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President Obama flew from this weekend’s APEC summit in Honolulu to Canberra, the Australian capital, to meet with Prime Minister Gillard on a range of bilateral issues. He is expected to give a speech on a “deepening of the alliance” between the two countries on Thursday, even as details begin to emerge about growing US/Australian military cooperation.
Diplomatic sources indicate that the plan for an increased American military presence in the region–including a marine task force of 2500 troops, more ships and nuclear-powered submarines, and a greater number of joint military exercises–have been conveyed to the other Asia-Pacific powers, including China.
The move comes as Secretary of State Clinton gave her own address to the APEC conference last weekend stressing that the Asia-Pacific region is becoming the world’s new “center of gravity.” Her remarks were interspersed with tough words for China regarding the valuation of its currency.
The increasing US military involvement in the region, combined with the tough talk on China’s economy, serve to highlight the growing turbulence in the region exemplified by China’s own increasing military presence in the South China Sea.
Now, Pentagon officials are warning of the early stages of a new Cold-War style era in US-Chinese relations, with one military official telling the Washington Times that the Pentagon’s new plan, known as The Air Sea Battle concept “is to China what the maritime strategy was to the Soviet Union.”
The plan calls for increased preparations by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to counteract China’s increasingly sophisticated arsenal, including its long-range missiles, stealth aircraft, anti-satellite weapons and cyberweapons.
At the same time, China is increasing its own military presence in areas like the troubled Kashmir region, where China has established a military presence over the past 6 years under the guise of reconstruction projects after the 2005 earthquake that devastated the region. There are currently 14 projects in the area that are being coordinated by the Pakistan Army and funded by over $6 billion in Chinese investments.
Last week, Pakistan raised the specter of even further military integration with Beijing as Prime Minister Gilani met with the Chinese Premier and the Russian Prime Minister at the annual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a NATO counter-balance to which Pakistan is seeking membership.
Now, even as the ASEAN countries seek to come into even closer economic integration via agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, military analysts are fretting over the possibility of a new front for the deployment of US forces, and a new Cold War to justify the largely unreported arms race taking place between Washington and Beijing.