The Pacific Fleet has produced a classified proposal to conduct a global show of force in what would be a warning to China as well as a demonstration that the U.S. Navy is prepared to both deter and counter Beijing’s military aggression.
Citing unnamed defense officials, CNN reported the draft proposal calls for conducting several operations within a one-week period next month.
The network added:
The goal is to carry out a highly focused and concentrated set of exercises involving U.S. warships, combat aircraft and troops to demonstrate that the U.S. can counter potential adversaries quickly on several fronts.
The plan suggests sailing ships and flying aircraft near China’s territorial waters in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait in freedom of navigation operations to demonstrate the right of free passage in international waters. The proposal means US ships and aircraft would operate close to Chinese forces.
The defense officials emphasized that there is no intention to engage in combat with the Chinese.
CNN reported that one defense official said the plan was “just an idea,” but it’s far enough along that it has been assigned a classified name that no one at the Pentagon would confirm.
U.S. officials have said that the Chinese often view such exercises as provocations. In addition, they said that the U.S. intelligence community still needed to give its feedback as to what China’s reaction is likely to be.
News of the proposal comes just days after an “unsafe” incident in the South China Sea between U.S. and Chinese destroyers. The Chinese vessel steamed towards the U.S. warship on a collision course, forcing the American ship to veer off.
The Navy released photos of the encounter. One retired Navy officer said the 8,000-ton ships were seconds away from colliding, CNN noted.
Analysis: There’s no way to know just yet whether this report is accurate or, if it is, how close to a decision President Trump may be, but if the operation comes to fruition it might just be the right thing to do at the right time.
Since early in the George W. Bush administration when a Chinese fighter jet bumped into a U.S. Navy P-3 Orion surveillance plane, which caused the Chinese plane to crash killing the pilot and forced the U.S. plane to land at a military base on China’s Hainan Island, military tensions have been increasing between both countries.
On the current trend line, we don’t expect that to change. China is a revisionist power and is rapidly spreading its influence and wealth around the world. In addition to the South China Sea, where China has built military outposts and claimed the entire body of water, Bejing is using its “Belt and Road Initiative” to buy its way into Africa, Europe, and South America via development loans and other investments.
That is okay in and of itself, but the Chinese aren’t seeking to co-exist among the top nations of the world. They want to overturn the current U.S.-led global order and put Beijing in the driver’s seat. Historically, this kind of revisionist agenda has led to conflict.
A global show of force will, in no uncertain terms, inform the Chinese that the United States, under the current administration, is not simply going to allow Beijing to supplant U.S. national (and global) interests. That might temper Chinese ‘aggression’ somewhat, but it’s not going to change China’s direction.
We don’t think the Trump administration is hoping such a large global exercise will cause a change of heart in the Chinese. Rather, we believe Washington simply wants Beijing to understand in no uncertain terms it faces a major response if there’s a miscalculation and an American warship or other asset is attacked or otherwise damaged.
It’s not a conflict Washington wants, but if these exercises are carried out, it will be President Trump’s way of saying he won’t back away from it, either.
For those who think the U.S. has no business ‘dictating’ global terms, that’s not the way to look at this.
The U.S. is a country built on freedom and democratic institutions; Chinese is an authoritarian society. The U.S. has an interest in promoting and defending democracy worldwide because free nations prosper and we share in that prosperity.
Therefore, we can’t let an authoritarian nation become the world’s dominant power today any more than we could during the Cold War, when the authoritarian threat came from the Soviet Union.
We’re not ‘dictating’ global terms so much as we’re attempting to prevent another great power from doing so.