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To counter China, Pentagon must reallocate resources and seek “access” to Pacific allies

The United States will invest in new military construction across the Pacific while upgrading existing facilities in Guam and Australia, defense officials said on Monday, offering the first glimpses of the Pentagon’s efforts to redirect equipment and staff from traditional hot spots such as the Middle East to counter the growing threat posed by China.

Speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, defense officials outlined the general principles of the Biden administration’s “Global Posture Review,” or GPR, which represents a comprehensive reassessment of U.S. military assets at around the world and a rough roadmap for where these assets should be parked. in the 21st century. The document itself is classified, and Pentagon officials have provided few details on specific future moves.

But defense officials have made it clear that the GPR reinforces the idea that resources must be moved from the Middle East and elsewhere to the Pacific, where an increasingly aggressive China and its well-funded People’s Liberation Army. pose a new threat to stability. This broad military “pivot” to China was a major political priority of former Presidents Obama and Trump and has been pursued in many ways by President Biden.

But it’s a change that has often been frustrated by the need to deal with immediate crises elsewhere, be it the Russians in Crimea, Iran and Libya in the Middle East, or the United States. Islamic State and other jihadist groups in Africa. Mr Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will likely face similar competing priorities as they seek to execute the pivot.

“The priority region for the GPR was the Indo-Pacific,” a senior defense official told reporters. “In the Indo-Pacific, the GPR is leading further cooperation with allies and partners to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea.”

“These initiatives include seeking greater regional access for military partnership activities, improving infrastructure in Guam and Australia, and prioritizing military construction in the Pacific Islands,” the official said. defense. “The GPR leadership will strengthen the department’s focus on China by reducing posture requirements in other theaters to allow for better warfare, increased preparedness and activities in the Pacific. “

The United States’ military exit from Afghanistan, first presented by Mr. Trump and continued by Mr. Biden, is the best example of America’s willingness to clear bridges in the Middle East in order to focus on the Pacific . The Biden administration has also reduced the US military role in Iraq, although several thousand troops remain in that country to advise Iraqi troops in the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group.

While specific details of future U.S. military investments in Asia remain confidential, officials stressed that exercises with allies remain a central part of U.S. strategy. Officials specifically cited October’s naval exercises in the Pacific alongside Japanese and British ships. Such exercises are designed to push back Chinese claims of sovereignty over strategically vital parts of the South China Sea.

“This is the kind of activity we want to focus on in the Indo-Pacific,” the senior defense official said.

In Europe, officials have given few details about the future US military presence on the continent, other than to say that countering Russia remains the overriding goal.

Biden administration officials argue they spent much of his first year in office repairing the damage Mr. Trump caused, including what they say were military decisions made with little coordination within government that directly affected European security.

“We have sought to restore a coherent and strategy-based decision-making process and to restore healthy civil-military relations in the department,” the official said. “On several occasions under the previous administration, postural decisions were made or announced without a deliberate process and without proper consideration of global compromises, risks to strategy, interagency coordination and impact on allies. and partners. ”

The defense official specifically cited the Trump-era announcement of a major overhaul of US military forces in Europe, which focused on moving thousands of US troops out of Germany to other locations. This decision was ultimately overturned by Mr. Biden.

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