For years, Pacific Command—which oversees all American military operations from the west coast of America to the east coast of Africa—has talked more about "dialogue" with China than the threat the country's opaque military build-up presents to America and its allies. That view largely echoed the stance of their civilian bosses, from Presidents Reagan to George W. Bush.Serious, sober thinking. Asia isn't waiting.
No more: In Congressional testimony earlier this year, new Pacific Command chief Admiral Robert Willard noted China's "unabated" military buildup and concluded that it appeared "designed to challenge our freedom of action in the [Asia-Pacific]." Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that he's "moved from being curious" about what China is doing, "to being concerned about what they're doing." And new Pacific Fleet Commander Patrick Walsh said that China is putting the South China Sea's vital trade routes "at risk" over its various territorial claims.
Many U.S. officers and senior civilian employees at Pacific Command with whom I spoke last week agree with this view. Now they want their bosses in Honolulu and Washington to back up their talk with action so that the U.S. doesn't "give up any water space" to China. They cite, in particular, China's territorial claims over the South China Sea; its illegal seizure of Philippine and Vietnamese islands; and its skirmishes with fishing boats off the coast of Indonesia and Vietnam.
There needs to be a firmer push for trilateral and quadrilateral meetings among America and its closest partners in the region, including Japan, South Korea and Australia. The meetings should focus on core security issues such as missile defense, antisubmarine warfare and surface patrols. Simultaneously, Washington needs to forge more strategic ties to Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and other countries worried about China's rise and who occupy geostrategically important locations.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
If you liked what Michael Auslin had to say on Midrats last week, then you will want to read all of what he has to say in his article in the WSJ, Pacific Command Pushes Back,