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Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, Media Availability

By Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command | Feb. 5, 2014

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Good Morning everyone and aloha. I am really glad to have this opportunity once again to work with the great people here at the US Embassy in Japan’s East Asia Pacific Media Hub and to talk with you about what I see happening in the region and as the US Pacific Commander.

As you know, there is a lot going on in the Pacific, we remain focused on working together with all our allies and partners throughout the region to best ensure that we maintain security and stability in a peaceful and prosperous Asia.

I’ve enjoyed being here working with our Japanese allies this last couple of days as we conducted our annual Senior Leader Seminar where we, as military leaders, focus on issues such as North Korea and the [inaudible], certainly the instability in the East China Sea and the South China Sea and we’re working with all in the region to ensure peaceful dialogue and diplomatic efforts. We’re working to keep coercive actions from changing the status quo.

Our focus on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief continues to grow as we work with more countries in the region. And to help us all get better at dealing with the natural disasters that can upset the security environment and place many people in danger.

In fact we recently opened another PACOM sponsored disaster relief center in Vietnam. I happened to be traveling through Vietnam when they opened it. We hope to continue to work with them and other countries, so that we all do a better job preparing and responding when we need to.

As a nation, the United States, we continue our rebalance efforts to the Asia-Pacific, because we see the importance of Asia, not only to our own national security, our own national interests, but to the entire global community. We continue to conduct exercises with our partners and allies and we send our newest and best military equipment to the region to help insure that the current safe and stable security environment stays that way. In the end, we all want to be providers of security to this critical region. And with that, I thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions and look forward to hearing from you.

NHK, TOKYO: My question is about defense cooperation with Japan. US and Japan have agreed to upgrade the defense guidelines by the end of this year. I am wondering why we need to update the guidelines and what is missing in the current guidelines?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: That’s a great question. The alliance here between the United States and Japan is a cornerstone of security in Northeast Asia and it has been that way for many decades. As we go through the decades, things change. Things change with both our nations, things change in the region. Military advancements happen, and it’s important that occasionally, that we, as an alliance, take a good pragmatic look at how the alliance is performing and how will the alliance be shaped for the future security environment. This alliance is so important that we need to ensure we got it right. I think this year will be a very important year for us. As we look together at how to ensure that this alliance remains strong throughout the next century. Thank you.

Q: RADIO NETWORK IN WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND: In the past 18 months since the signing of the Wellington Declaration, it has been a resumption of military training and military ties at a higher level between New Zealand and the United States. What are your views on how you see that continuing and what complications has our anti-nuclear policy caused for you?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Hello from down under, good to hear from you. We have had more robust interaction military to military in the last 18 months, in fact your Chief of Defense and I have a robust dialogue. We continue to find opportunities where we see the security environment the same and for us to find opportunities to operate and expand capabilities both together bi-laterally, but also in the multi-lateral forums that we participate in together. And certainly, New Zealand’s perspective on Oceania is critical for us all to better understand the security environment we face in the Pacific. The complications of your nuclear policy, I think there have been, as you know, frustrations over time with that. We don’t believe it’s a serious impediment to the way we are going ahead in the future, but it is something we need to continue to have dialogue about because it is important to us as military for us to be able to have a good solid relationship across all areas of security with our New Zealand partners. Thank you.

Q: TOR TREY NEWSPAPER, SAIGON: Though China has been denying establishment of an ADIZ in the South China Sea, there is growing concern from ASEAN of China imposing a new ADIZ here. Do you have any comments on this? Second, with the growing possibility of conflict in the East China Sea and the fact that the US and Japan are bound by treaty, what would be the red line for a US intervention in the case of a Japan-China conflict?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Let me comment first on your question on the establishment of Air Defense Zones. In general, due to the current tensions in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea, we believe that these tensions must eventually be resolved peacefully and peacefully.  And those territorial disputes, the US does not take sides on them, but we do expect the security environment to be stable. So the establishment of the ADIZ in the East China Sea, the US position on that has been very clear. We don’t recognize it and we believe it was an unnecessary action by the Chinese to try to change the status quo and we think at this time, the security environment in both the East China Sea and the South China Sea, any attempt by any party to change the status quo is unacceptable and leads to insecurity which we should try to avoid. We hope that the leadership of all the countries in these regions will come together and will have a dialogue in a peaceful setting to be able to reach consensus and conclusions.  We look also in the South China Sea for the involvement of ASEAN nations with China to come to a code of conduct which I think is overdue.

In regard to our alliance with Japan, I think our leadership in both countries have made it clear on the importance of the alliance, and have made it clear on the way we see the current situation in the East China Sea. I never mention red lines because it’s not appropriate for me to do that. I can tell you that we maintain a focus and a clear understanding of what is going on in the East China Sea and we look for peaceful resolution. Thank you.

Q: HONG KONG, FINANCIAL TIMES: How frequently are Chinese jets intercepting US or Japanese military jets since the ADIZ was announced? And more broadly, do you think that China is trying to drive a wedge between the US and Japan and disrupt the alliance?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: The frequency of interaction between US forces operating in international airspace and international sea-space, which we clearly support, and I think most nations around the world support freedom of navigation exercises and there have been over the years interactions between the US and the PLA, Chinese military, these have been, and continue to be professional interactions, and I would say, we have not seen a significant change in those interactions since the reported establishment of the air defense zone by the Chinese. The good news is that military forces are acting professionally as we interact in these areas.

To the question of whether the Chinese are trying to drive a wedge, I think you should ask the Chinese that question. It would be a very difficult challenge on this particular alliance. That said, the US and Chinese are also building a long term strategic relationship with each other and we will continue to pursue opportunities to develop that relationship on a mil-to-mil level.  

We have to be focused on the security environment on some of these individual issues, but we have to keep track of the bigger picture. In the long run we want the Chinese military to be participants in a peaceful security environment with the rest of their neighbors and with the United States and we look for opportunities to expand on those opportunities.

We have invited the Chinese Navy to the Rim of the Pacific exercise this summer in Hawaii. I have it on good authority that they are coming, and this is great, the Indians are considering coming, there will be 20-something nations that will participate. These are confidence building military measures that help us prevent miscalculation and allow us to move forward peacefully. Thank you.

Q: REUTERS, TOKYO: Since the establishment of the ADIZ, in terms of deployment of hardware in the region, can you give us any details of how much of an increase in say extra patrol aircraft or extra ships from the US side. Also in the latest National Defense Program guidelines from Japan, they mention gray zone situations several times, and they talk about increasing cooperation on a day-to-day basis with the US in responding to gray zone situations. Can you tell us more about what the US views as these gray zones. Gray zone situations are neither pure peacetime nor contingencies of a maritime sovereignty interest. Situations that would not escalate into conflict. Possibly say civilian fishermen or activists occupying the Senkakus could possibly be designated a gray zone situation.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Let me start by addressing your first question about how has the, US-Japanese alliance, or at least the US posture changed after the establishment of the ADIZ. Let me reiterate, we don’t recognize the ADIZ, and we haven’t changed our operations and we haven’t significantly changed our day-to-day operations throughout the region based on any claim of an ADIZ by the Chinese or any nation. That said, we are on the path on the rebalance, there has been wide discussion and speculation about the rebalance and whether it is achievable or whether the US has what it takes to do it. I would start by saying, it’s a long term process, it covers all aspects of US interest, not just military power, the military piece of it, however, is what I am focused on. We are making great progress, we are strengthening our alliances, we are strengthening our partnerships with India and China, we are positioning our best security forces forward to ensure that the security environment remains secure. And all that is on track. On the gray zone thing, I would have to refer that back to the Japanese and to their Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I really don’t understand the question. I would say that in the guideline review, that our participation in that to look at how we would do security, how would we maintain our security relationship in the alliance across a broad spectrum of issues, everything from humanitarian disaster relief up through ballistic missile defense up through higher end contingencies, we will have a dialogue about all of those.

Q: SEOUL, KBS: US national intelligence authorities have assessed that North Korea is expanding a highly enriched uranium facility at its secret nuclear complex.  And has resumed the operation of a plutonium reactor and has been trying to launch long range missiles like ICBM. But lots of people think that North Korean ICBM KN-08 is a mock up and that nuclear capability is somewhat degenerated. How do you evaluate? Thank you.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: I appreciate that question, that’s a great question. As we monitor the activities in North Korea, I believe that we all agree that the current security environment in North Korea is a dangerous one. The activities and the policies being pursued by Kim Jung Un are not productive to peace and security in the region, nor peace and security on the peninsula. There have been many different reports about their nuclear enrichment capabilities. There have been much speculation about whether or not the KN-O8 long range missile is capable. I won’t speculate here. What I will say is that we are prepared for the defense of our allies and the defense of our homeland. We will continue to pursue that until there is a complete denuclearization of North Korea, the world cannot handle a North Korea regime that is pursuing the type of nuclear technologies and missile capabilities it appears to be pursuing. We all have a stake in this, this isn’t just about South Korea and the United States. It’s about every country in this region and about every country in the world. We look forward to continued pressure by the rest of the world to convince North Korea regime to denuclearize and get off the path to disarm.

Q: FUJI TV, TOKYO: I would like to ask about ballistic and cruise missile defense issues. About the releaseability to Japan of the Aegis and THAAD and also about NIFCA (Naval Integrated Fire Control Air). Thank you.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: You’ve asked a lot of questions all at one time. Let me tell you, our ballistic missile defense cooperation with the Japanese is the best in the world. We have made progress together, both from our sea based capabilities and our land based capabilities that provide not only for defense of the region, defense of Japan, but also enhance the defense of my own country, the United States. So each of these systems you have talked about, I won’t address them individually, but they are indicative of the information sharing and technology sharing that we are doing with our allies and our allies in South Korea, to be able to build a better more capable ballistic missile defense system. And it’s a necessity because we have a nation such as North Korea that is pursuing weapons of terror.

Q TODAY NEWSPAPER, SINGAPORE: I’d like to ask the admiral about his take on the Philippine president calling for nations to support its claims in the South China Sea. My second question is after the near miss in the South China Sea between the USS Cowpens and the Chinese carrier, have there been any new measures introduced to prevent such incidents from occurring again?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: First your question on whether or not, my opinion on, the Philippines claims in the international court system. We have always been supportive of using normal rules of law, international standards, international treaties, to be able to get to a solution on this very complex issue of territorial rights inside the South China Sea, so that the fact that the Filipinos have decided to go at this peacefully in a legal setting must be applauded, and must be supported.

The question you asked about the Cowpens, I would not categorize the broadly discussed interaction between the Cowpens and the PLA Navy as a near miss. I think that overstates the issue. What that particular event did though demonstrate, is that as the PLA Navy becomes more active in areas throughout the region, it’s important that they learn how to interact and to respond professionally in this environment, which is what the US will do. I will say that, as the event unfolded, I think the initial phases of it were unfortunate, and there was some unprofessional exchange by the PLA Navy. But it went further into it and there was a recognition that there was not a danger here, the dialogue became more productive and the situation was calmed down. What we have done since then is we have had a good dialogue with our Chinese counterparts about this and we have talked about how it occurred and why it occurred, we expressed our views, our differences on it. And this is healthy. As far as new procedures, there are no reason for new procedures. There are standards by which ships thought out the world interact in international waters and how airplanes interact in international airspace. And we will, as the US, we will do that professionally and we would anticipate that all other militaries and navies including the PLA will do the same.  

Q: RYUKU SHIMPO, OKINAWA: I’d like to ask about FRF, Futemna Replacement Facility, with the election last month, do you have any option to reconsider the current Okinawa plan? I have another question, when are you going to deploy CV-22 to Kadena Air Base, exactly. Thank you.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: I always like the questions we get from the Okinawa press, good to hear from you.  First we were very pleased with the support from the Japanese government and by the Governor of Okinawa to [inaudible] we get the landfill permit signed and are moving forward. So that is signed and we are, with our Japanese allies, moving out on the buildup of the facility in Camp Schwab. I believe we will see good progress soon on that. After much, much debate between the United States leadership and the leadership of Japan, and as we looked at the alliance over time, it continued to be compelling that we have this facility in this place, and so we will work to minimize, in every way we can, the impact of the people of Okinawa. We know that there are some few there who are frustrated by the progress thus far. From a military prospective, having the base at Schwab as soon as possible, will allow the alliance to move forward in security ways that are necessary to meet the challenges of this century.

The second part of that question, is about CV-22s at Kadena. I don’t have any information for you on CV-22s at Kadena, when we get some, we’ll let you know.

Q: BLOOMBERG, SINGAPORE: If the US supports Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to loosen the rules on collective self-defense in Japan. Second question, there was a story in Defense News on US plans to defund the [inaudible] program, this will impact the ability of Taiwan to upgrade their F-16s. If you could comment on if this is true.

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Thank you, it’s good to hear from you. I have heard and understand that Prime Minister Abe and his administration are talking about looking at the issue of collective self-defense. First let me say that this is a sovereignty issue for the people of Japan and something that they will have to consider as they look at how they are evolving over time. I will say it is an important consideration. We talk about the future of the alliance and how that alliance support would be structured, so looking forward to hearing how the Japanese people decide how they would like to go forward.

I don’t have any direct information for you about the issue of the avionics packages for F-16s, I’m sorry, I don’t have any direct information on that.

Q: CBS NEWS, TOKYO: Just a quick question. I think you know that Takashima Day is coming up on the 22nd, it’s often a day when nationalists go out on both sides and try to raise a ruckus. I’m wondering if you have any special preparations or if you have given any special advice to the Japanese on how to handle it this year?

ADM. LOCKLEAR: Well, thanks Lucy, we don’t generally give advice to our allies on how they handle their internal political debates, so we do not engage in that kind of dialogue at the mil-to-mil level. We’re really more concerned about the external security of Japan, the external security of the region, and the influence that the alliance has on that. In general, security underpins prosperity, and that is what has happened in this region of the world for the last 60 or 70 years. The importance for me as the PACOM commander is to ensure there is an overall safe and secure environment that allows political process, political debate, economic development, allows to survive natural disasters together, without hundreds of thousands of individuals perishing. These individual issues that countries deal with are really within their own sovereignty. I’m really worried about their security that underpins and allows them to have a dialogue about their sovereignty.

 

— USPACOM (posted February 05, 2014) —

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