Pacific command chief: ‘US is here to stay’ in the Pacific

Michael Miller said after April ceremonies, which mark first time US force had been in area since 1999, ‘this means we are here to stay’

The head of the US Pacific Command said on Friday that a new cybersecurity firm was not a threat to the US military but proof that the secretive Pacific command needs to work more closely with its allies and share more information across the region.

Michael Miller said that despite a recent White House review of the US role in the Indo-Pacific, he is convinced Washington will maintain a firm commitment to the region in the years ahead.

The US official also expressed confidence that Beijing will continue to expand its naval presence in the region and that Beijing will have to live by the rules that “freedom of navigation” and “freedom of the sea”.

This has attracted criticism of the Obama administration’s Pacific pivot policy that sought to boost cooperation with India, Australia and other allies in the region.

As the Obama administration prepares to hand over to Donald Trump, Miller also said the US was not placing any timetables on how long the US would remain in the Indo-Pacific but “it is here to stay”.

“We are here to stay. It does mean collaboration with all of our allies, which is what we intend to do over the next two years,” Miller said after an early April ceremony marking the return of the USS Lassen carrier strike group to its home port at Yokosuka.

As he highlighted the return of US forces to a region which will be vital to countering and rebalancing China’s regional influence, Miller stressed that the US was not perceived as encircling China, which has been investing in increasing its naval prowess in the Indo-Pacific region.

“I am not encircling anyone,” Miller said. “I think people believe that only when a country and its economic and military might become more robust that that makes it more defensive. But it’s not true.”

“We are trying to work with China to really improve the relationship between our militaries, and I think that’s very important,” Miller said.

The US Pacific Command helped persuade Australia and New Zealand to overturn a 17-year freeze on military-to-military contacts, and is keen to forge more of a closer relationship with India.

The 10-member US strategic framework, which determines the US military posture in the region, will undergo its first review in late 2020, to be followed by another in early 2021.

Miller said the US would “evaluate” where its more than 50 active duty ships were based to see where those military assets best served.

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