The U.S. military is holding firm on maintaining a presence in the Indo-Pacific region in spite of threats by China and the nation’s rising tensions with Taiwan.
Addressing the regional turbulence, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told CNN on Sept. 30 that he still believes no invasion is imminent. Just a day after his discussion, the Marine Corps kicked off two massive training exercises with regional allies.
“What we do see is China moving to establish what we would call a new normal,” he said. “Increased activity. We saw a number of center line crossings of the Taiwan Strait by their aircraft. That number has increased over time. We’ve seen more activity with their surface vessels and waters in and around Taiwan.”
In a regional show of force, more than 5,500 personnel will be participating in Resolute Dragon 22, which will run between Oct. 1 and Oct. 14 in Hokkaido, Japan, and KAMANDAG 6, which will conclude on the same day and feature members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines alongside U.S. Marines in Luzon, Batanes, and Palawan, Philippines.
The Okinawa-based headquarters command for the 3rd Marine Division will be overseeing U.S. forces involved in both exercises, with troops focusing “on increasing combined capabilities for amphibious operations, special operations, maritime security, coastal defense, combined arms, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” according to a press release.
“Resolute Dragon and KAMANDAG are important opportunities to bolster the defensive capabilities of our alliances with Japan and the Philippines through realistic combined training,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, commanding general for the 3rd Marine Division.
“These exercises will allow our forces to strengthen interoperability and readiness to ensure we are prepared to rapidly respond to crisis throughout the Indo-Pacific.”
In total, the two exercises will see U.S. troops training alongside 1,400 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, approximately 530 Philippine Marines and about 100 troops from the Philippine Navy and Air Force.
”Today, as the security environment surrounding Japan becomes more turbulent, there is a need to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance,” Gen. Yuichi Togashi, the JGSDF 2nd Division commanding general, said in a release.
“For this reason, we recognize that Resolute Dragon, the largest field training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps in Japan, is extremely important in terms of further strengthening the cooperation between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps.”
Resolute Dragon and KAMANDAG 6 both come on the heels of Orient Shield 22, a joint exercise between soldiers with U.S. Army Pacific and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.
With current tensions in mind, U.S. Army Pacific Commander Gen. Charles Flynn made the decision to leave an equipment cache behind at Camp Amami, Japan, following the conclusion of Orient Shield 22. Ordnance currently in place at Camp Amami includes two High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS.
“What you are seeing in Europe is a protracted fight, so therefore sustainment is an incredibly important wartime function,” Flynn told Reuters of his decision. “It would be in everyone’s interest to look at their stocks and locations.”
Austin also discussed President Joe Biden’s recent remarks regarding U.S. commitment to Taiwanese independence. In an interview with 60 Minutes in Sept., Biden promised that U.S. troops would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
“So, unlike Ukraine, to be clear, sir, U.S. forces, U.S. men and women would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion?” 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley said to Biden.
“Yes,” the president responded.
While the president’s stance has been clear and consistent, U.S. policy toward China remains unchanged, Austin told CNN.
Furthermore, the U.S. is working hard to re-open channels of communication with the Chinese military, a line China cut off in August following a visit to Taiwan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Aust also confirmed he has communicated both by phone and in person with his Chinese counterpart, Defense Minister Wei Fenghe.
“We’ll do everything we can to continue to signal that we want those channels open and I would hope that China will begin to lean forward a bit more and work with us,” Austin said.
Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran and a master's candidate at New York University's Business & Economic Reporting program.