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American Forces Press Service

Locklear: Naval Exercise Will Help Regional Understanding

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2012 – A two-day naval exercise set for next week involving the United States, South Korea and Japan carries a message for people in the region, the Admiral in charge of the U.S. Pacific Command said here today.

Speaking with Pentagon reporters, Samuel J. Locklear III said South Korea and Japan are two of the United States’ “cornerstone allies” in the Asia-Pacific region.

The exercise will take place in the waters south of the Korean Peninsula, according to a Defense Department news release issued June 13. The three navies will conduct this exercise beyond the territorial waters of any coastal nation, the release said.

The exercise will improve the three navies’ ability to operate together, and will be “a great opportunity for both Japan and Korea to work more closely together with our help,” the admiral said.

It also signals a fundamental tenet of the U.S. strategy of rebalancing forces to the Asia-Pacific, he said.

“I think it helps people in the region understand that those three strategic partners are working together in a way that's not aggressive, but certainly that's demonstrating freedom of access throughout that particular region,” Locklear said.

Locklear said the U.S. military is increasing its trilateral and multilateral involvement throughout the region. The program of exercises the United States participates in demonstrates “that we have security challenges that go beyond just Northeast Asia,” he added.

Locklear acknowledged the United States would like to see a stronger military relationship between South Korea and Japan.

“I think we kind of have to take these things one step at a time,” he added.

The two nations are close neighbors with many mutual interests, and both have world-class militaries, the admiral noted.

“I believe that, as we go forward, we will see how this relationship develops,” he said.

Locklear stressed the exercise should be viewed as part of overall U.S. engagement in the region.

“We're building trilateral [and] multilateral exercises and constructs throughout the Asia-Pacific,” he said. “This is just one that happens to have visibility at this point in time.

The United States and its military are committed to the Asia-Pacific, he said, “and we're going to move forward.”

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