request, and that decision will be made at the White House as to what arms are or are not sold to Taiwan, in strict accordance with our longstanding policy with the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979.

The security and exchange meeting – or economic meeting that you discussed is in its second day. Secretary Clinton and Minister Dai are coming on television any moment now, so I’d be better – we’d be better served letting them express their overall concern for the State Department and Treasury Department issues.

I was in attendance yesterday. I met a Chinese counterpart from the People’s Liberation Army, a rear admiral, and we had important discussions as pertain to our desire to resume military-to-military dialogue between People’s Liberation Army and United States Department of Defense forces, the commitment of our President, President Hu Jintao, Secretaries of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Department of Defense to resume that dialogue. And we’re working on a framework for resumption of those talks.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Gregory Ho from Radio Free Asia.


QUESTION: Nice to see you again. This is my third year in listening to your briefing. On your first year, you talk about establishing the military hotline between U.S. and China. Could you update a little bit about the hotlines and their establishment? And after the hotline were established, has been it function well or can you give us some example to illustrate that hotline really help?


QUESTION: Second question is about the relationship with Australia. You mentioned before that U.S. and Australia has a very good relationship, military relationship. And on Sunday, due to certain issue, their official website is – International Film Festival website was hacked by the Chinese again. I’m not sure whether the U.S. is helping the Australia in detecting where are those hackers from, since they are traced back – the sources come to China, the usual suspect. They are always the usual suspect.

But anything the U.S. can help to deter and to prevent the usual suspect yet become a permanent suspect? Thank you.

ADM KEATING: The – thank you for your question. The establishment of the Washington-Beijing hotline is – has been verified. I have used it on a couple of occasions in conversations with then lieutenant general, now I understand General Ma in discussing relief assistance we, Pacific Command, were providing to China in the wake of the earthquake and the cold snap in Guangzhou last winter. It is up functioning. It’s been used several times by several senior officials. And it is an effective means of communication with our colleagues in China.

The incident you mentioned in particular about a hacker getting into an Australian website, I’m not familiar with the specifics, but the overall issue has led, of course, to the establishment of a cyber command here in the Department of Defense. The Secretary of Defense has made his recent announcement, and Lieutenant General Keith Alexander will lead that organization. Cyber security is an issue to which all of us are paying close attention, and the new command will be devoted to computer network defense and other aspects, and I’m sure there will be best practices shared with our friends around the world.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I’m Satoshi Ogawa with Yomiuri Shimbun and --

ADM KEATING: Good morning.

QUESTION: Good morning. After the missile launch – North Korean missile launch in April, the Japanese opposition LDP, started pushing the Japanese Government to have strike capability, such as cruise missiles. I think they don’t have confidence in trusting the U.S. commitment of Japanese defense, even though high-ranking U.S. officials,
including the President, continuously reaffirm the commitment. How do you react to that? And are you considering increasing the capability of the U.S. forces in Japan?

And one more question. With regard to that, do you have as much confidence in intercepting Nodong missiles, which are targeting Japan and launched by the movable launchers, as you do in intercepting Taepo Dong missiles?

ADM KEATING: Let me see if I can remember all those. The strength of our alliance with Japan remains powerful and vibrant, and it's at the centerpiece of all of our strategy in the Asia Pacific region. I have had the great, good fortune of living in Japan for two and a half years in Yokosuka, my wife and I, and I have visited Japan nearly a dozen times since I've been in command here at Pacific Command, and I have not once been made aware of any decrease in the strength of our alliance. I'm confident – as today as I was when I lived in Japan almost 10 years ago in the strength of the alliance. I do not think there will be any change in our force posture or force levels for troops stationed in Japan.

As you're aware, the United States ship George Washington, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, has just made official its home port transfer to Yokosuka, Japan, and I think that is a strong signal of Japanese support for our presence in the region.

And the third question? Oh, missile defense. We work very closely – I talk to General Oriki frequently about a wide range of topics, including cooperation on ballistic missile defense.

As to specific threats, I’d be better off deferring, because it's a matter of intelligence, to let me just – I'd defer to a larger umbrella coverage that we can provide in cooperation and collaboration with Kaijo Jietai and Japanese Self-Defense Force for ballistic missiles of various ranges and various capabilities regardless of the method in which they're moved around in the country that would launch them

Yes, sir? Right behind – Demitri, I'll get you next. Right behind you, sir.

QUESTION: Sorry, this is also Financial Times, so I'm afraid it's a double whammy. Dan Dombey, Financial Times. Could you just take a step back and say why it's so important to you to develop those military-to-military contacts with China? What is the significance of those? And you talked about the framework for resuming them. When do you expect you might be able to hold the first meetings again?

ADM KEATING: Yeah. There was clear agreement on the need and the desire to resume those talks. There are several high-level military visits from Beijing to Washington, Washington to Beijing, that are in their final stages of planning, and I can't go into – I’d rather not go into specifics as to when or who, but I can assure you that they are in the very final stages of planning. And it is both officials from Beijing to Washington, and hopefully Hawaii, and vice versa.

The unmistakable theme of our conversations yesterday and in many meetings and chats, formal and informal, over the two-and-a-half, nearly three years that we've been in Pacific Command, we want to continue to build upon the foundation of trust and mutual respect that our two countries have, as manifest by military-to-military relations. A statement was made by a Chinese delegation official yesterday that no country can develop sound policy if they try and do so in isolation. And I think that's a great way of expressing the sense all of us feel, the desire to get back together again and discuss exercises, discuss personnel exchanges, discuss responses to humanitarian assistance crises and provision of disaster relief.

Those talks will resume, hopefully, within a month or two, highlighted by the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement session that will gather probably in Beijing with officials from Department of Defense, United States Pacific Command, and the Ministry of Defense in Beijing within, I would guess, a month or two. We've agree to do it; we're just working on the final details. Thanks.


QUESTION: Demitri Sevastopulo, Financial Times. Admiral, just a couple of quick questions. When you were recently tailing or shadowing the North Korean vessel, did the Chinese navy or military have any role in helping you, or were they also shadowing the vessel? And, secondly, on a lighter note, to you have General Ma's cell phone number and does he have yours?


ADM KEATING: I don't have his cell phone number, but I can get a hold of him – General Ma – and I'm going to contact him to congratulate him on his recent promotion. And this significant achievement – agreement was reached last night over a glass of chardonnay in the Benjamin Franklin Room in our State Department.

What was the first part?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

ADM KEATING: Oh, yeah, the NK-1. I am unaware of any direct – well, we were aware of the North Korean ship's location from prior to departure until return to its home port. I don't know for certain whether China was aware of its location to the degree that we were, but we were very careful to exercise the authorities that the President and Secretary of Defense gave us and we did so.

QUESTION: So it’s fair to say you weren't coordinating with the Chinese on that part of the mission?

ADM KEATING: I did not discuss that part of the mission with anyone in China – any Chinese official.

QUESTION: May I have a follow-up question?

ADM KEATING: Go ahead.

QUESTION: During the contact – I mean, you don't have the cell phone, but I think you have – they have your email. Did you attack or recognize any hacking on your email account by your Chinese counterpart?

ADM KEATING: At Pacific Command headquarters we have a vigorous and effective computer network defense system, and I am – I have not been affected by anybody.

QUESTION: Not affected, but does that mean no attempt?

ADM KEATING: I've not been affected.

Do you want to go to New York?

MODERATOR: There’s no one yet in New York –

ADM KEATING: Nobody there?

MODERATOR: -- but if you want to go ahead and take another one in Washington.

ADM KEATING: Sure. Yes, ma'am.

MODERATOR: Will you wait for the microphone, please?

QUESTION: Hi. Wei Jing from Xinhua News Agency. I'm sorry, I have three questions.
The first is the Chinese military has a new website going up August 1st. Could you comment on what that means, possible openness in the future? Second is President Obama said it's a new era of partnership between U.S. and China. Does that apply to military-to-military relationships? And the last one is you said combatant commanders contributed in the QDR review later this year. Could you give us anything that in China people should be on the lookout for?

Thank you.

ADM KEATING: I think it's beneficial that the Chinese military would open up a website. This goes to our desire for more transparency and a better understanding of Chinese military intentions. You’ll perhaps recall we have emphasized the second part, understanding intentions, developing trust and mutual understanding, as critical to enhancing peace and stability all throughout the Asia Pacific region. So a website that would avail everyone of information attendant to Chinese military activity development could be very beneficial.

President Obama has made very clear his desire for improved mil-to-mil relations, resumption of specific dialogue like the MMCA, and so we are – it’s clear to me that both President Obama and President Hu Jintao want us to get going on this, and so we are going to in the very near term.

QDR, I would hope that everyone would be assured that combatant commanders have a significant input to the Quadrennial Defense Review process under Secretary Gates’s leadership. Whether it is of specific interest to China or not, I wouldn’t know. I can tell you I wouldn’t be surprised, but I can tell you that it is beneficial for us as combatant commanders to have an input into the Defense Department review and projected way ahead so as to integrate out priorities into the overall Department of Defense strategy.

MODERATOR: Actually, sir, we have time for three more questions, but we do have someone from New York. Go ahead.

ADM KEATING: Okay, I’d be happy to take it. Good morning, New York.

QUESTION: Hi. Good morning, Mr. Admiral. It’s Minggu Hu from China Central Television. My question is to resume the mutual confidence between the Chinese and the U.S. militaries, do you think – what’s the most importance things the two sides should do?

ADM KEATING: I wouldn’t characterize it. I would like not to define it in terms of a single event or a single set of discussion points. I would recommend consideration of the entire spectrum of military strategy and operations and maybe even down to tactics.

I mentioned yesterday in discussions at the State Department of our desire to increase trust, to build upon the foundation of understanding that we already have, and mutual cooperation and collaboration through vehicles such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief exercises, personnel exchanges, sharing information on counterterrorism techniques and procedures, and eventual participation through initial observation of bilateral and multilateral exercises.

Thanks. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Ki yon Kuk with Segye Times Korea. As you know, North Korea conducted second nuclear test and launched missiles continuously, and declared not to come back to the Six-Party Talks. Give the situation, some South Korean conservatives insist that it is about time to revisit the issue of OPCON transfer. I mean, wartime OPCON transfer. So do you think – I mean, are you open to the idea of revisiting the idea – I mean revisiting the issue?

ADM KEATING: There’s never anything that’s not discussable between our great friends and allies in South Korea, but as you know, our President, our Secretary of Defense remain committed to OPCON transfer in April of 2012, and I am unaware of any serious discussions otherwise. We are committed to OPCON, as are – as is the president and minister of defense, and chief of defense staff in South Korea.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: I’m Yongyu Ji, with Hong Kong Phoenix TV.

ADM KEATING: Good morning.

QUESTION: And my question is, (inaudible) this time, the China-U.S. S&ED, are you assuming the two-part military talk will resume, maybe, in one or two months? So if that resumes in one month, we say that – do you think next time – do you think the military talks should be – involve again, or you see the military talk with S&ED as any different to just the military talk with each others?

ADM KEATING: I’m not sure – so let me see if I get your question right. We’re committed, as is China, to resumption of military-to-military dialogue. When and where that occurs specifically is conjecture, but I can guarantee you that from Pacific Command perspective, we’re anxious for resumption soon. And I think it will – those MMCA – Military Maritime Consultative Agreement discussions – will occur in the very near future.

As to what happens after that particular meeting concludes, I hope that there will be other opportunities for Chinese military officials to come to our headquarters at Camp Smith in Hawaii, and Washington, D.C., and for senior military leaders from our country to go to Beijing. And those plans are underway as we speak.

Now, did that answer your question?

QUESTION: A little bit different. I mean, as S&ED involve some military talk. You were there yesterday with the Chinese Liberation Army's official.


QUESTION: So if the military dialogue – I mean, the routine will resume in one month, so –

ADM KEATING: About. I mean, please don’t get fixated on one month.

QUESTION: Okay, let me say one month, but definitely maybe earlier than a year the next time the S&ED happen in Beijing. So do you think you need – if you need S&ED to include the military talk there? And what’s the (inaudible)?

ADM KEATING: Does SED need to include military? I would recommend that it does, most emphatically, because there are issues that are of great concern to China, to the United States, and to all of our partners and allies and friends in the region and around the world that include economic concerns, global warming, carbon emissions, and mutual commitment by the United States and China to increasing stability and security. Military-to-military dialogue is an important part of that but is not the only part, and so I think we should continue to have senior military representatives at this SED.

QUESTION: Sir, that’s about all the time we have for today, unless you want –

ADM KEATING: I’m happy to take one more. Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Anne Davies from the Sydney Morning Herald from Australia. The Australian Government has produced a new defense white paper, which is a 20-year planning document, but it seems to be premised on the idea that America’s power in the Pacific region will wane in 20 years, or at least be balanced by other rising powers. I was wondering if you could comment on that, and whether you agree with that assessment by the Australian Government.

ADM KEATING: I’ve spend a modest amount of time with Angus Houston, and he’s a good friend. I don’t know that Angus would characterize the paper that way. I shouldn’t speak for him, but I’m pretty confident – well, I know that Tim Keating wouldn’t characterize the overall theme of the white paper that way. There’s no question that Australia wants to bolster parts of its national security strategy and the capabilities they have in their department of defense. We’re anxious to help understand Australia’s long-term strategy, to share with them our vision through our strategy.

I have talked with Angus about just that. I would not think Australia so much is so much worried about a diminution of United States military power throughout the region. I’m pretty confident that they can count on us for the near, mid, and long term to remain as strong and as present and as ready as we are today.

Thanks, everybody. Nice to talk to you. Thank you.