Saturday, 21 September 2013

US Military Presence in Southeast Asia: behind Paranoia and Hidden Agenda

200 US Marines had just arrived in the port city of Darwin, Northern Australia on Tuesday (03/04/2012). The first 200 marines is the first batch, which will be followed by another 2,500 Marines and US Military Aircraft on November through the northern city of Darwin.

The US military deployment aimed to protect its national interest in Asia Pacific from China’s military rise. It is not a surprising report even though US will not explicitly state that they feel threatened because of China’s maneuver. Since China has become the world’s largest military spender in 20 years, which followed by its ambitious military objectives, subsequently US must be sensed a deterrence concern.

China investing in such military capabilities like thousands of accurate land-based ballistic and cruise missiles, modern jets with anti-ship missiles, a fleet of submarines (both conventionally and nuclear-powered), long-range radars and surveillance satellites, and cyber and space weapons technology that intended to distract the US forces’ sightseeing. China holds the ultimate weapon, which is the new ballistic missile with its maneuverable warhead onto the deck of aircraft carrier for 2,700 km out at the sea. China also would like to hold the largest naval drill in its history along with Russia in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea in late April, running into May. Under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization framework, the Russian Navy announced that the exercises would focus on the joint testing of command-and-control, armament, support, and protection systems, as well as combat systems’ interoperability by including both surface and underwater exercises.

Along with Obama’s strategic pivot, which is a military strategic guidance from the Middle East to East Asia, US refocusing on Southeast Asia by deepening its bilateral relations with ASEAN and other regional nations due to pursuit its global war on terrorism and overcome China’s military rise.

Beside Northern Australia, US also planned to locate its four US Navy Littoral Combat ships in Singapore. US engagement with Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines will be empowered by the upgraded military relations with Southeast Asian countries such Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

US and Australia have considering about their air base position on the Cocos Islands, the less inhabited islands to launch spy flights over the South China Sea. Regards to the fact that the Cocos Islands are located closely with Indonesia than Australia’s mainland, should we the Indonesian put our concern to that? Is there any coincidence since the islands located in the middle of Indonesian natural resources such as oil and gas along with the status as world’s most crucial shipping lanes?

Is there any hidden agenda behind the US presence in Southeast Asia? In view of the fact that there is a suspicion in the Philippines, that US presence is aimed to commence its commercial interest to explore the natural resources rather than to preserve its national security.

Despite the rumor above, US military approach is considered as exaggeration because US is risking the mutual trust between countries in the region, of course the Asian arms race is the least expected event.

US military response could trigger China’s mistrust. US should have firstly executed the diplomatic approach rather than solely focusing on its military approach. US should also control its paranoia because however, there will be many emerging powers in Asia such as China and India. As a superpower, US cannot simply feel threatened then give a military response to every emerging country.

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