Arms race in Asia Pacific | By Prof Shazia Cheema, Prague

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Arms race in Asia Pacific

INDO-Pacific has become a new theatre where the situation is becoming interesting with every passing scene since the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on 2 August 2022.

Of course, China reacted over this visit but US policy towards Indo-Pacific is showing more hostility towards China, and US Vice President Kamala Harris on 18 November 2022, assured Asia Pacific partners that “the United States is here (Asia Pacific) to stay”.

She told leaders at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit that the US is a “proud Pacific power” and has a “vital interest in promoting a region that is open, interconnected, prosperous, secure and resilient.

” She was of the view that the US had an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific.

On 22 November 2022, US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Philippines which is situated on the edge of the disputed South China Sea.

Her visit has earned anger from Beijing while the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressing a NATO meeting confirmed that the “US is a laser focus on China”.

I have been writing for three years that all is set in Indo-Pacific for creating a Cold War if not a hot one.

However, President Biden in his one-on-one meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping said that the US does not need “a new Cold War” with China.

Nevertheless, he added that the US would “compete with China vigorously though he is not looking for conflict.

On 29 November 2022, Pentagon claimed that China’s nuclear arsenal will be more than 1,500 warheads by 2035.

The US Department of Defence in its recent report estimated that China’s nuclear warheads stockpile has surpassed 400 and it (China) will likely field a stockpile of about 1,500 nuclear warheads by 2035. It is pertinent to mention that US has around 4,000 nuclear warheads readily available.

With every passing day, US allies’ presence in the Asia Pacific, particularly in Southeast Asia confirms that the US agenda is not limited to only encircling China waters, threatening Chinese trade routes, making erratic North Korea more erratic and showing US supremacy in the region where China and Russia (reference to Vladivostok region) have a high stake but also creating an arms sale market as far as Southeast Asia.

We know since President Biden took over the office, Washington has identified Beijing as the most consequential challenge to the United States.

In simple words, China is the biggest danger to the US and its allies as well as to neighbouring countries.

This rhetoric is working; many important Indo-Pacific countries have already doubled their arms sales and the biggest seller is the United States in the last two years.

Recently, the US has approved a major $14 Billion arms sale to Indonesia. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are already in buying spree from the United States because they are considering China and North Korea as series of threats in the region as portrayed by the United States.

According to a report titled “Autonomous Military Weapons Global Market Report 2022”, the global autonomous military weapons market grew from $12.04 billion in 2021 to $13.3 billion in 2022 at a compound annual growth rate of 10.4%.

The autonomous military weapons market is expected to grow to $19.75 billion in 2026. The major sellers are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, AVIC, CASC, Rostec, Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit Systems, Rafael, and STM while Asia Pacific, particularly South Asia was the largest buyer region in the military weapons market in 2021.

We will see what new strategic and economic interests have already been designed by US allies in the Asia Pacific in time to come but it is clear that US-portrayed “durable freedom, peace, and security, enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific” have bigger agenda than we can think.

—The writer is a Prague-based author, columnist and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media.