The United States Navy needs to expand its capability to keep up with - or even outpace - the development of maritime forces by other countries in the region, said its chief of naval operations John Richardson yesterday.
"Pace is an important part of our current security environment, and so we have to be mindful that that environment is moving forward at a particular pace and if we're going to remain competitive, we better pick up the pace and match it at least, if not exceed it," he said.
Such an upgrade will not just be about the number of ships or the type of naval assets. The navy will also have to take into account how it complements other parts of the US military and its network of allies and partners, said Admiral Richardson, who is in Singapore for the International Maritime Review and the Imdex Asia maritime defence show.
Adm Richardson added that the world was once again entering "an era of maritime competition" and noted China's military growth in particular.
But he stressed that historically, it is normal for maritime countries to expand in the seas for economic prosperity.
"So we shouldn't be too surprised that we're seeing that dynamic unfolding before us and neither should we be alarmed," said the most senior military figure in the US Navy.
To manage such a changing environment, countries should identify areas of common interests at sea as well as their differences, while maintaining an open line of communication to minimise the risk of miscalculations, he added.
Adm Richardson also reiterated the close partnership between the US and Singapore navies, adding that he and Singapore navy chief Lai Chung Han met and outlined measures to deepen cooperation.
The work that both navies do together will strengthen the network of partners that Singapore is a part of, said Adm Richardson, though he declined to go into specifics.
"But be assured that we're close partners, part of that bigger community of partners and friends, and we're going to continue to be so in the future," he added.
Chong Zi Liang