Aboard the USS Carl Vinson, Coronado, Calif. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday will kick off a meeting of 10 defense ministers of countries across Asia, and in a Thursday speech previewing the meeting highlighted new opportunities coming from these partnerships. “These are ties that have been nurtured over decades, tested in crisis, and built on shared interests, values, and sacrifice,” Carter said before a group of sailors onboard the USS Carl Vinson. “But they also needed to evlolve to reflect growing capabilities, new national aspirations, and changing security needs.” Included in these partnerships is an “ironclad” alliance with the Philippines, despite tensions between the presidential administrations of that country and the US. Carter said the US is taking steps to modernize its military-to-military relationship with China, including new communications to reduce the risk of miscalculations, “confidence-building measures” on maritime rules of behavior and crisis communications, and increased involvement in exercises such as RIMPAC. However, China’s recent actions in the South China Sea and cyberspace have raised concerns in in the Pentagon. “Beijing sometimes appears to want to pick and choose which principles it wants to benefit from and which it prefers to try to undercut,” Carter said.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.