By lex, on November 21st, 2011
If China is unhappy with the Obama administration’s decision to send a handful of Marines to northern Australia, wait until the U.S. Navy starts basing warships in Singapore, on the edge of the disputed waters of the South China Sea.
The United States and Singapore are in the final negotiating stages of an agreement to base some of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships at the Changi Naval Base. Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced in June that a deal was near to deploy the ships to Singapore, and a Pentagon spokesman said this week that officials “remain excited about this opportunity.”
The initial announcement barely caused a ripple compared with the stir caused by President Obama’s declaration Wednesday that he would permanently station a small number of Marines in Australia.
The former involves 250 to 2,500 Marines deployed roughly 2,500 miles from China. The latter is significantly closer — and is sure to be viewed as more threatening by Beijing.
Littoral Combat Ships are among the most modern in the Navy’s fleet and can be outfitted for a variety of missions, from anti-piracy to submarine tracking and special operations. They’re designed to operate in shallow coastal waters and travel at a top speed of more than 40 knots.
Well. If China gets its back up about Littoral Combat Ships based at Changi, they’re only looking for a reason to be provoked. They’re “modern” if by modern you mean “new”, but in terms of capability, meh. More in the nature of a European-style corvette than a proper warship, and I’m pretty sure that we’re passed the days of “gunboat diplomacy”, especially with regards to the PRC. Still, you’ve got to base them somewhere I suppose, and having an LCS fleet in the home waters does seem rather continental navy, doesn’t it?
No threat to the PRC at all, really. Might be useful for anti-piracy ops if the Straits of Malacca go pear-shaped, but apart from that not so much. Racing around within the politically sensitive Spratlys or Paracels at 40 knots? For ten minutes, maybe. Then it’s back to the barn, and no real harm done.
But Boat Quay is a great place for liberty visits.
So there’s that.