11:06 AM, Dec 22, 2014 • By THOMAS DONNELLY
As the historically minded will recall, back in 2012 the Obama administration declared that the United States “will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific.” That was the guidance the commander in chief gave to the U.S. military, the idea being that since, the peace of Europe was eternal and self-sustaining, and the Middle East was a mess made by George Bush, that the most important mission for the 21st century was to keep an eye on the Chinese, the “rising” great power.
Our Asian allies were very pleased by this, particularly the Japanese who had become a frequent target for expressions of Chinese nationalism incited by the government in Beijing. But the South Koreans, Southeast Asians, and the Australians – who had just published a defense white paper speculating about the retreat of the United States from the region – were likewise reassured when the U.S. Navy announced that it would base 60 percent of its ships in the Pacific. There will soon be 2,500 Marines based in Darwin, in northern Australia, too.
East Asia’s enthusiasm for this “pivot” – the term initially pedaled by the White House – has subsided substantially since then. In the part of the Pacific that matters most, the waters of the western Pacific from the Sea of Japan through the South China Sea to the Malacca Strait, the U.S. military is decreasing toward a vanishing point. Budget cuts are slashing the overall size of the armed forces and the wars of the Middle East remain a giant, sucking chest wound that demands attention, exposing the Pacific Pivot as all hat, no cattle.
A good way to measure this is to chart the deployments of the five aircraft carriers that comprise the backbone of the Pacific Fleet. Looking at the official Navy information catalogued by the website STRATFOR reveals how gaping the American absence has become. In the 32 months from May of 2012 through this December, there have been 12 months where there has been no aircraft carrier – none – in the area controlled by the 7th Fleet, the command that oversees the western Pacific. In only four of those 32 months have there been two carriers in the region; in such a large area, that’s probably the absolute minimum requirement for any kind of effective presence and deterrence. The numbers would be even worse but for the fact that the USS George Washington, which is based in Yokosuka, Japan, was constantly at work; alone it accounted for more than 80 percent of the total carrier presence in this period. Alas, the George Washington is about to undergo the periodic overhaul of its nuclear powerplant, a process that will take it out of service for about two years. Today’s 10-carrier Navy can’t come up with a substitute until next summer, when the USS Ronald Reagan may begin to operate from Japan.
This heavy use of the Yokosuka-based carrier has been necessary to offset the fact that two of the other Pacific fleet carriers, the Ronald Reagan and the USS John C. Stennis, have been in periods of extensive, if normal and predictable, servicing. But just as crippling to the Navy’s Pacific posture has been the need to participate in deployments to the Persian Gulf, a mission that occupied much of the Stennis’ time prior to maintenance and has also eaten up large slices of the Everett, Washington-based USS Nimitz deployments.
The carrier presence picture is mirrored almost exactly when it comes to Marine amphibious ships. The Pacific amphib fleet consists of five ships, with one based at Sasebo, Japan. The Marines were able to keep two of these “mini-carriers” in the 7th Fleet area of operations for only three of the 32 months, again relying on the Japan-based Bonhomme Richard to maintain the majority of the presence.
To be sure, carrier presence is not the only, or perhaps even most important, measure of naval power, let alone overall U.S. military power. Nonetheless, these numbers are strongly indicative. Where carriers sail, they are accompanied by a bevy of escort ships, including Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and attack submarines – also, with their Tomahawk cruise missiles, much in demand in the Middle East these days.
10:21 AM, Dec 17, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
Alarm bells have gone off in Beijing, in Moscow, and even among some so-called “realists” in the West. They caution that the pending U.N. General Assembly consideration of an EU-Japan joint resolution on North Korean human rights violations, scheduled for December 18-19, could push Pyongyang over the edge. Publicly censuring North Korea for its crimes against humanity, they warn, might lead to a fourth nuclear test and even potentially trigger another military confrontation on the Korean peninsula. These voices, as a result, advocate continued silence despite overwhelming evidence of massive human rights violations, about which the U.N. Commission of Inquiry (COI) report wrote the following: “The gravity, scale, and nature of these violations reveal a state that does not have any parallel in the modern world.”
12:08 PM, Nov 14, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama held a townhall today in Burma where he was met with signs that read "Reform is fake" and "Change." He commented on the signs before getting on with the program.
5:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 2007, during his first term as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe penned a work titled Toward a Beautiful Country, My Vision for Japan. The recent re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement on the Imperial Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during World War II (a euphemism for sex slaves), which was presented to the Japanese Diet on June 20, is the antithesis of the actions of “a beautiful country.” It represents a backward step, reopening a dark chapter in 20th-century history, which most of the world woul
10:25 AM, Apr 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
The State Department is warning of a protest in Malaysia on Friday, one day before President Obama is expected to arrive there on Saturday.
9:37 AM, Apr 16, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
President Obama is about to undertake a fence-mending mission to America’s Asian allies in Tokyo, Seoul, and Manila. The U.S. “pivot” to Asia is coming under renewed scrutiny following Beijing’s announcement of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) for the East China Sea in November, Pyongyang’s recent firing of two midrange missiles into waters near Japan and South Korea, and regional whispers questioning American resolve.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
You would guess that an agreement between the United States and Japan to move a Marine air base from one location to another on Okinawa would be good news. And it is, for three reasons. First, because there has been opposition to relocating the base on the island, and negotiations had stalemated. And second, because the move is endorsed by Okinawa’s governor, who had initially opposed it.
9:01 AM, Dec 6, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The press covering Joe Biden's trip Asia caught an unusually frank comment from the vice president. Biden, speaking about himself, reportedly said that his "profound insights on policy are vastly exaggerated, but we do have profound respect for the people of South Korea."
11:55 AM, Dec 3, 2013 • By GARY SCHMITT
Absolute coherence when it comes foreign policy is a rare thing. International relations will forever be a mix of principles, interests, circumstances, and necessities. But recognition of that fact doesn’t mean one has to jump to the opposite conclusion that foreign policy is simply a grab bag of decisions, lacking any coherence whatsoever. But, more and more, this appears to be the case when it comes to the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” to Asia.
1:00 PM, Sep 13, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama will be traveling to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, at the beginning of next, the White House announced today.
3:01 PM, Jul 1, 2013 • By REUBEN F. JOHNSON
On the first weekend in June and for the twelfth year in a row, senior foreign policy makers, military officials, politicians, and defense industry representatives flocked to an exclusive hotel resort in this Southeast Asian city-state for the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian Security Summit. The event now draws a Who’s Who of global military power personalities: Asian, European and U.S. defense ministers; regional military commanders, including a high-level delegation of strategists from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) military.
9:29 AM, Jun 25, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
While Daniel P. Schrag, White House climate adviser, tells the New York Times that "a war on coal is exactly what's needed," so far the Obama administration has been a boon for U.S. coal exports.
12:34 PM, Apr 14, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Secretary of State John Kerry told the press in Beijing that he discussed with Chinese government officials investing in America's infrastructure. Kerry called the security concerns "very, very few; very, very little."
10:29 AM, Apr 12, 2013 • By VANCE SERCHUK
John Kerry’s first visit as secretary of state to Asia this week will be rightly dominated by the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, where Kim Jong-un’s regime continues to generate headlines around the world with its bluster and brinksmanship.
Asia’s divided democracies.Jan 21, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 18 • By JOSEPH A. BOSCO
Asia’s democracies need to get their acts together to address a common danger from the region’s authoritarian/totalitarian powers. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan face rising challenges from China and/or North Korea. All have security arrangements with the United States to deter or confront those threats.