If the decision to set up the Indo-Pacific Fleet becomes reality, it could create a pincer to isolate China’s ambitions.
According to a Chinese military analyst, the proposed new US fleet in the Indo-Pacific could pose a threat to China’s growing interests, when this fleet will take control. important sea trade routes, the South China Morning Post said.
On November 17, US Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite proposed the creation of a new fleet, known as the First Fleet. This fleet would control the intersection area in the Indo-Pacific.
The Braithwaite proposal comes the day before the United States, Japan and India begin phase two of the exercises in the Arabian Sea. The exercise is seen as part of a regional initiative to counter China’s growing assertiveness.
“We can’t just rely on the Seventh Fleet in Japan. We have to look to other allies and partners like Singapore, like India, and actually put a fleet where it’s perfectly suited if they are. We get into any war, “he said, according to USNI News , which is run by the US Naval Institute.
Control of China’s economic lifeblood
According to Mercator Research on China, the Indian Ocean is an important connection to global trade routes. 80% of all marine trade passes through it. 80% of China’s crude oil imports go through the Strait of Malacca – the busiest waterway in the Indian Ocean.
Song Zhongping, a former Chinese strategic missile force officer, said that the new US fleet focused on the Indo-Pacific could pose a major problem with China’s ambitions in the region.
“China is more dependent on the Indian Ocean than the Western Pacific. The United States’ establishment of a fleet there is like grabbing the throat of China. It could harm China’s development interests in the energy chain and invest in projects in the Belt and Road initiative, ”said Mr. Song.
The controversial Belt and Road Initiative initiated by Beijing is an extensive infrastructure investment plan, aimed at connecting China with Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond.
Under this initiative, China has partnered with the Indian Ocean countries, including Pakistan, to build important infrastructure, such as highways and ports, in an effort to achieve faster access to Europe and Europe. Africa.
Pakistan’s Gwadar port, for example, was built and managed by a Chinese corporation strategically located near the Strait of Hormuz – the world’s most important waterway for oil.
Challenges for America
Timothy Heath, senior defense researcher at RAND Group (the defense advisory organization for the Pentagon), said the US could easily set up a new fleet, but building it up is a challenge. .
“The size of the US Navy is shrinking significantly over time and faces challenges in meeting current missions. The new fleet will likely operate with a small number of warships, at least in the early stages, ”Heath said.
Charlie Lyons Jones, a research fellow at the Australian Institute of Strategic Policy, said the move may be welcomed by some US allies, like Australia – the country may be willing to allow the establishment of an additional base. of the US Navy.
“However there are concerns about the establishment of the First Fleet based in the Indian Ocean, if it can be done without careful consultation with allies,” said Lyons Jones.
“It would be great if the US Navy buys more ships before establishing a fleet dedicated to the Indian Ocean. The Seventh Fleet is being spread across many regions and the US can hardly neglect the necessary resources in the Pacific, ”added analyst Jones.
The 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan is in charge of an area of 124 million square kilometers, stretching from the international date line in the middle of the Pacific to the India-Pakistan border in the Indian Ocean.
John Bradford, an analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore (RSIS), said that the Seventh Fleet is being overburdened, and that a new fleet addition is needed to fulfill the new mission requirement.
However, some other analysts say the likelihood of the US setting up a new fleet is very low, as it could create a sensitive situation in the region.
Olli Pekka Suorsa, researcher at RSIS, said the proposal to set up the new fleet “merely a test, to signal to China of long-term intentions and determination to compete with Beijing”.