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Look out china
The U.S. Locks and Loads in the Pacific

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs David Shear spoke to the press on Friday as the DoD released a new strategy report mandated by Congress on America’s plan for handling the tensions in Asia, primarily over maritime territory. His comments go a long way towards clarifying Washington’s policies, which haven’t in recent months always been clear.

The new strategy’s focus on the tools of the hard power trade begins, finally, to justify the phrase “pivot to Asia.” Chief among the takeaways is the redoubled U.S. commitment to deploy twice the number of littoral combat ships to Asian waters, in a drive to build up a fleet of powerful vessels that, unlike the USN’s biggest ships, can operate and dock in the shallow waters that combat in, say, the South China Sea, would require. DoD Buzz has more:

“The LCS is ideally suited for a role in the South China Sea. It is fast, light and flexible and it has a fifteen foot draft so it can go places other vessels cannot go. We plan to have four LCS ships in Singapore on a rotational basis by 2018,” David Shear, assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, told reporters on Friday. […]

Shear explained that stepping up LCS missions in the South China Sea is part of a broader strategic effort to maintain presence and patrol the area in light of China’s recent efforts to build artificial land structures in the contested Spratly Islands. […]

“US forces currently present in the South China Sea conduct a variety of presence operations. We are in the South China Sea on a regular basis,” Shear said.

All of the recent signs from Washington indicate that the U.S. means to put its money where its mouth is in Asia, and the strategy document’s introduction explains the main reason why:

Maritime Asia is a vital thruway for global commerce, and it will be a critical part of the region’s expected economic growth. The United States wants to ensure the Asia-Pacific region’s continued economic progress. The importance of Asia-Pacific sea lanes for global trade cannot be overstated. Eight of the world’s 10 busiest container ports are in the Asia-Pacific region, and almost 30 percent of the world’s maritime trade transits the South China Sea annually, including approximately $1.2 trillion in ship-borne trade bound for the United States.1 Approximately two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments transit through the Indian Ocean to the Pacific, and in 2014, more than 15 million barrels of oil passed through the Malacca Strait per day.

The doubled LCS fleet will seriously increase the credibility of American threats to do what it takes to ensure freedom of navigation. And to complement the growing arms power, the Pentagon is upping the frequency and intensity of the drills it holds with China’s regional counterclaimants, preparing the forces to fight together smoothly should the need arise.

While China hasn’t yet seemed to back down from its aggressive policy in the Spratlys in response to increased American pressure, strategists in Beijing will most certainly take note of the growing power of the force that could rise up to stop it if it pushes things too far.

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  • ArtNorwalk

    Do four small LCS’s present anything more than a tripwire in China’s front yard?

    • rheddles

      No.

    • Andrew Allison

      Maybe we need tripwires instead of meaningless “red Lines”.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Tripwires are only meaningful when there exists a will to react to them being tripped. This administration will take no action in response to any aggression, so tripwires won’t be useful.

        • Andrew Allison

          We are in violent agreement about the will, or rather lack thereof, of the current administration. By trip-wire I meant something which would inevitably result in immediate action rather than the usual meaningless BS. I pray that the acting against a US naval vessel would do so

          • f1b0nacc1

            We are talking about Obama….an attack against a USN ship probably wouldn’t even get him to delay his tee time.
            Unfortunately I find myself unable to identify any scenario not involving a direct attack on an American city (in a blue state) by unambiguously non-Islamic forces that would get Obama to respond, and I am not trying to be funny in saying that.

          • Tom

            I think you’re being unfair to Obama.
            If an American vessel were actually attacked, he would move, if for no other reason then because to do otherwise would sink any chance of the Democrats being re-elected in 2016. Again, I think this is doing him a disservice, but still.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Perhaps, but honestly I rather doubt it. I think that Obama’s overriding concern is his own high opinion of himself, and he is more interested in being seen as a peacemaker than actually defending the security and interests of the United States. As for his concern about the Dems in 2016….what makes you think that he really cares very much about that? This is another conversation of course, but a good case could be made that Obama would prefer to see the GOP in place in 2017, so they can take the blame for the inevitable consequences of his own mismanagement.

          • Tom

            Possibly, but recall Chamberlain. At present, we have issues that one can at least argue about whether or not the interests of the United States are at stake. A direct assault by a foreign power on a US vessel would breach that line.
            As to the other, I don’t think he thinks that far ahead.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Chamberlain loved his country and though horribly, tragically wrong, believed that he was furthering the cause of peace by pursuing the policies he did. I rather doubt Obama gives a damn about anything outside of his own immediate family (by all accounts he is a devoted father), and has demonstrate his profound disinterest in foreign policy as anything other than a PR crutch.
            Let us hope that you are right, but in truth, it matters little…it only matters what the Chinese/Iranians/Russians/etc. believe to be the case. Remember, the Japanese BELIEVED that the US would back down after Pearl Harbor….they were wrong, and they paid a terrible price for that error, but they believed that they would be able to mount a devastating attack and get away with it.

  • mdmusterstone

    Please don’t use the words “combat” or
    “fight” in the same article as LCS.
    These ships can’t defend themselves and they are way outranged as far as
    attacking what the Chinese have in the water.
    They’re targets, not one wit more.

    If the Chinese play oopsie collision with them they will
    come out on the short end and we will look just like the fools we are when it
    comes to policy. On the other hand there
    is a 47,000 ton Iowa class fast
    battleship in Suisun Bay, California. It would take some little effort to get going
    but you’d only be doing engines, not interested in shooting guns. Let the Chinese play collision with this
    ship.

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