The New Containment


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.