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Okinawan Anti-Bases Delegation Makes An Impression in Washington, D.C.

January 30, 2012 

Even as Tokyo tried to force the Futenma base relocation plan on Okinawa in a desperate effort to salvage its unraveling deal with the U.S., a prominent delegation from Okinawa visited Washington, D.C. to educate political movers and shakers and lobby Congress to close the military bases in Okinawa.  An overview of the delegation “Making Okinawan Voices Heard in America” can be found at Closethebase.org.  David Swanson wrote “Japanese Delegation Wants the U.S. Out of Okinawa” on warisacrime.org:
A 24-member delegation from Japan is in Washington, D.C., this week opposing the presence and new construction of U.S. military bases in Okinawa.  Participating are members of the Japanese House of Councilors, of the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly, and of city governments in Okinawa, as well as leading protest organizers and the heads of several important organizations opposed to the ongoing U.S. military occupation of Okinawa.

The famously stingy U.S. tax payer, frequently seen bitterly protesting outrageously wasteful spending of a few million dollars, is paying billions of dollars to maintain and expand some 90 military bases in Japan (and to make those who profit from such business filthy rich).  Thirty-four of those bases, containing 74% of their total land area, are in Okinawa, which itself contains only 0.6% of Japanese land.  Okinawa is dominated by U.S. military bases and has been for 67 years since the U.S. forcibly appropriated much of the best land.

In addition to numerous meetings, briefings and media sessions, the delegation held a public forum at Busboys and Poets. Here are a few snippets about the speakers:
Keiko Itokazu, a Member of the Japanese National Diet, depicted in this painting, said the Okinawan people had been heartbroken since having been unable to protect a 12-year-old girl from gang rape by U.S. troops in 1995.  The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Japan gives U.S. troops immunity from Japanese prosecution.  Between 1979 and 2008, U.S. forces in Okinawa caused 1,439 accidents (487 of them airplane related), and 5,584 criminal cases (559 of them involving violent crimes).  The list includes fatal driving incidents, residential break-ins, taxi robberies, sexual violence, and other serious crimes against local citizens.
[...]
Hiroshi Ashitomi has been a leader of the nonviolent resistance in Henoko for 16 years.  “We use our own bodies,” he said on Monday, “to resist aggressive actions by the Japanese government.”  Pointing to the picture of Gandhi in the collage on the wall at Busboys, Ashitomi said, “We follow the example of Gandhi.  It is not easy.  We receive threats from the police.  But we are determined to use nonviolent resistance, and we get a lot of support from all over Japan.  We are trying to protect the environment, so many young people from all over Japan come to our tent and participate in our resistance.”
[...]
Specifically, the delegation is asking for the closure of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Futenma Air Station; cancellation of plans to construct a new Marine Corps air base at Cape Henoko; reduction of unbearable noise caused by air operations at Kadena Air Base; withdrawal of any proposal to integrate Futenma’s helicopter squadrons into Kadena’s operations; an end to the construction of six new helipads in the Yanbaru forest in northern Okinawa; and revision of the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement to allow fair prosecutions of crimes.
The article mentioned the role of international solidarity in the Okinawan movement:
Base opponents in Okinawa work with others in Korea, Guam, and Hawaii, and with former residents of Diego Garcia, as well as others around the world.
Doug Bandow in Forbes Magazine wrote a thoughtful and in depth article entitled “Give Okinawa back to Okinawans”.   He wrote of the Okinawan movement:
Civil disobedience is a potential game-changer.  In May 2010 17,000 Okinawans created a human chain surrounding Futenma.  More recently roughly 200 demonstrators delayed delivery of an environmental impact report on a new runway from the defense ministry to the prefectural government.  Using force against protestors would threaten a future Japanese government’s survival and embarrass Washington.

Rather than resist Okinawan demands, the U.S. should voluntarily reduce its military presence on the island.  Jeffrey Hornung of the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies observed:  “Given how much problems this is causing in Okinawa, it’s finally time to rethink things.”

Bandow also discussed how the Okinawa issue is helping to move public sentiment away from the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty (ANPO) which maintains Japan’s subordinate role to the U.S.:
Tokyo has essentially relinquished control over its own territory to comply with U.S. demands.  Although the Obama administration frustrated the 2009 DPJ campaign pledge to create a more equal security partnership, Japanese citizens will inevitably raise more questions about the bilateral relationship as they debate security issues.
Prof. Kenneth B. Pyle of the University of Washington argued that “the degree of U.S. domination in the relationship has been so extreme that a recalibration of the alliance was bound to happen, but also because autonomy and self-mastery have always been fundamental goals of modern Japan.”
The article goes on to explain that the United States’ paternalistic relationship with Japan is based on two rationales: containing a rising China and preventing a resurgent militaristic Japan. However, as Bandow points out, the “China peril” rationale for the Okinawa bases is overblown:

Exactly how the Marines help contain Beijing is not clear.  As Robert Gates observed, U.S. policymakers would have to have their heads examined to participate in another land war in Asia.  If a conflict with China improbably developed, Washington would rely on air and naval units.

Moreover, despite persistent fear-mongering about Beijing, the PRC is in no position, and for many years will not be in position, to harm the U.S.  Chinese military spending remains far behind that of America.  Beijing is working mightily to deter the U.S. from attacking China, not to attack America.

The article concludes that what Japan decides to do about the Japan-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty is up to the Japanese people; the U.S. should not try to dictate Japan’s policy:
Adopting such a stance would be in the interests of the American and Japanese people.  And especially in the interest of the Okinawan people.  The U.S. should begin transforming its alliance relationships.  Now is a good time to do so with Japan.
And even in TIME magazine, Kirk Spitzer wrote “Marines on Okinawa: Time to Leave?”:
More than six decades after U.S. Marines stormed ashore on Okinawa, it may finally be time for them to go home.
The visit seems to have influenced some lawmakers to take more proactive steps to call for the closing of the bases in light of the current U.S. budget woes and in response to President Obama’s new defense guidance statement. Representatives Barbara Lee, Barney Frank, Lynn C. Woolsey, and Rush D. Holt sent a letter to President Obama that criticized the U.S. troops in Okinawa and proposed expansion of troops in Australia:
Some of our troops in Asia as well, particularly our Marines in Okinawa, are stationed on bases with no well-thought out purpose, at considerable cost both in funding and in causing enmity with our Japanese ally.  While we should continue to offer protection to South Korea and enforce its cease-fire with its unstable and hostile northern neighbor, and we understand your overall emphasis on Asian security, particular South Asia with its proximity to the Persian Gulf and oil-shipping, we see no reason for any expansion into Australia.
These advances for the Okinawan movement have been hard fought and well deserved. But the consequences of their success may spell disaster for Hawai’i unless peace movements in the Asia-Pacific and the United States can push for a reduction of military forces in the region.   My next post will cover this issue.

Philippines may allow greater U.S. presence in latest reaction to China’s rise

January 25, 2012 

As Kaleikoa Kaeo points out, if you imagine the U.S. military in Hawai’i to be a monstrous he’e (octopus) with tentacles strangling other lands and peoples around the Asia-Pacific region, its tentacles can regrow if they are cut off.  The Washington Post reported that the Philippines government may allow the U.S. to expand its military presence in the Philippines, despite U.S. bases having been thrown out twenty years ago:

Two decades after evicting U.S. forces from their biggest base in the Pacific, the Philippines is in talks with the Obama administration about expanding the American military presence in the island nation, the latest in a series of strategic moves aimed at China.

Although negotiations are in the early stages, officials from both governments said they are favorably inclined toward a deal. They are scheduled to intensify their discussions Thursday and Friday in Washington prior to higher-level meetings in March. If an arrangement is reached, it would follow other recent agreements to base thousands of U.S. Marines in northern Australia and station Navy warships in Singapore.

Among the options under consideration are operating Navy ships from the Philippines, deploying troops on a rotational basis and staging more frequent joint exercises. Under each of the scenarios, U.S. forces would effectively serve as guests at existing foreign bases.

The sudden rush by many in the Pacific region to embrace Washington is a direct reaction to China’s rise as a military power and its assertiveness in staking claims to disputed territories, such as the energy-rich South China Sea.

After 9/11/2001, the U.S. began to creep back into the Philippines under the guise of fighting a second front in the Global War on Terror:

The Pentagon already has about 600 Special Operations Forces members in the Philippines, where they advise local troops in their fight with rebels affiliated with al-Qaeda. But the talks underway between Manila and Washington potentially involve a much more extensive partnership.

However, the nature of these new proposed bases is changing:

Instead of trying to establish giant bases reminiscent of the Cold War, however, Pentagon officials said they want to maintain a light footprint.

“We have no desire nor any interest in creating a U.S.-only base in Southeast Asia,” said Robert Scher, a deputy assistant secretary of defense who oversees security policy in the region. “In each one of these cases, the core decision and discussion is about how we work better with our friends and allies. And the key piece of that is working from their locations.”

The distinction is critical in the Philippines, which kicked the U.S. military out of its sprawling naval base at Subic Bay in 1992 after lawmakers rejected a new treaty. Along with the nearby Clark Air Force Base, which the Pentagon abandoned in 1991 after a volcanic eruption, Subic Bay had served as a keystone of the U.S. military presence in Asia for nearly a century.

 READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

 

The China “Threat” Rises Again

December 8, 2011 

In “The China ‘Treat’ Rises Again,” Franklin Spinney, a former Pentagon analyst who exposed corruption within the Pentagon has written an analysis of the U.S. policy ‘pivot’ to Asia as driven by the interests of the Military Industrial Congressional Complex (MICC):

When the Cold War ended in 1991, the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex (MICC) was left high and dry, floundering like a beached whale, because there was no superpower threat to sustain its bloated existence.  But the MICC is a self-organizing adaptable cultural organism, and when one looks back on the 1990s, it becomes clear that the early 1990s became years of experimentation in the MICC’s struggle to evolve a new threat (what the Pentagon lovingly calls a peer competitor) or a combination of threats (in Pentagonese, ‘near-peer’ competitors) to justify a continuation of high budgets and hi-tech business as usual.

[...]

The people are sick and tired of perpetually fighting small hot wars; Syria and Iran are two small and not so small wars ‘too far;’  and there is a real threat of marginal budget reductions is in the offing, but the Pentagon refuses to do rational contingency planning.  So what is the MICC to do?

There is only one answer: Find a peer competitor and start a new Cold War.  That would generate the requisite amount of fear to unleash the purse strings, but at the same time, Pentagon could pump more modernization money to defense contractors (the industrial wing of the MICC) without having to pump up the operations budget (which mushrooms in hot wars).  But what nation fits the bill?

Only China — and it looks like President Obama has swallowed the MICC’s bait.

So the objective is to provoke a new cold war with China that will provide the need for increased military spending:

It is virtually certain that these moves will be perceived by China as a dangerous encirclement, and the will, therefore, trigger some kind of countermoves by China.

Voilà! With any luck, the MICC will be off to a new cold war arms race, the sequester will be quashed, and increased spending as usual will continue unabated.

Michael Klare: Playing With Fire – Obama’s Risky Oil Threat to China

December 6, 2011 

When President Obama announced his strategic ‘pivot’ to the Asia Pacific region, most understood that it was primarily aimed at bolstering the U.S. economy and containing China. However, in Playing with Fire: Obama’s Risky Oil Threat to China, Michael Klare provides crucial analysis of the shifting “energy equation” for China and the U.S. It explains much about the political, economic and military calculus behind this move.   He writes:

The U.S. military buildup and the potential for a powerful Chinese counter-thrust have already been the subject of discussion in the American and Asian press.  But one crucial dimension of this incipient struggle has received no attention at all: the degree to which Washington’s sudden moves have been dictated by a fresh analysis of the global energy equation, revealing (as the Obama administration sees it) increased vulnerabilities for the Chinese side and new advantages for Washington.

The New Energy Equation

For decades, the United States has been heavily dependent on imported oil, much of it obtained from the Middle East and Africa, while China was largely self-sufficient in oil output.  In 2001, the United States consumed 19.6 million barrels of oil per day, while producing only nine million barrels itself.  The dependency on foreign suppliers for that 10.6 million-barrel shortfall proved a source of enormous concern for Washington policymakers.  They responded by forging ever closer, more militarized ties with Middle Eastern oil producers and going to war on occasion to ensure the safety of U.S. supply lines.

In 2001, China, on the other hand, consumed only five million barrels per day and so, with a domestic output of 3.3 million barrels, needed to import only 1.7 million barrels.  Those cold, hard numbers made its leadership far less concerned about the reliability of the country’s major overseas providers — and so it did not need to duplicate the same sort of foreign policy entanglements that Washington had long been involved in.

Now, so the Obama administration has concluded, the tables are beginning to turn.  As a result of China’s booming economy and the emergence of a sizeable and growing middle class (many of whom have already bought their first cars), the country’s oil consumption is exploding.  Running at about 7.8 million barrels per day in 2008, it will, according to recent projections by the U.S. Department of Energy, reach 13.6 million barrels in 2020, and 16.9 million in 2035.  Domestic oil production, on the other hand, is expected to grow from 4.0 million barrels per day in 2008 to 5.3 million in 2035.  Not surprisingly, then, Chinese imports are expected to skyrocket from 3.8 million barrels per day in 2008 to a projected 11.6 million in 2035 — at which time they will exceed those of the United States.

The U.S., meanwhile, can look forward to an improved energy situation.  Thanks to increased production in “tough oil” areas of the United States, including the Arctic seas off Alaska, the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and shale formations in Montana, North Dakota, and Texas, future imports are expected to decline, even as energy consumption rises.  In addition, more oil is likely to be available from the Western Hemisphere rather than the Middle East or Africa.  Again, this will be thanks to the exploitation of yet more “tough oil” areas, including the Athabasca tar sands of Canada, Brazilian oil fields in the deep Atlantic, and increasingly pacified energy-rich regions of previously war-torn Colombia.  According to the Department of Energy, combined production in the United States, Canada, and Brazil is expected to climb by 10.6 million barrels per day between 2009 and 2035 — an enormous jump, considering that most areas of the world are expecting declining output.

What does this all mean?

All of this ensures that, environmentally, militarily, and economically, we will find ourselves in a more, not less, perilous world.  The desire to turn away from disastrous land wars in the Greater Middle East to deal with key issues now simmering in Asia is understandable, but choosing a strategy that puts such an emphasis on military dominance and provocation is bound to provoke a response in kind.  It is hardly a prudent path to head down, nor will it, in the long run, advance America’s interests at a time when global economic cooperation is crucial.  Sacrificing the environment to achieve greater energy independence makes no more sense.

A new Cold War in Asia and a hemispheric energy policy that could endanger the planet: it’s a fatal brew that should be reconsidered before the slide toward confrontation and environmental disaster becomes irreversible.  You don’t have to be a seer to know that this is not the definition of good statesmanship, but of the march of folly.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Rivals under the same heaven

December 1, 2011 

President Obama used the backdrop of the November 2011 APEC summit in Honolulu to unveil his foreign policy ‘pivot’ to the Asia-Pacific region, then traveled to Australia where he announced the expansion of U.S. military exercises and bases there.  Recently, Secretary of State Clinton wrote an article in Foreign Policy entitled “America’s Pacific Century”, where she articulated the same policy.

At the Moana Nui peoples’ conference in Honolulu and at the Japan Peace Conference in Okinawa, many speakers discussed the U.S. pivot as a policy of simultaneously containing and engaging China. It is a tango of ‘competitive interdependence’.

Dr Jian Junbo, an assistant professor of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, Shanghai, China, and an academic visitor at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the United Kingdom, echoed this theme in an op ed in the Asia Times “Rivals Under the Same Heaven”.   However, Professor Jian sees recent U.S. moves as a shift towards a more aggressive containment of China, which could have dire consequences for peace and prosperity:

US policy toward China in past three decades could be summarized as seeking a balance between containment and engagement.

The diplomatic offensives launched by the administration of US President Barack Obama in past weeks are evidence that Washington is quickly tipping the balance in favor of containing China, frustrated by its failure to engage that country into US-led international order.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Hawaii in mid-November, Obama demanded that China play by international rules, and be more responsible in the international community, since it had grown up. He said China should continue to revalue its currency against the US dollar, narrow the Sino-US trade deficit and better protect intellectual-property rights. Even more aggressively, Obama has kicked off negotiations on forming a Trans-Pacific Partnership, a US-led free-trade zone in the Asia-Pacific area that would exclude China – the second-largest economy in the world.

Right after the APEC Summit, Obama visited Australia, a political and military ally of the US, where he declared that 2,500 American troops would be stationed in Darwin, capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. This is widely viewed as a new deterrence to China’s navy.

[...]

Taking into consideration all of this and other actions by the US administration in East Asia in recent years after Obama proclaimed the ”return to Asia” strategic shift, it’s easy to see that a new containment policy toward China is in formation, although Obama and his top officials have publicly denied it.

And U.S. bases play a key role in this strategy now that America’s ‘tender trap’ failed to capture China in a U.S. dominated world system:

All this is not to mention that the US has many military bases in countries and regions neighboring China – South Korea, Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – and it has military cooperation with Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia and others.

All in all, it seems Washington is now seeking comprehensively to contain China with both hard and soft approaches after its adoption of the ”return to Asia” strategy and its failure to frame China in the US-led international system despite the efforts of each US administration in the past three decades. When Obama visited China in 2009, he tried to sell the new idea of a Group of Two – a US-China convergence in geopolitical interests – but Premier Wen Jiabao straightforwardly told Obama that Beijing didn’t like such an idea.

Originally, Obama hoped in this way to ”tame” China – not by containment or engagement alone but with what some called a ”tender trap”. But he failed. After that, we can see Washington has been readjusting its policy toward China, and the readjustment should not be considered only as temporary ”election rhetoric” by Obama to please the Republicans and common voters. Rather, this is a systemic and strategic readjustment of China policy, in coordination with Washington’s ”return to Asia” strategic shift.

China’s response has been subdued. This has puzzled some Asia watchers including Richard Halloran, a contributor to the Civil Beat and former columnist for the Honolulu Advertiser, who writes:

Surprisingly, China’s response to President Obama’s plan to “pivot” American attention and military power from the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan to East Asia has been remarkably mild.

Dr. Jian attributes China’s restraint to “domestic affairs”, such as preparations for the 18th National Congress next year to reshuffle the Chinese Communist Party’s top leadership, as well as China’s culture and history and its national strategy of “peaceful rise”.   Unfortunately, the U.S. continues to follow the script of western imperialism, as expressed by Joseph Nye, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.   He asserts that the two world wars were the result of the failure by the dominant powers to integrate a rising power into the existing order.   Therefore, he counsels applying greater pressure on China to conform to and integrate into the U.S. dominated order:

The Pentagon’s East Asia Strategy Review that has guided our policy since 1995 offered China integration into the international system through trade and exchanges, but we hedged our bet by simultaneously strengthening our alliance with Japan. Our military forces did not aspire to “contain” China in a cold war fashion, but they helped to shape the environment in which China makes its choices.

So it is a policy of containment, not ‘Containment’.  However, Jian advises:

It is important that the US should not treat China like those rising powers in history, and Beijing should seek more flexible and functional ways to deal with Washington’s challenges.

[...]

Containment is the worst and stupidest way to deal with or manage China’s rise.

Nye on U.S. ‘pivot’ to Asia Pacific

November 21, 2011 

Joseph Nye, President Clinton’s first Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs wrote an opinion article for the New York Times that applauds President Obama for his ‘pivot’ towards the Asia Pacific region and decision to increase U.S. military training in Australia.  This appears to be a concession that the move of Futenma air station within Okinawa is not feasible.  But one should read this article as the logic driving U.S. policy in the Asia Pacific.   As you can see, the concerns and wishes of peoples of the Pacific do not factor into his thinking.

He writes

There are three good reasons for President Obama’s decision to rotate regularly 2,500 Marines through an Australian base.

Obama is right to ‘pivot’ American foreign policy toward East Asia. It sends the right message to China, and avoids further friction with Japan.

Of the U.S. “message to China” he writes:

The Pentagon’s East Asia Strategy Review that has guided our policy since 1995 offered China integration into the international system through trade and exchanges, but we hedged our bet by simultaneously strengthening our alliance with Japan. Our military forces did not aspire to “contain” China in a cold war fashion, but they helped to shape the environment in which China makes its choices.

And of the Okinawa situation he concedes:

The U.S. and Japan have been working on the Futenma issue since I co-chaired a special action committee on Okinawa — in 1995! The current official plan to move the Marines inside Okinawa is unlikely to be acceptable to the Okinawa people. Moving Marines to Australia is a smart move because they will be able to train and exercise freely without inadvertently signaling a withdrawal from the region.

 

U.S. pivot to Asia makes China nervous

November 16, 2011 

The Washington Postpublished an informative article on China’s reaction to President Obama’s “pivot” toward Asia:

With the Obama administration’s high-profile pivot toward Asia this week — pushing for a new free-trade agreement with at least eight other countries and securing military basing rights in Australia — China is feeling at once isolated, criticized, encircled and increasingly like a taret of U.S. moves.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which was the major policy issue at the APEC summit in Honolulu, will raise tensions between China and the U.S. and spill over from the realm of economics into the realm of security concerns:

Among the friction points between the United States and China, a particular source of tension is the U.S. push for a new free-trade pact, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which pointedly does not include China. Beijing sees the development of the TPP as a political move, to create a U.S.-dominated counterweight to a rival trade bloc of Southeast Asian countries plus China, Japan and South Korea, known by the acronym ASEAN Plus Three.

[...]

“President Obama wants to intensely push on all fronts,” said Zhu Feng, a professor at Peking University’s School of International Studies. “It’s very, very depressing. Of course, it’s targeting China. It’s a new East Asian strategy.”

Zhu said he feared that the Chinese government would react to feeling isolated — particularly if the United States pursues the TPP free-trade agreement with Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and, perhaps, Japan, without China being invited to join. And the one area where Beijing could react is the economic arena, where the United States and China had lately been acting more cooperatively, even as they continued to disagree on the issue of currency valuation.

“What worries me for the moment is, economically China’s backlash could be very serious,” Zhu said. “Economics has turned out to be common ground for both sides. Now I have to say security elements will complicate China’s view of economic engagement.”

[...]

But, analysts here said, China expects to be taken seriously as a player in the East Asian region. And the analysts feared that any U.S. moves seen as provocative might only push a nervous China to take defensive measures.

“If the U.S. tries to be provocative . . . and treat China as a rival, it will definitely trigger an arms race and put East Asia in a tight spot,” said Sun Zhe, an international relations professor at Tsinghua University. “This is what alarms me most.”

Obama on U.S. military expansion in Australia: “We are here to stay”

November 16, 2011 

The New York Times carried another article about Obama’s decision to expand the U.S. military presence and activity in Australia as part of its containment of China.  U.S. imperial arrogance is on full display. Also, the article also touches on the the new types of military basing arrangements that we are more likely to see in the coming years.  With growing pressure to cut the federal budget, foreign military bases have come under increasing scrutiny in Congress.   Joint use base agreements are a way to ensure U.S. military access to bases without having to incur the cost and effort of maintaining the bases.  For example all South Korean military bases are available for U.S. military use, which is why the Jeju island military base is seen a U.S.-driven project.  Here’s a brief excerpt from the NYT article:

“But the second message I’m trying to send is that we are here to stay,” Mr. Obama said. “This is a region of huge strategic importance to us.” He added: “Even as we make a whole host of important fiscal decisions back home, this is right up there at the top of my priority list. And we’re going to make sure that we are able to fulfill our leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region.”

On his two-day visit to Australia, the president will fly north across the continent to Darwin, a frontier port and military outpost across the Timor Sea from Indonesia, which will be the center of operations for the coming deployment. The first 200 to 250 Marines will arrive next year, with forces rotating in and out and eventually building up to 2,500, the two leaders said.

The United States will not build new bases on the continent, but will use Australian facilities instead.

U.S. to expand its military presence in Australia

November 16, 2011 

On his trip to Australia, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will expand its military footprint in Australia, but insists it is not intended to counter China in any way. Yeah, right.

President Barack Obama insisted Wednesday that the United States does not fear China, even as he announced a new security agreement with Australia that is widely viewed as a response to Beijing’s growing aggressiveness.

China responded swiftly, warning that an expanded U.S. military footprint in Australia may not be appropriate and deserved greater scrutiny.

The agreement, announced during a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, will expand the U.S. military presence in Australia, positioning more U.S. personnel and equipment there, and increasing American access to bases. About 250 U.S. Marines will begin a rotation in northern Australia starting next year, with a full force of 2,500 military personnel staffing up over the next several years.

Obama called the deployment “significant,” and said it would build capacity and cooperation between the U.S. and Australia. U.S. officials were careful to emphasize that the pact was not an attempt to create a permanent American military presence in Australia.

The militarization-globalization link

November 12, 2011 

The International Business Times wrote an article about the APEC 2011 meeting in Honolulu, and particularly the issues and context of the U.S. – China dialogue.  The article describes the relationship between militarization and globalization:

United States Pacific Command

What does a Hawaii-base military organization have to do with global commerce?

The Pacific Command was started in 1947 as a network of regional alliances built to counteract the Soviet presence in the Pacific. The military organization continues in its mission of “deterring aggression, advancing regional security cooperation, responding to crises, and fighting to win” to this day.

This peace and international cooperation has allowed economic development to thrive, especially among the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member states.

“We’ve gotten rich as well and we’ve benefited greatly from economic development in Asia that may not have happened absent the U.S. military presence,” Michael Mazza, a security expert at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, told Reuters.

“We’ve seen over the past 30-plus years the region really blossom both economically and politically and people tend to forget or not even realize a reason for that is that the United States has ensured stability in Asia and the Asia-Pacific,” Mazza added.

Military power still an issue

China has been spending quite a lot of cash on its military, the most of any country in the world after the United States. Last year, China spent $114 billion, which is almost twice what next-in-line France spent (although significantly less than the $700 billion spent by the U.S., which was engaged in two overseas wars). Each consecutive year, that figure gets higher.

China’s rise in military prominence will surely be a topic of discussion, as it has been for the Obama administration in the past.

“China, unlike its Asian peers, does not appear content with the American-made and -dominated international order,” said a report from the Project 2049 Institute.

“Beijing is neither a candidate for the kind of benign hegemonic rule that others would find legitimate, nor much interested in aiding Washington in shouldering global responsibilities.”

Right now, this is a benign security threat to the United States and other Pacific powers. But if unchecked, it could raise serious concerns.

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