The US military is deepening ties with Japan and the Philippines in preparation for Chinese threat

According to the top general of the Marine Corps in Japan, US and Japanese forces are rapidly integrating their command structure and expanding their combined operations as Washington and its Asian allies prepare for a possible conflict with China such as a war over Taiwan.

The two militaries have “experienced an exponential increase . . . little more than last year” in their operations on territory they would have to defend in the event of war, Lt. Gen. James Bierman, commanding general of the Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) and Marine Forces Japan, told the Financial Times in an interview.

Bierman said the US and its allies in Asia are emulating the fundamentals that would have allowed Western countries to support Ukrainian resistance against Russia in preparing for scenarios such as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

“Why did we achieve the success that we achieved in Ukraine? A large part of this is because after the Russian aggression in 2014 and 2015, we prepared ourselves seriously for future conflicts: training for the Ukrainians, pre-positioning supplies, identifying locations from which to operate support, maintaining operations be able. he said.

“That’s what we call stage design. And we do the theater in Japan, the Philippines and other places.”

Bierman’s unusually candid comparison between the Ukraine war and a possible conflict with China comes as Beijing has dramatically increased the scale and sophistication of its military maneuvers near Taiwan in recent years. Japan and the Philippines are also stepping up defense cooperation with the US in the face of increasing Chinese assertiveness.

Lt. Gen. James Bierman addresses troops in Okinawa
Lt. Gen. James Bierman warned that “the Chinese adversary . . . will have the starting pistol and may be able to initiate hostilities’ © Kyodo News/Getty Images

Japan and the US will discuss strengthening their alliance at security talks between foreign and defense ministers on Wednesday and a summit between US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Friday in Washington. The summit comes as Tokyo embarks on a radical security shift that will include increasing defense spending and deploying missiles capable of hitting Chinese territory.

III MEF is the only Marine Corps crisis response force permanently deployed outside the United States. It operates in the area of ​​Chinese medium- and long-range missiles, with which Beijing wants to restrict the US’ freedom of operations in the region.

The unit is at the center of a sweeping reform of the Marine Corps that aims to replace its focus on counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East with the creation of small units specialized in operating quickly and stealthily on the islands and straits of East Asia and the United States US to operate in the western Pacific to counter Beijing’s “anti-access area denial” strategy.

Closer integration with allies is critical to executing that strategy, Bierman said. In a series of recent exercises, the Marines established bilateral tactical coordination centers on the ground for the first time, rather than sharing liaisons with allied command posts.

As a further sign of the deepening of the cooperation, units of the III. MEF and the US Navy and Air Force designated certain Japanese military units as part of the “Replacement Force”.

Instead of a “round robin” of Japanese military units working with US counterparts, as in the past, there is a “permanent syndicate” of allied units responsible for operational plans, Bierman added.

He said while the US military was paying attention to the aggressive behavior of the Chinese in Taiwan, the People’s Liberation Army should not be perceived as “10 feet tall.”

“If you’re talking about the complexity, let’s say the size of some of the operations they would have to do [in] An invasion of Taiwan, there will be clues and warnings, and there are specific aspects related to geography and time that allow us to position ourselves and be best prepared,” he said.

As part of these preparations, the Philippines plans to allow US forces to station weapons and other supplies at five more bases, in addition to five bases the US already has access to.

“You gain a fulcrum, a base of operations that allows you to have a tremendous head start on various operational plans,” Bierman said. “While we’re going head-to-head with the Chinese opponent who will possess the starting pistol and potentially have the ability to initiate hostilities. . . We can identify critical key terrain that needs to be held, secured, defended and exploited.” The US military is deepening ties with Japan and the Philippines in preparation for Chinese threat

Adam Bradshaw

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