European Powers to Boost Asia Presence to Counter China

Germany, France and Britain each plan to boost their military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, a move analysts say is aimed at countering China and showing support for the U.S., Japan and other regional allies.

Germany will send a frigate to patrol Indo-Pacific waters later this year. Britain will deploy the British carrier strike group (CSG) with the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier at its core with no first deployment date announced.

France will join Japan and the U.S. to conduct amphibious training in southwestern Japan in May. The three countries also submitted a joint, unsigned note to the United Nations.

The note emphasized “the importance of unhampered exercise of the freedom of the high seas” in the South China Sea, according to an op-ed written by Mark Valencia, an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, in China’s Hainan Province, for the South China Morning Post.

According to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies prepared from a survey conducted before the advent of the global pandemic: “China is seen as holding slightly more political power and influence than the United States in Southeast Asia today and considerably more power relative to the United States in 10 years,” and in terms of “economic power and influence, the region views China as much more influential than the United States today, and this gap is expected to grow in the next 10 years.”

‘Need to uphold the international order’

Experts say that the European countries boosting their military presence in the Indo-Pacific region will strengthen their alliances with the United States and Japan and maintain common values and rule-based order in the region.

Zachary Hosford, acting director of the Asia program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said the European countries “want to signal to the United States that they are aligned with Washington in recognizing both the need to uphold the international order and the Chinese government’s challenges to that order – including through the illegal and destabilizing building of military bases on artificial islands.”

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