US to shift most of naval fleet to Pacific by 2020 | Pakistan Today

US to shift most of naval fleet to Pacific by 2020

The United States will shift the bulk of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020 as part of a new strategic focus on Asia, Pentagon chief Leon Panetta told a summit in Singapore on Saturday.
The decision to deploy more ships to the Pacific Ocean, along with expanding a network of military partnerships, was part of a “steady, deliberate” effort to bolster the US role in an area deemed vital to America’s future, he said.
And he insisted the switch in strategy was not a challenge to China, saying both countries had a common interest in promoting security and trade in the region.
Panetta said “by 2020, the Navy will re-posture its forces from today’s roughly 50/50 percent split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about a 60/40 split between those oceans.
“That will include six aircraft carriers in this region, a majority of our cruisers, destroyers, littoral combat ships, and submarines.”
The US Navy currently has a fleet of 285 ships, with about half of those vessels deployed or assigned to the Pacific. Although the total size of the overall fleet may decline in coming years depending on budget pressures, Pentagon officials said the number of naval ships in the Pacific would rise in absolute terms. The United States also planned to expand military exercises in the Pacific and to conduct more port visits over a wider area extending to the Indian Ocean.
Panetta was speaking to mainly Asian defence officials and officers from 27 countries at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual summit organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
Unlike previous summits, China chose not to send a high-level delegation to the event, prompting speculation as to what lay behind the move.
Since President Barack Obama unveiled plans in January to shift towards Asia, the Pentagon has offered up few details about how it intends to achieve its goal. Saturday’s announcement on the future of the US fleet provided the clearest evidence yet of a shift to Asia, and the speech appeared designed to reassure allies that Washington will back its much-publicised “pivot” to Asia with tangible action.
But US Senator John McCain, attending the summit in Singapore, said he was concerned the US Navy lacked the resources to carry out Obama’s vision. “I think the commitment is excellent but the reality is the defence cuts that this administration is contemplating will make it very difficult to maintain that kind of commitment,” McCain told reporters.
In his speech, Panetta said budget woes in Washington would not affect the plan to tilt towards Asia, which he said would take years to fully realise.
The United States planned new investments in capabilities needed “to project power and operate in the Asia-Pacific,” including radar-evading fighter jets, a new long-distance bomber, electronic warfare and missile defences, he said. “But make no mistake — in a steady, deliberate, and sustainable way — the United States military is rebalancing and is bringing an enhanced capability and development to this vital region,” he added.
Amid a growing US-China rivalry, American officials privately acknowledge the push for a larger military footprint is meant to reinforce US diplomacy when confronting Beijing’s assertive stance in the South China Sea.
But Panetta insisted that Washington wanted dialogue with Beijing and not conflict. “Some view the increased emphasis by the United States on the Asia-Pacific region as some kind of challenge to China. I reject that view entirely,” he said. “Our effort to renew and intensify our involvement in Asia is fully compatible… with the development and growth of China. Indeed, increased US involvement in this region will benefit China as it advances our shared security and prosperity for the future.”
In laying out core US principles in the region, Panetta made clear Washington opposed any attempt by Beijing to make unilateral moves in its push for territorial rights in the South China Sea, where a number of countries have overlapping claims. Disputes had to be resolved through agreed-upon rules among all countries and based on international law, he said.

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