• Wed
  • Sep 17, 2014
  • Updated: 12:38am

Expanded force supports US 'pivot' to Asia, says admiral

Increased military presence will have calming effect on tensions in region, commander says

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 10:17pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 October, 2013, 2:40am

The United States has significantly increased its warship and aircraft deployments in Asia despite Washington's budget woes, adding punch to its "pivot" to the region, a senior naval commander said.

Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, commander of an aircraft carrier strike group based in Yokosuka, Japan, said the expanded military presence would have a calming effect on simmering tensions and territorial disputes in the region.

"The strategic rebalancing has resulted in an extremely higher number of surface combatants, cruisers and destroyers that support the strike group," Montgomery said in an interview aboard the aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the South China Sea.

"What we've seen is an increase in surface combatant presence here in the Western Pacific ... so these ships are spread throughout those areas," he said, in the interview at the flag bridge of the nuclear-powered supercarrier as fighter jets took off and landed on the deck as part of drills.

"Having more ships gives us more presence. It allows us to have a greater force."

Montgomery said US defence budget cuts and the recent 16-day partial US government shutdown have not affected his command.

The shutdown forced President Barack Obama to skip two Asian summits, triggering concerns about the extent of US commitment to the region as China becomes more assertive.

"Operations and maintenance decisions have not affected us. The strategic rebalance is continuing in earnest," the admiral said.

"We have sufficient funds for our operations ... there is in fact a strategic rebalancing in place that has resulted in more ships and aircraft being out here."

Last year, then US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said in Singapore that the Pentagon would shift 60 per cent of US naval assets to the Pacific region by 2020 as part of an Asian "pivot" announced by Washington.

Montgomery, a 25-year veteran in the US Navy, said ships and planes from San Diego, California and Pearl Harbor in Hawaii are being deployed to Asia for up to eight months as part of the rebalancing. "That gives me a lot more flexibility, a lot more presence," he said.

Montgomery commands Carrier Strike Group Five from the nuclear-powered George Washington, which was in international waters in the South China Sea on Wednesday when journalists and other visitors were flown in from Singapore.

The George Washington heads the US Navy's largest carrier strike group and the only one with a home port outside the US. It operates in three theatres, including the waters off the Korean Peninsula where tensions between North and South Korea are simmering.

It also operates in the sea off Japan where Tokyo and Beijing are locked in a territorial dispute, and in the South China Sea, where China and four southeast Asian states as well as Taiwan have overlapping claims. China claims almost all of the waters in the South China Sea.

Montgomery's carrier strike group held military exercises with South Korea and Japan off the Korean peninsula this month, sparking a sharp rebuke from Pyongyang which denounced the drills as a "serious military provocation" and an "attack on our efforts for peace".

This week the group was cruising the South China Sea while holding smaller military exercises with the Malaysian navy and air force and later in the month with Singapore.


For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Indian Core issue needs to be addressed by the US for such friendship. The core issue is:-
CORE ISSUE BEFORE INDIA:- If PRC decides to honor the boundary that existed on 15 August 1947 between Tibet and China, and pull back PLA, it will dawn upon a new era of peace and prosperity in the world. But it is the least likely course. Therefore, the core issue before us remains to regain the lost territories and safe return of Tibetans to their homeland, with an internationally supervised guarantee from PRC that such an invasion will not recur. The energy of Indian policy planners has been put to extreme test ever since the Chinese invasion of 1962 to build a credible military ability to focus on the core issue and development. To make matter worse, PLA first intrudes into our territory and then when things start to a boiling hot they say that discussion mechanism is in place. The Himalayan heights do not allow foreign correspondents to come and see things for themselves and report objectively. Being under such duress and compunction of a vanquished nation, PRC wants us to sign a border agreement, how can we sign such an agreement, where the international boundary after World War II has been violated? It is like Allies demanding from the German delegation to sign instruments of surrender , in front of Marshal Foch’s cabin, after World War I,at the Treaty of Versallies; it was there that the seeds of World War II were sown. We expect Indian core issue to be addressed by US
Lucky we still have independent sources like wikipedia to refute Indian propaganda. India is one of the most hegemonic & aggressive hated power in S. Asia. Talk to all its neighbours & youll find that none is too favourable or comfortable with Indian hegemony. When I talked to an Indian journalist a couple of years ago in a cocktail party, the boioze loosen journo babbled that the most serious mistake India made after independence was not "liberating" Tibet before the commies. And he's not the only Indian with such disappointment.
I hope China parks nuclear subs off the coast of Washington, D.C., New York, and Los Angeles as insurance.
Sino American relationship will become the centerpiece of global economic and political policies, encompassing 70%+ of world trade. commerce, technological and social innovations as well as peace or war. US will not relinquish its role as the sole superpower and dominant force in the Asia Pacific region (including and extending beyond the China Seas). As China push forward its maritime expansionist position, demand for critical resources and safeguarding of its sea-lanes, it will and must engage an increasingly suspicious US led alliance that includes Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and soon to be included Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and India. Conflicts are bound arise from such polarizing goals in this most volatile region. The only certainty is change!


SCMP.com Account