By Carlo Muñoz - 06/15/12 03:30 PM EDT
"We're not really interested in building any more U.S. bases in the Asia-Pacific [and] we shouldn't have to at this point in time," Pacific Command chief Adm. Samuel Locklear told reporters on Friday.
But, according to Locklear, the Darwin base should be the last U.S. facility to go up in the region.
"We will continue to look with our allies and our partners for opportunities to be able to partner with them to do [shared] usage of those facilities," Locklear told reporters at the Pentagon.
Philippine defense officials have already agreed to reopen two former American Air Force and Navy bases in the country back up to U.S. forces.
Clark Air Force Base and the naval base in Subic Bay will begin housing American troops for the first time since DOD officially shuttered the facilities in 1991 and 1992, respectively.
The agreement between Manila and Washington reached the basing deal during the Shangri-La regional security talks held in Singapore in May.
That said, the Marines could be the first new residents at Clark AFB and Subic Bay, according to tentative service plans rolled out in March.
Hundreds of Marines are also expected to flood into the Philippines as part of the service’s growing focus on the region, Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford said at the time.
But Locklear's comments on Monday were geared, in part, to soothe growing concerns among long-time allies, such as Japan and the Philippines, who have begun to push back at the idea of thousands of U.S. soldiers and Marines setting up camp in their countries.
Public outcry eventually prompted DOD leaders to reduce the Marine Corps presence in Okinawa and move those Marines to the U.S. base on Guam.
Filipino protesters, particularly in the southern part of the country, have begun to lash out at Manila's long-standing military relationship with the United States.
But the department's decision to throttle back base construction in the Pacific could keep crucial relations between Washington and its allies — relations the Pentagon and the White House argue are critical to U.S. security plans for the region — from souring.
"We should be able to find ways to not only bilaterally, but in some cases multilaterally ... to find these locations where we can put security forces," in and around the Asia-Pacific region, Locklear said.