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Pacific Rim's Shot at Harmony

October 8, 2010
By Robert K. Ackerman
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Maintaining stability in one of the most diverse, dynamic regions of the world will take a concerted effort among all particants holding a positive stake in the future. To achieve that goal, nations and organizations must band together to iron out the rough spots even when some players remain reticent about cooperation. In this month's issue of SIGNAL Magazine, Robert K. Ackerman strikes a chord with his interview featuring the commander of Pacific Command (PACOM), Adm. Robert F. Willard, USN, in "Pacific Command Faces New Set of Challenges." Adm. Willard declares that maintaining security in the region is PACOM's top concern, because security leads to stability, which encourages economic growth-and that prosperity in turn fosters continued stability. He lists five challenges the command faces in this effort: strengthening existing alliances; building on partnerships, particularly with emerging global power India; addressing the relationship with China; dealing with rogue nation North Korea; and staying on top of transnational threats such as piracy and terrorism by improving information technology initiatives, among other tactics. China is high on the list of these challenges because U.S. cooperation with it always is subject to China's re-examination and revision. Over the years, the United States and its military have experienced a hot and cold relationship with this dominant Asian nation. To be a sophisticated international parter, China should recognize the need for continued dialogue with the United States even if the two countries have disagreements over key issues. China has demonstrated increased assertiveness in the region, according to Adm. Willard, so it's critical that PACOM address this, as well as engage that nation as a constructive partner:

It's very important that we get the relationship with China right.

North Korea-the fourth challenge-continues to be a major threat to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. PACOM has already conducted one joint exercise with South Korea that aimed at sending a message to North Korea, Adm. Willard points out. The exercise included Japanese observers aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, and it featured the carrier strike group in a collection of 20 U.S. and South Korean ships off the Korean peninsula's east coast. That was only the first of several such exercises, according to the admiral:

We think that was successful in providing a strong deterrent message to North Korea.

Not named as one of the five challenges, but equally critical, is the region's vulnerability to, and strategies for dealing with, transnational threats. According to Adm. Willard, cyber issues top this list because PACOM networks are the targets of attempted intrusions every day. The command defends its networks, and it's also working to define how to better command cyberspace in the future. This effort in large part will emerge from the relationship between the new U.S. Cyber Command and regional commands such as PACOM. Missile defense is another vital element of PACOM's obligations to its allies. The command has been building a missile defense architecture throughout the Pacific for several years, Adm. Willard notes, and it continues to work closely with the Missile Defense Agency on technology and architecture. PACOM adapts its missile defense needs to the threat, and he declares that North Korea is PACOM's biggest concern for missile defense. PACOM has the overarching responsibility for ensuring security in the Asia-Pacific region. The organization's commander offers that if PACOM can get its five focus areas right, it will have achieved its goals and enable it to focus on other challenges. What's the ideal future scenario? Read the complete interview and share your input. AFCEA International, along with AFCEA Hawaii, will address these and other issues at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2010 Annual Conference and Exposition: "C2 of Cyberspace-Key to Asia-Pacific's Multinational Operations," October 26-28, 2010, in Honolulu.

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