Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The East Asia Pivot

Pentagon-sponsored report to Congress calls for buildup of forces in Asia

A Pentagon-sponsored report to Congress outlines the U.S. military’s new pivot to Asia and calls for adding attack submarines and Marines based throughout the Pacific to head off a future war with China.

The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies presents three options based on impending cuts in defense spending. They include keeping the current status quo forces, mainly in Japan and South Korea, or modestly increasing military forces by adding attack submarines, Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, more warships and bombers, another aircraft carrier strike group, and more intelligence aircraft. A third option looks at sharply cutting forces throughout Asia, which the report said risks undermining stability.

The report is “consistent with the major elements of the [Defense] Department’s strategy for the region,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a cover letter accompanying the report.

Panetta said in comments on the assessment that it supports the Pentagon’s efforts to “enhance [the] U.S. defense posture” and strengthen alliances and partnerships in the region. He also noted that the report is the independent assessment required by Congress last year and does not outline the official position of the Pentagon.

“The department is investing in the defense activities, presence and posture necessary to reassure allies and partners in the region, and shape the security environment, while also providing forward capabilities appropriate to deter and defeat aggression,” Panetta stated in summing up defense policy under the new pivot to Asia.

Panetta announced earlier this year that the balance of forces between the Atlantic and Pacific theaters would shift from 50-50 to 60-40, with the majority forces in Asia. He also announced that a small Marine Corps contingent would be based in northern Australia, near the contentious South China Sea where China is increasingly asserting maritime rights over the resource-rich waters in disputes with Vietnam and Philippines.

Panetta also said recently that four new Littoral Combat Ships would be deployed to Singapore as part of the Asia shift.

China’s large-scale military buildup and aggressive activities throughout the region have alarmed most states in Asia and are an understated reason behind U.S. plans to shift forces.

The 114-page report was required under the fiscal 2012 defense authorization act.

Congressional hearings on the report are scheduled for this week.

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