The US Pacific Fleet is drafting plans for a global show of force to warn China and demonstrate resolve to deter Beijing’s military actions, CNN reported yesterday, citing several unidentified US defense officials.
The draft proposal from the US Navy recommends that the fleet conduct a series of operations during a single week next month that would involve US warships, combat aircraft and troops to demonstrate that the US can counter potential adversaries quickly on several fronts, CNN said.
The plan fits with the “larger consequences” to which US Secretary of Defense James Mattis referred at June’s Shangri-La Dialogue security conference that China would face for militarizing the South China Sea, said Kelsey Broderick, an associate for Asia at Eurasia Group in Washington.
“China would view a US naval exercise of this magnitude in its territorial waters as a significant provocation, likely further cutting off mil-to-mil [military-to-military] contact,” Broderick said. “It would also empower the hardliners in China that view the US as committed to containing China economically and militarily — making a settlement on the trade dispute even more unlikely in 2018.”
The US this week accused China’s navy of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct near an occupied reef in the South China Sea after a Chinese destroyer maneuvered close to the bow of a US warship attempting to assert navigation rights.
The US Navy proposal was being driven by the military, CNN said, without giving a precise date.
“We plan for a variety of contingencies and different operations, but we do not comment on future operations,” said US Navy Captain William Kafka, spokesman for Indo-Pacific Command.
Pacific Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman declined to comment.
The proposal focuses on operations in the Pacific, but the CNN report said that they could stretch as far as the western coast of South America, where China is expanding investments and diplomatic relationships.
If the initial proposal is approved, the missions could be expanded close to Russian territory, it said.
“There is less positive ‘ballast’ in the relationship now than at any other time since 1989, and probably much earlier,” Lowy Institute senior fellow Euan Graham said. “We are in a phase of open, full-spectrum peer competition. Adversarial behavior, on both sides, will increasingly characterize that.”
In Taiwan, the government was reluctant to comment on the CNN report.
When asked for comment, the Ministry of National Defense said it was not aware of such plans.
A high-level national security official also declined to comment, saying that the question of whether there are such plans should be answered by the US.
Additional reporting by Su Yung-yao and Aaron Tu
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