Nations in the Indo-Pacific want a continued strong U.S. presence and they are increasing their military capabilities and improving interoperability and training with U.S. and regional partners, said the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.
Ely Ratner discussed "Building a Networked Security Architecture in the Indo-Pacific" at the Center for a New American Security National Security Conference on "American Power and Purpose."
While continued support of Ukraine is vital to regional security, the Indo-Pacific remains the No. 1 priority, as China is the Defense Department's pacing challenge, he said.
Ratner outlined some of the Indo-Pacific partnerships.
Remarkable progress has taken place over the last year or so, with the agreement for access to 14 Philippine bases which will host rotational U.S. forces, he said.
These bases will provide an ability for the U.S. to respond to a number of regional contingencies, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, he said.
The department is also working with the Philippines on a new security assistance roadmap to try to help them develop some of the asymmetric capabilities that will be most important for the types of challenges that they're facing, particularly around their maritime periphery, Ratner said.
"It's no secret that China's assertiveness and coercion has really underscored the importance of working together to strive toward that outcome in the context of the Philippines," he said, the outcome referring to the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
"We are conceiving of the Philippines as one of our most important alliances in the region. … The Philippines-U.S. alliance is now rising to be on par with those other major alliances in the region. It's something we're very invested in," he said.
Japan is putting unprecedented resources into boosting its military capability, he said.
The U.S. and Japan are increasing the number of exercises, Ratner said, particularly in the vicinity of the first island chain which runs from northern Japan to the Philippines.
More importantly, Japan is increasing cooperation with South Korea, he said, mentioning the two nations sharing early warning data of North Korean missile launches as one example.
The U.S.-India relationship is seeing an increasing strategic alignment, Ratner said.
The department supports New Delhi's military modernization and co-development and -production of the U.S. defense industrial base with India's.
The department also welcomes India's participation in multinational exercises in the region, he added.
"A stronger India that can defend its own interests, and defend its own sovereignty is good for the United States," he said.