The South China Sea
One would think with the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. would rethink some of its more belligerent and unnecessary provocations everywhere in the world.
With the Iraq war finally coming to a close at the end of this month (though leaving an embassy the size of the Vatican with thousands of private contractor mercenaries still there under the State Department aegis) and the Afghan quagmire continuing but advertized by the administration that we'll be out of there by 2014, a new major American policy shift has come about that has essentially flown under the radar and hasn't generated the kind of attention it should have.
It's possible that could happen as the shift was first announced by President Obama a month ago in a speech to the Australian Parliament and domestic concerns were more on the minds of Americans.
But make no mistake; the U.S. is intending to refocus militarily on Asia and specifically to counter China.
Although the president didn't mention China and its enormous economic growth as the reason for bolstering the American military presence in Asia, he did say, "My guidance is clear. As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region."
In line with this new focus, the Obama administration is initially establishing a 250 man marine detachment (later to be upped to 2,500) at Darwin on Australia's north coast. It has also adopted something called "The Manila Declaration" that signals closer military ties with the Philippines. It has announced the sale of 24 F-16 fighter jets to Indonesia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently visited Burma and she has also talked recently about increasing military ties with Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. In a recent article in "Foreign Policy" magazine she spoke of "increased investment"diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise"in the Asia Pacific region." And a month earlier, in late October, new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, at a meeting of Southeast Asia nations in Bali, Indonesia indicated the U.S. presence in the Pacific would continue unabated (despite expected cutbacks in Pentagon spending) saying, "The U.S. would be a force for peace and stability" in the region.
So what exactly does this new U.S. pivot toward Asia and the Pacific and more specifically the South China Sea mean?
It seems ALL China's neighbors bordering the South China Sea i.e. Viet Nam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines all claim territorial sovereignty over disputed islands adjacent to their country to which China also claims sovereignty.
As one can imagine, these territorial disputes over these islands sovereignty have often times resulted in incidents and violent clashes between the adversaries. Up to now, China and all the countries involved have attempted to resolve these disputes diplomatically (if not always successfully). To be sure China's huge physical presence and economic muscle have been factors of intimidation that have often come into play in these diplomatic encounters to where the neighbors have desired a "counterweight" to act on their behalf (and help fend off its larger neighbor). So they have "possibly" agreed to ask for a greater U.S. naval presence in the South China Sea to help bolster their territorial claims OR as even more likely have acquiesced to U.S. pressure and been forced to accept the stepped up U.S. naval presence and "protection" in the South China Sea.
At the present time, the U.S. has (7) carrier battle groups and (18) nuclear submarines operating in the Pacific; as one Chinese diplomat was heard to say, "All to check North Korea; who really believes that?