In August, the U.S. launched large-scale military exercises in all fields in the Indo-Pacific region together with the U.K., Australia, and Japan. This was the first exercise of its kind in more than four decades and comes amid growing tensions with China, reports the SCMP.
The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercise, which began on August 2 and ran through August 27, included a large-scale amphibious and naval exercise for the first time since the 1981 U.S. Ocean Venture exercise with allies including the Nato nations during the Cold War period, is reaching new heights.
According to the U.S. Navy, this will signal to competitors that the U.S. military “remains ready at the end of the war because of its global operational commitments.”
According to an announcement by the China Maritime Safety Administration on August 4, the exercise coincides with China’s military training exercises in areas of the South China Sea from August 6 to August 10. Protecting freedom of navigation in these disputed waters is at the core of Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy.
The Indo-Pacific Command exercise included forces from the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines, along with the British Armed Forces, a command statement said. It also included the Australian Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
Some 36 naval ships, from aircraft carriers to submarines, and more than 50 virtual units took part in the exercise, including field training, amphibious landings, air and ground maneuvers, air operations, and maritime operations.
Analysts said that the large-scale drills signal U.S. support for allies in the region and a show of strength towards China amid exploding tensions over issues such as trade, technology, cyber attacks, the consequences of the covid-19 pandemic, and human rights.
There is growing concern that the South China Sea dispute will emerge as a focal point between major powers. The Joe Biden administration has repeatedly pushed back China’s influence in the region, and Beijing has moved more aggressively in asserting its claims to most of the sea.
Brad Glosserman, a visiting professor at the Center for Rule-Building Strategy at Tama University, Japan, said that the exercises sent a “very clear signal” about America’s readiness and capabilities in the region, as well as its commitment to its allies and partners to promote security and stability in the region.
“They are [a signal to China], but also a signal to every other adversary in the region that the United States and its security partners remain alert and ready,” he said.
However, Zhou Chenming, a Beijing-based military analyst, said the U.S. military has conducted numerous exercises in the Indo-Pacific as part of Washington’s show of global power and downplays the risk that the latest exercise will cause further tension in the region.
“In recent years, it really feels like they’re targeting China, but they won’t go too far and won’t intentionally try to cross China’s boundaries,” he said. “The recent U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific has not been enough, so they need to use these types of exercises to prove themselves.”
However, Remy Davison, a professor of politics and international relations at Monash University in Australia, also said that the drills send a clear message to China, especially regarding China’s naval assertiveness in the South China Sea and toward Taiwan, which Beijing claims as “its own.”
“Through the scale of these exercises, the Biden administration wants to show both its allies in the Indian Ocean and adversaries that the United States will not back down or back away from its commitments to Indo-Pacific,” security said Mr. Remy.
“Allowing China to turn the South China Sea or East China Sea into ‘China’s waters’ is not in the interest of Japan, Australia, the U.S. or India, and this is why these countries entered into a strategic partnership to push back against China’s military rise.”