The United States plans to deploy some of its newest warships and other high-tech weapons to the Asia-Pacific as part of a strategic shift to the region, a US defense official said recently.
The Pentagon will send P-8 submarine-hunting aircraft, cruise missiles, Virginia-class submarines, coastal combat ships and F-35 fighter jets to Asian ports and bases in coming years, the senior official told reporters.
“What you’re seeing is part of a bigger effort, the Pacific theatre will get the newest weapons systems first,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Pentagon has promoted a tilt to Asia after a decade of ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, reflecting concern over China’s growing military power and its assertive stance in territorial disputes with its neighbors.
The United States already plans to deploy more than half of its fleet to the Asia-Pacific and to station four littoral combat ships — speedy new vessels designed to operate near coastlines — for rotational deployments in Singapore.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is still in development, could be deployed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan’s Yamaguchi prefecture by 2017.
Washington also is providing Japan with another powerful X-band radar to bolster its missile defenses, a move announced in September.
Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia are locked in escalating territorial disputes with China and have sought to bolster military ties to Washington to counter Beijing’s influence.