Washington/Beijing: The US Department of Defense has indicated it will be constructing a permanent naval task force in the Indo-Pacific region to curb China’s growing military activities and ambitions. In addition to the task force, they are also moving to launch an ‘independent military operation’ (named military operation) for the Indo-Pacific region, according to defence sources. Just last week, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued instructions to the US armed forces to counter the Chinese threat. The naval task force and military operations are considered to be part of the same directive.
Two days ago, NATO issued a statement where it explicitly mentioned the threat from China for the first time. The statement warned that Chinese activities and ambitions were weakening the global system. Furthermore, NATO also called on its member states to work together, saying it was necessary to tackle the challenges posed by China. In the wake of NATO’s stance, the indications from the US Department of Defense for an independent task force assume much significance.
The National Defense Policy released in 2018 under former President Donald Trump explicitly mentioned the growing military threat from China. Subsequently, various reports submitted by the US Department of Defense and intelligence agencies also highlighted how the Chinese threat was rising. The Trump administration had thereby taken steps to expand nuclear, naval and air capabilities by increasing defence spending. Now, new US President Joe Biden is also trying to show that his stance on China is tough, and the new plans are a part of the strategy, sources claim.
Although the new plan is not the silver bullet to stop China, the US Department of Defense assigning priority to the Pacific is an encouraging sign, said former defence official Elbridge Colby. Colby was working as a defence official in the Trump administration. He also claimed that launching a ‘naval task force’ and ‘military operation’ at the same time meant expanding the US defence capability in the Pacific, which was a priority.
The permanent naval task force for the Indo-Pacific will be modelled on the Standing Naval Forces Atlantic constructed by NATO during the Cold War, Pentagon sources had said. The permanent ‘naval task force’ in the Pacific could include Japan, Australia and the European countries such as the UK and France, said analyst Jerry Hendrix.