A Good Game of Catch Up in the SW Pacific
yes, PNG matters ... it all matters
With all the news about aliens, did you miss the more important news hiding in the shadows?
There is a reason we keep and eye on the Southwest Pacific - we know geography and we know why so many of the most important battles between Imperial Japan & the US and her allies took place here. It is critical terrain.
Superb, if not a bit of catching up, news from Nikkei Asia;
The U.S. military will be granted access to six sites in Papua New Guinea, including a naval base, for 15 years under a defense agreement reached between the two countries, Nikkei has learned, as Washington rushes to counter China.
The U.S. Department of Defense announced Tuesday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will visit Papua New Guinea and Australia later this month. Referring in a statement to the defense agreement signed with Papua New Guinea in May, the Pentagon stressed that Austin would "discuss next steps" to put the agreement into action.
The U.S. military will use Lombrum Naval Base and Momote Airport in northern Papua New Guinea, as well as ports and airports in the capital of Port Moresby and Lae in the center of the country.
Manus Island, home to Lombrum Naval Base, is strategically located in the Pacific Ocean and was the site of fierce battles between the U.S. and Japan during World War II. Former President Donald Trump's administration announced in 2018 that the U.S. would participate in the base's expansion. In cooperation with Australia, the U.S. has been exploring the use of the base over the medium to long term.
The agreement stipulates that the base is to be used for "contingency operations," in addition to natural disaster response and humanitarian aid efforts. The U.S. might use Papua New Guinea as a base of operations in the event of a confrontation with China in the Taiwan Strait and or the South China Sea.
It is encouraging that the importance of this area of the Pacific is once again getting the attention it deserves and it is being done in a bi-partisan and international way with our friends and allies.
This week’s events were half a decade and two administrations in the making, so BZ to all involved. This was neglected for far too long where it seemed for years that only a few people like Cleo Paskal were ringing the bell. Things are changing, and what we are doing today bolsters the progress advancing the sober view of the threat to the global order posed by the growing power of the People’s Republic of China.
Some in Papua New Guinea have objected that the defense deal would violate the country's sovereignty. Austin's visit is also intended to allay these concerns by showing consideration for the views of the Papuan government. The ratification process in Papua New Guinea is expected to move forward in August. Prime Minister James Marape's party believes it has sufficient support in parliament to ratify the agreement.
This is fair and we should not overplay our hand. As I’ll outline in the below pull quotes from Al Jazeera, we need to have a soft presence, especially in the beginning, but should build something scalable.
More faster, as that ill-described “pacing threat” of the PRC the people in the DC terrarium like to delude themselves about, it in the Southwest Pacific the “lapping threat;”
China and Solomon Islands signed a security pact in April 2022. Although the contents were not disclosed, the U.S. has become increasingly concerned that the Chinese military may use the Solomon Islands as a base of operations in the medium to long term.
After his visit to Papua New Guinea, Austin will travel to Australia with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to attend a bilateral two-plus-two meeting of top diplomatic and defense officials.
What would a soft footprint look like?
The United States defence secretary has said that Washington was not seeking a permanent base in Papua New Guinea (PNG) as he announced the deployment of a US coast guard ship to the Pacific nation.
Under the effort to boost ties, a US coast guard cutter will visit PNG in August, Austin said. The deployment, he said, will help the country stop the plundering of its thinly protected marine resources, stopping activities like illegal fishing and trafficking.
The defence agreement comes as the US and its allies are seeking to deter Pacific island nations from forming security ties with China, a rising concern amid tension over Taiwan, and after Beijing signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands.
As our friend Matt Hipple pointed out on X/twitter, the USCG is not the answer. Yes, the USCG presence should just be an initial presence and as Blake pointed out downthread, fisheries is a USCG specialty, but they don't have enough assets to be there full time in the long haul.
Easing in with our presence with a white hull is smart, but not sustainable. Hell, the USCG does not have enough to do their job in US territorial waters. The Navy needs to be the long term solution here, but we are ill-designed to do so.
You can go back to 2009 and even earlier to see where we along with Jerry Hendrix were looking for solutions to our fleet design to give us the numbers we will need to address the full spectrum of missions at peace and war. Sadly, we lost that argument to the extent, as we discussed last Sunday on Midrats, we are sending DDG to do a FFG or corvette’s job.
As Matt pointed out, this would be a great place for our PC’s - but we got rid of them without replacement. The new Constellation Class FFG will be nice here, but even them are a bit much for this mission, and we are over a decade away from having them in any number.
Where are our versions of the Thaon di Revel corvette or the upcoming European Patrol Corvette - the low end that the Potomac Flotilla hates but the grounded masses see the clear utility for? And no, don’t bring up LCS - I know you’re just trying to troll me.
We are planning on only 20 Constellations. We need more on the low end. How about 20 more ships similar to the Thaon de Revel or EPC? Why not?
I know the arguments we’re making are a decade and a half old, but that doesn’t mean they are not still correct - and even the haters have to admit - the last 15-years proved the likes of Jerry, the Front Porch, and other right more than wrong.