A top U.S. military officer says the resolve to maintain peace and security in the Asia Pacific region will not change under the new U.S. administration.
Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command sought to reassure U.S. allies that the Asia-Pacific region is vital to the prosperity and security of the United States.
“America never has a lame duck commander-in-chief,” Harris said, indicating that U.S. President Barack Obama will remain engaged in the region until his term ends in mid January.
Speaking during the annual Defense One summit Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Harris added that while he could not predict potential policy initiatives of the incoming Donald Trump administration, he had “no doubt we’ll continue our steadfast commitment to our allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”
Harris said he would continue to serve President Obama until January 20 and after that, President Trump.
Harris said he is concerned about security threats by North Korea and China, but he also is encouraged by robust alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines.
He also said that although some of the Philippine leader’s remarks made him uneasy, the U.S.-Philippine military alliance remains strong, and his personal relations with senior Philippine military officials are very close.
Philippine President Duterte has said the Philippine military will cancel some joint military exercises with the U.S. military and seek to develop friendly relations with China. However, Admiral Harris said that pre-arranged interactions are continuing as normal. Next week, he will go to Manila to arrange for next year’s activities.
The admiral said he is troubled by China’s efforts to build islands and military bases in the South China Sea, and he talked about setting up separate air defense identification zones in the East China Sea.
On the other hand, the U.S.-China military relationship is “actually good,” he said. U.S. and Chinese military are holding a joint disaster relief exercise in China this week. Harris said the U.S. military will try to cooperate with China, but will prepare for confrontation when necessary.