The recent U.S. military moves in the Pacific — many in response to Chinese territorial policies — could lead to greater oversight, especially by Congress, according to a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.
Chinese territorial claims in the region have caused many to fear possible military actions in the Pacific, especially with other Asian countries and U.S. allies, which could lead to greater tension between the two global giants.
Recent basing and deployment decisions by the Pentagon meant to better anchor U.S. presence and influence in the region could exacerbate those tensions.
“Another issue for Congress concerns the implications of maritime territorial disputes involving China in the South China Sea (SCS) and East China Sea (ECS) for the stationing and operations of U.S. military forces in the region, and for U.S. military procurement programs,” CRS says.
China lays claim to a 200-nm maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
As part of the U.S. strategic rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific announced in January, CRS notes, U.S. Marines have begun conducting rotational training deployments to Darwin, on Australia’s northern coast.
In addition, CRS points out, the U.S. Navy will station up to four Navy Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) at Singapore, at the southern end of the SCS, with the first LCS scheduled to deploy there in 2013 for an initial trial deployment.
The Navy says the LCS design for coastal missions make them an ideal vessel for the region. LCSs displace about 3,000 tons, making them the size of a corvette, light frigate, or Coast Guard cutter, CRS says, and can be equipped to counter small boats, mines or submarines.
CRS also says other U.S. Navy ships, including attack submarines, “have begun to make more frequent port calls at Philippine ports.”
Furthermore, CRS says, “U.S. military operations in connection with maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China might have implications for U.S. weapon acquisition programs, including programs for acquiring land-based aircraft and UAVs for conducting surveillance of the SCS and ECS, and programs for acquiring non-lethal weapons for U.S. Navy surface ships.”