Last week, the Pentagon released a new Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy document outlining the Department's plan for ensuring the freedom of the seas and the broader security of the region. While the strategy is careful to not exclusively focus on the rise of China, the country's central role in U.S. strategic thinking is hard to miss, and the military touted the report as the "most comprehensive assessment of land reclamation activities in the South China Sea" to date. The document rejects Chinese sovereignty claims over disputed islands in the South China Sea, asserts that the United States will enhance its "force posture and persistent presence" in the region while "building the capacity' of allies and partners, and explicitely supports India's "Act East" policy as a "strategic convergence" with the U.S. re-balance, embracing India as a "net provider of security in the Indian Ocean region and beyond."
The report notes that at present the United States maintains 368,000 military personnel in the Asia-Pacific region, and that over the next five years, the U.S. Navy will increase the number of ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet by approximately 30 percent. The report also says that by 2020, 60 percent of U.S. naval and overseas air assets will be based in the Pacific. The Department is also set to procure 395 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters over the next several years, "many of which will be deployed to the Asia-Pacific region."
The newly released strategy document is especially interesting when compared with the first public Chinese Military Strategy white paper, which was released by the PRC in May. That paper outlined an "active defense posture" and asserted the importance of a larger Chinese naval presence capable of operating farther from its shores. The strategy document also called for the creation of a new "cyber force" to meet the growing cyberthreats the People's Liberation Army expects to encounter.
The new U.S. Asia-Pacific maritime security strategy document begins:
Recognizing the growing complexity of the Asia-Pacific region and its maritime domain for the security of the United States, the Department is focused on safeguarding freedom of the seas, deterring conflict and coercion, and promoting adherence to international law and standards. As it does around the world, the Department will continue to fly, sail, and operate whereever international law allows, in support of these goals and in order to preserve the peace and security the Asia-Pacific Region has enjoyed for the past 70 years.
Recognizing the growing complexity of the Asia-Pacific maritime domain, this report outlines four lines of effort the Department is employing in order to preserve security in this vital region. First, we are strengthening our military capacity to ensure the United States can successfully deter conflict and coercion and response decisively when needed. Second, we are working together with our allies and partners from Northeast Asia to the Indian Ocean to build their capacity to address potentialchallenges in their waters and across the region. Third, we are leveraging military diplomacy to build greater transparency, reduce the risk of miscalculation or conflict, and promote shared maritime rules of the road. Finally, we are working to strengthen regional security institutions and encourage the development of an open and effective regionl security architecture. Together with out inter-agency colleagues and regional allies and partners, the Department is focused on ensuring that maritime Asia remains open, free, and secure in the decades ahead.
You can read the full document below.