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Pacific Fleet Commander’s Goal Is Partnerships In the Asia Pacific

Aired 9/20/12 on KPBS News.

The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Samuel Locklear, spoke to military and business leaders in San Diego today about changing Naval strategy.

Speaking to several hundred people at a San Diego Military Advisory Council breakfast, Admiral Samuel Locklear gave an illustrated overview of the things that keep him awake at night, plus the changing focus of the U.S. Navy.

Admiral Samuel Locklear speaking to SDMAC breakfast meeting, Sept 19th 2012
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Above: Admiral Samuel Locklear speaking to SDMAC breakfast meeting, Sept 19th 2012

He used photographs of the Great Wall of China and members of the Politbureau and North Korean leaders to illustrate his talk, and described the Navy’s refocused strategy in the Asia Pacific. He spoke of managing and protecting the “global commons”: vast tracts of the Pacific where much of the world’s commerce is being conducted.

“San Diego,” he said, "is the front doorstep of the Asia Pacific region.”

It will take time to rebalance the Navy’s resources to bring 60 percent over the West Coast, he said, but more than 50 percent is already here.

The Admiral said the goal of the U.S. military strategy is not to develop more military bases in the Pacific, but to reactivate alliances and build partnerships.

He said he believes there is more suffering in the world now than there was 10 years ago, and disaster relief efforts are helping to bring countries together.

He described recent RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) exercises off Hawaii that had participation from 22 nations' navies. He listed Japan, South Korea, India and Australia among the countries the U.S. is working with, and said China is included in that list.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who is in China this week, told reporters in Beijing the Navy will invite China to send a ship to participate in RIMPAC exercises in 2014.

Locklear said San Diego is key to the Navy’s future strategy.

“A preponderance of the Marine and Naval assets used in the Asia Pacific are trained, equipped and their home is here,” he said. “Their training has to be focused around managing the “global commons” in the Pacific area. So San Diego is unbelievably important to the success of our strategy in the Pacific area.”

The Admiral said he has families in his command that have loved ones who deployed nine times in the last 10 years.

He said Marines who have spent the last decade in the deserts of Afghanistan or Iraq might find themselves deployed to places like Okinawa, Japan or to Australia in the future.

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