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POLITICS

Keeping China in check

  • 2015-06-22 15:00:00
  • , Kanagawa Shimbun
  • Translation

(Kanagawa Shimbun: June 19, 2015 – p.1)

 

 The arrival of Chancellorsville brought the first net increase of warships at the U.S. Navy’s Yokosuka base in 23 years. Regarding U.S. aims, Tetsuo Maeda, a military commentator, said, “The buildup is, of course, for countering a ballistic missile launch by North Korea, but the upcoming deployment of 14 warships in total is obviously for countering China.”

 

 The first U.S. Navy warship with Yokosuka as de facto homeport was the USS Oklahoma City, the Seventh Fleet’s flagship, which arrived there in 1968. The deployment of 11 warships in total that continued for 23 years since 1992 will increase to a record number of 14 warships in 2017.

 

 Maeda offered the following analysis: “This carrier task force is one of the largest in the U.S. Navy. The permanent deployment of a surveillance system places a check on China’s maritime activities. There is also significance in constantly demonstrating a presence.”

 

 In order to counter China’s maritime advancement into the East China Sea and the South China Sea over territorial issues, the U.S. Defense Department launched the rebalance policy focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. will increase the ratio of its warships in the Pacific region from 50% to 60% by 2020.

 

 Maeda points out, “What the U.S. most fears is China’s strategic nuclear-powered submarines.” Armed with ballistic missiles, these submarines reportedly serve as a deterrent against U.S. nuclear weapons. In the meantime, the U.S. will increase the number of Aegis cruisers equipped with the ballistic missile defense (BMD) from three to eight in total by the summer of 2017. “As both (the U.S. and China) are maneuvering behind the scenes, Yokosuka provides everything the U.S. needs including port conditions and capabilities,” said Maeda, emphasizing that Yokosuka has been integrated as a stronghold in the U.S.’s strategy.

 

 During the Cold War, in order to keep military activities by the Soviet Union in check, the U.S. Seventh Fleet with the Yokosuka base as its stronghold was primarily responsible for surveillance in the Sea of Okhotsk and the North Pacific in the Far East. Now the priority has reportedly shifted to the East China Sea and South China Sea, with China and North Korea in mind. Maeda went on to say: “After the deployment of an aircraft carrier to Yokosuka in 1970s, ships were gradually added to where the base now hosts a carrier strike group.”

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