HONG KONG (Feb. 21, 2011) Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk addresses members of the Asia Society during a meeting forum in Hong Kong. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth R. Hendrix)

HONG KONG (NNS) - Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet Vice Adm. Scott R. Van Buskirk told members of the Asia Society in Hong Kong on Feb. 21 that the Navy's increased capabilities and growing maritime partnerships reflect an enduring commitment to peace and stability in the region.

"The 7th Fleet has actually increased its capabilities in several significant ways. The ships and aircraft that we operate today are vastly more capable than they were just a few years ago. At the same time, we have enhanced our maritime partnerships with navies around the region, enabling us to work together cooperatively more than ever before," Van Buskirk said.

He said the numbers of ships operating in the 7th Fleet on any given day are about 70 on average, which is about the same or more than it was a decade ago with increased capabilities aboard those ships today.

Van Buskirk cited the deployment to Japan of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) -- with greater speed, range, ammunition stowage and endurance, as an example of how the fleet's capabilities have increased.

He also cited the deployment of the Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), the 60-40 split of attack submarines from the Atlantic to the Pacific and the recent deployment of the Virginia-class submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776), which reflects the fleet's growing capability under the sea.

Van Buskirk added that upgrades to surface ships, including Ballistic Missile Defense capability and enhanced sonar suites, making them "increasingly potent."

He rejected the notion that the U.S., with its sluggish economy and military operations in Afghanistan, is lessening its commitment to the region.

"U.S. Navy and defense leadership continue to give me exactly the forces I need to do my mission," Van Buskirk said.

Improvements in capability have been made even stronger by a deepening of our alliances and partnerships around the region, Van Buskirk commented.

"Our alliance with Japan continues to be the cornerstone of our forward presence in Asia, and has in my view been the foundation of security in this region for the past 50 years," Van Buskirk said.

He also expanded on the alliance with the Republic of Korea, interoperability with the Royal Australian Navy and growth of navy-to-navy relations in Southeast Asia.

Asia Society chairman Ronnie C. Chan said the group was delighted to hear Van Buskirk's views about security in the region.

"The vice admiral touched on subjects of interest to a wide range of our members. It was very well received."

Van Buskirk reiterated that the U.S. Navy remains "committed and engaged".

"That is the message. We remain committed to this region, we remain committed to the Pacific and actively engaging where ever we can to foster maritime partnerships," he said.

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