On this point, he has support even among lawmakers on the other side of the political aisle. China “is strategically positioning itself to militarily and economically challenge US influence and capabilities in the Asia-Pacific,” Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R) of Virginia, chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, warned Wednesday.
In a statement following the release of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s annual report to Congress, Representative Forbes said that the report “makes it abundantly clear that China is actively seeking to exploit the United States’ military vulnerabilities.”
It doesn’t help, Forbes added, that “Congress is busy dismantling the United States military with arbitrary cuts that could total a trillion dollars.”
Countering China’s military growth will likely require a show of strength on the part of the US military, Panetta has predicted. “The most important things we can do is to project our force into the Pacific,” he told US service members in Italy in early October. “To have our carriers there, to have our fleet there, to be able to make very clear to China that we are going to protect international rights to be able to move across the oceans freely.”
Defense officials for their part have described the US presence in the Pacific as a “realignment” of US interests.
This “realignment” comes on the heels of China’s push to build anti-ship missiles, aircraft carriers, and stealth fighter jets that could, senior defense officials warn, threaten the US Pacific fleet.
In past years, China’s proven ability to shoot down satellites in space and its proclivity for cyberincursions into US defense systems have also garnered grave warnings from US officials.
The US military presence in Australia is expected to expand to somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,500 Marines over the next several years.
When they arrive and begin their work, beginning in mid-2012, it will be the first time US troops have ever conducted military exercises alone on Australian soil.