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Seeking Military Cooperation in Asia

3:05 PM, Jan 14, 2008 • By JAMES JAY CARAFANO
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Hong Kong
Forget Will Smith. In his new movie a global plague kills off all but the tiniest percentage of people. If the setting had been Hong Kong instead of the Big Apple, the screen would still be crowded with people.

Here in Hong Kong I have plenty of company. But one fellow visitor really caught my eye: Adm. Tim Keating. Keating, head of U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii.

Keating's area of responsibility covers most of Asia. Few people have more important jobs. A strong U.S. military presence in Asia is one of the most important factors promoting regional stability in the Pacific.

With a vigorous, vigilant U.S. presence in the region, nobody is capable of stealing a march on anybody else. That situation promotes peace and prosperity.

Asia also finds it good to have the United States around to help in combating piracy and terrorism, assisting in disaster response (like the 2004 tsunami); and thwarting trafficking in humans, drugs, and nuclear materials and technology.

And, of course, a safe and secure Asia is a better economic partner for the United States.

Keating is in Beijing for four days of talks. He is also going to visit military institutions in Shanghai and Guangzhou--and he will stop in Hong Kong.

There's a lot to talk about. Last year the Chinese government forbade a port call in Hong Kong by the USS Kitty Hawk. Why? Beijing was miffed that President Bush had honored the Dali Lama and approved arms sales to Taiwan. But shutting out the Kitty Hawk was a big mistake. It made Beijing look petty and sent all the wrong messages to Washington.

Inviting the Kitty Hawk back would be a good first step. When militaries compete in Asia, everybody loses. When they start cooperating, everybody wins.