Source: LA Times
When a senior U.S. general met in Beijing recently with Lt. Gen. Cai Yingting, the deputy chief of China’s armed forces, Cai forcefully objected to America’s expanding military presence in Asiaand the Pacific, describing it as an effort to encircle his country.
“Why are you containing us?” Cai demanded, according to a U.S. official who was present and described the incident in return for anonymity.
The U.S. general denied seeking to contain China, but it’s easy to see why officials in Beijing might get that impression.
The Obama administration is forging closer defense ties to countries near China, including India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore; repositioning troops, planes and ships; and stepping up aid in the South Pacific to offset attention from Beijing.
In public, U.S. officials say they are “rebalancing” forces around the globe now that U.S. troops have left Iraq and are withdrawing from Afghanistan, freeing up military hardware. They say the shift to Asia is aimed not at China, but at the range of security threats, including nuclear-armed North Korea; and at noncombat contingencies, such as humanitarian disasters.
Planners at the Pentagon and at U.S. Pacific Command, which oversees military operations in the region, emphasize that they are not interested in permanent new bases or in a large military footprint. But they are active on multiple fronts.
The Pentagon is reorganizing 9,000 Marines into four task forces to be located in Guam, Hawaii, the Japanese island of Okinawa and, for six-month rotations, at a base on the northern coast of Australia. Three squadrons of F-22 fighters, an advanced jet considered crucial for any engagement with China, will eventually be based in the region.
The Navy will base four new lightly armed ships in Singapore. They will operate in the strategic Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a choke point for the transit of oil and trade, and the energy-rich South China Sea, where territorial jostling between China and other countries has created tension.
The Obama administration is in talks with the Philippine government on regaining access to the Subic Bay naval base and Clark Air Base, two Cold War-era installations on or near the South China Sea. Pentagon planners say they are not interested in returning U.S. military personnel permanently to the Philippines but rather see it as a possible logistics hub, especially for humanitarian supplies.
U.S. Pacific Command hopes to regain access to U-Tapao air base in Thailand, which the U.S. used during the Vietnam War to base B-52 bombers. The current plans call for the United States to help the Thais build a humanitarian assistance center, and eventually rotate U.S. troops in on temporary deployments to train with Thai units, U.S. officials said.
Read More: LA Times