As the region continues to grapple with issues surrounding the South China Sea, the recently posted Commander of the US Pacific Fleet urged not only claimant nations but also other stakeholders to seek positive solutions to settle differences, especially with China.
Over the past few months, China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea to justify its stake beyond the stipulated Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has received international attention with several nations in Asean expressing their discontent over China’s move.
During a telephone press conference with media people from different countries yesterday, Admiral Scott Swift, who assumed command of the US Pacific Fleet earlier in May, said all claimant nations are concerned over the latest developments in the South China Sea.
What is most important, he reminded, is searching for ways on “how to come together” towards “reconciling differences and claims in the region in a positive way without using coercion or force as a lever for the benefit of one party or the other”.
The US will continue to engage this part of the world as part of its “Look East” policy with security, which includes the “Pacific Pivot” as a top agenda.
“I am very positive about the present and the future and what we need is to be consistent in our transparency in the way we, the Pacific Fleet, approach our responsibilities with others in the region and that fully includes China”, with plans being sought to expand the US-China relationship.
This, he said, includes engaging China’s security forces by adopting mechanisms that the US currently utilises to reduce misunderstandings at sea to run in tandem with military exercises that continue to take shape in the region to better hone skills, relationships and mutual understanding between participating army forces.
Meanwhile, at present, Brunei and other Asean member states are anticipating the launch of sea ‘hotlines’, or Direct Communication Links (DCL), efforts for which were set in motion during Brunei’s chairmanship of Asean in 2013.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that these DCL’s, to be housed in defence ministries throughout the Asean region, will begin operations in November.
It was explained that this form of communications is hoped to ease misunderstandings at sea with the long-term envisioned to invite regional ‘Plus’ partners such as China and the US to take part in the programme once DCL usage in Asean takes root.