US Proposes NATO-Like Alliance in Indo-Pacific, Angers China

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The United States has proposed the concept of the Indo-Pacific becoming a “networked region” — not in the information technology sense, but as like-minded countries working together.

The proposal immediately drew the ire of China. Chinese state media commented, “The US has brought up the idea of building an alliance, similar NATO, with India, Australia and Japan to form anti-China network in the Indo-Pacific region.”

“This is about countries that have shared interests that are willing to commit resources to work to support the folks in pursuit of a common task,” David Helvey, performing the duties of assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs said during a recent interview with reporters traveling with Defence Secretary Esper.

Giving the example of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which binds together 30 nations in collective defense, he said but there is no comparable treaty organization in the Indo-Pacific. In the region, the United States has a series of bilateral, treaty-based alliance relationships and a set of partnerships.

The same day, during talks with former US ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun said the US aims to formalize closer Indo-Pacific defense relations with India, Japan and Australia – also known as “the Quad” – into a NATO-like alliance

Helvy also spoke about realignment of forces in the region. “We are heavily concentrated in Northeast Asia,” Helvey said. Some of these troops’ placements are legacies of World WarII. “We’d like to be able to make our presence more geographically distributed, more operationally resilient,” he said.

“Maybe the future is going to be less about bases and more about places — being able to operate across a multiplicity of locations, which give us the flexibility and the agility to respond to a variety of different threats and challenges.”

The build-up on Guam is one example of this. “[The Guam base] is going to allow us to be able to project power across and throughout the region and be able to distribute it rapidly,” he said. The idea is to ensure the United States is resilient in the face of many different types of threats, including China, he said. China is the concern of many nations in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, he added.

Ed comment: A NATO- like alliance in the Indo-Pacific would bring to the fore interoperability of defence systems which means the US would pressure partnering nations into buying US-made equipment or that manufactured by its partners. This would effectively shut out Russia and China from the regional arms market.