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US Interested in Vietnam Base - 2002-04-18

The U.S. Commander for the Pacific says China does not have the military strength to occupy Taiwan. He also says the U.S. military would be interested in using Vietnam's Cam Ranh Bay air and naval base once the Russians pull out.

The current military relationship in the Taiwan Strait is stable, said Admiral Blair, Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, on Thursday.

And, although the Admiral expressed concern about China's acceleration of military buildup, he said Beijing could not overtake Taiwan.

"It's true that China can cause a great deal of damage to Taiwan, particularly with short-range ballistic missiles being deployed at an increased pace and with increased accuracy," Admiral Blair said. "However, China is not capable of using military means to take and hold Taiwan and force its reunification."

He emphasized, however, that military confrontation across the Strait would be a losing proposition for everyone, including China, Taiwan and the entire region.

While not disputing Beijing's insistence that China is an ally in the U.S.-led war against international terrorism, Admiral Blair said he hopes China will step up its cooperation in sharing more detailed intelligence.

"Who's getting on an airplane, what name is that person using, when are they arriving. We haven't achieved that level of intelligence exchange with China which we have with other countries that we are working with in the region," he said.

Speaking to an Asia Society luncheon here, Admiral Blair also repeated his earlier statement that the U.S. military would be interested in using Vietnam's deep-water port at Cam Ranh Bay. He said it would be to America's advantage to have access to as many facilities in the region as possible. Russia, which is currently leasing the facility, has said it will pull out of Cam Ranh Bay before the end of May.

Admiral Blair also emphasized the need to address poverty as one of the roots of terrorism, and said U.S. assistance in the building of infrastructure in the Philippines is one way to help the region.