The new commander of the United States Navy's Pacific Fleet is seeking to ease concerns of U.S. allies in the area. Admiral Scott H. Swift says the pivot of American military forces to East Asia and the Pacific will continue. Yet some of the allies remain worried about China's development of islands in disputed waters.
Scott Swift formerly commanded the U.S. Seventh Fleet. He became the chief of the Pacific Fleet three months ago. Since then, he has gone to the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to meet with top navy commanders.
Admiral Swift spoke with reporters by telephone before traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. He noted what he called “great angst” in every place he has visited. He said this feeling resulted from the worrying “scale and scope” of China's land reclamation projects in the South China Sea.
“All of them have expressed concerns and uncertainty about what the future may hold. But, I think, what's most important is to come together in a multi-lateral way and approach reconciling these differences in claims within the region in a positive way and not allow the use of coercion or force as a lever to resolve to the benefit of one party or the other,” said the admiral.
Allies raise concerns about U.S. "Pacific Pivot"
Admiral Swift was asked about concerns among America’s allies about U.S. Defense Department plans for what has been called the Pacific pivot.
“It's less a reflection of what the United States' ability is to support the refocus, it's more of a reflection of the angst in the theater, as you suggest, many in the countries are concerned about what the future is. And many of them are turning to the United States as a continued guarantor of the stability that they've enjoyed throughout the region, certainly for the last 70 years.”
Last week, the U.S. Defense Department released its maritime security roadmap. The plan calls for 60 percent of naval and aviation assets deployed to the Asia-Pacific area by 2020. Japan will be at the center of the U.S. efforts, with Guam providing a major base.
There also are to be partnerships with Vietnam and India – both considered competitors of China. And military joint operations are to be expanded with Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia.
Admiral calls for better communication with China's military
Admiral Swift also expressed hope of expanding contacts with China's navy and coast guard. The aim, he said, is to try to “decrease the elements of instability that are occurring in the region.”
The Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy report for 2015 says China is “using a steady progression of small, incremental steps to increase effective control over disputed areas and avoid escalation to military conflict.”
China claims much of the South China Sea. Those territorial claims conflict with claims of several countries, including the Philippines and Vietnam.
China blames the United States for heightening tensions in the resource-rich area, which include one of the busiest waters for trade ships.
I’m Mario Ritter.
VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reported this story from Bangkok. Mario Ritter adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
pivot – n. to turn on or around a central point
angst – n. a strong feeling of being worried or nervous
scope – n. that area that is included or dealt
reconcile – v. to cause people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement
maritime – adj. relating to sailing on the sea or doing business by sea
assets – n. a valuable person or thing
incremental – adj. change that takes place in small amounts or steps
escalation – n. to become worse or more severe