U.S. Admiral said There Will be No Change in U.S. Commitment to Asia-Pacific Region Under Trump

Admiral Harris has been an outspoken critic of China’s expansion in the South China Sea, where it has built artificial islands and military installations in the Spratly archipelago, including Fiery Cross Reef, above. (Credit: DigitalGlobe, via Getty Images)
Admiral Harris has been an outspoken critic of China’s expansion in the South China Sea, where it has built artificial islands and military installations in the Spratly archipelago, including Fiery Cross Reef, above. (Credit: DigitalGlobe, via Getty Images)

The commander of United States military operations in the Asia-Pacific region said on Wednesday that America’s commitment to the region would continue after Donald J. Trump became president, as would its opposition to Chinese expansion in the South China Sea.

“You can count on America now and into the future,” Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., head of the United States Pacific Command, said in a speech at the Lowy Institute, a research center in Sydney, Australia. He said that “reports of America’s abandonment of the Indo-Asia-Pacific have been greatly exaggerated” and called the area “the most consequential region for America’s future.”

Officials and diplomats in the Asia-Pacific have wondered how Mr. Trump might change American policy toward China and the rest of the region, especially since his surprise phone call this month with President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan, which alarmed Beijing and broke with decades of United States diplomatic practice. Meanwhile, recent visits to Beijing by the leaders of Malaysia and the Philippines have underscored the possibility that countries in the region are drawing closer to China.

Admiral Harris declined to speculate on how United States policy might change after Mr. Trump takes office next month, saying he was “not in the business of giving advice to the president-elect.” But he said America’s interests in the region were “enduring” and called its 65-year alliance with Australia “more important than ever before.”

Australia’s prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has walked a fine line between the United States, the country’s most important strategic ally, and China, its largest trading partner. Mr. Turnbull has urged China to abide by international laws governing freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where it has built military installations on reclaimed islands and claimed much of the crucial waterway as its own.

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SOURCE: MICHELLE INNIS 
The New York Times