Washington: The US seeks a "powerful" quadrilateral partnership with India, Japan and Australia for maintenance of "rules-based order" and deterring coercion or unrestrained national ambitions, a top American commander has said.
Pacific Command (PACOM) "aims to build a powerful quadrilateral partnership framework of the most powerful democracies" in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, US Pacific Command Commander Admiral Harry B Harris told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.
"India, Japan, Australia and the US working together will be a force for the maintenance of the regional rules-based order, counterbalancing and deterring coercion or unrestrained national ambitions," Harris said.
In his testimony, Harris said the future lies in multilateral security mechanisms.
USPACOM is evolving key bilateral relationships into multilateral ones that will more effectively address shared security concerns.
Observing that China is "out-sticking" US air and maritime forces in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in terms of ranges of anti-ship weapons, Harris told Congressmen that he needs increased lethality, specifically ships and aircraft equipped with faster, more lethal, and more survivable weapons systems.
"We must have longer range offensive weapons on every platform. Finally, we must have a networked force that provides greater options for action or response," he said.
China is improving the lethality and survivability of its attack submarines and building quieter high-end, diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines, he said.
Noting that China has four operational JIN-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and at least one more may enter service by the end of this decade, Harris said when armed, a JIN-class SSBN will give China an important strategic capability that must be countered.
Harris said that China's military modernisation programme is transforming its forces into a high-tech military to achieve its dream of regional dominance, with growing aspirations of global reach and influence.
Given China's economic rise, the goal may be natural; however, the lack of transparency on its overall strategic intent behind its military investments and activities creates instability and regional anxiety, he said.
"China's navy and air forces are rapidly fielding advanced warships and planes. Over the past decade, the Chinese navy has significantly increased in size and is much more capable in every way. Chinese forces are operating at a higher tempo, in more places, and with greater sophistication than ever before," Harris said.
"Chinese shipyards are constructing China's first cruiser-sized warship, their first indigenous aircraft carrier, and many classes of patrol boats, frigates, and destroyers. Newer, more capable submarines continue replacing older ones," he added.