- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

HONOLULU — The new commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Adm. Gary Roughhead, an interested onlooker of the joint Chinese-Russian military maneuvers during the past eight days, has posed a critical question about the rapidly modernizing Chinese navy: “What do [the Chinese] see as the intended use of that navy?

“Clearly, the Chinese are developing a very capable modern military, especially the navy,” Adm. Roughead said in an interview at his Pearl Harbor headquarters.

If that navy “is to ensure the free flow of commerce, that would not be surprising,” he said, nodding toward the sea lanes in the South China and East China seas through which pass the oil and raw materials that feed China’s expanding economy, not to mention its soaring exports.

The admiral added, however: “What if the intent is not purely to defend the sea lanes?” He left the question open.

Adm. Roughead said his command had been watching the maneuvers centered in China on the Shandong Peninsula across the Yellow Sea from the Korean Peninsula.

He was keenly interested in learning what ships and aircraft the Chinese and Russians had sent into the war games, how they operated together, and how they integrated their commands and communications.

The exercise marked another step in a gradual Sino-Russian reconciliation after decades of rivalry during the days of the Soviet Union.

It appeared to have had three purposes: Put the United States on notice that it has military competitors in the Western Pacific; show the Taiwanese once again that China would use force if that island nation declared formal independence; and market more Russian weapons to China, which already has bought Russian warships and aircraft.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet was not invited to send observers to the maneuvers, nor would Adm. Roughead or any other officer discuss ways in which intelligence was being gathered.

It would have been normal practice, however, for U.S. forces to have been watching and listening closely, using U.S. submarines, reconnaissance aircraft and surveillance satellites.

Adm. Roughead, who took command of the Pacific Fleet’s 200 warships, 1,400 aircraft, and 190,000 sailors and Marines on July 8, said he would not drastically change course from that set by his predecessor, Adm. Walter F. Doran.

“When you come on watch,” Adm. Roughead said, “normally you don’t try to trim the sails right away.”

Much of his attention will be directed to continuing the transformation of the armed forces as ordered by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In the Pacific and Asia, that objective is adding to Navy responsibilities as the United States plans to depend on sea power and air power rather than ground forces in most contingencies.

On the dispute over Taiwan, for instance, the United States would rely on ships and planes to help defend Taiwan if China sought to enforce its claim of sovereignty with an assault, and if President Bush decided it would be in the U.S.’s interest to resist.

Adm. Roughead said he planned to invite more Asian and Pacific navies to take part in multilateral exercises, in contrast to bilateral drills.

To increase their ability to operate together, he would like to persuade allied navies to codify their procedures.

That would be true not only with blue-water navies, such as those of Japan, Australia and India, but also with the smaller navies of Southeast Asia fighting pirates that prey on merchant ships in those constricted waters.

The admiral stressed, however, that he would seek informal arrangements, not another NATO one.

The need for codified procedures is also needed within the U.S. Navy, Adm. Roughead said.

Not many years ago, the United States really had two navies, the Atlantic and the Pacific, each with its own way of operating. With a smaller Navy today, ships could be deployed from one fleet to another and must be able to fit in to a new assignment seamlessly.

With an eye toward China’s expanding submarine force, Adm. Roughead emphasized anti-submarine warfare.

The Navy relies on submarines, said to be the best weapon against other submarines, and surface ships equipped with sonar and torpedoes. It also depends on new anti-submarine missiles and low-flying aircraft such as the PA-C Orion laden with detection devices and weapons.

“This is an area that we want to be able to dominate,” the admiral said.

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