US stationing more aircraft carriers and troops in Asia-Pacific region

Posted on : 2014-01-17 16:45 KST Modified on : 2014-01-17 16:45 KST
“Pivot to Asia” policy moving forward due to US security concerns regarding China, N. Korea and Russia
 which the US government announced will be moved from Virginia to a port on the Pacific in San Diego. The photo was taken in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 26
which the US government announced will be moved from Virginia to a port on the Pacific in San Diego. The photo was taken in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 26

By Park Hyun, Washington correspondent

Signs of a bigger US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region have been increasingly evident in 2014, suggesting the Barack Obama administration “pivot to Asia” policy is gaining momentum.

On Jan. 14, the US Navy announced on its official home page that as part as of the Asia-Pacific “rebalancing to Asia” the USS Theodore Roosevelt was being relocated to the Pacific port of San Diego. The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier previously belonged to the 2nd Fleet on the Atlantic coast, with a homeport in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Navy also said the USS Ronald Reagan, part of the 3rd Fleet based in San Diego, was being sent to replace the USS George Washington, a forward-deployed 7th Fleet carrier based in Yokosuka, Japan, that is currently being overhauled.

Of eleven total aircraft carriers, and ten that are currently available for use, six of them are now deployed in the Asia-Pacific region. Six were originally stationed as part of the Navy’s 3rd and 7th Fleets under the Pacific Command, but that number dropped to five after decommissioning of the USS Enterprise and defense budget cuts.

But with the Obama administration emphasizing its “rebalancing to Asia” strategy in its second term, the decision was made to keep the number of Asia-Pacific carriers at six by deploying the USS Gerald R. Ford - currently under construction - in 2015. By sending in the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the military essentially sped up efforts to have six carriers stationed in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US Navy explained, “The security environment in the Indo-Asia-Pacific requires that the U.S. Navy station the most capable ships forward.”

“This posture . . . brings our most capable ships with the greatest amount of striking power and operational capability to bear in the timeliest manner,” it added

Noting that the USS George Washington, which is currently being overhauled, was the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to be forward deployed in Japan, the Navy said, “Maintaining an FDNF [forward-deployed naval forces] capability supports the United States’ commitment to the defense of Japan and the security and stability of the vital Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

The move signals that the US plans to continue forward deployment deep within the Asia-Pacific region. Speaking in press and e-mail interviews, US Navy Vice Adm. David H. Buss said, “Our aircraft carriers and their embarked air wings must operate forward because the truth is you simply must be present to influence events in the world.”

Duncan Hunter, a Republican Representative for San Diego, stressed the greater role of the Asia-Pacific fleets based in the city.

“The pivot to the Pacific means that San Diego will have an even greater role in supporting the Navy’s global mission,” Hunter said.

The US Air Force is also beefing up its Asia-Pacific presence. The military affairs weekly Air Force Times reported on Jan. 14 that it was relocating twelve F-22 Raptors and 300 supporting troops from its 94th Fighter Squadron at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virgina to Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa. The squadron rotations, which take place every four months, were described by the Air Force as a “prudent deterrent against threats to regional security and stability.”

Meanwhile, more than 60% of US nuclear submarines are already stationed in the Asia-Pacific region. The US nuclear expert Hans Kristensen recently wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that eight of the country’s Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarines equipped with submarine-launched ballistic missiles were stationed in the region.

The report also noted that more than 60% of reconnaissance operations were taking place in the region, which it said reflected plans for the possible outbreak of nuclear war against China, North Korea, or Russia.

Even while announcing overall defense budget cuts last year, the US said it planned to keep in place or increase its defense budget for the Asia-Pacific region.

 

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