Third Fleet won’t help US win rebalance

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/10/26 23:53:39

Reuters, quoting two anonymous sources, reported on Tuesday that the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur which sailed near Xisha Islands last week was not sent by the Seventh Fleet of the US Navy but was dispatched and commanded by the Third Fleet stationed in San Diego. It is the first time that the Third Fleet, in charge of the East Pacific and North Pacific region since WWII, has reached out to China's coastal waters.   

This is seen as a clear signal that the US is determined to increase its military deployment in the West Pacific so as to ensure its absolute military superiority over China. Besides the Seventh Fleet, headquartered in Yokosuka, Japan, the Pentagon now seemingly is considering including the Third Fleet into its Asia-Pacific rebalance.

In the years to come, with Chinese military strength growing, the US will deploy new combat equipment to the West Pacific to balance the rise of China. Washington has the ability to continue this sort of game for at least another 20 or 30 years.

However, it reveals at the same time that the Seventh Fleet alone can hardly deter China in the West Pacific any more.

Chinese military strength is still far away from achieving a balance of mutual deterrence with the US, despite its rapid growth. But Washington seems to be quite restless with the narrowing gap between China and the US.

The Pentagon is forward deploying the Third Fleet, making preparations for its imagined more powerful challenges from China. But it will create a new military posture in East Asia, with more consequences ensuing. To begin with, it sends out the subtle message that future China-US conflict is likely to be led by military wrestling.

Be it the Third Fleet or the Seventh Fleet, it makes no difference to China's choice and use of countermeasures. But it will affect China's strategic considerations and add to the country's sense of urgency to build up military strength in response to US pressure.

China now is facing threats from two US Navy fleets. In future, Washington may also encourage Japan to upgrade the scale and combat effectiveness of its Maritime Self-Defense Forces. The threats facing China will snowball. So what should China do? 

China can lay aside all anxiety by ceasing growth in military expenditure and the upgrading of weapon systems in exchange for discontinued pressure from the US. Unfortunately, such a cowardly country can never appear in the international politics of today.

A true big power must have a balanced development in which a strong defense capability is imperative. China's military strength must keep up with the pace of economic development. Games between big powers are also a competition of will. The mind games between powers may run across the whole 21st century.

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