New Bases To Counter China? Indo-Pacific Is New Priority Region For The US

| Educate!

Above Photo: © Flickr / U.S. Department of Defense

After devastating the Middle East through sanctions, warfare, and the backing of extremists to fight proxy wars, the Indo-Pacific region – not the Middle East – is now the Pentagon’s “priority” region.

Just this week, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made the call to expand base locations in the Pacific region while speaking at the Naval War College, dubbing the Indo-Pacific theatre “our priority theatre.” The remarks were clearly part of the Pentagon’s wider goal of curbing and containing China’s expanding influence throughout the region.

Esper made it evident that the US had its eye on a number of key locations in the Indo-Pacific region, in which he would be looking to invest “more time and resources into certain regions we haven’t been to in the past.”

While it is not so apparent what those regions or locations are, there are some glaring possibilities that come to mind, including Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even some of the smaller Pacific Island nations less known to the US public such as Palau. Palau is a likely candidate, given the Western media has already applauded its “standing up to a giant” over the Taiwan question.

As the Center for a New American Security’s Eric Sayers pointed out, the issue with countries such as the Philippines is that they may restrict access to its ports depending on the nature of the dispute. With smaller nations like Palau, it is likely the US would not even have to blink in order to utilise the location to combat China.

There is no doubt that the Philippines has a dog in this fight. President Rodrigo Duterte is currently in Beijing where he is meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and is expected to raise their respective claims to the South China Sea as one of the major talking points.

What will be interesting to see in the coming years is where states such as Australia and New Zealand fit into this “priority theatre.”

A recent report suggests that the US is in talks with the Australian government with the aim of formulating a deal that would see Canberra processing a large amount of rare earth materials required by the Pentagon. The antagonist in this particular narrative is again Beijing, who maintains somewhat of a monopoly over the production of rare earth materials which are utilised in lasers, radars, and even jet engines.

Speaking of Australia, an Australian thinktank also just recently warned that the US military is overstretched in the Indo-Pacific region and risks suffering a fait accompli loss to Beijing before it even has the chance to respond. The report says that China’s “growing arsenal of accurate long-range missiles poses a major threat to almost all American, allied and partner bases, airstrips, ports and military installations in the Western Pacific.

If anyone is still wondering why the Indo-Pacific region has all of a sudden become a “priority theatre,” it should be all but clear at this stage. It’s a priority for the US because America is on the verge of being shunted out completely. Thankfully, some analysts have been warning about these developments for some time.

Then again, I am not the only person who is bringing these issues to light. In a BBC article entitled “Is the US still Asia’s only military superpower?” defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus concludes that “US preeminence in the Pacific is no more.” The problem, as is often the case with Western commentators on matters involving US dominance in major geopolitical affairs, is that the issue is typically framed from the perspective of “What on earth can the US do to stop China’s rise to power?

It just happens to be that the US will probably have to face some uncomfortable truths, particularly where the Indo-Pacific is concerned. Just last month, an Australian professor of strategic studies at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre wrote an op-ed in the Guardian which essentially conceded that Australia will have to accept a Chinese military base in the region at some point in time. Unlike Washington’s current strategy of trying (or hoping) to outmuscle China, Professor Hugh White believes that the “costs to us of trying to keep China out of the region might simply prove impossible to bear.”

As adversarial as Washington would want its relationship with Beijing to be, there is too much evidence that the relationship between China and the rest of the world is too intertwined to expect anything but a disaster from the current road ahead. A newly released report by the think tank China Matters just concluded that if China’s economic growth only shrunk by a few percent, Australia would potentially lose $140 billion in income and more than half a million jobs.

And it could be that if Beijing opens up this conflict on too many fronts, the Indo-Pacific region will only the tip of the iceberg. As part of its Silk Road Project, Beijing has begun snagging up states in the Balkans which will only further irk Washington, and might lead the US to do something painfully catastrophic in response.

All empires come to an end. That is an indisputable aspect of our history. Whether or not all empires will continue to fall in future of course remains to be seen, but generally speaking we base all future predictions on the back of previous experiences. How far an empire wants to bring the house down in order to avoid being overtaken by a rising power is also something which we would need to account for.

The US has nukes – a lot of them – and is slowly but surely propagating the notion that they might use them. And not just in situations when a nuclear strike is necessary to defend against another nuclear strike – just because, hey, if we are going down, we will take down the rest of the planet with us.

  • ANTONIO

    No one can will or ever contain China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. China is a colossus- I remember that people were so poor in 1900 that they ate human flesh sometimes. Now they are force in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, at a time when the US is facing its final crash and pours trillions into “defense” read offense, and is weak and corrupt and ignored by most of the world except the EU, and that is just a matter of time. China has initiated a “Community of Destiny Shared by Humanity” which does not have imperial characteristics, but is dedicated toward building a world in which everyone can share and where the environment is protected. The era of nationalism is over, but the US has no idea, and is holding fast to the idea of nation as patriotic, instead of realizing that internationalism being the new patriotic mode.

  • chetdude

    China can hardly be considered an altruistic player on the world scene.

    It’s now a massive, state capitalist polluter and resource grabber that is becoming more effective at resource theft than the USAmerican version because they aren’t wasting 60% of their available treasure on an impotent war machine. Their imperialism is done with pens on contracts and treaties instead of with a wasteful, corrupting war machine.

    They are NOT “good guys” but thanks to USAmerica’s suicidal path, they are winning the resource wars. Since they are also well-trained capitalists (Harvard, Chicago School), you can be sure if it’s a choice between their “economy” and the preservation of the Planet, they’ll choose the former every time.

  • Frank Burton

    I don’t agree with your assessment. Look at the facts: in terms of pollution China has made huge progress, is planting trees and is on the forefront of alternative energy developments. Per capita greenhouse emissions are way below that of the US. Of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, 22 are now in India! Also I much prefer a nation that uses contracts and win win treaties to extend its power than killing thousands of innocent people by creating wars, the game of the old divide and conquer.

  • Jon

    Missiles, warships, and bombs are irrelevant to the real enemy–the frightening effects of climate change and contamination of air, water,and soil. In the face of Mother Nature’s fury, e.g. the recent hurricane that demolished Bermuda, these weapons are as nothing at all. Actully, on second thought, they make matters worse, since the war machine is the biggest polluter of all.

  • chetdude

    Alas, the essential paradox is that even in China it’s capitalism now, capitalism tomorrow and capitalism forever.

    The PTB will let nothing will get in the way of an “economic” system with the ethics and processes of a cancer cell.

    They won’t let Planetary survival get in the way of ever-increasing profits.

    And believe us when we tell you that the Chinese Oligarchy is spreading at least as much misery as the USAmerican flavor has.

  • Jay Hansen

    To workers it matters little whether the theft of surplus-value is done by the state or an individual pirate. Pirate capitalism and state capitalism are both going to have to be overthrown.

  • Frank Burton

    It’s a different capitalism though, one that works! State owned enterprises which we used to have before the privatisation push, are profitable to the government which has control. In the West though capitalism has become a cancer where the push for profits is paramount at the expense of the environment and people. In the West money controls government, in China government controls money, a fundamental difference. In my view it’s a more sustainable form of government, assuming the leaders are acting in the best interest of the country.

  • chetdude

    It’s a more sustainable form of capitalism but if not checked soon will still destroy our only Home Planet.