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“To be honest with you, the lack of urgency on the development of [a] next-generation, surface-launch, over-the-horizon cruise missile is troubling,” the admiral said. “As the PACOM commander, I need you to be thinking in the offensive: How are you going to show up? How are you going to be dominant? How are you going to be lethal?”

While the Obama administration remains deeply engaged in diplomatic strategies in the Middle East, the White House has spent several of the past five years attempting to implement a “pivot” of U.S. foreign policy toward Asia.

As part of the pivot, which officials have described as a “rebalancing,” the administration is pushing for more inclusion of smaller Pacific Rim nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a wide-reaching free trade agreement that pointedly does not include China.

The administration also has thrown increased U.S. diplomatic weight behind the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a multilateral counterweight to China’s growing geopolitical clout in the region.

But some foreign policy analysts have argued that the U.S. should be doing more to increase unilateral, military-based relations with smaller Asian nations in order to send a message to China — and to Russia — about the depth and durability of U.S. interests in the region.

The Obama administration is, in fact, pursuing that track with some in the Pacific, and evidence suggests several nations on China’s periphery are eager to embrace deeper military ties with Washington.

The Philippines, for instance, revealed this week that it seeks to purchase two more Navy ships to boost its maritime protection amid threats from China, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

The news agency quoted the chief of staff of the Philippine armed forces, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, as saying the ships would be paid from $40 million in military assistance that Secretary of State John F. Kerry pledged to the Philippines when he visited the nation in December.

Administration plans to reduce the number of U.S. nuclear warheads as part of the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are also drawing renewed scrutiny, with a group of eight senators urging the Pentagon last month to hold off on plans to mothball 50 missile silos.