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China dominates U.S. naval strategy discussion

Jun. 17, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Chinese Navy Chief Adm. Wu Shengli, left, and Adm. Johnathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, shake hands at a conference in China in early April.
Chinese Navy Chief Adm. Wu Shengli, left, and Adm. Johnathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, shake hands at a conference in China in early April. (MCC(SW/EXW) Peter D. Lawlor / US Navy)
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NEWPORT, R.I. — The latest international crisis may be a terrorist land offensive in Iraq, but concerns about China’s ambitions clearly dominate those thinking about strategies for the Navy.

“The rise of China as a challenger is the most significant strategic challenge for the U.S.,” Hal Brands, a historian at Duke University, told a “Current Strategy Forum” audience Tuesday at the Naval War College here.

“The U.S. is not devoting enough resources to addressing China’s rise,” claimed Aaron Friedberg, a professor of international affairs at Princeton University.

“We need to develop a credible military strategy for countering China,” Friedberg continued. “Our ability to come to the aid of our allies depends on having a plausible strategy in which our friends and allies believe.”

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, kicked off the two-day conference with remarks that addressed the importance of development strategies. One questioner asked if open discussions about counter-China strategies would antagonize the Asian power.

“In a classified nature we look at all of this,” Greenert said.

There are groups up here that do that full-time, he continued.

“But people say we need to talk about it more openly. We can’t do that. It will antagonize. It will unnecessarily muddy the waters.”

Speaking later with reporters, Greenert amplified his remarks.

“It would be antagonistic to any country to openly state, yeah, we are preparing, and here are our tactics,” Greenert said.

He also addressed the Air-Sea Battle concept, which China widely views as aimed specifically at them.

“Air-Sea Battle is about assuring access, and that includes anywhere in the world,” Greenert said. “So yeah, it is our intention, that all-domain access is a key part of our strategy.”

But one conference speaker strongly supported open discussions about China.

“I would disagree with Admiral Greenert,” Friedberg countered. “I think it’s going to be important for our readers to find ways to talk about China as a military challenge.”

“There should be an ongoing debate to define what China is doing,” Friedberg added.

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