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Amid China Threat US To Hold Mammoth Naval Operations In Pacific

It has been at least 10 years since four aircraft carriers have operated in the Pacific Ocean at one time, the Hawaii-based Roughead said, adding that the increased activity was in line with findings of the QDR released on February 6.
by P. Parameswaran
Washington DC (AFP) Feb 15, 2006
Amid persistent warnings about China's growing military clout, the US military said Tuesday it would hold one of its biggest naval exercises in the Asia Pacific this summer.

The large-scale operations will involve several carrier strike groups, each of which includes at least three warships, an attack submarine and a support ship.

Four carriers would be involved in three military maritime exercises -- one of them touted as the world's largest -- between June and August in the region, Commander of the US Pacific Fleet Admiral Gary Roughead said in Washington.

Two of the exercises are expected to be largely confined to US forces and held in the Western Pacific while the third involving navies from at least eight countries, including Australia, Chile, Japan, South Korea and Peru, would occur near the Hawaiian Islands.

While the war games would boost bilateral and multilateral cooperation and improve military preparedness, it "also provides a deterrent for anyone who would wish us ill," Roughead told a forum organized by the US-based Asia Society, which aims to bridge ties between the two sides of the Pacific.

A major Pentagon review of US military strategy earlier this month singled out China as the country with the greatest potential to challenge the United States militarily.

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), conducted every four years, said a key goal for the US military in the coming years will be to "shape the choices of countries at a strategic crossroads."

The QDR report noted China's steady but secretive military buildup since 1996.

Some analysts also see recent Sino-Russian rapprochement as a sign of a desire to wrest military and economic power in the Asia-Pacific region from the United States, which is linked by half century military alliances with Japan and South Korea.

It has been at least 10 years since four aircraft carriers have operated in the Pacific Ocean at one time, the Hawaii-based Roughead said, adding that the increased activity was in line with findings of the QDR released on February 6.

His spokesman Navy Captain Matt Brown said it could be the largest combined aircraft carrier operations in the Pacific since the Vietnam War. Aside from the Japan-based Kitty Hawk, the other carriers to be involved in the exercises are the San Diego-based Ronald Reagan and one more each from the Pacific and Atlantic fleets.

"I think for an East Coast carrier to be operating in the Pacific -- probably Vietnam was the last time we had East Coast ships operating up in the Western Pacific," he explained.

Elaborating on the exercises, Brown said, "As the QDR mentioned, it is important for us to be focusing on the Pacific, to be working with friends and allies in the Pacific.

"And we think that the carriers are a capable multimission platform for gaining familiarisation for forces operating in the Western Pacific."

Citing the massive US-led tsunami relief operations last year in Asia, Brown said, "Our leaders in Hawaii were able to pick up the phone and call counterparts in Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and rapidly exchange information because they knew each other.

"In a situation where there is a disagreement, wouldn't it be nice to pick up the phone and refer back to rely upon a long term established relationship to hopefully prevent that conflict," he asked.

Brown also said that the US military hospital ship "Mercy," deployed last year to help tsunami-hit Indonesia, will leave this spring on a five-month mission to Southeast Asia.

"We are still working on the locations," he said. "This is follow on to the tsunami experience because we found that it was important and the people benefited and is good to do it again," he said. Mercy is one of two American hospital ships.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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