The United States is making its presence felt in the Pacific as its top military bosses tour Australia and New Zealand.
Fresh from a meeting of the region’s military chiefs in Sydney, Admiral John Aquilino, the top United States military chief for the Pacific region visited New Zealand.
Unlike the anti-China sentiments presented in Australia by another top US military man, General Mark Milley, he took a softer approach by saying that the US wanted to commit and engage more in the Pacific.
Mr Aquilino, who is the Commander of the Pacific Fleet and commands 340,000 men and women spoke to media in Wellington on Monday where he stressed the need to work peacefully together.
The atmosphere and approach was far more different than it was in Sydney where the US military had clearly said that China was bullying its way into the region.
It seemed things had changed, with suggestions that New Zealand’s foreign affairs officials had discussions with the US military men on what could be perceived as sensitive, as geopolitical tensions seem to be high in the region.
On one side, China has been present in the Solomon Islands and on another, the US has been seen as intensifying its military presence in the Pacific.
When asked about the increasing US military presence in the Pacific, Mr Aquilino said this was part of the commitment undertaken by the US Government.
“The timing was the timing,” said Mr Aquilino to the media in Wellington.
“The fact that the Vice President of the United States has articulated our commitment to the South Pacific Islands is the important issue.
“The leadership that New Zealand and Australia shows in the South Pacific region is critically important, and it helps us deliver the capabilities and things the South Pacific islands need and want.”
Mr Aquilino also spoke of the more impending security threat of climate change facing low-lying Pacific island countries.
Coming from the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, sitting between Peru and Portugal and bigger than most Pacific nations, Mr Aquilino emphasised that the issue was important to the Pacific.
“The United States has been a Pacific nation our entire life. We will continue to operate in the Pacific… we will operate in the areas that international law allows to preserve the peace, prosperity, and expansive relationships in the Pacific,” he said.