Panetta confirms bulk of U.S. naval fleet to shift to Asia-Pacific region by 2020
By End the LieThe situation with the United States’ strategy shift to the Asia-Pacific region is quite complex and fascinating, one which I have discussed at length here at End the Lie.
While it is indeed arguable that the shift to the Pacific has been going on for quite a while – albeit in a much less public fashion as highlighted in my series, “U.S. and NATO are on the march worldwide” – this recent proclamation was indeed quite significant.
On Saturday at a summit in Singapore the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that by 2020, a mere 8 years, the United States will shift the majority of our massive naval fleet to the Pacific Ocean as part of the shift of focus to the Asia-Pacific region.
The most public aspect of the shift began last year with the announcement that the United States would be deploying a whopping 2,500 Marines along with cutting edge fighter jets and other military hardware to Australia.
Hilariously, in April of this year, Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith actually claimed, “We don’t have United States military bases in Australia and we’re not proposing to.”
At the time I observed that this appeared to be an attempt to goad China into taking action over American meddling in the South China Sea dispute, which the U.S. continues to insert itself into and has even led the Chinese to clearly say that a military confrontation could arise over this dispute.
However, this meddling is far from new, as highlighted by the move to arm the Philippines – one of the parties in the dispute – almost a year ago.
Furthermore, the U.S. has continued to arm parties opposing China in the dispute with no sign of stopping this practice.
It appears to be the case that China has taken notice, evidenced by their steady and marked increases in military spending.
Thankfully, Panetta and others are making no attempt to hide this strategic shift any longer, stating that the move to deploy more warships to the Pacific along with a massive expansion of multi-lateral military partnerships is part of America’s “steady, deliberate” effort to increase the U.S.’s role in what he claimed was an area vital to the future of America.
Unsurprisingly, however, Panetta claimed that the strategy was in no way a challenge to Beijing. This is just one of the reasons why this shift is quite complicated.
Another factor which can’t be ignored is the massive ties between the U.S. and China in the economic sector and the growing direct involvement of China in the American economy.
One recent example is, of course, the the purchase of AMC Entertainment Inc., America’s second largest movie theater chain, by the Wanda Group, the owner of China’s largest movie theater chain.
The Los Angeles Times characterized this as “the latest in a flurry of high-profile deal-making between the countries’ entertainment industries.”
Earlier in May we also saw the Federal Reserve approve the purchase of a U.S.-based bank by China’s Industrial and Commerce Bank of China (ICBC), which is one of China’s “big four” state-owned banks.
Why is this important? Because it would seem quite strange in light of the tensions over the South China Sea dispute if we believe that there really is a conflict brewing in the region.
“By 2020, the Navy will re-posture its forces from today’s roughly 50/50 percent split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about a 60/40 split between those oceans,” Panetta stated.
“That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and submarines,” he added.
Even if the overall size of the American naval fleet declines due to budgetary restrictions, officials from the Pentagon maintain that the number of vessels in the Pacific will rise.
Furthermore, the U.S. will likely continue to expand the scope and frequency of military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region as well as more frequent port visits over an increasingly large region spanning into the Indian Ocean.
Panetta made these statements at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual summit organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies of London.
Oddly enough, while defense officials from a whopping 27 nations attended, China opted not to send a high-level delegation.
China’s state-funded Xinhua news agency took the position that this is not a time to “make waves” in the South China Sea dispute while also saying that the U.S. may have “emboldened” some states to take action.
Personally, I think it is quite obvious that the U.S. has been emboldening various parties in the region. This is nothing new, as I have shown.
“As regards the South China Sea tensions, it is some other claimants, whether emboldened by the United States’ new posture or not, that sparked the fire and have been stoking the flames,” said Xinhua.
However, something quite interesting to note is the alleged attendance of Ying Fu, the Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the 2012 Bilderberg Group meeting in Chantilly, Virginia.
Earlier today, June 2, 2012, I recorded an interview with Brandon Turbeville after he attended the protests outside of the meeting. During this interview Turbeville correctly pointed out that if there was a genuine conflict brewing and major tensions between the U.S. and China, such attendance very well could be seen as a breach of national security.
This was apparently not the case, although there were some quite groundbreaking statements made at the summit such as Singaporean Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen calling America’s shift of warships to the Pacific a “sizeable commitment.”
Even more surprising was the public admission that Singapore has “agreed in principle to allow four new US naval vessels to deploy to its ports, though officials from both governments stressed the littoral combat ships would not be permanently based there,” as reported by AFP.
Yet Panetta made a clear and concerted effort to say that this was in no way indicative of a conflict with Beijing.
“Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China. I reject that view entirely,” Panetta said.
“Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible … with the development and growth of China,” Panetta added. “Indeed, increased US involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future.”
It remains to be seen how this situation will pan out, but personally I found it increasingly doubtful that there will be a genuine conflict between the U.S. and China over the South China Sea due to the fact that trade between China and the U.S. is so widespread and vitally important for both nations.
Personally, I think that the situation could very possibly be yet another way to keep up wasteful, unnecessary military spending in order to keep the money flowing from the American people – who really need it – and into the coffers of the war profiteers.
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