The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 28      August 1, 2011

Why U.S. gov’t is startled by notion
that Pacific isn’t its eternal property
(front page, editorial)

Washington’s stepped-up efforts to maintain its 66-year-long military dominance in the Pacific was at the heart of a four-day trip to China in mid-July by Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen visited military facilities, spoke at one of the country’s main universities, and held talks with high-ranking government officials, including Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the Chinese armed forces.

In arrogant language laced with diplomatic phrases, the top military officer of U.S. finance capital told the audience at Renmin University that China has “arrived as a world power” and that the imperial alliance Washington leads hopes to resolve disputes with Beijing “in a responsible way, so that a specific incident does not rise to a level of miscalculation which could become very dangerous and get out of control.”

Mullen used the visit to continue the imperialist rulers’ anti-China drumbeat concerning the South China Sea, where Washington is exploiting disputes between Beijing and several Southeast Asian governments over claims to territorial waters and islands in order to maintain U.S. hegemony in the Pacific and extend provocative military maneuvers aimed at China.

A few weeks before Mullen’s arrival, the U.S. military had concluded 11 days of joint exercises with the navy of the Philippines, involving two U.S. guided-missile destroyers. Manila is one of the bourgeois governments in the region—all of which look to the U.S. Pacific Fleet as their protector—that are sparring with Beijing in hopes of wresting parts of the South China Sea. Last month Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged Washington would provide “affordable material and equipment that will assist the Philippines military to take the steps necessary to defend itself.”

As Mullen arrived in Beijing, U.S., Japanese, and Australian warships were carrying out their first joint exercises in the South China Sea off the coast of the Sultanate of Brunei, another of the capitalist regimes pushing for control of sea lanes and seabeds in the region.  
‘We’re a Pacific power’
Washington is determined to extend its two-thirds-of-a-century-long naval dominance of the Pacific, conquered with U.S. imperialism’s bloody triumph in World War II. That victory was capped in 1945 by U.S. firebombing and nuclear assaults on cities across Japan, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were burned alive, suffocated, or killed by massive radiation.

The U.S. Navy’s control of the South China Sea—with its vital trade routes, large oil and gas deposits, and proximity to major U.S. allies and rivals—was among Washington’s most cherished spoils of war.

“We are and will remain a Pacific power,” Mullen emphasized in the Renmin University speech—echoing a refrain of top U.S. officials for many years and multiple administrations, including recently Secretary of State Clinton and former defense secretary Robert Gates.

According to statements featured on a U.S. Navy website, the U.S. Pacific Fleet “remains the world’s largest naval command, extending from the West Coast of the United States, into the Indian Ocean, encompassing three oceans, six continents, and more than half the Earth’s surface.” It has “180 ships, nearly 2,000 aircraft, and 125,000 Sailors, Marines, and Civilians.”

In 1968, at the height of Washington’s war against Vietnam, the fleet had “225 ships committed to operations in the South China Sea” alone, according to the U.S. Navy command.

From bygone days when “the sun never set on the British Empire,” as the saying went, to Washington’s post-1945 Pacific dominance, China has faced the depredations of colonial and imperialist powers that ruled the seas. With the 1949 Chinese Revolution and overturn of capitalist social relations in the early 1950s, the peasants and workers lifted the boot of imperial domination from their necks.

In recent years, the Chinese government’s first steps to build a blue-water navy have been met by Washington’s efforts to even further reinforce the U.S. military presence in the Pacific. The U.S. rulers have redeployed the bulk of their aircraft carriers from the Atlantic and strengthened military alliances with capitalist governments in the region, including Pakistan and India to China’s west, Thailand and Malaysia to China’s south, and Taiwan, South Korea, and the Philippines to the east. Washington has been expanding joint operations with the other imperialist powers in the region, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

The government of the workers state in Vietnam—reunified in 1975 following defeat of Washington’s war to roll back the Vietnamese Revolution—has since 2003 established limited, defense-related ties with the U.S. military, including joint exercises with three U.S. warships July 15.

In early 1979, after toppling the murderous Beijing-backed Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, Vietnam’s troops had to repel an invasion by Beijing, in which some 10,000 Vietnamese soldiers and civilians were killed and substantial damage inflicted on infrastructure, factories, and housing.

Last month Hanoi accused Chinese ships of interfering with a Vietnamese oil exploration mission and responded with live-fire drills off its coast.  
‘Area-denial’ capabilities
U.S. rulers are fretting over what they call the Chinese military’s growing “anti-access and area denial” capabilities. “Of particular concern is the expanding inventory of ballistic and cruise missiles (which include anti-ship capability) and the development of modern, fourth- and fifth-generation stealthy aircraft,” Adm. Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, reported April 12 to an open hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Beijing is working to develop the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, dubbed the “carrier killer,” and has established a satellite surveillance system.

“There are some very specific capabilities that are being developed here that are very focused on the United States’s capability,” Mullen told the press during his visit in Beijing. That Washington might not be the eternal owner of the entire Pacific seems a startling notion.

Days before Admiral Mullen’s foray, the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution supporting “the continuation of operations by the United States Armed Forces in support of freedom of navigation rights in international waters and air space in the South China Sea.” Translation: Washington’s “freedom” to maintain its aerial reconnaissance and joint naval maneuvers directed against China.

Several times during Mullen’s trip, General Chen publicly and demonstratively objected to ongoing reconnaissance intrusions and provocative joint maneuvers in the South China Sea. “At least, I think this is bad timing,” said General Chen. “It’s not that difficult a thing to change a schedule,” he later drily added.

“As I told the Chinese, the United States isn’t going away,” Mullen said soon after his trip. “We’ve operated in the South China Sea for many decades and we will continue to do that.”

A sense of history has never been Washington’s strong suit.  
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