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The New Containment

November 4th, 2013 - 3:15 pm


As China tries to strongarm its way to dominance in the southeast Pacific, the US and ASEAN countries are taking action:

Despite pressures on the US defence budget, the Pentagon continues to shift key military systems into the Asia-Pacific region. In early October, US officials announced that the US will deploy Global Hawk UAVs to Japan at the beginning of 2014. And in 2017 the Marines will begin the deployment of F-35Bs to Japan, marking the first deployment of the Joint Strike Fighter outside the United States. Moreover, the US Marines are building a new, advanced command post on Palawan Island in the Philippines to monitor the South China Sea. The airstrip on the island will be upgraded to accommodate US strategic airlift (and potentially fighter aircraft). In other words, the Philippines are the latest step in America’s strategy to enhance the Marines’ rotational presence in the Asia-Pacific, significantly complicating Chinese military operational planning.

This is Professor Wiggleroom’s “Asia pivot,” and a couple things stand out.

Dimiss those Marine Lightning IIs reaching Japan by 2017. They’ll get there eventually, but the JSF’s teething problems may cause some pretty serious deployment delays. According to Wiki, only 63 have been built so far, and that’s for all models, not just the USMC’s STOVL version.

That bit about Palawan ought to make your ears prick up though. After the Marcos were given the boot, the Philippines went through a bout of self-destructive anti-American nationalism, when they kicked our Navy out of Subic Bay and our Air Force out of Clark Field. You had to figure someday they’d see the light, even if it had to be shined in their eyes real close by the Chinese Navy. Palawan is that long, skinny island running northeast to southwest, just outside of China’s self-declared This Land Is Our Land line around the Spratleys and the South China Sea. Not a bad forward deployment, eh?

And I’ll give Wiggleroom the credit he’s due. He’s moving the right assets to the right places, which ought to make war less likely instead of more. And he’s not screwing up the diplomacy with ASEAN either. Granted, given how blatant China has been with its land- and sea-grabs, it would take a lot to screw up the diplomacy.

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All Comments   (5)
All Comments   (5)
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This is one of the under the radar situations that I think will be the real flair up (ignore the Middle East, it's always been in a crisis.)

Question is, will there be a big naval war in the Pacific first or a Russia-China war over Siberia.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
While it's true that the bases at Clark and Subic were the subject of intense financial negotiations in 1989-1990, the Philippine government never actually kicked us out of the P.I.; it was Mount Pinatubo that accomplished that. They wanted more money, but the bases weren't worth all that much after the Soviet Union collapsed and we were no longer worried about Soviet assets in Cam Ranh Bay. (I was stationed at Subic Bay - well, Cubi Point - from 1987 to the end of 1989.) Several hangars at Clark and a couple of warehouses at Subic collapsed under the weight of the ash.

At the time, the Vietnamese and Chinese were competing with each other in finding atolls in the Spratlys that were barely awash at low tide, and building artificial islands on them.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The rent's too damn high" move though never seemed like honest negotiating. The new government really did seem determined to get us to leave.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
"The new government" in the P.I. was as fractured as ours is now; I'm not sure whether the population had a 51/49 split in favor of us leaving, or in favor of us staying, but it was pretty close either way. Mayor Gordon of Olongapo City certainly wanted the Navy to stay, us being their major industry and meal ticket.

But with Clark out of commission for the foreseeable future and the "peace dividend" being bandied about, the outstretched palms of the Filipinos was sort of the final straw.

I got out just at the right time; I've seen photos of the hotel I stayed in, taken one week after I left, and it was a MESS.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've also read than the Vietnamese are looking for someone to rent out the US Navy's old base at Cam Ranh Bay. Like the Philippians, they're concerned about the Chinese and they could really use the income. Vietnam would prefer the US Navy move back in but are willing to settle for the Russian Navy.
45 weeks ago
45 weeks ago Link To Comment
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