US navy commander rejects possibility of war in Indo-Pacific

A US navy commander has dismissed the possibility that a war might occur in the Indo-Pacific amid military tension between US and Chinese forces in the region.

As Washington currently conducts the Pacific Partnership 2023, its largest humanitarian aid and disaster relief preparedness mission in the region, US Navy Mission Commander Captain Claudine Caluori maintained that the US only wanted a stable region.

"We remain committed to upholding a free and open Indo-Pacific region, [and that] all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, can pursue economic opportunity, and resolve disputes without coercion, and of course, have the freedom to navigate and fly consistent with international laws and norm," Caluori told reporters in an online briefing Friday after she was asked about the possibility of another war in the region.

"We will continue to support our allies and partners as they strengthen those relationships with each other," she added.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Maj. Matthew Wolf

Caluori also said this year's Pacific Partnership is not connected with the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia as well as the war between Israel and Hamas, in which the US has participated by providing military assistance.

She said the program is conducted annually, "so it's not in response to any nation or current events."

The focus of the program is disaster relief preparation, she clarified. 

"For more than seven years, the US Navy has maintained a persistent maritime presence in the Indo Pacific. And we've remained committed to continuing this forward presence, which is focused on stability, regional cooperation, and economic prosperity for all nations," she said.

During the conduct of the program, US troops conducted "tailored, humanitarian, civic action preparedness activities in the areas of engineering, disaster response, public health and other outreach events," according to Caluori.

Additional criteria are also considered such as the host nations' objectives and desires, she said.

US' Pacific Partnership 2023 already made stops in various countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Fiji, Samoa, Palau and Papua New Guinea and will continue through the end of the year with a stop in Tonga.

"The enduring goal of Pacific Partnership is promoting interoperability, and multinational cooperation through multiple lines of efforts to help build regional resilience and the capacity to respond to disasters. Our projects...have been tailored at the request of host nations," she added.

As China had repeatedly accused the US of triggering tension in the region by tying up with several countries in the Indo-Pacific, Caluori maintained that Washington would continue to "fly, sail, and operate, safely and responsibly, wherever international law allows."

"We remain dedicated to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and we expect all countries in the Indo-Pacific to operate in international waters safely and in accordance with international law," she added.