2 December 2011, 15:14

U.S.-China: arms race in the Pacific

U.S.-China: arms race in the Pacific
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The Chinese Foreign Ministry described the U.S. growing military presence in the Pacific “a return to the Cold War strategy”. The announcement came following an agreement signed between Washington and Canberra to station up to 2,500 U.S. marines in Australia’s northern city of Darwin.

Analysts draw out attention to a key trend in the growing military confrontation in the Pacific: the stronger the Chinese economy is and the faster it carries out its military reforms, the stronger is the U.S. presence in the Pacific. No doubt, the two super powers are entering a new phase of strategic confrontation.

While the role of the US Navy in the region is rather symbolic as far as the implementation of obligations given to allies is concerned, the US presence in the Strait of Malacca allows them to control the delivery of the Mideast oil to the Pacific region. This strait is also a route to deliver commercial goods from the Pacific to the Middle East. Neither the U.S. has plans to reduce its military personnel in the western part of the Pacific. These are 80,000 troops stationed in Japan and 28,000- in South Korea.

It is worth mentioning that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is staying in Myanma these days, which is a first official visit of the top US diplomat to this country since 1955. The visit was organized immediately after the Myanmar authorities showed their intention to start democratic reforms. Analysts say, however, that the main aim of Mrs. Clinton`s visit is to demonstrate it to China that its interests in Myanma differ from those of the U.S.

During his recent visit to the region, the Pentagon`s chief Leon Panetta said that the U.S. was planning to reduce its presence there. He said that his country`s strategy was to offer a counterbalance against China`s ‘affirmative action’ policy, the words used to describe Beijing`s growing territorial disputes with neighbors and its increased military spending. Military expert Viktor Baranets comments:

"China has been intensively increasing its military presence in land and sea areas, and even in space. China bought a Russian aircraft carrier and has already given it its first sea trials, thus evoking great concern in the U.S. Actually, the U.S. presence in the region is weakening gradually and is likely to exist on equal terms with China.

Military analyst Vladimir Yevseev thinks that this competition may trigger armed conflict in the area.

Experts say there is one but very solid reason to avoid this: as the world`s leading economies, China and the US are so dependant on each other that any military conflict between them will result in a global economic catastrophe. Both Beijing and Washington are aware of the consequences. Experts suggest creating an OSCE-style governing body to monitor security in the Pacific. Meanwhile, the sides should resort to all possible tools to avoid the escalation of tensions.

The 2012 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit will be held in Russia’s Vladivostok. Moscow says that arms race in the Pacific will be among key issues on the agenda.

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