WASHINGTON, Jun 8 – The US military rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific is not intended to contain China, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Thursday.
Instead, the pivot is designed to deal with “strategic challenges of the future” that are migrating to the region, Martin Dempsey said at a briefing to reporters on his just-concluded Asian trip.
By virtue of the size, scope and scale of populations and economies in the Asia-Pacific, the United States will seek engagement in the region with the intent of avoiding confrontation, the general said.
“I assured anyone that chose to ask me the question – our new (defence) strategy and our rebalancing to the Pacific is not intended to contain China,” he said.
Dempsey recently travelled to the Philippines and Thailand after attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where U.S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta elaborated on the new US defence strategy.
Panetta announced that Washington seeks to increase the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific by shifting 60 percent of its Navy ships to the region by 2020 despite budgetary pressure.
Dempsey characterized the shift as “three mores” – more attention, more engagement and more quality. He said the US side is eyeing a troops’ presence in the Asia-Pacific region more on a rotational basis, while deploying the most advanced ships, fifth-generation aircraft and the best missile defence technology there.
The US move has fuelled suspicions that it is targeting China. But Washington has rejected such perceptions, saying it will endeavour together with China to strengthen mutual strategic trust to deal with shared security challenges.
The US-China military-to-military engagement “is actually moving along quite well,” said Dempsey, adding that he hopes “to see it move a little faster.”
He also suggested that the two countries work to deal with “strategic challenges of the future,” including economic, demographic and military ones in the Asia-Pacific.
“We do have a relationship with China, and we certainly aspire to increase that relationship over time,” Dempsey said.
As regards the new U.S. military posture, Beijing has expressed the hope that the United States would play a positive and constructive role in the region and respect China’s concerns and interests.