The Obama administration's new defense strategy unveiled today says China is actively trying to curb America's military might but, in covert and overt ways, the Defense Department is bulking up its presence in the Middle Kingdom's backyard.
Outwardly, the summary of the Pentagon's strategic review says the U.S. military will " of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region." Though President Obama's speech today announced the need for a leaner U.S. military, he emphasized that "reductions in U.S. defense spending will not -- I repeat, will not -- come at the expense of the Asia-Pacific” region.
So what does that mean? According to Roxana Tiron at Bloomberg, it means preparing the military for a different type of threat. "The U.S. should be able to deter any emerging anti-access capabilities such as the diesel attack submarines being developed by China and the anti-ship ballistic missiles deployed by China and Iran, and if necessary, defeat them," an administration official tells her. They also said the new strategy will insist on greater cooperation by the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marines to fend off efforts by China to block access to the South China Sea or the Persian Gulf.
Other efforts will focus on high-tech weapons China is currently developing. For instance, The Wall Street Journal reports on a frightening new ballistic missile that officials fear could devalue the U.S. military's significant investment in aircraft carriers. "China is building a new class of ballistic missiles designed to arc through the stratosphere and explode onto the deck of a U.S. carrier, killing sailors and crippling its flight deck," reported the newspaper. The development of the missile is the latest advancement in the "tit-for-tat military-technology race" between China and the U.S. According to China's state media, the new DF-21D missile is designed to hit a moving vessel 1,700 miles away. Defense analysts tell the Journal the missile is also desinged "to come in at an angle too high for U.S. defenses against sea-skimming cruise missiles and too low for defenses against other ballistic missiles."
As a result, the military is working on a defensive tactic. "The Navy is developing pilotless, long-range drone aircraft that could take off from aircraft carriers far out at sea and remain aloft longer than a human pilot could do safely. In addition, the Air Force wants a fleet of pilotless bombers capable of cruising over vast stretches of the Pacific."
And then there's cyber security. While there's been much talk in the past about bulking up the U.S. military's defensive cyber security position, the new defense strategy calls advanced offensive cyber security tools, reports Information Week. "The cyber workforce has become an increasingly critical concern across government, including in the military, and the concern has even led to the creation of an interagency effort, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, to accelerate the education and hiring of cyber pros. In addition to hiring more cyber warriors of our own, the act also authorizes the DOD to assign foreign military forces to DOD to train them in the art of cyber war and defense."
Whether or not China reacts ferociously to these new moves is yet to be seen. But Travis Sharp, a fellow at the Center for New American Security, tells U.S. News and World Report that the new focus on Asia was inevitable. "China, with its wealth, is able to develop and resource unique military capabilities that in the past it didn't have the resources to do. ... It doesn't mean that there will be a Cold War between the U.S. and China, it means that [the Chinese] are more likely to become more aggressive, more nationalistic, and more assertive in their region."