Sunday, April 19, 2015

US bases in Asia-Pacific to counter China: China Youth Daily, Want China Times

US bases in Asia-Pacific to counter China: China Youth Daily

  • Staff Reporter
  • 2015-04-19
  • 15:32 (GMT+8)
A drill at a US military base in Pocheon, South Korea, on Sept. 30, 2011. (Photo/Xinhua)

A drill at a US military base in Pocheon, South Korea, on Sept. 30, 2011. (Photo/Xinhua)

The United States is strategically shifting its military bases to the Asia-Pacific region for the primary purpose of countering China's rise, claims the China Youth Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Youth League.

Citing US digital news outlet Quartz, the report claims that America has at least 686 "base sites" off the US mainland in 74 foreign countries. 

The management of US base sites is split between Washington headquarters, the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, while the types of military bases generally can be placed into three categories.

The first of these is the Main Operating Base, which is defined as a "permanently manned, well protected base, used to support permanently deployed forces, and with robust sea and/or air access." Examples of this type of base can be found in Japan, South Korea and Germany.

The second category of US military base is the Forward Operating Base, which is mainly used to support tactical operations. It is typically used to store weapons, carry out troop rotations and conduct emergency missions, and has a smaller permanent force or contractor personnel. Such bases were set up by the US during the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, mostly in neighboring countries.

The third type of US military base is the Cooperative Security Location, which provides facilities for regional training and contingency access to continental areas. These bases utilize few US officers and offer higher cost efficiency, which is why Washington intends to increase this type of base significant in the future.

Currently, the US has military bases scattered all across the globe, including in particular Hawaii, Guam, Northeast Asia, Alaska, Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America. The focus, however, appears to have been steering towards the Asia-Pacific even since the US government launched its "return to Asia" campaign.

On Jan. 8, US authorities declared that 15 military bases will be closed in Europe. On April 10, US secretary of defense Ashton Carter said during a visit to South Korea that the US would deploy state of the art weaponry in Asia, including the latest stealth bombers and cyber warfare units. "Our newest and best things are being deployed to this part of the world," he said.

A closer look at the Asia-Pacific reveals a significant US military presence that continues to grow. The US currently has 50,000 troops stationed across 109 bases in Japan, of which 42 are shared with the Japan Self-Defense Forces. The United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka, in particular, is the US Navy's largest integrated ship berthing and repair center in the West Pacific, with enough space to hold four nuclear submarines and 150 other vessels. The Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, on the other hand, is the US Air Force's largest integrated base in the West Pacific, with the ability to store 100 heavy bombers and 150 fighter jets.

In South Korea, the bulk of America's 28,000-strong military presence comes from the Army, which controls 65 of the 85 US bases in the country.

In as early as 2010, a US defense report noted the importance of increasing the flexibility of US forces and specifically mentioned the need to boost military presence in Southeast Asia and Australia.

Last April, the US government signed a 10-year defense cooperation agreement with the Philippines, which allows US forces to use Philippine military bases. Two months later emerged reports that the Philippines is upgrading its naval base on the west coast of Palawan. Once completed, it is believed that this base could be made available to the US Navy, which analysts believe could complicate tensions in the South China Sea given that it the base is situated just 100-something kilometers from the disputed Spratly Islands, which are claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

In April 2012, the US stationed 200 marines in Australia, marking a permanent US military presence in the country for the first time. The two sides signed an official cooperation agreement last August that paves the way for 2,5000 US marines to be stationed in Darwin on a rotational basis.

The Wall Street Journal commented that the US may see its military presence in Australia as being of greater value than in Japan, South Korea or Guam because Australia's further distance would allow easier evasion from China's guided missiles.

The UK-based IHS Jane's Defence Weekly also reported that the US intends to station four four littoral combat ship (LCS) in Singapore by 2018, citing a high-ranking US Navy official as expressly stating that the main purpose of stationing the newest LCS in Singapore is to counter China.

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