News photo
Adm. Gary Roughead, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, gives an interview recently in Tokyo.

Roughead also indicated in a recent interview in Tokyo that there have been active exchanges between the U.S. and Chinese navies following the encounter by the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier with a Chinese submarine in international waters off Okinawa last year.
“I would say it is possible to hit a missile with a missile because we have done it. We have done it many times,” Roughead said, referring to tests that have been conducted in developing ballistic missile defense systems.
“Our testing, especially with the navy’s ballistic missile defense that’s based on the Aegis weapons system that both the U.S. and Japan have as part of their capability . . . – proven that capability. I have great confidence in that capability,” he said.

The commander of the Hawaii-based fleet admitted the system is “very expensive” but said it is because of the advanced nature of the technology involved and that he is pleased with the progress in developing the capability together with Japan.

Concerning the Japanese government’s intention to study the possibility of easing its self-imposed ban on the exercise of the right to collective defense to protect allies under attack, Roughead declined to comment directly but emphasized the importance of prompt information-sharing between the two countries in the event of a missile attack.

“The approach and the process that the Japanese government is going through in that regard is really a matter for the Japanese government to work through and think through,” the 1973 U.S. Naval Academy graduate said.

“But it is very important that we be able to share information, especially in areas such as ballistic missile defense where the threat of a ballistic missile moves so very, very fast that our ability to share information and the ability to cooperate is very important,” he added.

The two countries have both begun deploying the missile defense systems, mainly to deal with threats from North Korea as well as China, which has been boosting military spending.

Tokyo and Washington envisage a two-stage interception scheme to deal with a missile attack. First, Aegis vessels from both countries would try to intercept an incoming missile in space by launching the sea-based Standard Missile-3 interceptor.

If unsuccessful, they would employ the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles designed to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in their final phase after they have re-entered the atmosphere.

Japan and the United States began a joint missile defense research project in 1999, a year after North Korea test-fired a long-range Taepodong-1 missile, part of which flew over Japan and fell into the Pacific Ocean.

On the incident in October when a Chinese submarine came within torpedo range of the Kitty Hawk, Roughead said, “Both ships were operating lawfully in those waters. Both ships were operating in a very safe and responsible manner.”

The admiral, responsible for the world’s largest combined fleet command covering the Pacific and Indian oceans, said the incident showed the Chinese military aspires to build a navy that will “go farther and farther from their shores.”

Against the backdrop of China’s growing military spending and concerns about the lack of transparency involving its military policy, Roughead emphasized the importance of trading views directly with Chinese navy officials for promoting mutual understanding.

He said he visited China in November and the navy commander, Adm. Wu Shengli, reciprocated with a recent trip to the United States to meet Roughead and other navy officials as part of such efforts.

“I believe that the engagement and the better understanding of where our navies are going . . . (are) important. And transparency between and among navies, I think, is something that can only add to the understanding and the security and prosperity of the region,” Roughead said.

Concerning the U.S. Navy’s recent shift of gravity from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, he suggested the move is motivated due to economic interests as trade using Pacific routes has been on the increase.

“The amount of goods that move between the United States and Asia is 3 1/2 times that which moves between the United States and Europe,” Roughead said.

“For the predictable future, the economies in the Pacific are what will fuel the global economy, what will fuel our prosperity, and that’s why the importance is being placed on the Pacific,” he said.

“It’s important that we have the capability to represent our interests to cooperate with our friends and allies, and the way that we do that is to have credible naval capability in the Pacific Ocean,” he added.

Roughead, who took his current command in July 2005, is to be promoted to the command of the Fleet Forces Command based in Virginia early this month.

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