Growing alarm over Chinese and North Korean activities in the Pacific is driving their neighbors to turn increasingly to the U.S. military to help counter the new threats, a top Army general told NatSec Daily.
Pacific nations are increasingly participating in military drills with the U.S. and each other in the region, said Gen. CHARLES FLYNN, commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific, attributing the change to collective concern about Pyongyang’s stepped-up missile testing and Beijing’s military buildup.
Flynn said he noticed the shift even in the last two years since he began serving in the position. Compared to the environment when Flynn commanded the 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, a decade ago, it’s a sea change, he said.
“I think the unity and collective commitment that we’re seeing in the region is different because the threats are different and the challenges are more profound,” Flynn said.
Participation in the Army’s annual Super Garuda Shield exercise with Indonesia, for example, skyrocketed from two to 14 nations between 2021 and 2022, Flynn said; this year, 19 nations are involved. In Australia, the annual Talisman Sabre exercise grew from two to 13 nations in 2023, with 30,000 soldiers participating, he added.
During the command’s annual Army Chiefs conference at the end of the month in New Delhi, India, Flynn expects 36 countries to be in attendance, including at least 20 Army Chiefs.
“There’s this real thirst out here for increased multilateral and multinational operations,” Flynn said. “It’s not what they are saying; it’s what they are doing.”
The trend Flynn is noticing was on display at Camp David last month, during the first-ever trilateral summit between the U.S., Japan and South Korea. There, the three countries condemned “dangerous and aggressive behavior” by China in the South China Sea, and agreed to hold annual military drills and start sharing real-time information on North Korean missile launches.
It was a marked shift for Seoul and Tokyo, which have a history of acrimony dating back to Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945.
Countries in the region are increasingly trying to demonstrate “unity and collective commitment” in response to what they see as China and North Korea “acting irresponsibly and overly aggressive,” said Flynn.
“They are turning away from that, and they are turning, I think, toward the U.S. and other like-minded countries,” he said.
Source : Politico