The Pentagon has said the US will maintain necessary military presence in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure freedom of navigation and protection of its allies, amid reports of China expanding artificial island construction in the Spratly Islands in the South China sea.
“There should be no doubt that the US will maintain the necessary military presence and capabilities to protect our interests and those of our allies and partners against potential threats in maritime Asia,” Assistant Secretary of Defense, David Shear told reporters at a Pentagon news conference yesterday.
“We are pursuing a comprehensive strategy focused on four lines of effort. First, we are strengthening our military capacity to ensure the US can successfully deter conflict and coercion and respond decisively when needed,” he said.
“Department of Defense is investing a new cutting-edge capability, deploying our finest maritime capabilities forward, and distributing these capabilities more widely across the region,” he added.
Shear said the US has a vested interest in ensuring that territorial claims are resolved peacefully and without conflict or coercion.
“However, there are several trends, including rapid military modernisation, growing resource demands in territorial maritime disputes, which have the potential to create instability in this vital region,” he said.
The US, he said, is building greater interoperability and developing more integrated operations with its allies and partners.
The department will also implement a new Southeast Asia maritime security initiative which will increase training and exercises, personnel support, and maritime domain awareness capabilities for our partners in Southeast Asia, he added.
“We are leveraging defence diplomacy to build greater transparency, reduce the risk of miscalculation or conflict, and promote shared maritime rules of the road,” Shear said.
“The department is actively seeking to mitigate risk in Maritime Asia, both through bilateral efforts with China as well as region-wide risk reduction measures”.
“US-China defense diplomacy has yielded positive results, including a reduction in unsafe intercepts since August 2014,” he added.
Shear said maritime Asia, from the Indian Ocean through the Pacific, is critical to US security.
“Together with our interagency colleagues and regional allies and partners, the department is focused on ensuring that maritime Asia remains open, free, and secure in the decades ahead,” he said.