- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2015

After years of conducting counterinsurgency operations while being largely being left out of the Pentagon’s new strategy for Asia called “Air Sea Battle,” the U.S. Army is being urged to play a greater role in the region.

A new report by the CNA Corp., a federally-funded think tank, is urging the Army to adjust its forces for a greater role in maintaining peace and stability in Asia, mainly against the growing threat from China and continued dangers posed by North Korea.

Army forces must be ready to fight major combat operations against nuclear-armed North Korea and to complement Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force forces preparing to counter China’s asymmetric, high-technology forces designed to push the U.S. military out of Asia, the 92-page report by CNA’s China Studies division concludes.

The report calls for maintaining “positive engagement” with China to influence Beijing. It also warned in an understatement reflecting the Obama administration’s conciliatory views of the increasingly aggressive China that “there are concerns about its lack of transparency and intent.”

In Asia, the report states the Army can play a key role in maintaining peace and security.

“Deterring potential aggression, such as that which might occur on the Korean Peninsula, or acts of coercion and intimidation, such as over disputed territories in the East and South China Seas, is an important aspect of achieving that objective,” the report says. “In the event that deterrence fails or the unpredictable occurs, the Army will need to be able to surge tailored force packages into and across the region.”

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The Army currently has around 80,000 troops in the Asia-Pacific region, including 20,000 troops in South Korea and 22,500 troops in Hawaii, although the numbers there are being reduced due to defense budget cuts. Some 13,000 Army troops are in Alaska and are also facing steep numbers cuts.

The report says North Korea remains the biggest threat to the region. It quotes a senior U.S. Pacific Command officer as saying the major worry is “a 28-year-old five-star general with nukes,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A Chinese war over Japan’s Senkaku islands, a Taiwan conflict, or in the South China Sea is another danger that could involve Army forces.

Army forces can provide missile and air defenses to U.S. and allied forces in Asia and could play a “forced-entry role” in the region to prevent the takeover of strategic choke-points. Army communications also could contribute in a crisis.

The Air Sea Battle concept was unveiled in February 2010 as an Air Force and Navy plan to break through China’s so-called “anti-access” and “area denial” weapons — missiles, submarines, anti-satellite weapons and cyber warfare capabilities — that are designed to drive U.S. forces from the Asia Pacific.

The concept called for improving bombers and aircraft along with naval forces that could strike targets deep inside China to quickly defeat Beijing in any future conflict.

Several years after its unveiling, the Marines were added to the plan. Because the Army was left out, it created its own broader-based concept called the Joint Operating Access Concept but that was scrapped — no doubt due to its unfortunate acronym JOAC sounded too much like joke.

This year the Pentagon did away with Navy- and Air Force-dominated Air Sea Battle and renamed it the “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Common,” known as JAM-GC.

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