Sino-US relationship solid amid stormy seas

By Wang Wen Source:Global Times Published: 2012-7-1 19:55:02

Samuel Locklear
Samuel Locklear

Editor's Note:

Admiral Samuel Locklear (Locklear), head of the US Pacific Command, recently visited Beijing for talks with his counterparts in China's PLA. The military role of the US in the Asia-Pacific region has long drawn attention, especially since its pivot to this region. What will be the future strategy of the US military in the region? How does the Pentagon view China's rise? Global Times (GT) reporter Wang Wen talked to Locklear on these issues.
GT: Many Chinese see the US military as a threat to China. As head of the US Pacific Command, what can you do to reduce this sense of threat?

Locklear: I have US military responsibility from the west coast of the US to the Indian Ocean.

There are a number of security challenges as well as opportunities. For instance, we are responsible for the defense of our homeland, and the continued development of the five allies we have in this region.

Besides, we also need to ensure that maritime freedom of access remains part of the global commons and allows all nations to prosper.

We have things we don't agree with China. But instead of concentrating on the areas where we diverge, we should concentrate on the areas where we converge.

There are many areas that we have agreements on. This area is more prone to some of the world's most serious natural disasters than any part of the world.

So we should have a security environment where the PLA participates with the US, with other partners, and with our allies, in a security network where we can respond to humanitarian disaster relief, work together on medical science, and control the spread of pandemics.
GT: The situation in the South China Sea looks dangerous, and some worry that a war may break out in this region. What would you do if this really took place?

Locklear: That's a hypothetical situation, and we shouldn't talk about that. We can imagine many hypothetical wars all over the world.

The US position is that we don't take sides on territorial disputes, but we do want these disputes to be managed in a peaceful way, to be done in forums under a basic set of rules and laws, where there is no coercion by any party.

This is done to the mutual benefit of all the people who are dealing with these disputes.

This is not just in the South China Sea. There are territorial disputes all over the world. But there are mechanisms being developed globally that allow countries to come together and jointly solve these issues. I think ultimately there will be peaceful solutions.

One of my main concerns is to ensure that there is freedom of access to the global maritime commons, and that the freedom of movement is ensured. This is continually brought up about the China Sea, which indicates frictions. I can see there is an opportunity for miscalculation here.

If you approach these with proper dialogue in a proper forum, you will avoid conflict.
GT: According to opinion polls conducted by Chinese media, 92 percent of the Chinese public thinks the Pentagon sees China as an enemy. What's your comment on this?

Locklear: Well, I don't know that I have very much control over what the Chinese people feel about the US military. There is no question that it is in the best interest of the Chinese people and the US people for us to have a comprehensive and productive relationship. Our economies and our societies are too intertwined.

I would ask people to look back at the last few decades, where the US military, along with our other allies and partners, has participated in creating a security environment that in reality has enabled the economic rise of many people in Asia.

And for us to allow our military to lead us to unnecessary confrontation or unnecessary miscalculation is not in the best interests of our peoples.

So we need to shift the dialogue away from military might, and what that might lead us to, to how we can secure a future for our children and grandchildren that allows us all to prosper.
GT: The lack of mutual trust between the Pentagon and the PLA doesn't seem to have improved in recent years. What's your perspective on this issue?

Locklear: I think we could have made better progress than we have made to this point.

But we are making progress. Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was here for a visit last year. Chinese Minister of Defense Liang Guanglie just had a successful trip to the US in May.

I'm now here on my second visit in less than four months, after visiting Beijing with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in May.

Personally, I feel at home in China. The US is a very diverse place, and we are very familiar with Chinese culture, Chinese food, and Chinese customs. I feel quite home here.

There are very positive signs about the relationship between China and the US. And we really do need to focus on where we agree.

We are cooperating together military to military, for instance in our anti-piracy operations. We are working together on military medicine and other issues. So many things do get done.

My fleet sergeant, a one-star admiral herself, will be visiting Beijing soon to discuss these matters, including military medicine.

However, I would not say I was satisfied. We have some distance to go. Mutual trust and respect can only happen if you're talking to each other. You have to have dialogue to understand each other.
GT: How do you see the ties between the Pentagon and the PLA? Are they enemies, friends, or adversaries? How do you see the PLA's rising power in recent years?

Locklear: I would categorize them as mutual professionals. We are all in charge of the defense of our own national interests.

I believe the PLA is similar to the US military in responding to the needs and the requirements of the policymakers and the people who lead our countries.

Therefore to the degree that the PLA is rising and is getting stronger as a military force, I'm not too concerned about that.
I am concerned about ensuring that there is transparency, and that we have dialogues so we understand what each other is doing, and that there are ways we can complement each other in the security environment.

There are enough things in the world that we need to worry about together.

We need to help solve them together, and we should spend most of the time talking about those things.

Posted in: Dialogue

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