According to Politico sources, the Pentagon plans to strengthen its presence in the Pacific following China’s military buildup in the region. The considered actions involve installing a permanent naval task force to monitor China and another Pacific-based operation.
The sources, two people connected to internal discussions, say through the Pacific task force, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin could increase financing and resources to defend against China.
The details follow news from earlier this week that the Northern Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is willing to collaborate with America to counter the security challenges China poses to the world.
The Pentagon’s discussions stem from US President Joe Biden’s commissioning of a Pentagon China Task Force in March, the sources stated. The task force reportedly plans and coordinates defence policies, processes, and readiness. Ely Ratner, Mr Biden’s nominee to serve as the chief Pentagon Indo-Pacific policy official, led the task force. Mr Ratner recently completed the work and offered recommendations to Secretary Austin.
However, an anonymous Pentagon defence authority stated none of the China task force’s plans are confirmed.
“We are looking at a number of proposals in the Indo-Pacific and across the Department to better synchronize and coordinate our activities. However, as the Secretary said, now is the time to get to work. There are many details and specifics still to be finalized.”
Elbridge Colby, a Trump Administration official, suggested the task force and its named operation would elevate the power of the West’s Pacific-oriented influence.
“Whether it’s focused on China explicitly or implicitly, it’s got bureaucratic oomph to say ‘hey, no [Central Command], just because you have a knee-jerk reaction to something happening, you can’t steal our assets,” Mr Colby told Politico.
Other unnamed Politico sources said the task force’s model would be NATO’s Standing Naval Forces Atlantic, launched during the Cold War in Europe. According to the Telemus Group’s Jerry Hendrix, this NATO task force coordinated assets for immediate threat response.
“[The task force is a] deterrent because it demonstrates a unity of effort in countering Chinese excessive threats to the concept of a free sea and free trade with their large territorial sea claims,” said Mr Hendrix.
Whether the US task force would draw on only the American navy, or call for aid from its allies, remains unclear.
Furthermore, the Pentagon’s China policy authorities are considering launching a named military operation for the Pacific task force. The Politico sources said this move would provide further budget authority and resources for the plan while providing the US Defence Secretary with the means to kickstart a formal planning process.
The Pentagon currently has not briefed Capitol Hill on the plans.
Politico. (June 15, 2021). Pentagon considering permanent naval task force to counter China in the Pacific.