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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China
Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China
By Sandra I. Erwin

Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Richard L. Simcock at a senior leaders' seminar in Thailand

In response to the People’s Republic of China’s ascendancy as a military power, the Pentagon drafted an “air-sea battle” concept that calls for the U.S. armed forces to ensure their aircraft, ships and guided weapons can outmatch the PLA’s arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles.

Analysts predict that as Navy and Marine Corps forces expand their presence in the Asia-Pacific region, they will face so-called “anti-access” threats from emerging powers such as a China.

But Marine leaders in the region do not fear such scenarios, and believe that by establishing close ties with Asian allies, the United States will have access when it needs it, said Brig. Gen. Richard L. Simcock, deputy commander of Marine Forces Pacific. The command is the Corps’ largest, with approximately 83,000 Marines and sailors.

Dealing with anti-access threats is less about designing new weapons and more about “engagement” with friendly countries in Asia, Simcock said June 11 during a telephone conference with reporters. Steady coalition-building efforts such as multinational military exercises and U.S. teams training foreign allies almost guarantee that America’s military will remain the dominant power in Asia-Pacific, he said.

Working with allies and helping to train their armed forces — or what the Pentagon calls “phase zero” operations — would help avert armed conflict as the United States would have a huge coalition on its side to deter a potential enemy, Simcock said.

Navy and Marine Corps officials in Asia are convinced that “engagement” is the ticket to peace in the region, he said. “Countries are very receptive to the type of engagement that the Navy and Marine Corps bring to the maritime theater,” he said.

No country wants to see the United States increase its military presence in the area permanently, but Asian allies welcome opportunities to train with U.S. forces and buy U.S. technology so their weapons are compatible. “That type of engagement and access is what we build upon” to push back against enemies that would seek to deny entry to U.S. forces, he said. “The relationships we build today, before any crisis hits, will pay off when a crisis occurs,” regardless of whether it is a man-made or a natural disaster.

After spending a year traveling around Asia, Simcock said he concluded that U.S. military dominance in the region is not likely to be challenged any time soon.  Washington policymakers and think tanks, meanwhile, obsess over a potential war with China.

In reality, the United States is in a much stronger position than most people realize, Simcock said. There is a case to be made that U.S. weaponry should be improved and ships should be hardened for any eventual contingency, Simcock said. But the focus should be on preventing crises, not just on how to respond to one, he added. “You want to hedge all bets. But the conversation needs to start with the actions we are taking today with countries,” he said. “These relationships [are] going to assure the access we will need when a crisis strikes.”

Cyber espionage and concerns about the hacking of U.S. networks reportedly originating in China are legitimate issues, but none that causes Simcock to lose sleep. “The only thing that keeps me up at night is coffee, and I don't mean to be flippant,” he said. “I am very positive about the Pacific. We have become the partner of choice in the region.”

Simcock said Marine forces currently are involved in 170 international training exercises per year in the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations. As part of the Pentagon’s “pivot to Asia” plan, the Marine Corps will seek to relocate more than 9,000 Marines from Okinawa, Japan, to other parts of the Pacific: 4,800 to Guam, 2,700 to Hawaii and 2,500 to Australia.

With the Defense Department facing across-the-board budget cuts, analysts have questioned whether the Marine Corps can afford to carry out the realignment in Asia. “Conducting large-scale posture transformations during an era of increasing budgetary pressures and competition for scarce resources has proven to be a challenge for the Defense Department,” said a June 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office. The Pentagon originally estimated that the cost to relocate Marines in Asia would be $4.2 billion, but the Marine Corps later upped the price tag to $13 billion. GAO said even the larger sum might not account for all costs.

Simcock downplayed the impact that budget cuts would have on the Marine Corps’ strategy in Asia. The military is in a financial crunch, he recognized, but it can still pivot to Asia successfully. “We may not have everything we want,” he said. “But right now I have everything I need.”

To make up for shortages of amphibious warships, for instance, Marines are using cargo ships that usually serve as floating warehouses. “We are putting Marines on them and deploying them in exercises.” Marines increasingly will rely on smaller ferries, known as “joint high speed vessels,” that are cheaper to operate than big-deck amphibious ships. Every Marine commander would like more amphibious vessels, he said, but missions can still be done with what is available.

Marines in the Pacific are exuberant about the recent deployment of a V-22 Osprey squadron in Japan, and the prospect of a second one in the near future, said Simcock. Within a few years, the F-35B joint strike fighter will be coming to Japan, too, he noted.

Photo Credit: Marine Corps


Re: Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China


I recall reading someone posting that there are no Marines at Diego Garcia, no Anti-Aircraft SAM defense at Guam or Diego Garcia and at a whole host of USA bases in the Pacific.  If true, what he meant was that there is no real base defense at these foreign bases meant to contain a particular Asian power.

With that Asian nation developing Carrier and Amphib Naval offensive power, wouldn't it make more sense to beef up base and defensive security instead of moving offensive forces around for objective power?

I mean the Marines, ships, and aircraft are there, but there's no real defense at these bases from any air or amphibious attacks.  I mean the assets just sit there.  So how can this be seen as "Anti-Access" when the U.S. assets don't have "Anti-Access" to their own Pacific bases?  Something doesn't quite compute Combined Arms working in tandem for offensive or defensive power because if true, the U.S. has airplanes here, Marines there, ships over there, and when poop hits the fan at several fans, a huge shuttling and shuffling of U.S. assets all over the place just to get everyone and everything together over the open ocean...doesn't quite work well that way.
Peter at 6/12/2013 1:34 PM

Re: Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China

China is a very ambition country does not has any good intentions to West and the rest of the world includes its neighbors. China is on the move to consolidate neighboring countries by bully and intimidations and assimilate them into a so-called Middle Kingdom. China next big move to challenge us militarily and re-write the history of the world. Sooner or later we are force to deal with the chinese. It is in our best interests to support Japan, Philippines, India, and firends arm forces build up.
John Lone at 6/12/2013 3:50 PM

Re: Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China

Apparently, some Marines aren't loving the V-22, since both V-22 squadron commanders in WestPac were suddenly fired last month.

The U.S. military must stop pretending that it can conduct offensive ground operations with the small ground combat forces in the Pacific. There are only 4000 Marine combat troops in Japan, the other 16,000 are HQ, base support, and logistics units. There are more Marines in HQ units than trigger pullers on Oki.

As Peter noted, the Marines need to spread out and organize as they did in 1940 into defense battalions to protect the air and sea bases in the region. And if they truly care about our key ally Japan, they would stop antagonizing them with a mindless quest to keep thousands of Marines stranded on Okinawa. Finally, since the Marines need to shed manpower, closing some Marine camps/resorts on Okinawa would elminate a few thousand base positions. Details on what should be done are here:

The Okinawa Solution - pull half our Marines off Okinawa
Carlton Meyer at 6/12/2013 10:50 PM

Re: Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China

"After spending a year traveling around Asia, Simcock said he concluded that U.S. military dominance in the region is not likely to be challenged any time soon.  Washington policymakers and think tanks, meanwhile, obsess over a potential war with China."

What a fool! "US military dominance" is a thing of the past, especially in the Asia-Pacific region. The PLA could easily defeat the US military, even today, with its vast, modern arsenal of A2/AD weapons and its large, growing Navy.

And "alliances" mean nothing if 1) the allies are not strong enough to be useful contributors, and/or 2) if YOU don't have sufficient assets in and out of theater to protect them and your own national interests. Alliances are utterly meaningless if not backed up by combat power.

Allies who are not militarily strong and can't contribute to their own security will be liabilities, not assets. While it's important for a nation to have allies, it should not seek them just to have allies. See Germany's disastrous alliance with Italy.

And America's alliances with Asian countries are useless if the US itself doesn't deploy a significant number of assets in the region - and does not acquire capabilities to strike from over the horizon into heavily defended territory.
Zbigniew Mazurak at 6/15/2013 6:58 AM

Re: Marines See Asian Allies as Their Best Weapon Against China

Chinese Encroachments Rallying Cry for U.S Bases
The public pronouncement of Chinese Major General Zhang Zhaozhong of the People’s Liberation Army on Chinese TV  to starve the Philippine Marines contingent in Ayungin Shoal did not only spawn a grave concern for countries who have stake at the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea but gave a reverberating chilling effect to the militarily weak Aquino Government of the Philippines.

Zhang said that his country’s naval strategy was to get rid of his country already occupied islands and shoals (One is Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, is 120 miles off of Zambales but 550 miles to the nearest Chinese port in China) from the Philippine military and fishermen through a Cabbage Strategy.
 Here’s an excerpt of what he said in the May 28, 2013 TV interview which was published too at the China Daily Mail:
(Read entire article by clicking here:
Mortz Ortigoza at 6/16/2013 12:03 AM

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