Setting a Precedent in Asia

US Pacific Command boss Adm. Samuel Locklear gave the military-to-military relationship between the US and the Chinese “a passing grade,” even though the “churn” of events and tensions in East Asia has picked up in the last year. Speaking to reporters inside the Pentagon briefing room on Thursday, Locklear said contact between US forces in the Asia-Pacific and the People’s Liberation Army continues. However, the establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone this past November, which surrounded the disputed Senkaku/Diayou Islands in the East China Sea, has raised concerns about how China is dealing with its neighbors and their free navigation of airspace. The fact that the ADIZ was established was less concerning than the manner in which it was done, said Locklear during his first trip to the Pentagon since the zone was established. While the US was not directly notified in advance, “I don’t think we were necessarily surprised,” he said. There was open reporting that the Chinese were considering such a move, he added. PACOM was surprised, however, by the way it was announced and the way the ADIZ was “sprung on the region.” Going forward, Locklear said the US will continue to conduct military flights over international airspace in the East China Sea, saying there are caveats to the ADIZ which US forces “will not acknowledge.”