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US rebalancing to Asia-Pacific: More clamours, less actions

(People's Daily Online)

08:15, June 18, 2012

U.S. President Barack Obama announced a new global military strategy at a high-profile press conference in early 2012, stressing that the United States will maintain its military superiority while shifting military focus to the Asia-Pacific region. At the Shangri-La Dialogue later held in Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta explained the new military strategy and several measures for the U.S. military’s rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region. However, after a close look at these measures, one can easily find that the country lacks the military resources it needs to implement the rebalancing strategy.

First, the U.S. Navy will deploy 60 percent of its surface ships and submarines in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020. In fact, 60 percent of the country’s aircraft carrier battle groups and nuclear submarines have already been deployed in the region, and only a few large warships need to be repositioned. This measure is more symbolic than practical, at least in the short term.

Second, the United States will deploy its armed forces, including troops, warships, and aircraft, in friendly countries on short rotations, instead of building new permanent bases. The rotation of military units costs less, and can ease the opposition from the people of its allies.

Third, the United States will transfer part of its military forces in Japan and South Korea to Hawaii, Guam, the northern Australian city of Darwin, and other sites. By “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” the country wants to use a limited budget to promote the development of its Internet and space technologies, unmanned air vehicles, and Special Forces.

Fourth, the United States will increase the number and size of military exercises it conducts in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as port visits across a wider area. The military exercise is a quick and relatively cheap way to show its presence and deter other countries.

Fifth, the United States will expand its network of military partnerships in the region. On the one hand, it will strengthen relations with traditional allies such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia to serve its strategic interests. On the other hand, it will enhance partnerships with India, Vietnam, Singapore, and other countries as part of its rebalancing effort. Singapore has agreed to the U.S. request to forward deploy up to four littoral combat ships to its port on a rotational basis. The United States is also seeking to return to a key Vietnamese port it last used during the Vietnam War.

The United States faces cuts of about 500 billion U.S. dollars in projected defense spending over the next 10 years, and will have to reduce its armed forces and armaments. However, the Pentagon has reiterated that the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region will be enhanced rather than weakened. Panetta hopes that the rebalancing strategy will generate the greatest deterrent effect with the minimum input. China should take the strategy neither too seriously nor too lightly, said Lieutenant General Ren Haiquan, vice president of the Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army and head of the Chinese delegation to the Shangri-La Dialogue.

Source: Jiefang Daily , Author: Wu Zhenglong

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