US Generals concern over growing Chinese presence in Pacific

Concerned over the growing Chinese military presence in the Pacific, the US on Wednesday said it is a Pacific power and has significant interest in the region.

Washington: Concerned over the growing Chinese military presence in the Pacific, the US on Wednesday said it is a Pacific power and has significant interest in the region.

"We are a Pacific power and we have significant interests in the region. We engage with and work with our Chinese counterparts on a variety of issues, both economic and security-related," White House Press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at his daily news conference.

However, he did not respond directly to the question on the 10 per cent increase in the Chinese defense budget.

"We work very closely with our international partners as well, our partners in the Asia Pacific region," he said.

Earlier, a top US commander told lawmakers the Chinese military build up is a cause of concern for the countries in the region, while another said that a US-China confrontation is neither good for the two nations or the region as well.

"China`s intensive efforts to build, test, and field new aircraft, ships, weapons and supporting systems are of increasing concern to the region. Many Asian nations worry about Chinese current and future intentions, with many of them asking, `As China`s military capabilities improve, will China`s intentions change?`," Admiral Sameul J Locklear, Commander of the US pacific Command, said told lawmakers.

"Chinese naval and maritime law enforcement vessels have been active in recent years in trying to advance China`s territorial and maritime claims in the South China and East China Seas," Locklear said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

"China`s strong rhetoric about the indisputable nature of its claims, combined with active patrolling by civil and military ships and aircraft in the air and waters surrounding Scarborough Reef and the Senkakus Islands, has raised tensions with the Republic of the Philippines and Japan respectively," he said.

"China has also used other economic and diplomatic tools to pressure those countries to accede to Chinese claims. These actions have resulted in US partners and allies in East Asia seeking additional support and reassurance. I am particularly concerned that the activities around the Senkakus islands could lead to an accident and miscalculation and escalation between China and Japan," the commander said.

"Elsewhere, in the South China Sea, periodic confrontations between Chinese and Vietnamese ships and Chinese efforts to pressure international companies to not explore for oil and gas raise tensions.

"China has consistently opposed using collaborative diplomatic processes - such as negotiations of a Code of Conduct or international arbitration - to address disputes in the South China Sea, instead insisting on bilateral negotiations," Locklear said.

Responding to lawmakers questions, Gen C Robert Kehler, Commander of the US Strategic Command, said a confrontation between the two countries is good for none of them.

"In the case of China, as I`ve communicated to them when they`ve asked me this as well, I said first of all you have to recognise that the US is a Pacific nation. We have lots of national interests in this part of the world. We`re going to stay here. We`re here with our allies. We`re concerned about a security environment that protects our interests," he said.

"We recognise that China is on the rise, both economically, and as a regional power. And we think that we can accommodate China into the economic world, as well as the security world, and that they have the opportunity to come in as a net provider of security and that we`re happy to allow that to happen, and we`ll actually facilitate them coming in if necessary," Kehler said.

"But they, as all others do, have choices that have to be made, and we`re just hopeful that those choices will be ones that bring them in, in a productive way," he said.

Kehler in response to a question said that the US allies in the region do not want to see an adversarial relationship between the US and China.

"They all express that the last thing they want to see happen is for the US and China to have an adversarial relationship. It`s not in our best interest, not in China`s best interest, and it`s certainly not in theirs," he said.

"So they are pretty emphatic about that. The second thing is as you just said, they don`t want to have to choose. I don`t see a reason for them to have to choose at this point in time, assuming that we all make the choice for peace and prosperity in a security environment that can ensure that," he added.