A top U.S. military commander for Asia and Pacific says there is no desire to build new military bases in the region. Admiral Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told reporters in Washington Friday that the military's goal is to have a network of places where American forces can visit on rotation. But he said the military wants to avoid the costly maintenance of bases.
Willard also said the United States has great national interest in the Asia-Pacific region and has many strategic partners there. But he called for improved military relations with China.
"There's no question given the economic import, the very complex nature of the Asia-Pacific theater, whether we're talking South Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia or Oceania, that there is tremendous and vital national interests there. And after all, we have five treaty allies and many strategic partners there and we all are relying on one another. And for countries like China, we are trying to improve those relations."
China has stalled military exchanges with Washington to protest U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. The U.S. law requires providing Taiwan with means of self-defense. China claims the island is a part of its territory and condemns the U.S. -- Taiwan arms deals.
Beijing last year upset several neighbors, including Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines by claiming exclusive territorial rights in an important area of the South China Sea. The Philippines has asked for U.S. support in the dispute. China has insisted on discussing the issue bilaterally with its neighbors.
Admiral Willard said the United States wants to help the Philippines to become self-sufficient as a maritime power.
The United States has repeatedly called for closer defense cooperation with China as a way to avoid unintended maritime incidents in Pacific waters.