“We’ve never left,” US assures Pacific

Samoa Observer Editor Mata’afa Keni Lesa among eight journalists from New Zealand/Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii to get briefings from the U.S. Govt on regional security. Trip was sponsored by the U.S. State Department. Photo: Janine Burns.

HONOLULU, 03 DECEMBER  2018 (SAMOA OBSERVER) – The United States of America has “never left” the Pacific region, contrary to claims by some of its critics, amidst the rise of China’s influence.

It has always maintained a strong presence and under President Donald Trump’s administration, it remains even more committed to ensure peace, security and to uphold the basic principles of freedom and liberty for all.

That’s the message from the United States Government in Honolulu this week during a series of meetings with a media delegation from New Zealand and Samoa invited for “conversations” around “regional security.”

“We’ve never left the Pacific,” a Defence official told the Samoa Observer. “We have always been there and we will always be committed to the security of the region. It is in the interest of the United States that freedom is upheld for everyone in the world.”

Organised by the US State Department, the visit by the group of senior journalists from countries under the US Embassy umbrella in Wellington, centres around the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) in Hawaii.

INDOPACOM is one of six US geographic combatant commands, which uses the United States Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps “to achieve U.S. national security objectives while protecting national interests.”

The US Indo-Pacific Command, formerly known as PACOM, was renamed recently in a move to counter “Chinese economic and military pressure in the region.”

The Military Times quotes US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as saying that “all nations large and small are essential to the region, in order to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace.”

The Military Times go on to say that while the change was not meant to be combative, it did signal America’s commitment to ensure that every country “no matter its size …. [is] not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion.”

But the former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Navy Adm. Harry Harris, did not mince words.

“Great power competition is back,” Harris is quoted as saying. “I believe we are reaching an inflection point in history…. A geo-political competition between free and oppressive visions is taking place in the Indo-Pacific.”

In Honolulu this week, the “conversations,” which are mostly held under Chatham House rules, were designed to give journalists an in-depth understanding of the U.S. contribution to security, US perspectives on issues surrounding security and what the U.S. is doing to promote peace and stability in the Pacific region.

The meetings have also looked at growing the media’s understanding of Indo-Pacific security issues and the U.S. military’s role and capabilities.

In that regard, the group has spent five days at Pearl Harbour, Hickham Air Force Base, Punchbowl, NOAA Daniel K. Innouye Regional Center, U.S. Coast Guard District, Camp Smith and the Kaneohe Marine Corps base among other strategic security related organisations, including the United States Coast Guard.

The delegation includes Chris Bramwell, of Radio New Zealand, Benedict Collins of TVNZ, Stacey Kirk of Fairfax/Stuff, Jenna Lynch of NewsHub, Sam Sachdeva of Newsroom, Claire Trevett of The NZ Herald, and Michael Sergel of Newstalk ZB. They are accompanied by Dolores Prin and Janine Burns from the US Embassy in Wellington New Zealand.

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