Back to News Front

JBLM and China to work together

Two countries find a way to get along - disaster relief

Email Article Print Article Share on Facebook Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon

Working together toward a common goal is preferable to working against one another.

Since January 2012, the United States has redefined its global securities priorities when it decided to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. And Joint Base Lewis-McChord units are at the tip of that spear, even when it comes to China.  During a recent Lakewood Chambers of Commerce Military Affair's meeting, attendees were told by a I Corps spokesperson that I Corps and China will conduct a Joint disaster relief exercise in the near future.

There is more than a spoonful of geopolitical/economic/military logic to this move.

With the rise of political and economic power of Asia, particularly China, America's strategic national goals in the Pacific needed realignment.

China is geographically the largest country in the Asia-Pacific region.  It boasts the world's second largest economy and the world's third most powerful military.

As recent developments in the South China Sea and the Spratly chain of islands shows, China is clearly expanding its regional and global influence.

Taken together, the rise of China's influence in the Asia-Pacific area of operations is something military planners in the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) are aware of.

There is good reason for this awareness.

The Asia-Pacific region spans half the globe and directly influences America's security and economy.

That's a lot of real estate and water, and it all is important.  But there's more.

At any moment in this region, one of every two of the world's cargo ships, and two of every three other ships, travel through USPACOM.

Eight trillion dollars of annual trade moves through this region.

And last, the area is home to four of the world's most populated countries and seven of the world's largest armies.

With the end of this country's involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rise of Chinese and North Korean economic and military power, the need to rebalance toward the Pacific became the smart - and necessary - thing to do.

Traditionally, the purview of the Navy and Marine Corps, the rebalance toward the Pacific and Asia, has led military planners to add the Air Force and Army as well.

Interoperability between the four branches is vital for the security of this portion of the world.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord's I Corps is the Army's closest force to the Pacific; hence, its operations tempo in the region.

But up to this point, the American focus in the Pacific has been on working with our allies.

What about working with a potential foe on something that both countries clearly understand and dread?

A natural disaster, the kind that flattens cities, kills thousands and wrecks economies.

This idea of the U.S. and China working together in light of a natural disaster is not new.

It is, however, an idea that both countries can derive benefits from and, perhaps, a better understanding of each other.

Since 1989, the U.S. government has been a significant contributor to humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HADR) in Asia and the military has responded to nearly every major disaster in Asia.

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) has also earned its HADR stripes.  Since 1949, the PLA has faced flooding, drought and earthquakes, events not uncommon in China.

The PLA doesn't classify natural disasters as a non-traditional security threat.

In other words, both the Chinese military and the American military might have more to gain than lose when they conduct a joint disaster preparedness exercise.

It should come as no surprise, then, that according to JBLM officials, there will soon be a joint disaster preparedness training exercise between Chinese and American soldiers.  

While the two countries have engaged in such an exercise in 2013, none has involved JBLM personnel.

In a paper entitled "I Corps: U.S. Pacific Command's Newest Area," Robert Brown and Jason Adler have this to say about the value of exercises, perhaps even those with a potential foe.

"They prevent conflict by demonstrating the capabilities of the U.S. military as a reliable partner engaged and focused on creating a stable security environment."

Credits: HADR and U.S.-China Military Cooperation by Jen Pearce; I Corps: U.S. Pacific Command's Newest Asset by Robert Brown and Jason Alder

Read next close


The music of feeling

comments powered by Disqus