KUALA LUMPUR: The United States is committed to bolstering its presence in the Asia-Pacific as a rebalancing factor, in view of China‚Äôs ambitious Asia-Pacific naval fleet expansion.
In a special media interview yesterday, US chief of naval operations Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert said this was important in view of the increasingly potentially hostile environment in the South China Sea and the East China Sea.
‚ÄúWe have to maintain the situation in this region. We do not want to draw lines. It is everyone‚Äôs desire to lessen confrontations which are of no benefit to either party. Any aggressive behaviour is counter-productive,‚Äù he said.
Greenert reiterated that just like the US, China was an important player in the Asia-Pacifc towards preserving peace and stability.
‚ÄúWe believe in the freedom of navigation, and respect the set of protocols and conduct at sea. We have and continue to engage China professionally in dialogues, symposiums, exchange of training programmes and other inter-operability events to avoid any precluded miscalculations over territorial disputes at sea.
‚ÄúOur experiences as mariners for decades and the strategic framework in place, come into play very crucially in times of crisis. Our commanders are able to engage in direct negotiations via phone calls with each other to diffuse a confrontational situation from escalating.
‚ÄúIts not a bed of roses, but we are moving on with the endeavours and challenges,‚Äù he said.
Greenert added that the US believed in promoting naval diplomacy with foreign forces so as to garner a better understanding of each other‚Äôs roles.
‚ÄúThe repository on the naval and maritime domain is shared among regional navies so that they are aware of events like ship movements and exercises, without raising doubts,‚Äù he said.
On another note, Greenert said efforts were underway with China to enhance anti-piracy and counter-crime measures in the Gulf of Aden and the Asia-Pacific.
‚ÄúWe look forward to working on the success story of our relationship with multi-national task forces in the Gulf of Aden and the Straits of Malacca with Southeast Asian forces on this aspect,‚Äù he said.
Greenert added that the US pacific fleet would be bolstered with up to 60 vessels in the region by a decade. This includes additional assets like the fifth-generation Joint Strike Force fighter jets and littoral combat ships.
China has used what is termed as ‚Äúinnocent passage‚Äù (right to enter and pass through another’s territory peacefully), to deploy its warships in international waters in the South China Sea in recent years.
It has also flexed its muscle with intensified maritime exercises involving its newly launched aircraft carrier Liaoning, raising eyebrows that China was attempting to assert its naval might in the region.