Locklear, Regional Military Leaders Seek Closer Cooperation
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2012 – Renewed logistics cooperation agreements between the U.S. and the New Zealand and Philippine militaries were among the takeaways from the 15th Pacific Commanders Chiefs of Defense Conference in Sydney, where the senior U.S. officer in the region and his counterparts from 26 nations explored ways to work together more collaboratively to face future challenges.
“We had a broad range of discussions about what are the likely threats in the Indo-Pacific region for the coming years and what we will have to do together as nations to be able to address [them],” Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters at a news conference yesterday.
Locklear listed three key areas for enhanced regional cooperation: disaster response, counterterrorism and protection of sea, air and cyber lines of communication.
Noting the region’s propensity for natural disasters, the admiral said it’s vital that all regional militaries are able to work together to respond.
He cited the cooperation demonstrated during the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster last year. During the vital first weeks, militaries provided the vital support needed to relieve suffering and help Japan begin the process of recovery.
“We didn’t solve the problems,” he said. “What we were able to do was … come together and to bring military equipment that had been built for military needs and apply it to a humanitarian disaster scenario that basically [devastated] the Japanese people.”
Locklear called that response a model for regional responses to future natural disasters throughout the Asia/Indo-Pacific region.
“They’re the types of things we need to be talking about and be prepared for,” he said.
Another keystone of regional security, Locklear said, is an “agreed-upon perspective of how terrorism is moving around the world,” and the ability to identify how it impacts the Asia-Pacific security environment and to respond.
The admiral also noted the link between open and secure global commons and the global economic and security environment. The ability of regional nations to work together to “ensure that those … global commons and those lines of communications are well protected for the use of all” is key to a secure, prosperous future, he said.
Recognizing the fiscal pressures all nations are facing, Locklear said coming together as a region helps nations identify overlapping priorities where they can collaborate and, when feasible, pool their resources.
During the conference, for example, the United States renewed its logistics cooperation agreements with the Philippines and New Zealand. Both agreements are designed to allow the militaries to work together more closely by enhancing their cooperation during exercises, training, deployments, port calls and other operations, officials said.
Locklear and Chief of Defense of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa signed the U.S.-Philippines agreement, extending the original agreement made in 2002 and renewed in 2007. The original U.S.-New Zealand agreement was signed 12 years ago.
In a statement issued after signing the Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement with New Zealand Defense Force Chief Lt. Gen. Rhys Jones, Locklear said the agreement is important to the long-term bilateral partnership.
“This agreement, at an important time in our relationship, will increase capability and interoperability and help us provide more affordable support for humanitarian relief, disaster assistance, counterterrorism, capacity building and collective defense throughout the Pacific region,” Locklear said.
Asked during yesterday’s news conference about the role of China in the future regional security environment, the admiral said he looks forward to increased engagement, including welcoming China to regional forums and Chiefs of Defense Conferences.
“Our hope is that our Chinese counterparts in the [People’s Liberation Army] will become an element of these talks and discussions every year,” he said. As it rises as a regional and global economic power, China and its “thoughts and perspectives on how to work together to maintain a secure and stable Asia Indo-Pacific region is critical,” Locklear said. “And we look forward to having those discussions with them as we go forward.”
The conference included plenary sessions as well as bilateral and multilateral discussions with nations from the Maldives to the west to the French representation in Tahiti in the east and from Korea and Japan in the North and south to Australia and New Zealand.
Locklear praised Australia, which hosted the conference for the first time and has stood as a staunch U.S. ally.
“We’ve been allies for a long time and we have worked together cooperatively throughout almost every major conflict and operation that … the U.S. and Australians have been involved in,” he said. “We continue to look for opportunities where we can strengthen that alliance and work together.”
With U.S. Marines now serving rotational deployments to Darwin, Australia, Locklear said “a range of options” are under discussion to expand that cooperation. He emphasized, however, that nothing has been formalized.
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