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The U.S. Military Presence in the Asia-Pacific 2020 Press Release

2020-06-23 15:31:34       source:NISCSS

National Institute for South China Sea Studies

23 June 2020

On June 23, 2020, The U.S. Military Presence in the Asia-Pacific 2020 is released by National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS) in Beijing. It is the third research report dedicated to the security environment in the Asia-Pacific after the Report on the Military Presence of the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific Region 2016 and Japan Military Power Report 2018.


On June 23, 2020, The U.S. Military Presence in the Asia-Pacific 2020 is released in Beijing

As the U.S. has made a major shift from “the rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region” to “the Indo-Pacific strategy”, this report focuses on the latest U.S. military deployment and presence in the Asia-Pacific in the Trump administration, taking stock of the U.S. military activities in the Asia-Pacific in a comprehensive way. The report has five chapters. Chapter One introduces the evolution of the U.S. security policy in the Asia-Pacific and the latest Indo-Pacific strategy; Chapter Two briefs on the U.S. military presence and deployment in the Asia-Pacific; Chapter Three follows recent U.S. military activities in the Asia-Pacific; Chapter Four outlines the U.S. military and security relations in the Asia-Pacific, including the current status and future trends of its alliances and partnerships; and Chapter Five focuses the changes brought by the U.S. return to great-power competition to China-U.S. military relations, and evaluates the positive role of China-U.S. military relations in stabilizing China-U.S. overall relations in the new era.


More than 30 media from over 30 nations, diplomatic delegates from various embassies and scholars from some research institutions attended this press conference 

After it took office in 2017, the Trump administration has brought major changes and exerted important influence on the security landscape in the Asia-Pacific. First, the U.S. security strategy in the Asia-Pacific has been renamed with the brand new and broader concept of “Indo-Pacific”; second, “great-power competition”, reminiscent of the Cold War, has been clearly identified for the first time in a U.S. strategy document on national security. The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy, released in December 2017 updated the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy into the Indo-Pacific strategy and formally incorporated the concept of great-power competition into the new national security strategy. The National Defense Strategy issued by the Pentagon in January 2018 announced the return to the road of great-power competition as the main security challenge from “revisionist powers”. Long-term strategic competitions with China and Russia are the principal priorities for the Pentagon. In May 2018, the U.S. renamed its Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command, as the first substantive step in implementing its Indo-Pacific strategy. The Indo-Pacific strategy covers four themes: naval and law enforcement capabilities and capacities; interoperability with U.S. allies and partners; the rule of law, civil society, and transparent governance; and private sector–led economic development. Geographically, this strategy has been substantially expanded to not only cover Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Oceania and the Pacific islands, but also extend its tentacles far beyond the region to encompass even the United Kingdom, France, Canada and virtually the whole planet.


NISCSS President Wu Shicun provided a comprehensive introduction regarding this report  


Executive Director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies at Nanjing University Zhu Feng hosted the press conference

By the end of 2018, the Indo-Pacific strategy had taken shape. The U.S. stressed that the Indo-Pacific strategy aimed, ultimately, to protect U.S. supremacy in global and regional affairs; advocated a “rules-based order” based on principles of so-called “freedom and openness”; covered not only security but also political and economic issues; and sought to deepen its military, diplomatic and economic presence by beefing up relations with its allies and partners in the region. In June 2019, the Pentagon released its Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, which explained the U.S. strategy in the security field in a systematic way. In November, the State Department published A Free and Open Indo-Pacific: Advancing a Shared Vision, which further expounded the Indo-Pacific strategy from political, economic and international relations perspectives.



Q&A Session from the media

In pushing its Indo-Pacific strategy on the security front, the U.S. relies, first and foremost, on the 375,000 enlisted members of its Indo-Pacific Command, including 60% of its Navy ships, 55% of its Army, and two-thirds of its Marine Corps. In addition, with 85,000 forward-deployed soldiers and a large amount of high-tech and new weaponry, the U.S. military has maintained its absolute supremacy in the Asia-Pacific over the years. However, the U.S. military keeps seeking new military deployments in the Asia-Pacific, in order to expand and maintain its absolute supremacy. In its FY 2020 Budget Request, the Pentagon claimed that China and Russia are developing their military capabilities to prepare for high-end conflicts in the future and to attempt to erode the U.S. military supremacy and global influence. Therefore, according to the Pentagon, the U.S. defense strategy requires sufficient resources for imminent challenges and long-term competition with China and Russia. The focus will shift to engaging the great-power competition with China and Russia and maintaining sustained and full-spectrum readiness. The U.S. seeks to enhance its competitive edge in all operational domains in FY 2020. In the foreseeable future, the U.S. military power which is no.1 in the world will continue its rapid growth, particularly in the Asia-Pacific, with a clear objective of maintaining overwhelming supremacy over its competitors.

Given their close connection with state-to-state relations and national security, it is undoubted that confrontation and even deteriorating military relations between China and the U.S. would substantially increase the possibility of a conflict, or even a crisis in their bilateral relations. China has the following position in dealing with its military relations with the U.S.: it actively and properly handles its military relationship with the U.S. in accordance with the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation. It strives to make the military-to-military relationship a stabilizer for the relations between the two countries. Given the current status of their mil-to-mil relations, the two countries need to focus on managing their differences and preventing conflicts, which is central to the role of stabilizer. First, they should keep current communication channels open, a prerequisite for the role of stabilizer to be played out. This includes the hotline between the two defense departments, the dialogue and consultation mechanisms participated in or chaired by the two defense departments. Second, they should implement the military confidence building and crisis prevention agreements they have signed and follow the code of conduct accepted by both parties, to prevent misunderstanding and miscalculations at the operational level by military officers and soldiers on the frontline. Such agreements include the MOU on Notification of Major Military Activities and the MOU on the Rules of Behavior for the Safety of Air and Maritime Encounters as well as detailed supporting rules signed by the two parties later which are particularly important. Third, the two militaries should work to create conditions for communication and dialogue on nuclear security, cyberspace, outer space, and artificial intelligence, to prevent tragic miscalculation at the macro and strategic level in the future.


Dr. Wu Shicun conducted media interviews after the press conference

As the two major military powers in the Asia-Pacific as well as the largest and second largest economies in the world, the status of China-U.S. military relations has a direct impact on peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific. Should China-U.S. military relations move on a path of peace, cooperation and constructive engagement, security would be assured and peace be expected in the whole of the Asia-Pacific. Confrontation and deterioration in this military relationship will surely affect peace and stability of the entire Asia-Pacific region. As the U.S. security strategy is based on its forward-deployed forces and the strength of its allies and partners, and the battlefields expected by the U.S. are all in countries in the Asia-Pacific other than the U.S. homeland, any military conflict between the two countries will get third countries in the region involved. That’s why the last thing most countries in the region want is to choose between China and the U.S. In fact, the U.S. is pulling its military relations with China into a new “security dilemma” in the Asia-Pacific. Regarding China as its “war rival”, the U.S. has forward-deployed a large number of its forces, strengthened and deepened its military alliances, and conducted intensive military renaissance and provocative activities targeted at China. China is surrounded by an unprecedented sense of being insecure and threatened. To get out of this dilemma, China has no alternative but to increase military budget and build military forces as appropriate to uphold its national security.

How can the Chinese and U.S. militaries realize sound interaction in the Asia-Pacific and avoid strategic miscalculation, conflict and crisis? At stake are China-U.S. relations as well as peace and well-being of countries and people in the region. We can predict with confidence that the whole world will stay on high alert and closely watch the evolution and development of China-U.S. military relations in the years to come.

The U.S. Military Presence in the Asia-Pacific 2020 is an academic research report representing the personal views of members of the research team of NISCSS. Based on official documents and other open information available in China and other countries, the report aims to provide objective evidences and neutral academic views. It is our hope that this report will facilitate policy discussions and academic exchanges between government departments and academic institutes in China and the U.S., and contribute to the deepening of dialogue, exchanges and cooperation between China and the U.S. in military and security fields and to the sound growth of China-U.S. relations.



The bilingual version of the cover of the US Military Presence in the Asia-Pacific 2020

The full version of this report can be found here: http://www.nanhai.org.cn/uploads/file/20200623/jlbg.pdf