ANALYSIS: US Reinforces Status as a ‘Pacific Power’ After Interception by Chinese Warships

News Analysis Amidst threats of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a Chinese naval ship just intercepted a U.S. Navy ship in the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempt to drive the United States out of Asia. However, the United States reacted strongly stating that it will firmly maintain a commitment to that part of the world and is well aware that the Indo-Pacific region is critical to the security and prosperity of the United States. On June 5, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby responded to a press conference on this interception incident, saying: “We are a Pacific power; we are not going anywhere. We have a serious commitment in that part of the world. Five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Indo-Pacific. The vast majority of international economic trade flows through the Indo-Pacific region. We have a real need there, and we will stay there. We are going to strengthen and revitalize these alliances and partnerships.” Two days before, on June 3, while the USS Chung-Hoon, a Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, and the HMCS Montreal, a Canadian Navy ship, were sailing together through the Taiwan Strait, a Chinese Navy ship maneuvered straight ahead of the USS Chung-Hoon, forcing the U.S. ship to change course. The two ships were within 150 yards (137 meters) of each other and almost collided. Anders Corr, the founder of Corr Analytics and publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, told The Epoch Times on June 8, “China is attempting to use militarization to intimidate the United States into abandoning Asia through militarization risk or border policies, thereby achieving its intermediate goal of being a regional hegemon, which is one step towards its ultimate goal of global hegemony with Beijing at its center.” Corr said Kirby’s words were a direct counter to the Chinese regime’s attempt to drive the United States out of Asia. If China is allowed to succeed, it would leave key U.S. allies, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Australia, at the mercy of the CCP. In the face of extreme pressure from China, Kirby made clear that the United States will continue to enforce its freedom of navigation program in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. “If they [the CCP] are trying to send the message that we are not welcome, or that our presence needs to be reduced, or that they want us to stop flying, sailing, and operating in support of international law—that’s not going to happen.” The U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby speaks during a daily news briefing at the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, on June 12, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images) Kirby’s proclamation of a “Pacific power” also drew attention to how the United States has positioned itself. Although the United States is located on the North American continent, it maintained a significant relationship with Asia and the Pacific for the past two hundred years. Historical Evolution of the US as a Pacific Power From the end of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th century, the United States expanded from the Atlantic coast to the interior of North America and then to the Pacific coast. Today, the U.S. Pacific coastline is one of the longest in the world and is vital to the U.S. economy. The five “Pacific” states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington account for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. GDP and 15 percent of the nation’s population. In the 19th century, American merchants and Christian missionaries sailed from the American Pacific coast to reach Asia. In addition to having a Pacific coastline on the mainland, the United States also has sovereign territory in the Pacific Ocean. In 1959, the Pacific archipelago of Hawaii became a U.S. state, and in 1898, victory in the Spanish-American War gave the U.S. jurisdiction over the western Pacific island of Guam and the Southeast Asian archipelago of the Philippines, which became independent in 1946. The United States also acquired part of the South Pacific islands of Samoa after the Treaty of Berlin in 1899. Beginning in the 19th century, the United States also acquired several smaller islands in the western and southern Pacific, including Midway Atoll, Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, Howland and Baker Islands, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and Jarvis Island. Some of these islands played a key role in World War II against Japan from 1941 to 1945. Under post-WWII arrangements, the U.S. administered the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau until their independence in the 1980s and 1990s. Two Wars Establish American ‘Pacific Power’ Status Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, a U.S. naval base near Honolulu. More than 2,400 Americans, including civilians, were killed in the attack and another 1,000 were injured. The day after the attack, President Roosevelt as

ANALYSIS: US Reinforces Status as a ‘Pacific Power’ After Interception by Chinese Warships

News Analysis

Amidst threats of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, a Chinese naval ship just intercepted a U.S. Navy ship in the Taiwan Strait, demonstrating the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) attempt to drive the United States out of Asia. However, the United States reacted strongly stating that it will firmly maintain a commitment to that part of the world and is well aware that the Indo-Pacific region is critical to the security and prosperity of the United States.

On June 5, NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby responded to a press conference on this interception incident, saying: “We are a Pacific power; we are not going anywhere. We have a serious commitment in that part of the world. Five of our seven treaty alliances are in the Indo-Pacific. The vast majority of international economic trade flows through the Indo-Pacific region. We have a real need there, and we will stay there. We are going to strengthen and revitalize these alliances and partnerships.”

Two days before, on June 3, while the USS Chung-Hoon, a Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, and the HMCS Montreal, a Canadian Navy ship, were sailing together through the Taiwan Strait, a Chinese Navy ship maneuvered straight ahead of the USS Chung-Hoon, forcing the U.S. ship to change course. The two ships were within 150 yards (137 meters) of each other and almost collided.

Anders Corr, the founder of Corr Analytics and publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, told The Epoch Times on June 8, “China is attempting to use militarization to intimidate the United States into abandoning Asia through militarization risk or border policies, thereby achieving its intermediate goal of being a regional hegemon, which is one step towards its ultimate goal of global hegemony with Beijing at its center.”

Corr said Kirby’s words were a direct counter to the Chinese regime’s attempt to drive the United States out of Asia. If China is allowed to succeed, it would leave key U.S. allies, including Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Australia, at the mercy of the CCP.

In the face of extreme pressure from China, Kirby made clear that the United States will continue to enforce its freedom of navigation program in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. “If they [the CCP] are trying to send the message that we are not welcome, or that our presence needs to be reduced, or that they want us to stop flying, sailing, and operating in support of international law—that’s not going to happen.”

Epoch Times Photo
The U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby speaks during a daily news briefing at the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, on June 12, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Kirby’s proclamation of a “Pacific power” also drew attention to how the United States has positioned itself. Although the United States is located on the North American continent, it maintained a significant relationship with Asia and the Pacific for the past two hundred years.

Historical Evolution of the US as a Pacific Power

From the end of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th century, the United States expanded from the Atlantic coast to the interior of North America and then to the Pacific coast. Today, the U.S. Pacific coastline is one of the longest in the world and is vital to the U.S. economy. The five “Pacific” states of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington account for nearly 20 percent of the U.S. GDP and 15 percent of the nation’s population. In the 19th century, American merchants and Christian missionaries sailed from the American Pacific coast to reach Asia.

In addition to having a Pacific coastline on the mainland, the United States also has sovereign territory in the Pacific Ocean. In 1959, the Pacific archipelago of Hawaii became a U.S. state, and in 1898, victory in the Spanish-American War gave the U.S. jurisdiction over the western Pacific island of Guam and the Southeast Asian archipelago of the Philippines, which became independent in 1946. The United States also acquired part of the South Pacific islands of Samoa after the Treaty of Berlin in 1899.

Beginning in the 19th century, the United States also acquired several smaller islands in the western and southern Pacific, including Midway Atoll, Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, Howland and Baker Islands, Kingman Reef, Palmyra Atoll, and Jarvis Island. Some of these islands played a key role in World War II against Japan from 1941 to 1945. Under post-WWII arrangements, the U.S. administered the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau until their independence in the 1980s and 1990s.

Two Wars Establish American ‘Pacific Power’ Status

Dec. 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, a U.S. naval base near Honolulu. More than 2,400 Americans, including civilians, were killed in the attack and another 1,000 were injured. The day after the attack, President Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.

Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor pushed the United States to abandon isolationism, and therefore the United States joined the global coalition against the Axis powers. The United States became the defender of a system of humane, democratic, and liberal values and the leader of the free world. This country became a “superpower,” defending the universal values of human rights, democracy, and freedom, and it continues to do so today.

Another significant war in Asia was the Korean War. In June 1950. Kim Il Sung’s North Korea invaded South Korea. Fearing that a Communist Korea under the dictatorship of Kim Il Sung would threaten Japan and fuel other communist movements in Asia, a United Nations force, dominated by American troops, landed in South Korea to fight the invasion.

President Truman’s statement on June 27, 1950, said that the North Korean attack was part of a larger plan by its Communist regime and the Soviet Union. This gave the United States a moral obligation to act. “If we don’t put up a fight now,” Truman told his staff that there’s “no telling what they’ll do.”

The United States’ involvement in the Korean War did stop the spread of communism. Due to the Korean War, Communist China abandoned its plans to invade Taiwan in the 1950s. Many of the troops trained for the Taiwan invasion were redeployed to the border area between China and North Korea. The Korean War caused the United States to reverse its policy of non-interference with Taiwan and to begin providing military assistance to them, placing Taiwan under U.S. protection. The United States thus added another ally in the Pacific.

US Return to Asia-Pacific

Epoch Times Photo
An F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter aircraft takes off from the flight deck of the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) aircraft carrier while at sea off the coast of Baja California, Mexico, on Jan. 18, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Although the United States has a longstanding relationship with the Asia-Pacific region, the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks shifted U.S. forces to counterterrorism and a two-decade war in the Middle East. In the meantime, the CCP has been fighting to occupy islands in the South China Sea and is aggressively pursuing its expansionist goals. The U.S. position in the Asia-Pacific was in jeopardy.

In 2011, the Obama administration proposed an “Asia rebalancing strategy” for the United States. Both the Trump and Biden administrations have since made the Asia-Pacific the first focus area for the United States. The Trump administration further expanded the Asia-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific. In February 2022, the White House released the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy (pdf). The document stated that the Indo-Pacific is critical to our security and prosperity.

The document explained that the Indo-Pacific region is home to more than half the world’s population, accounts for nearly two-thirds of the world’s economy, has the world’s seven largest military forces, has more U.S. troops stationed in the region than any other U.S. territory outside the United States, supports more than 3 million U.S. jobs, and is the source of nearly $900 billion in foreign direct investment in the United States. In the years ahead, as the region drives two-thirds of global economic growth, its influence will only grow, and so will its importance to the United States.

Carl Schuster, former director of operations for the U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Hawaii, told The Epoch Times on June 7 that the shift in U.S. strategic focus from the Middle East to the Asia-Pacific is a gradual process.

In April 2012, a standoff between Chinese and Filipino vessels occurred in the waters of Scarborough Shoal. In July 2016, the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China did not have historical ownership of the waters of the South China Sea and had violated the Philippines’ rights, but the Chinese regime rejected the ruling.

The CCP has subsequently turned some South China Sea islands into artificial islands, which were then turned into military bases with missiles, radar systems, and airstrips, although in September 2015, Chinese leader Xi Jinping pledged in a press conference with the-U.S. President Barack Obama in September 2015 not to militarize the artificial islands in the South China Sea that China occupied.

“People realized he was promising one thing but delivering another, and that led to a change in [Washington’s] mentality. … It was a slow awakening, and it got a big boost,” Shuster said. After Pelosi visited Taiwan, Chinese missiles were fired toward Taiwanese waters from all directions. Schuster suggested that this established the current broad consensus, which is that China is not a friendly country, and if the United States fails to confront the challenges in a variety of areas, we will wake up to a new world order run by China, Russia, and Iran.

The Chinese regime has also become increasingly bold in expressing its desire to invade and conquer Taiwan by force. In February, CIA Director Burns noted that U.S. intelligence information indicated that Xi had ordered the military to prepare for an invasion of Taiwan by 2027.

Navigation Freedom in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait

In 2015, U.S. Navy ships began to travel to the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait on freedom of navigation missions. Such missions continued regularly and are still ongoing today despite the increasing amount of Chinese military drills around Taiwan. This led to the recent interception of the U.S. Navy ship by a Chinese Navy ship.

Shuster explained that if the United States stops sending navy ships across the Taiwan Strait due to the harassment tactics of the Chinese regime, then the Taiwan Strait will become de facto Chinese waters. The freedom of navigation missions was carried out to show that the Taiwan Strait is international waters and is not controlled by the CCP.

As the CCP continues to threaten an attack on Taiwan, the control of the Taiwan Strait is particularly strategic. If China controls the Taiwan Strait, it can invade Taiwan at will and implement a blockade on the island nation.

“So we will continue to use these waters. Not because we want to go to war, but because we want to stop a war,” said Schuster.