China-US tension: American commander seeks US$27 billion to hold back PLA in the Indo-Pacific

Laura Zhou
·4-min read

The commander in charge of United States military operations in the Indo-Pacific has asked the US Congress for more than US$27 billion in extra funds for new military construction and to boost cooperation with allies to maintain an edge over China.

Submitted to Congress on Monday, the proposal by Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Philip Davidson outlined a total of US$27.3 billion in additional spending, including US$4.6 billion for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative for next year and extra funds for new missiles and air defences, radar systems, staging areas, intelligence-sharing centres, supply depots and testing ranges throughout the region, as well as exercises with allies and partners between 2022 and 2027, Defense News reported, citing an unclassified executive summary of the report by the Indo-Pacific Command.

That included a US$1.6 billion 360-degree Aegis Ashore missile defence system in Guam which Davidson has long said is his top priority, as well as a US$197 million high-frequency radar system in Palau in the western Pacific Ocean that aims to detect and track air and surface targets.

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In the report, Davidson proposed to build a US$2.3 billion constellation of space-based radars that could serve Aegis Ashore and the Palau system.

He seeks US$206 million for “specialised manned aircraft to provide discrete, multi-source intelligence collection requirements” across the region, along with US$3.3 billion for ground-based, long-range fires reaching over 500km (310 miles).

The US “requires highly survivable, precision-strike networks along the first island chain, featuring increased quantities of ground-based weapons,” Davidson wrote, as reported by Breaking Defense digital magazine.

“These networks must be operationally decentralised and geographically distributed along the western Pacific archipelagos using service agnostic infrastructure.”

The new proposal is the first by the Indo-Pacific Command since the US Congress established the Pacific Deterrence Initiative in the 2021 National Defence Authorisation Act in December.

Last year in a report to Congress, Davidson proposed spending an extra US$18.5 billion until 2026 based on the idea of a Pacific version of the European Deterrence Initiative, a special fund to deal with Russia in Europe.

China and Indo-Pacific in US military sights as Pentagon takes fresh look at forces

In a conference on Monday, Davidson also called for major investment for training between the US and allies.

“We must convince Beijing that the costs to achieve its objectives by military force are simply too high,” Breaking Defense reported Davidson saying.

Davidson is expected to formally roll out the report at an event on Thursday hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

Observers in China said the latest proposal by Davidson was part of efforts by the Pentagon to enhance posturing against China.

“Apparently it is targeting China,” said Liu Weidong, a US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “I don’t think China would go toe-to-toe but would continue to carry out its own plan to develop its military capacity.”

Song Zhongping, a Hong Kong-based military commentator, said Beijing was also prepared to deal with growing challenges from the US.

“The People’s Liberation Army is developing new types of weapons, including hypersonic weapons, to counter the offensive and defensive military strategy by the US,” Song said.

Military rivalry between China and the US continues to grow under the Biden administration. On Monday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted the first meeting of the new China Task Force at the Pentagon, during which he provided some “initial guidance” for what both the White House and the Pentagon have described as a “sprint” to identify priorities in its competition with China.

Monday’s meeting “is intended to formalise the mission, timing and outputs of the task force as they work towards a baseline assessment of departments, policies, programmes and processes on China-related matters,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said, adding that the task force was expected to complete its work within four months.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang

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