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Dempsey Seeks to Learn From Asia-Pacific Partners

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, May 31, 2012 – The challenge for the United States in the Asia-Pacific region is translating strategy into action, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.

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Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Duane D. Thiessen, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, greets Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, May 30, 2012. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

On his way to Singapore for the 11th annual Asia security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told American Forces Press Service that the U.S. “pivot to the Pacific” isn’t about establishing American dominance in the region.

Rather, he said, the goal is to work with regional partners to sustain and strengthen a cooperative security environment among Asian-Pacific nations.

The chairman noted that in this, his first visit to the dialogue, he wants to hear what other nations’ officials have to say on topics such as territorial disputes in the region’s seas. China and the Philippines both claim the South China Sea waters around Scarborough Shoal, and China and Japan dispute the area surrounding the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, near Okinawa.

Dempsey said the United States does not take sides in territorial disputes and encourages disputing parties to resolve such issues without coercion.

“What I already know is that we’ve been very clear about the need for cooperation in the maritime domain [involving] freedom of navigation,” he said. “I think that’s exactly the right position to place ourselves. But beyond that, I want to hear what these 27 nations [at the Shangri-La Dialogue] have to say, both to us and to each other -- because it will clearly be one of the most prominent issues.”

From the national strategic level where he works, the chairman said, the first priority in rebalancing defense strategy toward the Asia-Pacific region involves what he calls “intellectual bandwidth.”

“We’ve developed, over the course of 10 years, a core of real experts in the Middle East,” Dempsey said. “We need to form that same core of professionals for whom [Asia-Pacific expertise] is a lifelong work.”

The second step in the strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region is to build on that increased bandwidth to create and explore new opportunities to increase regional security, he said.

“We have to make that intellectual shift … and then listen to the signals that we receive from our partners,” he added, noting that standing, multinational forums often are able to deal with security issues before they become crises.

“I think that’s the great strength of NATO,” Dempsey said.

A security organization similar to NATO involving many Asia-Pacific nations’ participation may have value, the general said, but only if other nations want it.

“We would have to see the appetite for that among our partners and not just try to in some way impose it on them,” Dempsey said.


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Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

Related Sites:
Photo Essay: Dempsey Visits, Hawaii, Guam During Asia Trip
Special Report: Travels With Dempsey
Shangri-La Dialogue 2012

Click photo for screen-resolution imageNavy Rear Adm. Paul J. Bushong, Joint Region Marianas commander, and Air Force Brig Gen. John W. Doucette, 36th Wing commander, brief Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a helicopter flight over Guam, May 30, 2012. DOD photo by D. Myles Cullen  
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