Nomination signals Washington's 'focus on Asia-Pacific'
Updated: 2011-12-30 08:13
By Cui Haipei (China Daily)
BEIJING - Chinese experts said that US President Barack Obama's nomination of navy Admiral Samuel Locklear as commander of US Pacific Command (USPACOM) on Wednesday is a sign of the US government's growing attention to Asia-Pacific affairs.
If confirmed by the Senate, Locklear will replace Admiral Robert Willard as head of the largest of the six US military Unified Combatant Commands. USPACOM has about 325,000 service members, or about one-fifth of the US military strength, and covers an area stretching from the waters off the US west coast to the western border of India.
Liu Lin, a researcher with the Academy of Military Science of the People's Liberation Army, said the nomination of the well-known figure to some extent reflected the US government's growing attention to Asia-Pacific affairs - Locklear directly commanded the operation in Libya which made him popular.
"Because there are several emerging countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as China, India and Indonesia, the USPACOM's strategic importance is rising rapidly for US troops," Liu said.
Locklear, a graduate of the US Naval Academy, is currently commander of US Naval Forces Europe, commander of US Naval Forces Africa, and commander of Allied Joint Forces Command in Naples, Italy.
Since the Obama administration took office in early 2009, it has realized the strategic importance of the region and adopted a back-to-Asia strategy in a bid to maintain the US leadership in both economic and security arenas in Asia, Liu said.
Liu said the admiral, as chief of Pacific Command, would likely continue the policies of his predecessors, and focus on China's growing economic and military strength and the uncertainty on the Korean Peninsula, especially after Kim Jong-il's death.
"Actually, soon after the Cold War, the US already decided to transfer its strategic focus to the Asia-Pacific region, but the anti-terrorism war then came to the top of the focus list, " said Liu, adding that Obama announced last month the deployment of up to 2,500 US Marines in Australia, another piece of its Asia-Pacific strategy adjustment.
The disadvantage of Locklear, compared with his predecessor Admiral Robert Willard, appointed in October 2009, is that Locklear has never dealt with any matters in the Asia-Pacific, Liu said.
"These senior military officers to some degree are also diplomats, so before he actually gets familiar with the region, it is too soon to speak of specific impacts of the nomination," she added.
Xinhua contributed to this story.