Expert Panel Tells Lawmakers U.S. Needs to Do More to Counter Chinese Pacific Expansion
alau’s recent offer to permit the United States to build bases and airfields could provide a model for Washington to use to counter China’s territorial claims in the Pacific, a senior security expert told the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
“Washington should seek new allies and partners,” Elbridge Colby, co-founder of the Marathon Initiative, told the HASC. “Focus on states with shared threat perceptions [like China]. This is true whether they are democracies are not,” like Vietnam.
Christine Wormuth, director of RAND’s international security and defense policy center, added that Palau’s offer shows “we need to diversify” our basing to counter China. The move to spread out basing would build resiliency in case of attack and complicate Chinese targeting. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has made basing in the Indo-Pacific a priority over the past year and re-emphasized the importance of having regional allies and partners at the recent 75th anniversary of the end of World War II ceremony aboard USS Missouri (BB-63) earlier this month.
Colby added, “the Marines are in the forefront of thinking on this.”
Also on Wednesday, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger made the same point about rethinking the Pacific laydown at a defense conference.
“We have to have a dispersed, distributed force laydown in the Pacific that allows us to work with all the allies and partners in the region and deter countries like [China] from asserting themselves in a manner that tries to rewrite all of the global sort of norms that’s been well-established for 50, 60, 70 years and which has led to all the economic growth in the Indo-Pacific,” Berger said. “So our posture must change, both the Marine Corps’ and I think the joint force as well.”