Greenert: Navy Eyes Constructive Relationship with China

By Sarah Sicard
Rather than a response to escalating tensions between the United States and China, the U.S. pivot to the Asia-Pacific region is a strategic move meant to encourage international collaboration on issues of trade and security, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, said on Sept. 8.
"For us in the Navy, our mandate is to be where it matters, when it matters," he said during a briefing at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Greenert, who recently returned from a meeting with his Chinese equivalent Adm. Wu Shengli, said the Navy is currently working on several joint initiatives in the Pacific.
"It's not a secret — it's pretty well known — the Chinese navy is expanding into the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean," Greenert said.
"They want to become a global navy, but they tell me very clearly — their chief — that they don’t intend to hold a global posture like we do. It's not something they want to do, or can do," he added.
For now, China is making strides to conform to international standards of naval behavior by participating in such exercises as Rim of the Pacific, Greenert said. He added that among his Asia-Pacific contemporaries, Wu is the naval officer he has collaborated with most in recent months.
Though China has made waves over the past several years as its naval fleet has grown, the nation has essentially been out of the navy game for 600 years.  "They're coming back, and they've got a long way to go," said Douglas H. Paal, vice president for studies at Carnegie.
The United States hopes to establish an entire network of navies in the Asia-Pacific, including China, India, Japan and Malaysia, Greenert said.
Diplomatic strides between the United States and China were made during the Western Pacific Naval Symposium held in Quindao, China, Greenert said. There, 22 Pacific navies agreed to a code that would serve as an understanding between ships at sea that unexpectedly confront each other, he said.
The arrangement — the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea — is a non-binding agreement wherein participating nations have a set standard for communications and basic maneuvers for naval ships and aircraft, thereby establishing a regional understanding among navies, Greenert said.
"We are working on collective self-defense to do more operations together. Our focus in this region is improved interoperability," Greenert said.
"We've been there for seven decades of continuous Asia-Pacific naval presence, and we’re going to be there in the future," he said. Over half of U.S. ships are in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.
Better cooperation with China is needed, Greenert said.
"We need to build a constructive relationship. Clearly we've got the potential to prosper with China," he said. "I think China is an opportunity."
Greenert said that he would further discuss Chinese-American cooperation with Wu at the international sea power symposium in September at the U.S. Naval War College.

Topics: Defense Department, Homeland Security, MaritimePort Security

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