JEJU ISLAND, South Korea, A top U.S. admiral on Friday dispelled concerns that the renaming of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) earlier this year may lead to the weakening of the combatant unit's commitment to the security of the Korean Peninsula.
In May, the Hawaii-headquartered unit changed its name to the Indo-Pacific Command, spawning speculation that its operational scope would be expanded beyond the Pacific in a way that would attenuate its attention to the peninsula.
"I see no change as a matter of fact. I think the U.S. actions in the Pacific are only getting stronger," Adm. John C. Aquilino, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told Yonhap News Agency aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan in waters off the southern island of Jeju.
"I think the best example of that is that you and I are standing on an American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier here in Jejudo amongst a number of nations in support of my Korean partners," he added.
On Friday, the aircraft carrier docked at the Jeju civilian-military complex port for the first time since the port opened in early 2016. It was among 15 foreign warships that joined Thursday's International Fleet Review designed to promote trust and cooperation among world navies.
Local experts have been exploring the possible implications of PACOM's renaming, with some arguing that it could be part of America's scheme to focus more on keeping an increasingly assertive China in check.
China has been seen striving to project its maritime power far beyond its borders by building up its navy and constructing artificial islands capable of hosting military forces in the disputed South China Sea.
Amid an inter-Korean detente and China's growing assertiveness, analysts here have said the U.S. military may feel a growing need to expand the U.S. Forces Korea's role beyond the defense of the peninsula to include tasks, such as protecting a regional "rule-based" order.
Asked about the Trump administration's policy toward the Asia-Pacific region, he refused to discuss the issue as it is a matter that should be dealt with by national policymakers.
But he said, "(South Korea's Chief of Naval Operations) Adm. Sim and I operate together each and every day to ensure that the alliance is strong."
"I am confident we will work ... our alliance only becomes strong and again, I am very happy to be able to participate in this (fleet review) event with my friend Adm. Sim," he added.
The commander also praised South Korea's naval review.
"It was done with style and grace and it was very impressive to watch," he said.
Source: Yonhap News Agency