As is the case with Gen. Martin Dempsey, head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs, so also the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, has countered the Obama Administration's China-bashing and threats of military confrontation with China by insisting that building a "longer term" security relationship with China is essential for the future of the world. During a visit to Bangkok, reports the Financial Times, Adm. Locklear said the U.S. had recently invited China to send a naval ship to join Rimpac, the world's largest military exercises, in 2014.
"Chinese PLA [People's Liberation Army] members have been in close co-ordination with my staff in multiple forums," he said. "There have been counterpart visits to the U.S. by their minister of defense. So we're working through that relationship in recognition that it will be an important relationship as we look at the overall security of the Asia-Pacific region."
This week Beijing suggested that plans by the U.S. and Japan to stage joint exercises next month in Okinawa, southern Japan, focusing on a hypothetical battle for an occupied island, is clearly aimed at the territorial dispute over the small islands in the East China Sea, and would undermine regional security co-operation. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that "intentionally emphasizing the military and security agenda and fueling regional tensions is not conducive to security and mutual trust in the region".
Adm. Locklear responded in his Bangkok interview, saying that the exercises are not aimed at China.
"We have been exercising with our Japanese allies for years — there's nothing new here, we've done these type of operations with our Japanese allies, Philippine allies, many allies — this is standard type of exercises for us," he said." It is of note that, although these are regularly scheduled exercises, the content of liberating occupied islands is specific to this exercise. Some Japanese press reports say the structure may be changed, due to the tensions with China.