U.S. Military Bases In The Pacific Is Crucial To Counter China’s Hegemony

China’s decades of rapid economic growth have underwritten a surge in military modernization, regional assertiveness, and global activity.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has taken lessons from the U.S. military’s logistical, tactical, and operational dominance displayed during Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the shock of being unable to deal with the deployment of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers into the Taiwan Straits in 1996, and the performance of Western coalition airpower against Serbian air defenses in Kosovo in 1999.

These lessons have spurred modernization focused on countering American power projection platforms and their associated communications and surveillance infrastructure.

The U.S. military has enjoyed unfettered air and naval access across the
Pacific since World War II. Working with treaty allies in Australia, Japan,
Republic of Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Thailand, the United
States has built a network of ports and bases that allows it to project and
sustain military power.

Australia

The U.S. military’s pivot to the Pacific to counter China’s rising dominance reached an important milestone this week when the number of Marines deployed to Australia reached 2,500.

1,150 U.S. Marines to Australia by 2014 - USNI News
US Marines in Darwin, Australia.

After years of buildup, the Marine air-ground task force that spends half a year in Australia’s Northern Territory has reached its fully intended size, Aussie officials announced.

“This milestone demonstrates the enduring nature of the Australia-U.S. alliance and our deep engagement with the Indo-Pacific region,” Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said. “The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin improves interoperability between Australian and U.S. defence forces, and enhances our ability to work together with regional partners in the interests of stability and security in the Indo-Pacific.”

The U.S. first agreed to send 2,500 Marines Down Under during the Obama administration. The number grew from a 200-person company of Marines that deployed to Darwin in 2012. This spring, the eighth iteration of the Marine Rotational Force was 1,700 strong, including infantry Marines, logistics capabilities and aircraft.

Philippines

The five major US military installations in the Philippines are Subic Bay Naval Station; Clark Air Base; San Miguel Naval Communica- tions Station (1900 hectres); Wall ace Air Station (150 hectares); and John Hay Rest and Recreation Centre (400 hectares).

A new agreement between the United States and the Philippines clears the way for a new permanent American military presence across five bases that will support rotational deployments near the contested South China Sea.

The bases include:

Antonio Bautista Air Base. Located near the capital of the island province of Palawan, which is strategically located near the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Basa Air Base. Located about 40 miles northwest of the Philippines’ capital, Manila, the air base was originally constructed by the U.S. Army Air Corps before the Second World War.

Fort Magsaysay. Located on the northern Island of Luzon, Fort Magsaysay is the largest military installation in the Philippines, and is one of the primary training areas of the Philippine Army.

Lumbia Air Base. Located on the southern island of Mindanao, the air base is connected to a civilian airport. Local media reports say construction of a new U.S. facility will begin soon.

Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base. Located on Mactan Island of the coast of Cebu in the central Philippines. It was originally built by the U.S. Air Force before the American pullout in the early 1990s.

A Philippine Marine posts security after fast-roping out of an MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft Jan. 22 at Basa Air Field. Fast-roping is just one of the multiple training events conducted during Aviation Assault Support Exercise 15.1.

AASE expands and promotes cooperative training opportunities with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to enhance core skill proficiency and to increase operational readiness. The Philippine Marines are with various units and the U.S. Marines are with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment currently assigned to 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force under the unit deployment program. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan C. Mains/Released).

But the Filipino government has recently sought new support from the United States as China has grown more aggressive in asserting territorial claims and conducting military-style operations near Filipino shores.

The list of bases surprised many analysts who expected it to include some of the former U.S. military outposts such as Naval Station Subic Bay and Naval Air Station Cubi Point, both strategically located on the northwest coast, or Clark Air Base near Manila. Those facilities were a backbone of logistics support during the Vietnam War.

US Military Bases in Philippines

The announcement of the five bases comes almost two years after President Obama visited the Philippines in 2014 and signed a new 10-year agreement with the former U.S colony. The future U.S. activity in the Philippines may include Marine Corps units rotating through the country like the ongoing mission in Darwin, Australia.

Japan

As the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe, for the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which is based on the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements, to adequately function as a deterrence that contributes to Japan’s defense as well as the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacifi c region, it is necessary to secure the presence of the U.S. military in Japan and to maintain a posture in Japan and the surrounding areas from peacetime that enables the U.S. Forces in Japan to respond swiftly and expeditiously to emergencies.

US Military Bases in Japan

For this purpose, based on the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, Japan allows the stationing of the U.S. Forces in Japan, which is a core part of the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements.

American weaponry in Japan

Further, the realization of a stable U.S. military presence is necessary for a swift Japan-U.S. joint response based on Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in the event of an armed attack on Japan. Additionally, the actions of the U.S. Forces in Japan in the defense of Japan will be assisted by the timely reinforcement of other U.S. Forces, and the U.S. Forces in Japan will serve as the basis of such support.

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South Korea

Lieutenant Colonel Valerie N. Kyzar assumed command of Camp Mujuk at the change of command ceremony presided by Brigadier General William J. Bowers, CG of MCIPAC with 60 US-ROK military and civilian guests in attendance.

Camp Mujuk is the only United States Marine Corps Installation in South Korea.  It is located about an hour east of Daegu, just outside Pohang, and near the eastern shoreline.  The installation is currently home to the Camp Mujuk Headquarters from MCIPAC.

US Military Bases in South Korea

The United States returned four military sites to South Korea in the biggest such handover since 2015, United States Forces Korea announced on Wednesday.

An Apache chopper takes off at U.S. base Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. United States Forces Korea turned over four military sites to South Korea on Wednesday and initiated the return process for Yongsan Garrison, the former U.S. military headquarters in Seoul. Photo by Yonhap

Lt. Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach, USFK deputy commander, and Ko Yunju, director general of the North American Affairs Bureau of South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, finalized the return during a meeting at Camp Humphreys, a U.S. military base located about 40 miles south of Seoul.

Congress on Monday agreed to restrict the reduction of U.S. forces below a minimum level of 28,500 in its annual National Defense Authorization Act, which determines military policy and spending for the year ahead.

A fourth round of defense cost-sharing negotiations ended last week without a deal after a two-day visit by Jeong Eun-bo, South Korea’s chief negotiator, to Washington, D.C.

The current Special Measures Agreement, which determines the defense burden-sharing between Washington and Seoul, is set to expire at the end of the year.

Guam

North Korea’s threat against Guam spotlights a western Pacific U.S. territory that looms large as a military asset, despite being smaller than Singapore.

A former Spanish colony, Guam has been in American hands since the end of the nineteenth century. It is one of 17 non-self-governing territories of the United States.

Guam serves as a major military base for the United States, with U.S. Air Force and Navy installations occupying some 29 percent of the island’s total land area. It is also a major hub for submarine communications cables between the western United States, Hawaii, Australia, and Asia.

FILE - Navy vessels are moored in port at the U.S. Naval Base Guam at Apra Harbor, Guam, March 5, 2016.
US Naval Base Guam.

Guam, with an area of only 544 square kilometers, hosts a military presence of nearly 7,000 military personnel and it is expected to house thousands more in the near future, as the United States moves military assets and personnel currently housed on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Guam has been a major base for U.S. military aircraft since World War II. The U.S. built an air base on Guam in 1944 to stage its bombing missions to Japan, and has maintained an air and sea presence on the island since.

Naval Base Guam is home port for four nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines and two submarine tenders.

Guam’s proximity to the Korean peninsula is also what makes it an attractive target for North Korea. Pyongyang is only 3,380 kilometers northwest of Guam, putting it within a feasible striking distance. Tokyo is 2,400 kilometers to the north, and Taipei is 2,700 kilometers to the west.

Chinese Hegemony

With the escalation of longstanding disputes between China and its neighbors regarding the sovereignty of various islands (and
their associated maritime exclusive economic zones). These actions have taken China’s neighbors, many of them U.S. allies, aback.

China’s global activity is less overtly aggressive but is increasingly felt. Its
veto power on the United Nations (UN) Security Council has limited collective security action against autocratic regimes in Sudan, Syria, and Iran.

The growing economy’s insatiable appetite for raw materials and energy has pushed Chinese corporations far afield in search of the root of why states do what they do and the primary driver for conditions
of peace and war, the rise of China is principal on the security landscape. In
contrast, the efforts of the past decade have reduced terrorism to the status of resources.

Africa, in particular, but also South America, the Arctic, and Central Asia, have been popular destinations for investment in research and resource extraction. Chinese-funded improvements in foreign ports (the “string of pearls”) have increased, and these ports can have naval significance.

Conclusion

While China will not soon surpass the United States as the global diplomatic, military, economic, and soft power leader, its rise is undeniable. In contrast to the stark U.S.–Soviet Union dichotomy, the relationship between America and China has remained more interwoven, complex, and fluid. While the ideological differences between the United States

Developing mutual restraint has two major implications for the future of
American landpower. The first relates specifically to deterrence of aggression and reassurance of America’s allies in the western Pacific. Mutual deterrence is a necessary condition for mutual restraint, and the inability to use force (due to lack of capacity, capability, or will) undermines
the viability of mutual restraint. The second is broader in scope and considers the worldwide implications of the cooperate-compete nature of the U.S.-China relationship as it applies to developing regions, unstable states, and the global commons.

Presence cannot be shortchanged; it must be sustained widely, lightly, and respectfully across those areas of interest to the United States.


Forces must be kept expert and ready for a range of missions. These same
forces can rapidly aggregate to address the largest threats, “the Chinese military”. The flexibility of this model—as an integral part of the joint force—is unique, proven, and cost-effective, and the US Military and allies should be committed to continuously improving it.

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