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US military presence in Asia Pacific draws backlash

《中国日报》 2023-01-14

After being stationed in Okinawa for two years, Brian Berletic, a former US marine, began to fully understand that the US military presence was not about bolstering regional stability, but was in fact undermining it. It was a source of constant tension, said Berletic.

The United States pours billions of dollars every year into building and maintaining its overseas military bases. But the US military presence in its base nations has triggered protests rather than gratitude. We're talking rape, murder, assaults, things like that. US soldiers are infamous for doing this. They particularly target Okinawan women and children, as well as the elderly, said Robert Kajiwara, an activist and writer based in Okinawa.

Thirty-one US military installations have been built in Okinawa and they are just a fraction of the hundreds of US military bases that encircle China. Every year, the US military flies thousands of spy planes over the South China Sea and naval ships frequent the region with growing intensity.

The US has argued the reason behind its military build-up is China threatening the region. No country will believe that the United States may use its military power to seize territory. The United States is using its military power to maintain international security and stability, especially in Asia, said Daniel Russell, former US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

The number of US surveillance sorties in the South China Sea is likely to increase compared with 2021, said Wu Shicun, founding president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies. He argues the increased US military activities in the Western Pacific is because it is concerned about losing its dominance. In 2021, the US flew over 1,200 spy plane sorties over the region and held 95 US-led military exercises. The frequency and intensity increases year by year.

Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea is grounded in both reality and history, said Wu. In the world atlas published by Rand McNally in 1992, the Nansha Islands were marked as Nansha Island (China). In addition, it was indicated on the map that the South China Sea islands were under the jurisdiction of Guangdong province, according to Wu.

China's GDP is about 70 percent that of the US despite having the largest population in the world and a territory much larger than the US. However, China's national defense budget is 1.4 trillion yuan ($204 billion) this year, less than one-third of that of the US defense budget.

Wu Xinbo, dean of the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, said the US military has already targeted the Chinese military as a major imaginary enemy.

US military spending in 2021 hit $801 billion, and it is expected to continue to increase this year and in the years ahead. Who would think to buy weapons from the US if it does not hype up tensions, asked Wu Shicun.