'After devastating the Middle East through sanctions, warfare, and the backing of extremists to fight proxy wars, the Indo-Pacific region – not the Middle East – is now the Pentagon’s “priority” region.
Just this week, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made the call to expand base locations in the Pacific region while speaking at the Naval War College, dubbing the Indo-Pacific theatre “our priority theatre.” The remarks were clearly part of the Pentagon’s wider goal of curbing and containing China’s expanding influence throughout the region.
Esper made it evident that the US had its eye on a number of key locations in the Indo-Pacific region, in which he would be looking to invest “more time and resources into certain regions we haven’t been to in the past.”
While it is not so apparent what those regions or locations are, there are some glaring possibilities that come to mind, including Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and even some of the smaller Pacific Island nations less known to the US public such as Palau. Palau is a likely candidate, given the Western media has already applauded its “standing up to a giant” over the Taiwan question.
As the Center for a New American Security’s Eric Sayers pointed out, the issue with countries such as the Philippines is that they may restrict access to its ports depending on the nature of the dispute. With smaller nations like Palau, it is likely the US would not even have to blink in order to utilise the location to combat China.
There is no doubt that the Philippines has a dog in this fight. President Rodrigo Duterte is currently in Beijing where he is meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and is expected to raise their respective claims to the South China Sea as one of the major talking points.
What will be interesting to see in the coming years is where states such as Australia and New Zealand fit into this “priority theatre.” '
Read more: New bases to counter China? Indo-Pacific is new priority region for the US