US commander Locklear Calls for Indo-Asia-Pacific Cooperation

Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of US Pacific Command, is escorted by Bangladeshi military personnel during a troop-review ceremony in Dhaka, Bangladesh

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Washington, DC – Cooperation across the Indo-Asia-Pacific region is vital to dealing not only with the security challenges associated with global warming and natural disasters, but also to better address transnational threats and resolve differences that cause destabilizing friction, the top US commander in the region said today (February 8).

“The future of our regional institutions — and whether international relations in the region will be characterized more by conflict, competition, a balance of power or collective security — is unclear,” Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of US Pacific Command, told the US Indonesia Society in Jakarta.

“But we must work together to create a security environment that is resilient and can withstand the inevitable shocks and aftershocks of our complex security environment,” he said.

Locklear addressed the group during a visit that included meetings with Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro and senior leaders from the Indonesian armed forces, Association of Southeast Asian Nations Secretary General H.E. Le Luong Minh and ASEAN member nation representatives, as well as US Ambassador to Indonesia Dan Marciel.

Calling Indonesia an increasingly important contributor to regional security, Locklear acknowledged its prominent role “in pulling together neighboring countries to address security concerns and common interests.”

He recognized the comprehensive partnership between the United States and Indonesia that’s been on a continued upward trajectory since 2008. Its emphasis on maritime security, counterterrorism and disaster risk reduction serve as an example as the United States forges closer relationships across the region in its “rebalance” of focus to the Asia-Pacific, he said.

Locklear dismissed criticism that the rebalance is a strategy to contain China. “This is a strategy of collaboration and cooperation — including with China,” he said. “There is an opportunity here … to help China enter into the security environment as a productive member.

“The US rebalance is an intentional effort to reinforce to the people of the Indo-Asia-Pacific that the United States is a Pacific nation … committed to peace and prosperity for all — peace and prosperity that must be underpinned by a resilient security environment,” he said.

That resilience, the admiral said, extends beyond merely recovering from crises to helping to prevent them.

Cooperation enhances countries’ ability deal to with the security consequences of natural disasters and the severe weather patterns and rising sea levels associated with climate change, he said.

“Both our nations have a significant interest in improving our ability to quickly respond and mitigate the ongoing risk these threats bring,” the admiral told the Indonesian forum.

But disaster response alone isn’t the answer, Locklear said, adding that the challenge demands working together at the community, national and regional levels to mitigate the risks and plan for a coordinated response. It also highlights the need to forge relationships and develop protocols to provide regional responses when they’re required, he said.

Locklear said he recognizes some of the obstacles to regional cooperation. “It can be a tough neighborhood with nationalistic tendencies that can split and divide us and lead to a weak system of security environments,” he said.

But he closed by emphasizing that the United States is a Pacific nation with a commitment to supporting the effort.

“The US rebalance is all about learning from the challenges of the past and adapting for a prosperous future,” he said. “We desire to achieve a balance in our engagements and relationships by focusing on how we can positively impact and reinforce a more secure and prosperous Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

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