SINGAPORE – Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of U.S. Naval Operations, on Tuesday urged countries in Asia to improve their communications at sea to avoid incidents that could heighten tension in the region over territorial disputes.
“We need to avoid any kind of conflict, avoid miscalculation, and the best way to do that is to sort out how to talk to each other . . . learn how to communicate in the high seas as professional mariners,” he said at a news conference in Singapore.
Greenert, who was speaking on the sidelines of an international maritime defense show in Singapore, had been asked about the U.S. approach to the region’s territorial rows, such as those in the South China Sea and also the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
He said that the United States does not want to get involved in the region’s territorial disputes. “We stay out of that but definitely encourage a diplomatic solution,” he said.
His comment comes amid an escalating dispute between the Philippines and Taiwan over the death of a Taiwanese fisherman in a confrontation with the Philippine Coast Guard.
Greenert also spoke about the U.S. plan to re-balance its forces to the Asia-Pacific region, especially the navy’s deployment of its high-tech Littoral Combat Ships to the region.
He said the United States plans to deploy as many as 11 such ships in the Asia-Pacific region by the end of the decade, mainly in Singapore and Japan.
“By the end of the decade, let’s say early 2021 or 2022, up to 11 Littoral Combat Ships out here, other than here in Singapore.”
He said that the United States plans to deploy its second Littoral Combat Ship to Singapore in early 2015, after the first such vessel, the USS Freedom, arrived last month for deployment in Southeast Asia. The plan as agreed to with the Singapore government is to deploy up to four of the ships to Singapore.
The USS Freedom will return to its home port after about 10 months in Southeast Asia, he said.
“Going to sea and be where it matters when it matters . . . without big sovereignty issues is important . . . because we want to respect the sovereignty of other nations,” he said. “It limits the diplomatic stress, not to mention costs of trying to establish bases around the world.”