The US Military Plans to Transform Indo-Pacific Force Posture In 2023

  • The US military sought to increase its presence in Asia amid rising tensions with China.
  • According to a US official, the US may experience the “most transformative” year in a generation for its forces in 2023.
  • However, major changes to the US military presence are facing logistical and political obstacles.

According to a top defense official, the US military will have an “informative” year in Asia 2023, according to a top defense official. This month’s statements continue the Biden administration’s efforts against what US officials call “transformative”. China’s destabilizing influenceSecurity in the region

The administration spent its first two-years working to strengthen US relationships. the Indo-PacificHowever, a larger US military presence could pose logistical challenges as well as political issues for countries that are wary from China, their larger neighbor.

The Obama administration announced plans for “a”pivot“To Asia in late 2011, but this shift was undone by wars throughout the Middle East and Europe, as well as the Trump administration’s. often antagonisticOrientation towards the region

Since taking office, the Biden administration has unveiled major initiatives focused on improving the US’s diplomatic, economic, and security presence in the Indo-Pacific — the latter of which will see notable changes next year, according to Ely Ratner, the assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs.

Obama Marines Darwin Australia

In November 2011, President Barack Obama spoke to Australian troops and US Marines at Darwin.

JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

Ratner stated at the American Enterprise Institute on Dec 8 that “It is not secret that the US forward presence has historically remained predominantly Northeast Asia, predominantly located at major operating bases.”

Ratner stated that while Ratner agreed with calls for a “more mobile and lethal, diversified” posture in the region, but stressed that such changes would require years of “hard governmentwork.”

Ratner said, “It’s not something you can flip overnight.” “That being said, I believe it is fair to state that 2023 will be the most transformative year for the US force posture in the region for a generation.”

“Really hard work”

The 2011 “pivot”, which was a change in US military posture in Asia, led to changes such as the basing of US warships at Singapore and US Marine Corps deployments north Australia.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation agreement was also signed by the USA and the Philippines in 2014. It allows for extended deployments of US troops. However, implementation was delayed. by tense relationsRodrigo Duterte, President of the Republic of Rodrigo Duterte who resigned in June.

Ratner stated that those changes required “years worth of really hard work” on the part of US officials. Ratner added that such work has continued. the AUKUS agreementRecent agreements with Australia, the UK and Canada. accelerate expandEDCA projects and an announcementThis month, we will be discussing plans to increase the US military presence within Australia.

Navy littoral combat ship USS Coronado Singapore

The US Navy’s littoral combat ship USS Coronado docks at Singapore in October 2016.

ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Ratner said, “We’ve been working towards that over the past couple years, and I hope that we’re going be seeing the fruits of those efforts bearing quite soon.” “I believe people will be very satisfied with the results that will be rolling out through 2023.”

According to Stacie Pettyjohn (director of the Defense Program at The Center for a New American Security), sending more troops to the area may not have a transformative effect on its own. Many won’t be assigned there permanently.

Pettyjohn said to Insider, “A simple bean count will not capture whether these fora are combat credible and notably increase the United States ability to defeat aggression.”

Pettyjohn stated, “The number one thing that will transform the region is actually investing in infrastructure and new facilities at new places so that they can support distributed US Operations and prepositioning gear that American troops can unpack if they’re deployed,” citing projectsAt northern Australian bases that will serve the US Navy, Air Force, and Marines.

This month, the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law. It authorizes funds for military construction projects in the Pacific, including at major US bases as well as smaller outposts like Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Air Force C-130J Angaur Island Palau

A US Air Force C-130J lands in November on an airstrip at Angaur Island in Palau.

US Air Force/Staff Sergeant. Divine Cox

Pettyjohn stated that he would like to see improvements in the Philippines and in some South Pacific locations like Palau or Papa New Guinea. “It would be significant if Japan allowed US forces access to new bases, even if it is only for temporary deployments.”

US military branches are working on their own initiatives — such as the US Air Force’s agile combat employment — to enable their forces to operate in a more dispersed manner across the Pacific. Pettyjohn stated that training for these troops needed to be done on an even larger scale, across all services, and with allies in order to be “a strong preventative.”

Both opportunities and limitations

Some allies have shown an openness to US interest in greater defense cooperation. Australia and Japan are collaborating more closely with the US, as well as with one another. Other countries have requested more training with the US military. the case of PalauTo host US forces.

Because of China’s “uncompromising” position, the new Philippine government is seeking deeper defense ties to the US. South China Sea disputesDrew Thompson, a visiting senior researcher fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is Singapore, said that there was a growing recognition of the possibility of a conflict over Taiwan “almost certainly spilling over” into the Philippines.

Lloyd Austin ASEAN Cambodia

Lloyd Austin III, Defense Secretary of the United States, meets with Southeast Asian defense ministers at Cambodia in November.

US Defense Department/Chad J. McNeeley

However, Southeast Asian countries including US ally Thailand and Pacific Island states have been more cautious.

Leaders in Southeast Asia are not keen to be seen as choosing sides because they are geographically and economically near to China. Pacific Islanders are wary that there will be a great-power rival. overlooks their most pressing issuesClimate change is the main concern.

The administration has made individual overtures to both of these regions. several trips by senior officials to Southeast Asia and the first-ever US-Pacific Island country summit in September, and with partners, including a maritime-domain-awareness project announced at a summit with leaders from Australia, Japan, and India that is seen as a responseSecurity concerns have been a problem for many years in the region, especially among Pacific Island countries and Southeast Asia.

Thompson, a former US Defense Department official, stated that there are opportunities for the US to “expand its access and deepen relations” in Northeast and Southeast Asia. However, US leaders will need to recognize the limitations of these partnerships, especially in Southeast Asia.

Thompson stated that the countries are generally supportive of the US military presence. However they are uncomfortable with the prospect of a US conflict over Taiwan. They are wary about US expectations in terms access and posture in the event of a conflict and are certain that China would retaliate against them if they are seen as siding to the United States.

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