By Richard Stone
Following a dramatic boost to Japan’s military budget, at the behest of the United States, the Pentagon has now issued an important regional directive for Canberra to follow.
It was not coincidental.
Japan and Australia are formally part of a triangular diplomatic relationship with the US, specifically for defence and security initiatives aimed at China. War-games and military exercises increasingly contain scope for real-war scenarios with the South China Seas a likely ‘theatre of war’ for future operations.
Over the Xmas holiday period, Randall Schriver, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for Asian and Pacific Affairs, called upon Australia ‘to boost their military presence in the South China Sea, to send a signal to China’. (1) Schriver, as the top Pentagon official for the region, also used the opportunity to warn about possible planning by China to establish a military base in the region.
The announcement came as Japan increased its military budget for the next five years by as much as ten per cent, in preparation for their military involvement elsewhere in the wider region.
The two developments are consistent with direct US regional foreign policy and military planning of nearly two decades in the planning.
As early as the turn of the century, the US imperialists were formulating regional planning to maintain their traditional hegemonic positions. Throughout the 1990s the rapid economic emergence of China was assessed as a potential threat to US positions. Dominant US military planning contained in a document, Joint Vision 2020, included moving away from a focus primarily on Europe toward the Asia-Pacific region. (2) The reasoning behind the decision was Asia being regarded as ‘the most likely arena for future military conflict, or at least competition’. (3)
Similar statements were issued at the time by then Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who said the Pacific Ocean is the most likely theatre of major US military operations, as China becomes more powerful’. This followed a ninety-minute meeting in the White House with President Bush. (4)
The US military planning included two further important aspects: the development of Japan as a fully-fledged northern regional hub for ‘US interests’ with Australia as a southern counterpart, together with compatibility of military equipment (5); the re-opening of military facilities across the Asia-Pacific region in preparation for military hostilities. The former, the triangular relationship of the two regional hubs with the Pentagon, is now fully operational; the latter has been marked by the US accepting permission to act as ‘guests’ from regional hosts using former military facilities. (6) The US no longer possesses the financial ability to build huge overseas bases as foreign policy outposts and garrisons, a position which also has bearing upon their military operations.
During the initial regional foreign policy and military planning with Joint Vision 2020, the US recognised likely financial constraints as an obstacle for future operations. When then President Obama announced ‘the promise of a less aggressive American foreign policy’, and for ‘the US to lead through example and by creating international alliances’, it was a deceitful position: the defence and security planning included allies taking a more leading role with military hostilities in the name of ‘US interests’. (7)
It is now important to study the legacy of previous military planning.
When it was recently noted that ‘US military leaders have on occasion suggested Australia should conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea, sailing or flying within 12 nautical miles of disputed or artificial islands claimed by Beijing’, the Pentagon has every intention of Australia and Japan taking leading positions on behalf of US military hostilities toward China. (8) Japan has already been drawn into strong military and intelligence co-operation with Australia. (9)
It is also important to look closely at some of the personnel involved.
Schriver is also CEO of the so-called Project 2049 Institute, a right-wing out-sourced US private intelligence body established in 2008 and based in Arlington, Virginia. (10) Its glitzy websites offer a series of policy and security briefs with a strong emphasis upon Taiwan and regional conflict with China.
Project 2049 Institute is also linked to the right-wing Heritage Foundation, which also has a strong emphasis upon Taiwan as a regional player in US foreign policy. (11) It is particularly significant to note the US imperialists have come to rely upon Taiwan in recent times as an important centre: despite having no official diplomatic linkage with the country, the American Institute in Taipei has nearly five hundred US diplomatic staff, officially employed while on temporary leave from the State Department. (12)
It is also particularly significant to note the Heritage Foundation has a major influence upon President Trump, with several hundred of its supporters employed within the administration. (13) They are military hawks and war-mongers!
Secondly, incoming deputy-director of the key Canberra-based intelligence body the Office of National Assessments (ONA), Andrew Shearer, has actually been quoted as stating that ‘Australia could not avoid being implicated in a major conflict involving the US in Asia. The idea Australia could somehow stand aside from a major conflict in the Asia-Pacific region that involved the US is fanciful’. (14) Whatever happened to Australian sovereignty?
We require an independent foreign policy to distance ourselves from this US-led military planning and likely real-war scenarios!
1.Pentagon urges China Sea patrols, Australian, 28 December 2018.
2.Asia moves to forefront of Pentagon planning, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 1-7 June 2000.
4.Rumsfeld signals shift to Pacific in overhaul of defence thinking, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 March – 4 April 2001.
5.US draws warships into military web, The Age (Melbourne), 12 August 2014.
6.US eyes return to south-east Asian bases, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 29 June 2012.
7.US signals foreign policy shift away from military might, The Guardian Weekly (U.K.), 6 June 2014.
8.Australian, op.cit., 28 December 2018.
9.Japan to join us in military exercises, Australian, 25 November 2014; and, Spies like us: ASIS training Japanese, The Weekend Australian, 21-22 March 2015.
10.Website: Wikipedia – Project 2049 Institute.
11.Website: Wikipedia – Heritage Foundation; and, Pentagon Top Asia Official,
The Epoch Times, 19 July 2018.
12.Beijing keeps a wary eye on new US Taipei outpost, Australian, 18 June 2018.
13.Wikipedia – Heritage Foundation, op.cit.
14.Key intel role for ‘China hawk’, Australian, 15 June 2018.