Air Force Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of the Pacific Air Forces, recently outlined his service’s role in the Pentagon shift to Asia, known as both the “pivot” and Air Sea Battle, a concept to counter China’s high-tech weapons.
The four-star general’s candid comments to defense reporters prompted charges in Chinese state-run media that the Pentagon is treating China as a Cold War enemy.
China is aggressively seeking military control over disputed islands in the South China Sea and pressuring Japan over its control of the Senkakus in the East China Sea, Gen. Carlisle said during a breakfast July 29.
Gen. Carlisle said Chinese territorial claims increase the risk of military confrontation.
In addition to the Senkakus, China is asserting its claims over other disputed islands, including the Second Thomas Shoal and other islets in the Spratly islands. China also claims to control most of the South China Sea through its declared Nine Dash Line, impinging on large areas of international waters.
China is being “fairly aggressive” and as a result “runs itself the risk of creating the potential for miscalculation,” Gen. Carlisle said.
The general said the maritime disputes involving China “are all ripe for challenge.”
“And that’s something we think about every day — from [U.S. Pacific Command commander Adm. SamuelJ.LocklearII ]— to every one of the components of what we can do to stabilize those situations.”
Additionally, China’s “fairly assertive, aggressive behavior” has increased demands by states such as Japan and the Philippines for a greater U.S. military presence, he said.
As part of the U.S. strategic shift to Asia, the first base for new F-35 jets will be at one of the nine Air Force bases in the Pacific, Gen. Carlisle said. The jets will not be based in Hawaii, where the Air Force’s most advanced warplane, the F-22, is based.
Gen. Carlisle said the Air Force is not planning on building more bases in the Asia Pacific as part of the shift. Instead, the service’s buzz phrase is “places, not bases,” where Air Force power can be used in the region.
The general then compared the rotation of warplanes in and out of Asia to the Cold War policy of moving U.S. forces temporarily to Europe to deal with the Soviet Union.
That comment prompted an unusual attack from state-controlled Chinese media. Beijing published more than a dozen reports criticizing the general.
Chinese military commentators, all known to represent the Chinese government position, accused Gen. Carlisle of seeking to “encircle” China with advanced warplanes. A retired Chinese admiral, Yin Zhuo, was quoted in one report as saying Gen. Carlisle’s comments on Asia military deployments carried a “strong Cold War flavor,” the Chinese government’s euphemism for anti-communism.
That Chinese propaganda theme was echoed in recent months in writings by pro-Chinese academics in the United States, many of whom have written that the pivot to Asia is a little more than a war plan against China.