Allies are ready to fight in Asia – KGET 17

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — U.S. forces and their allies in Asia are ready for battle after years of joint combat exercises, a United States general said Wednesday, adding that Russia’s failures in Ukraine should serve as a warning to potential Asian aggressors such as China and North Korea.

American allies such as the Philippines, Japan and Australia, among others, “have shown that they will come together, that they will not tolerate aggression from these nations that have decided that they want to change the world order here,” said Major General Joseph Ryan.

Although Asia has no counterpart to NATO, the 30-nation military alliance whose mostly European members vow to defend each other from external attacks, the alliance’s network of U.S. agreements and defense partnerships that uphold the international order provides regional protection, he said.

“I’m personally very impressed with what I’m seeing from our allies and partners in this region and the way we’ve come together in response to the aggression of the PRC, North Korea to say, ‘We’re not going to let that stand,'” Ryan said in an interview. to The Associated Press on Wednesday, using an acronym for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

Ryan, the commander of the U.S. Army’s Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division, is in Manila in part for talks with his Philippine counterparts ahead of two annual large-scale combat exercises that will include live-fire exercises and land, sea and air assault maneuvers in which thousands of American and Filipino troops to participate in March and April.

The Philippines, America’s oldest ally in Asia and once home to the largest US naval and air forces outside the US mainland, has allowed more US forces to remain in rotating groups and offer weapons and combat equipment to at least nine Philippine military bases under a defense pact from 2014 The Philippines’ decision to allow a larger US military presence was announced during US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to Manila last week.

In the wider Asia-Pacific region, Washington has strengthened its arc of alliances to counter what it says are threats posed by an increasingly belligerent China and North Korea.

China has frowned on combat exercises involving the Americans in coastal areas facing the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in full, and has accused Washington of meddling in Asian disputes and dangerously militarizing the region by regularly deploying US Navy warships and fighter jets .

More recent sites of large-scale exercises by US and Philippine forces have included coastal Philippine provinces near the disputed South China Sea, where China has taken increasingly decisive actions to assert its territorial claims, and in the northern Luzon region, which lies across a narrow maritime border with Taiwan.

The hope is that the combat readiness exercises will make potential aggressors think twice, Ryan said.

The US and the Philippines have agreed to hold about 500 small- and large-scale combat exercises in 2023 and expand annual military exercises after interruptions caused by a two-year coronavirus lockdown, according to Philippine military officials.

“It provides some deterrent effect to adversaries in the region, who would look at it and say, ‘I don’t want to take a step that might lead to the government, the politician, deciding to leave because I don’t know that I can win if I have to face that trained, ready force,’ Ryan said.

While military commanders say the joint exercises are not directed against any specific country, Ryan said China’s increasingly aggressive actions are an alarming reality the region should prepare for.

“Does the background of PRC aggression enter our thoughts when we train? Absolutely,” he said, and in the case of the Philippines, US forces had to be ready to meet their obligations under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

“We feel an obligation to ensure that the Philippines can and will maintain its sovereignty,” Ryan said. “So aggression from the People’s Republic of China that makes our treaty ally uncomfortable makes us uncomfortable.”

In 2022 alone, the Philippines filed nearly 200 diplomatic protests against China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, a resource-rich and busy waterway where Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also make overlapping territorial claims.

Asked if US forces and their Asian allies were prepared to respond if a major crisis similar to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine erupted in the region, Ryan said: “Absolutely.”

“I’m very comfortable that we’re ready, but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied. We can always do better,” said Ryan, who commands about 12,000 soldiers within his infantry division.

He said experts would be flown in from Hawaii to train US and Philippine military troops in jungle survival and combat tactics during Salaknib, the first of two major combat readiness exercises starting next month in the Philippines.

Ryan said America’s adversaries should consider political dialogue and diplomacy because “war is complicated … it’s violent, it can go in different ways. Russia discovered it. They’re still figuring it out.”

“We thought that Ukraine would quickly succumb to Russian military power. That didn’t happen,” he said. “The most important reason, in my opinion, by far, was the will of the Ukrainian people to fight.”

It was also crucial that the United States and NATO helped train Ukrainian troops for years and improve their capabilities to deal with security contingencies before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, he said.

“I think our allies in the region value their sovereignty, value their freedom, value their independence. And no opponent should take that lightly,” Ryan said.


Associated Press reporters Aaron Favila and Joeal Calupitan contributed to this report.

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