Australia ‘critical’ for US Asia pivot

Australia ‘critical’ for US Asia pivot

TOKYO - Agence France-Presse
Australia ‘critical’ for US Asia pivot

Chief of US Pacific Command (PACOM) Adm Samuel Locklear. AFP photo

Australia is a “critical pillar” in the U.S. policy pivot toward Asia and the rebalancing of its military strategy, the region’s most senior American commander said Feb. 1, stressing that existing alliances will be strengthened and modernized.

Speaking at a Feb. 1 teleconference in Hawaii, Chief of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Adm. Samuel Locklear said key U.S. ally Australia was vital in the emerging world order.

He said the challenges the U.S. face include climate change, maritime security, disaster relief and cyber security. “From all those things I view from the PACOM headquarters here, Australia is a critical pillar of the strategy we have,” Locklear said.

“[When] I go down to Canberra and sit and look at the world map with Australia as the center of it, I get a very different view than I get from Hawaii or from Washington, D.C. and I start to have a sense of the things, of the security environment, that concern the people of Australia as well as people in Indonesia, in India and other countries.”

Indian Ocean vital

Locklear said the Indian Ocean is a vital, strategic region that cannot be thought of separately from the Asia-Pacific. Locklear lauded Australia as a very close ally who has historically supported the U.S. many times and expressed his

hope of continuing this relationship into the future. The U.S. military is to station a powerful radar and space telescope in Australia as part of a refocusing of priorities, the two countries announced in November. The two sides also conferred on increasing the number of U.S. Marines deployed to Darwin.

In his first term as U.S. president, Barack Obama said he wanted to refocus foreign policy on Asia, in a move that has been coined a “pivot.”

Yet Locklear said the U.S. pivot to Asia will not mean any new bases in the region. “The U.S. has no intention of establishing more bases [in Asia].”

“There has been significant speculation, skepticism about the U.S. rebalance towards the Asia Pacific region. Let me just say this: The rebalance is a strategy of collaboration and cooperation,” Locklear said. “And the keystone of our rebalance will be... the strategy to modernize and strengthen our five Pacific treaty alliances.” He noted that there is no simple answer to one security organization that could operate like NATO does in Europe, as the region is too diverse.

“Sometimes people ask me, ‘why don’t you have a NATO in the Indo-Asia-Pacific?,’ I served in NATO before, it’s a fun organization but I don’t see a parallel here,” he said.

“I’d rather [see] what I refer to as a patchwork of security relationships in various parts of this vast region that work together to be able to sense and understand where the security moment is, and to work together to ensure the [security] environment is strong enough to withstand any shocks.