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The US command is taking a sharp tone on China’s troubling actions

US commando rituals take on a sharp tone after China's 'disturbing actions'

Samuel Paparo-AFP

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel Paparo on Friday took control of the U.S. military command responsible for checking China’s rise. in the Indo-Pacific region.

Paparo led the U.S. Pacific Fleet for three years before taking over the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (Indopacom), whose area of ​​focus includes 36 countries, including China. He succeeded Admiral John Aquilino, who retired after more than 40 years of military service.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III presided over the change of command ceremony, which was held on a pier overlooking the USS Missouri and the USS Arizona Memorial, with the presidents of Micronesia and Palau among the hundreds of guests.

The Inquirer was among journalists who attended the event as part of a reporting tour organized by the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

“Our world is facing a complex problem arising from the PRC’s disturbing actions and rapid build-up of military forces. We must be ready to respond to the PRC’s increasingly intrusive and expansionist claims in the Indo-Pacific region,” Paparo said in his speech.

‘Ready to fight’

“Some call it the gray zone. My friend, General Brawner from the Republic of the Philippines, has an expression called Icad. “He has renamed the gray zone, which otherwise sounds benign and boring, as Icad – which is illegal, coercive, aggressive and deceptive,” he said, referring to General Romeo Brawner Jr., head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who is also in tired of fighting. presence.

The gray zone, as defined by the US Army Special Operations Command, refers to “activities, actions or conflicts between the space of peace and war” and, in this specific case, to China’s activities to flex its muscles before a full-blown war breaks out. .

Tensions between the Philippines and China persist over the West Philippine Sea, part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone where China makes sweeping claims.

Last week, Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired water cannons at two Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels near Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, or Bajo de Masinloc. A 2016 arbitration award invalidated China’s sweeping claims, including to Panatag, but Beijing has refused to recognize the decision.

“Indopacom, together with our partners, is in a position to deny and defend attempts to break the peace granted by the international rules-based order,” Paparo said.

“We will be ready to fight any adversary who threatens the peace, security, stability and well-being of (our) nation and of our allies and partners,” he added.

‘Autocratic vision’

In his remarks, Austin said the People’s Republic of China remains his department’s “pace challenge” even as North Korea, Russia and violent extremist groups also threaten security in the region.

“The People’s Republic of China is the only country with both the will – and, increasingly, the ability – to dominate the Indo-Pacific and reshape the world order to fit its autocratic vision,” he said.

“The People’s Republic of China continues to engage in increasingly coercive behavior. And we can see that across the Taiwan Strait, in the East and South China Seas, among Pacific island nations, along the Line of Actual Control with India, and more,” Austin said, adding that Indopacom “has risen to meet the moment, together with (its) allies and partners.”

He also mentioned the ongoing ‘Balikatan’ in the Philippines, the largest annual military exercises between Philippine and US forces.

Austin described Paparo as “exactly the right leader for this moment and this mission,” adding that Indopacom’s mission “is at the core of American security in the 21st century.”

‘Topgun’

Like his predecessor, Paparo is a naval aviator and a graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as “Top Gun” – a term now made famous by a Tom Cruise blockbuster.

Paparo has flown more than 6,000 flight hours in the F-14 Tomcat, F-15 Eagle and F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets, and more than 1,000 aircraft carrier landings.

He also served as head of the U.S. 5th Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

Austin thanked Aquilino for his leadership during “a defining time for our defense strategy,” including deepening partnerships in the region, deploying the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment to Japan and expanding access to four new locations at called the Philippines under the flag of Japan. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and Distribution of 130 Million Doses of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Indo-Pacific.

“It will be the first time I sleep in three years, but I will sleep well knowing that Pappy is at the wheel… and that the warfighters of this theater will continue the mission,” Aquilino said in his farewell speech, while calling Paparo. by his nickname.