The US today viewed with concern the growing Chinese assertiveness in the Asian region as India shared its apprehensions over reported People's Liberation Army presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
US Pacific Command chief Admiral Robert Willard told reporters here that he discussed with India's top security leadership about the reports of Chinese military personnel being in PoK, though not much information was exchanged on it.
Willard, however, said "any change in military relations or military manoeuvres by China that raises concerns of India" could be considered as certainly occurring within his area of responsibility.
He also maintained that this issue had to be tackled by the Indian military on its own.
The US Admiral, who wrapped up his two-day visit, had met Indian National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon, IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma, Army Chief General V K Singh and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar to discuss regional security and the growing military relationship between the two countries.
To a question on China's increasing assertiveness in South China Sea and its implications of potential military conflict, Willard said his purpose as Pacific Commander was to ensure that "it did not erupt into a clash, maintain security and ensure that what we are seeing out of China or anyone else doesn't erupt into a conflict."
As Pacific Commander, the Admiral said, his first and foremost responsibility was to take forward the US-China military-to-military relations.
"We are anxious to do that. It is not easy to do and its been suspended for some time. So we have a lot of work to do to improve our relationship with the Peoples Liberation Army (PLA)," he said.
"The assertiveness that we have witnessed in the maritime regions around China has complicated that fact but not eliminated it. We think it is a regional issue and many of the US' allies and partners are concerned about. It was expressed well in Asean regional forum," he noted.
On the recent reports of Chinese submarines planting a flag in the South China Sea, the Admiral said the "expansive claims" that China had made publicly had "generated concern" and combined with assertiveness of its security forces too had "solicited concern" in the region.
"We believe that maritime claims and some of the contested areas in the South China Sea region should be settled in a peaceful way and no nation should be coercing another nation for their own benefit and at the expense of the other," he added.
"The US has asserted its national interests in the region," he said, referring to the statements in this regard by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates in recent times.
Regarding the Chinese Navy's expansion plans, Willard said the growth of its capabilities and capacities in the last decade had been "remarkable", particularly its ability to sustain anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden off Somali coast, which he described as "noteworthy."
"We are watching this growth of the Chinese navy and understanding its goals and aims. We want it to contribute to the growth of regional stability. India too," he added.
On the anti-aircraft carrier missile capability that China was developing, Willard said the 'anti access area denial' capability was not new for the US Navy, which had faced it during the cold war days too.
But it was significant that a ballistic missile was being developed, which was "a natural evolution" that the American Navy was dealing with.