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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Asia-Pacific U.S. Security Overview

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Washington, DC
November 5, 2013

11:15 A.M. EST


MS. CARRINGTON: Good morning, everybody. I’m Margot Carrington. I’m the Director of the Foreign Press Centers. I want to welcome you to this briefing today as well as our audience in New York joining us by digital video conference.

I’m extremely pleased to introduce Admiral Samuel Locklear III, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command or PACOM, the combatant command responsible for the Asia Pacific region. You’ve been provided his full bio, so I won’t go into those details now. And Admiral Locklear has kindly agreed to give some introductory remarks before we take your questions. I do want to stress at this time, though, that we will not allow multipart questions since we have a large audience, so please keep your questions brief and to the point.

And without further ado, let me introduce Admiral Locklear. I’ll ask him to take the podium. Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Thank you. Aloha and good morning. It’s a pleasure for me to be able to speak with you and answer your questions a few minutes this morning. Let me begin by just saying, first of all, the Asia Pacific region of which our Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, has assigned and Secretary of Defense Hagel has assigned me responsibility for, from a military perspective, as we manage U.S. relationships across this area of responsibility, is a vast area. It covers about 51, 52 percent of the globe, in that it has the largest object in the world which is the Pacific Ocean. Most people don’t recognize it, but you can take all the land masses in the world and push them together and put them in the Pacific Ocean and you still have room for a couple of more continents.

In this [area of responsibility] AOR, there are two of the three largest economies in the world, and seven of the 10 smallest, two of the most populated nations in the world, and the smallest republic. The Asia Pacific is the engine that drives the global economy. There is $8 trillion of two-way trade in this region. 50 percent of the world’s cargo trade moves in this part of the world. And 70 percent of all the ship-borne energy assets move in this region every day.

It’s also the most militarized part of the world. Seven of the world’s 10 largest-standing armies are in this part. The world’s largest and most sophisticated navies are here, and five of the world’s declared nuclear nations are in this area of responsibility. Now, it’s not without challenges. Certainly, from severe weather patterns, through natural disasters that impact a large population – potentially impact a large population of the world. As we know today, there are about 6.8, 6.9 billion people in the world and well over half of them live in this part of the world and that number is increasing.

There are transnational threats from terrorism to drug trafficking to illegal activity to human trafficking and slave trafficking. There are historic and emerging territorial disputes that you’re all very familiar with. There will be a continued growing competition for water and food and energy as the region grows. And of course, there is instability on the Korean Peninsula that continues. The rise of China, the rise of India in how they play as global economic and regional military powers is being determined as we speak. And there is no single governance mechanism in this vast region to manage all the security relationships. There are many complex bilateral, multilateral, growing multilateral relationships that have to be contemplated.

So in conclusion, there is a lot going on in the Pacific [area of responsibility] AOR. I’m glad to have the opportunity to command all of the fine men and women serving in the U.S. military and the U.S. Pacific, and I look forward to answering your questions today. Thank you.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. If I could ask you to please wait for a microphone, and when you have it, please identify yourself and your outlet, okay? And no multipart questions, again.

Okay. We’ll start here in the middle, right here, this second row.

QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. [Donghui, Yu, China Review News Agency, Hong Kong] Good to see you again here. And it was reported by a Japanese media several days ago that the U.S. has a joint battle plan with Japan to take back the Senkakus and Diaoyus if China occupied that. And it also said that you are the major official who get involved in this plan.

But the Chinese Foreign Minister has said that the U.S. side has denied that reporting. Would you like to clarify that again? Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I’m not in the habit of talking about how we do planning with any of our allies for contingencies, so I won’t comment on that today. I would say, though, that there is – five U.S. allies are in my area of responsibility, and we do a broad range of planning with them to make sure that the alliance – all the aspects of the alliances are well understood, and that ranges from how we interact every day, day to day, how we train together, how we live together, how we socialize together, how we plan for human disaster response, how we look at a broad range of contingencies.

So I believe that what I can say is that of these five alliances today, they are as strong and as competent as they have been in history.

MS. CARRINGTON: Right here.

QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. China recently just --

MS. CARRINGTON: Could you identify yourself?

QUESTION: Oh, I’m Ching-Yi Chang with Phoenix TV. China recently just unveiled its submarine – nuclear submarine, and also a PLA official say China will need at least 20 nuclear submarines to protect its national interest. So how do you see the increase of China’s navy power? Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I’d refer that question to the leadership of the PLA to determine how many submarines they need, or think they may need. I would say, though, that I think we all have to be cognizant of the balance of military power in making sure that as a region this vast grows, that we are careful not to over-militarize it in any particular area.

Now, I recognize that the Chinese will, as they look at their global security environment, as they look at their global economic concerns, that they will have a desire and a need to build military assets that will ensure the security, and particularly the security of the seas, which is very important to all of us. So you’ll have to ask them about how many they need, though.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. We’ll take a question in the middle, the lady in the middle here.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Xuejiao Wei from CCTV, China Central Television. My question is about – according to the official announcement that the U.S. Navy is going to deploy 60 percent of the fleet in Pacific region by 2020. However, we can see that John Kerry is on his seventh trip on Middle East. So some experts say the U.S. Navy is – have some challenges in pivot to Asia. So what is your opinion? And how do you think at this moment the – especially such as the future and – around China? And also, some experts say it’s quite difficulties for America to pivot to Asia. What is your opinion? Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, as you look at the U.S., the U.S. is a global power, has been for a number of decades. Global powers generally have global navies that can support freedom of seas, that support commerce, that provides security for the global economic environment to develop. And as we work to shape and size our navy, just like any other country does, we make decisions about where it’s best positioned.

Now in this next century, the – as I said earlier in my opening remarks – the global economic center, the center of where most of the trade that’s going to happen with the U.S. will come from, will be predominately from the Asia Pacific. So it would seem to me that positioning a larger portion of our navy into the world’s largest ocean over time would not be something that – be viewed as unusual, particularly since, as I said, I think our economic focus and our security focus will continue to be in the Asia Pacific.

So to the degree that the navy in Asia Pacific will have challenges, we – the U.S. Navy and the U.S. – all the U.S. military forces that are under my command work very closely with those of our allies and our partners. So the security in the region is about all of us, not just about the U.S. Navy or the U.S. military presence in one place or the other.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. Gentleman here. Second row. Yes.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is Takashi Oshima from Japanese newspaper Asahi [Shimbun]. My question is: President Obama and President Xi discussed already this year about how these two countries can enhance some sort of military-to-military dialogue or trust-building process. So my question is: Why do you think these two countries have to do that? And how much – as a commander, how much are you concerned about some sort of risk of accident or collision because of lack of the communication or lack of the trust?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I think in all our alliances and our partnerships – and we have a growing strategic partnership with China – that it’s important that we communicate on all levels of our society and our government. So to have the militaries not communicating with each other just doesn’t make a lot of sense. I mean, this is a different world. We’re very connected in many, many different ways across all of our societies. It’s not just one or the other; it’s very much interconnected.

So it’s important that military leaders – as I do with all of our allies and all of our partners and all of our global partners – that we establish relationships that let us understand each other. Those understandings then lead to a degree of transparency, and transparency leads to a degree of trust, and trust leads to ability to prevent miscalculation. I mean, look, there is always going to be things that countries disagree about. It’s just the nature of the world. And there is always going to be friction points that can lead to potential miscalculations. And the last place you want those miscalculations occurring is at the military level. So the more understanding we have of each other, I think the less chance of those miscalculations occurring.

So what President Obama and President Xi Jinping said was that we ought to look at some ways to improve that – those – that mil-to-mil connectivity so that we have the right dialogue and that it’s in the right place at the right time. And we’re doing that.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay, gentleman in the fifth row right there. Oh, right there.

QUESTION: Hi, Admiral. My name is Fengfeng Wang with China’s Xinhua News Agency. I have a question regarding last week’s – that Chinese Defense Ministry has lodged a complaint to Japan over its – over the intrusion of its warplanes and warships into a live-fire Chinese navy drill. Do you believe such behavior on the part of Japanese runs the risk of miscalculation and misjudgment? Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I would say that operations that are done by militaries around the world are often observed by other militaries. We can name many examples just in the Asia Pacific in the last year or two where there are announced exercises and other navies either participate or observe them.

My estimation of what I know of this event – and I was not there at the scene, so I could be not completely knowledgeable of everything that was perceived – but what I see was that it was not an abnormal operation – abnormal event to have them observe it, the exercise, in the way they did, and should not be viewed as a provocative act in my view.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. Gentleman on the end there.

QUESTION: Hi, Admiral. Nathan King CCTV America. You said that the five alliances in the Asia Pacific have never been stronger. So will you here today give your commitment to those allies that if they’re attacked, even if it’s over islands that are in dispute in the various seas, that you would come to their aid?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, you’re asking a military man a diplomatic question. So I’ll defer that to the diplomats to deal with the intricacies of our treaties, because they’re all – treaties we have are all different in some ways. And the --

QUESTION: Do you see some wiggle room in their interpretation?

ADM LOCKLEAR: That’s a question for the diplomats to answer. What my – the question you have to ask me is that – do we – are we prepared to execute, as I said earlier, across a broad range of alliance requirements to each other? Are we prepared to do that? And then I am at the service of my leadership – diplomatic leadership, as are my counterparts in our alliances to how we would go and answer the call from our leadership.

QUESTION: Are you prepared to do that?

MS. CARRINGTON: Sorry. No follow-ups. Okay. We got a few there. Take a question from the back in the middle there.

QUESTION: Thank you. Matthew Pennington from Associated Press. Admiral, have you been concerned by the increase in violence in Kashmir between India and Pakistan and the threat that poses to the ceasefire they have? And when U.S. and NATO forces drawdown next year from Afghanistan, are you – do you think there is a risk that militants who are fighting in Afghanistan today could switch their attentions back to Kashmir?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, certainly, I’m always concerned about any border tensions of any kind or tensions between any nations within my [area of responsibility] AOR, even those that border my AOR. And particularly the relationship between India and Pakistan is one that I think has a long history, that has the opportunity to continue to move forward in a positive way. And that border clashes, I think either country would say that it’s not in the best security interests for those to continue, particularly if they want to move into the 21st century.

Now the question on where terrorists will transit following any major exercise I think is a question beyond my ability as PACOM commander to tell you where that would happen. I will tell you though that across the region, with all of our allies, with a preponderance of our partners and our emerging partners, we have a pretty robust dialogue about how we understand the flow of terrorism, how we will work together to manage the flow of that terrorism, and we’re thinking about it more and more each day. And this includes our dialogue with our partners both in India and in Pakistan.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. Question here from the front. Microphone, please.

QUESTION: My name’s Khemara Sok. I’m working as a reporter for VOA Cambodian Service. I have a question for Admiral about two Cambodian-born U.S. army [officers]. They were separately charged with the corruption and also leaking information to Cambodian Government. Some reports says that its impacts to the U.S. national security. So how its impact and why do it impacts too?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, it’s not appropriate for me to talk about the specifics of what those two military members were charged with, not in this particular forum. I would say though that the aspects of counterintelligence are – in a military organization are always troubling and always have to be assessed as they occur. And there has to be – in all of our countries, we all work very hard to ensure that the impacts of these types of things are limited.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. We’ll take a question from the back, gentleman with the glasses there.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. CARRINGTON: Oh, sorry. I meant this row further up, right here.

QUESTION: Hi. Good morning, sir. My name Ryota Shimabukuro with Japanese newspaper Ryukyu Shimpo. I remember that the U.S. Air Force was supposed to decide what airbase to deploy CV-22 Ospreys in Pacific area. So my questions I’d like to ask: Has the U.S. Air Force decided what airbase they will deploy CV-22 Ospreys?

ADM LOCKLEAR: All right. Let me start that question by framing a little bit. One is with any of our allies, including our very important alliance with Japan, we don’t do anything without the concurrence of the Japanese Government. With our military forces there, I mean we live within the requirements of the established sets of rules that we talk about and we work together on.

The importance of the V-22 and the MV-22, which as you – and the CV-22, which you know have because I think unfairly been looked at for a lot of different reasons, but they are an incredible asset when it comes to a broad range of military activities, including disaster response and humanitarian relief and all the things that we have to plan for. So our – it’s important to the U.S. and I think to our Japanese allies that we keep the very best assets that the U.S. military can produce in this alliance, and we’re committed to doing that.

So to the degree that at some point in time we will want to put CV-22s in to improve the – our response in the alliance, then we would like to do that. But we have not made a decision on where we would ask the Japanese to be able to take these. And we will have a good dialogue with our – with the leadership of both the Japanese military and the government when that time comes.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. Third row, this gentleman here.

QUESTION: I raised my hands more than 10 times.

MS. CARRINGTON: See, it pays off. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sungchul Rhee with SBS from South Korea. My question is on North Korea. What is your assessment of the North Korean nuclear missile threat? Do you assess that they did – they developed missile – nuclear missile capability that can reach to the United States? And what is your response to that? What is the better option to our negotiated settlement to North Korean nuclear issue – through Six-Party Talks or building up missile defense system in your [area of responsibility] AOR?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, let me take the first part of the question. The end state for North Korea is that they must denuclearize, and I think that’s been made clear by – not only by the U.S.-South Korea alliance, but most of the other people in the world have said this is the right thing is for total denuclearization of North Korea, and the sooner the better from a military commander’s perspective.

Now to the question of do they have the capability, I think you have to, first of all, ask the question does North Korea want the world to think they have the capability, and the answer to that is yes. They want us to believe they have the capability. So for our military planning perspective, when I see KN-08 road mobile missiles that appear on a parade on a – in a North Korean military parade, I am bound to take that seriously, both for not only the peninsula but also the region, as well as my own homeland, should we speculate that those missiles have – could potentially have the technology to reach out.

So whether they’re real or not or whether they have the capability or not, they want – North Korea regime wants us to think they do, and so we plan for that. And so we plan for it, one, to defend, and we’re fully committed to defending our homeland. That’s my number one job. My next number one job is to defend alliances in the region. And we are committed to have the assets available to be able to do that in a way that protects peace and prosperity and the region and our own people.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. I’ll come to this lady in this middle here.

QUESTION: Thank you – the guys on my left and right have been called upon to ask, and I thank so much for this opportunity. My question – my name is Jennie Ilustre. I’m with Malaya, Philippine news daily. My question is in the assessment of the region, what do you think or what do the leaders think would be the next flashpoint or next – what are they watching for in which region the next flashpoint would be trouble?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Yeah, it’s a good – that’s a good question. I wish I had a crystal ball to tell you. And even if I had, I’d probably be 100 percent sure to be wrong, because we always seem to get – not exactly get them right.

First of all, I think we should recognize that Asia Pacific has been a peaceful place – relatively peaceful – for a long time and that we should – as a people and as a military, we should expect it to remain peaceful, and we should expect all parties out here to respond, particularly militaries involved, to respond responsibly, to look for opportunities to deescalate and maintain peace rather than create friction that would cause an escalation.

Certainly the things we’ve been watching most lately, besides the issues of North Korea – I’d say that’s probably the place where I think the most danger for the world at large exists is in a nuclear North Korea that is very unpredictable, so I think that’s the number one place. Number two is to make sure that as the region works through all these territorial issues that this doesn’t turn into a flashpoint for – that would disrupt peace, because it’s really – if you think about it, there is a lot at stake over something that could be worked out through international law, through compromise, through decisions that could be made [by] heads of state. And we should as – from our security environment, continue and ensure that the diplomats, the leaders of these countries, have the ability to continue to dialogue. So that’s my goal, is to give space for dialogue, to give peace and prosperity for those processes to work.

MS. CARRINGTON: Gentleman with the glasses, fourth row down.

QUESTION: Yongjian De from China News Service. It is reported that U.S. and China militaries are going to hold joint exercises of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief next week. Do you have any update on the joint exercise?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I’ve been briefed on it, because my Army component commander in Hawaii who runs those forces has been looking forward to this opportunity for some time. But when we start with things like [humanitarian assistance and disaster relief] HADR in our relationship, there are areas where we – every country in the region shares commonality in that purpose, and so they’re good vehicles. Number one, we get something out of it, we learn something, we’re better prepared tomorrow than we were yesterday. And in relation to our ability to do this with our Chinese counterparts, these type of exercises give us a good place to start and to kind of get into the rhythm of understanding and trusting each other. So I’m looking forward to it. I think it’ll be a great exercise.

MS. CARRINGTON: Gentleman right here.

QUESTION: Thank you. This is Lalit Jha from Press Trust of India. Welcome to Foreign Press Center. India and U.S. this week have started their Malabar exercise. And when the Prime Minister was here, met President Obama at White House. They issued a joint statement, part of which they were the (inaudible) on the joint defense cooperation with the two countries. What do you see – as a PACOM commander, where do you see the significance of that statement – joint statement of defense cooperation, and where do you see India-U.S. defense cooperation going forward? Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I think it’s a, first of all, very important joint statement. And I think that it outlined clearly the direction that we want to go together. I had been given – we had been given in the Defense Department some direction from the Administration, I think, last year, on how we should start working and working our plans to develop a longer-term strategic relationship with our Indian partners. It’s good for the security of the region; it’s good for our own national interest; it’s good, I think, for Indian national interest.

And now we’ve had growing military-to-military coordination for some time. You mentioned Exercise Malabar. Well, that exercise has been going on for well over, I think, a decade or so. And it’s an opportunity for us to get together as navies. It’s an opportunity to work – generally, they’re held, I think, every other year or so in the Indian Ocean, so it’s an opportunity for our U.S. military ships to understand the Indian Navy, to understand the Indian waters, to help work together on the types of contingency things that we might plan together to work on.

We do similar types of things across other branches of the service as well, and those are, I think, quite productive and I believe they’re growing. We’re also looking at ways that we can pursue together some – maybe some joint ventures or joint sharing of the ways we go forward on military – some of the military equipment that we might build together. So we’re looking forward to a growing relationship [to] build a military-to-military with the Indian military.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. This lady in the third row right here.

QUESTION: Hi, Admiral. Welcome back to Washington, D.C. Taiwan has recently --

MS. CARRINGTON: Sorry, what is your affiliation?

QUESTION: Liberty – Nadia Tsao with the Liberty Times, Taiwan. Taiwan has recently received Apache helicopters from the U.S. And do you think that there is an implication for these military assets for the original disaster relief and humanitarian assistance? And some congressmen suggest in a letter Taiwan should be invited to join [the Rim of the Pacific] RIMPAC [military exercise]. I wonder, what’s your assessment? I remember I asked you this question before. Thank you.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Do you remember the answer I gave you before? (Laughter.) You probably do. I’m trying --

QUESTION: I heard you (inaudible).

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, first I would say that those types of helicopters have a tremendous multi-mission role across all aspects of what you might think about doing with them. So they clearly have ability in [humanitarian assistance and disaster relief] HADR. I think in any disaster we’ve seen anywhere in the world – and a preponderance of natural disasters occur in the Indo-Asia Pacific region in my AOR. It’s just the way it is. And there is always not enough vertical lift to be able to take water and supplies and food and those things into particularly stricken areas where they may have been damaged by earthquakes or floods. So I think they have great utility, multiuse capability.

Now to the question of Taiwan and [the Rim of the Pacific] RIMPAC [military exercise], we are – at this point in time, I think, first of all, that’s a policy decision that would have to be made about whether or not that would occur or not. And you know the – all the policy implications for why that would occur. Our primary role – our primary goal today is to ensure that the cross-Strait stability continues to be stable and is promoted. And so we want to do the things that improve the opportunity for success and that stability, rather than try to find things that might make it less stable.

So to the degree that we would throw an exercise like RIMPAC in that discussion, we’d have to have a long policy discussion about the implications and the pros and cons of doing that, not only between our relationship – U.S. relationship with Taiwan – but also our – the stability of the region in general. So that’s the dialogue we’ll have to have.

MS. CARRINGTON: Okay. I’m sorry, but we’ll only be able to take one last question. We’ll take it from the back. The gentleman back there.

QUESTION: Thank you, Admiral. My name is Seunghee Park from JoongAng Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper. Let me ask you about what – transporting wartime operation and control to the Korean Government. As you know, nowadays, Korean Government want to – want – put it off until when they are ready. And as a Pacific commander, what’s your opinion of that?

ADM LOCKLEAR: Well, I would say that my opinion after looking at this for the last 20 months or so is, as I said earlier, that the alliance – this particular alliance as well, is – has never been stronger, both from a unity of mission, but also as well as a – capabilities, and – but there are things that we need to continue to invest in from an alliance military perspective to ensure that we can carry the alliance with the right credible equipment, and the right credible command and control, and the right types of things that make the alliance capable, and that will require some investments, and investments on both sides of the alliance. And we have recently had dialogue about that and tried to make sure that we – both sides of the alliance understood what those investments and the types of things we needed to do to ensure we’re prepared.

To the degree of whether we’re going to be at OPCON [operational control] transfer, which is commonly referred to, it’s always been a conditions-based decision. But we have a – as leaders and military leaders, is that we are moving towards a 2015 date of next year that would result in that OPCON transfer. And so whether the decision will be made between the leaders of the country to delay it or not, it’ll be based on one of the conditions of that time. But what we don’t want to do is to delay ensuring that we have put the right things in place to make sure that the alliance is as viable as it can be in the future, waiting on some decision about OPCON [operational control] transfer, because it’s really not that important of a decision. The most important decisions are the – how do we build the organizational structure, and how do we equip and man that organizational structure to be successful in this century?

MS. CARRINGTON: I’m sorry that we don’t have more time. We will have video and audio tapes for you, and a transcript later today as well. Thank you very much for coming and thank you to Admiral Locklear.

ADM LOCKLEAR: Mahalo. Thank you.

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