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Locklear: U.S. ‘Shouldn’t Talk Ourselves Into’ Conflict With China

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command on Feb. 4, 2014 in Yokosuka, Japan. US Navy Photo

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command on Feb. 4, 2014 in Yokosuka, Japan. US Navy Photo

Pacific Command’s senior officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) on Tuesday that he doesn’t think that a crisis with China is inevitable as it fields its first Jin-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) this year.

“We shouldn’t talk ourselves into [a conflict],” said Adm. Samuel Locklear said to the panel.
China is continuing to grow as a regional power with an increase in defense by more than 12 percent emphasizing maritime investment, cyber and anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) technologies, Locklear told the panel.

Even though there is a Chinese military build up, Locklear didn’t think an armed conflict — specifically with Japan — in the region is inevitable.

“I don’t see, in the near term, [China and Japan] heading toward [military] confrontation” over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The dispute “is primarily a sovereignty issue” involving territorial possession and fishing rights, and “it is not something new.”

The Chinese, “have a credible submarine force and they are modernizing that force,” he said, estimating that in the future the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) could have 60 to 70 submarines in the near future.

Locklear said preserving the U.S. submarine force at current level was important for his command.
“I would be an advocate of growing it,” Locklear said.

In answer to a question from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R – N.H.), he acknowledged his requests for more submarines for the command “are not all being met.” She said current projections would see the United States attack submarine force drop from 55 in 2013 to 42 in 2024.

“This is going to be a significant decrease,” she said.
As he testified before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month, Locklear described the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier as being “in the forefront of military assets” available to national leaders because they are sustainable and capable of maintaining peace and responding to crises.

Locklear said even with 11 carriers in the fleet they “are just barely making it” in meeting national military strategy. He added that he has asked for more amphibious assault ships above the five assigned to the Pacific, but his request is competing with similar ones from other combatant commanders.

Pacific Command has traditionally had about 50 percent of the Navy’s fleet or about 150 ships.
Under the re-balancing of forces called for as the war in Iraq ended and wound down in Afghanistan, the number was to rise to 180. Sen. James Infofe, (R-Okla.) and ranking member of the committee, said that if the automatic cuts called for in the Budget Control Act of 2011 were again in place after 2015 the number of American ships in the Pacific would stay at 150.

Locklear said that allies such as Japan and partners such as Singapore are being “very watchful of how the [United States’] defense budget will play out in the coming years” and its impact on them and the United States presence in the region. He said budget cuts raise concerns over the United States’ “staying power.”

“In the cyber world, there are a lot of bad actors,” including China, but “I believe we have a considerable advantage” in that area. “There are still lots of cyber attacks;” and although they tapered off for a while, they are again on the rise, Locklear said.

U.S. Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of forces in Korea, North Korea is presenting an “ever increasing asymmetric threat” from nuclear weapons and missiles that in the future could reach the United States while “aggressively investing in cyber capabilities” that so far have been used to “disrupt services and web site capabilities” in South Korea.
Several times, he was asked who is in charge in North Korea.

“I believe Kim Jung-un is fully in charge,” Scaparrotti said, but his regime is less predictable than that of his late father as he moves to consolidate power.

Scaparrotti said U.S. forces in Korea are fully resourced and ready and he rate South Korea’s “very highly. But he was concerned about the readiness of American follow-on forces if war broke out on the peninsula.

  • Ruckweiler

    Great, Admiral. We don’t talk ourselves into a conflict while the Red Chinese prepare for such an eventuality. With what they are doing these days in preparation will the US be able to prevail? Just remember what George Washington said about peace and war.

  • muzzleloader

    You can tell this guy is an Obama appointee. He soft sells the needs of the fleet. Regarding the size of the SSN fleet, he says ” I would favor growing it”
    Admiral, do you think you can be a little more emphatic? You are Commander of the Pacific fleet, for crying out loud. No is trying to talk us into a conflict with China. What you need to do Admiral, is state with clearness and conviction what your fleet does need so if conflict does ever come, you are ready!

  • goalkeeper

    So what does he think about it now when china already has built artificial lans in south china sea ? And to add to it, 2 runways that can accommodate their latest fighter jets.

    China is eating slowly in the south china sea by means of it’s sheer military power, unless you are that blind not to see it, they are doing it slowly but surely.

  • R’ Yitzchak M

    Woah.. “not to talk ourselves into the conflict with the China” of course there is nothing to “talk about” China just finished it first course of the “meal” by taking the 1/3 of the Pacific Ocean.. murdering the Vietnamese fishers, Koreans, Japanese, next.. a “talk” you were saying? And the Russia you want to go to war against the Ruskies.. to finish them off while China will wait for you to finish them and then.. The Chinese dragon just woke up and is going for his breakfast.. South China Sea, Taiwan, Vietnam, S. Korea and given the opportunity Russia. With the Chinese focus on its domestic market; which is now just “warming-up” it will go back on the double digit growth with the largest standing army on the globe with close to 3,500,000 man under the arms. Our GDP growth is what 1.7% growth? While Chinese GDP annual GROWTH even with over 10% reduction on dependency on foreign markets from 34? to 24% in a single year. They were building the NATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE to facilitate shift to the DOMESTIC MARKET Their annual growth rate is still 6.7% as opposed to ours of 1.7% (even before the trade war ensues).. So our “STRATIGERY” toward the China is “WHISPER PLEASE do not wake the DRAGON”? What a quagmire of applied idiocy. We did successfully dismantled Russian empire into the cluster of beggar entities hopping to scoop the leftover “garbage” and to move into the “lebens raum” destined to the ubermenshes.. while neglecting to see that weakened Russia is a vacuum that will be filled not by NATO but the China.. China with the Russian resources is totally invincible.. Doubt it? Look they incorporated CAPITALISM by the education and the implementation of the DEDUCTIVE and the EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE based on SCIENCE which favors merit as opposed to politics run by the wanton imbeciles – malignant opportunists. We left our kids to be INDOCTRINATED and to be placed on the 24th place on the global ranking of educational “achievements” CHINA holds TOP FIVE.. so they threw their “Red Book” and took the book of math, physics, chemistry.. and our idiots took the “Red Book” and started the “cultural revolution” of envy? Class struggle? Social Justice? bs. bs. bs. Yes the whisper is the “answer” sooooch a wisdom senior..? To dismantle British Navy in the 1950 to make them non “competitors”, French influences and zones of interests was relatively easy task.. having all allies brought to their knees of course not to be the “competitors”.. we groomed the “Dragon” into a making to be our existential threat while totally enfeebled every potential ally we created a vacuum which begs to be filled by the people who are immune to the intimidation and the B.S. only time will tell and for the smart “writings on the wall..” are more than enough.