U.S. responds to China’s great power game
April 9, 2019 -- The U.S. military has renamed its former Pacific Command as the Indo-Pacific Command, reflecting Washington’s growing attention to China’s “two-ocean” strategy of conducting high-intensity naval operations in both the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ 2018 National Defense Strategy identified a great power competition from China and Russia as the “central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.”
The North Atlantic emerged as a central battleground in the competition with Russia, prompting Washington to reactivate the U.S. Second Fleet in August 2018, after deactivating it in 2011.
Through its Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing’s interests are no longer bounded by the Pacific, they now span across the Indian Ocean too, with its first overseas naval base in Africa’s Djibouti, and deepwater ports at Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Kyauk Pyu in Myanmar.
In the Pacific, China’s growing naval domination stretches past the so-called “first island chain.” The first chain -- a security concept devised in the 1950s by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles -- links the Kurils in the north, the Japanese home islands to Taiwan, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Beijing plans to deny adversaries the ability to operate within the first chain during a conflict and contest control of a second island chain linking Japan to the east of the strategic U.S. naval base at Guam.
The United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) area of responsibility encompasses about half the earth’s surface, stretching from the waters off the west coast of the U.S. to the western border of India. Further west is the responsibility of U.S. Central Command and the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.