Things are hotting up in the Pacific, thanks to a group of lawmakers led by House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).
The proposed US$6 billion “Indo Pacific Deterrence Initiative” would boost land-based air defenses, increase intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) operations and more bomber patrols, and increase funding for undersea warfare, Kris Osborn of The National Interest reported.
The proposed legislation would essentially fund a “permanent and persistent land-based integrated air and missile defense and associated weapons delivery system on Guam” — something China is vehemently opposed to.
While the proposed legislation of course does not advocate any kind of provocation or military action, it does call for increased US-allied training exercises and specifically cites a need to deter Chinese hostility.
The apparent aim of the initiative, it seems clear, would be to “increase peace and stability in the region” by virtue of increasing a “US footprint” in the region.
“These are not all new programs but by pulling them together under one policy we will be better able to judge our own commitment here at home, demonstrate our resolve to our allies and partners, and deter China,” Thornberry said in a “discussion draft.”
The request, which has the backing of more than fifteen members of Congress from both parties, also calls for additional missile defense radar in Hawaii and the placement of Long-Range Precision Fires systems throughout the region.
Meanwhile, at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday, a Chinese military spokesperson expressed strong opposition to the US plan to deploy intermediate-range missiles in the Asia Pacific region, saying that China will never sit idle if such a plan proceeds.
Wu Qian, a spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, made the remarks in response to a question on a US discussion with the Japanese side to deploy intermediate-range missiles at US military bases in Japan.
If the US side pushes forward the deployment, it is a clear provocation at China’s “doorstep,” Wu said, adding that China will take all necessary measures to resolutely counteract the deployment.
According to The National Interest, the proposal would fortify existing strategic movements already underway in the region.
The US already operates B-2, B-52 and B-1B bomber patrols from Guam, bases several maritime-specific Triton drones on the US territory and often conducts joint-training maneuvers with allies in the Pacific area.
Strategic thinking along the lines of this proposal seems already underway in some respects, given that the US Navy has been conducting coordinated, dual-aircraft carrier attack training operations and increased Poseidon sub-hunting patrols in and around the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, China has moved more surface and air assets throughout the region. It has sent carriers toward the South China Sea and conducted aircraft patrols near Taiwan.
China’s massive and ambitious military modernization campaign, which is now pursuing new indigenous carriers, fifth-generation fighters and more amphibious assault ships, has of course captured the attention of US lawmakers and military leaders.
Many US military leaders are also expressing concern about China’s overt, and rather transparent effort, to assert itself as an international power exerting influence throughout the globe.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology.