The US is using the ongoing tensions over the North Korea nuclear crisis as an opportunity to reinforce its presence in the region, but its ultimate goal is to restrain a rising China.
Chief of US Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson told a briefing aboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier in Japan that vessels from the Third Fleet in the eastern Pacific could be brought forward to reinforce their naval colleagues in the western Pacific, South China Morning Post reports.
“We will continue to assure that we meet all of our missions here in the Asia-Pacific area. It could be something coming forward from Third Fleet or something like that to meet those requirements,” Richardson said, but declined to say when or how many ships could be transferred.
He also reiterated America’s concerns about Beijing’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, where China has territorial disputes with many neighbouring countries.
“One can only draw certain conclusion about what are the intentions of the Chinese with respect to those islands. We will respond as we have always done, which is that we are going to continue to be present down there,” Richardson said.
For now, he said, North Korea was the “most urgent” task for the US navy in Asia as it became “more and more capable” with every new missile test.
Song Zhongping, a military commentator for Hong Kong’s Phoenix Television, said the US was trying to use the North Korea nuclear problem to reinforce its Seventh Fleet in the western Pacific by shifting more aircraft carrier battle groups from the Third Fleet, which would be turned into a support force in the region.