Amid a massive Chinese military buildup in Indo-Asia-Pacific, an influential Republican lawmaker today introduced a legislation in the US Congress to increase military capabilities of the countries in the region. Introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, the Indo-Asia-Pacific Act has proposed a minimum of USD 2.1 billion towards strengthening defence capabilities of the countries in the region. This includes USD 1 billion to improve critical munitions inventories and enhance munition capabilities and another USD 1 billion to procure Terminal High Altitude Area Defence interceptors (THAAD) or lower tier air and missile defence interceptors. It has also proposed USD 15 million for missile defence exercises with Japan, South Korea, and Australia for defence against the ballistic missile forces of North Korea.
“No one needs reminding of the escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific. It is essential that the US reassures our allies and friends that we are committed to stability and security in that region now and in the future,” Thornberry said.
“One of the best ways to do that is to increase our military presence and enhance our readiness there. To do that, need to invest in a broad range of defence capabilities and this legislation does just that,” he said in a statement.
Thornberry said he intends to include the measure in the upcoming annual defence bill which is currently scheduled to be considered by the Committee in late June. While there is no specific provision for India in the bill, it reaffirms US extended deterrence commitments to the Asia-Pacific region, including maintaining robust nuclear capable bombers.
You may also like to watch:
It requires a plan to maintain a forward-stationed combat aviation brigade in South Korea to better position the Armed Forces for major contingencies on the Korean Peninsula. The bill requires a plan to incorporate cyber planning with joint planning exercises in Indo-Asia-Pacific, enhance operations and strategic communication strategies to counter Russian, Chinese, and North Korean information warfare, and identify potential areas of cooperation on cybersecurity with allies and partners. Among other things, the bill reinforces America’s key defence relationships with allies and partners — including Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and Australia — and calls for the US to regularly exercise freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
It reinforces the importance of strengthening key regional institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that address shared economic and security challenges, the bill added. The development comes a day after the US sent a navy warship near an artificial island built by China in the disputed South China Sea as part of the first freedom of navigation operation under President Donald Trump, prompting Beijing to strongly condemn the “provocative action.” The guided-missile destroyer, USS Dewey, conducted a patrol within 20 kilometres of Mischeef Reef, part of the Spratly Islands. A crucial shipping route, China claims ownership of the vast majority of the South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly island chains, a claim disputed by numerous other countries including the Philippines and Vietnam.