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US to reinforce bases in Indo-Pacific with major focus on China, Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of the US Andersen Air Force Base in Guam

The Pentagon has announced plans to reinforce military bases and deployments in the Indo-Pacific region to counter what it claims to be threats from China and Russia.

Pentagon officials said on Monday that the US Defense Department would be upgrading and expanding military facilities in Guam and Australia with a major focus on China and Russia.

Mara Karlin, a top Pentagon policy official, cited the results of a review commissioned at the start of the administration of US President Joe Biden early this year as saying that the priority region for the US military was the Indo-Pacific.

"The review directs additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea," Karlin told reporters at a briefing.

In addition, it "strengthens the combat-credible deterrent against Russian aggression in Europe and enables NATO forces to operate more effectively."

Detailing the reinforcement plan, Karlin said, "In Australia, you'll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you'll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation."

The senior Pentagon official added that there would also be upgrades to airports and fuel and munitions storage facilities in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Australia.

Asked if the review foresaw more increases in the US military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, Karlin said, "We're moving the needle a bit and what I'd like to think is, over the coming years, you will see that needle move more."

Speaking separately, a senior Pentagon official who declined to be identified confirmed the reinforcement plan and said the Biden administration felt the review was necessary over the disruptive policies of his predecessor Donald Trump and his "devaluing of allies."

Relations between Washington and Beijing have deteriorated sharply since Trump launched a trade war against China in 2018. The two countries are also at odds over a range of issues, including alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, China's territorial claims on Taipei and most of the South China Sea, and the origin of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the US and NATO have over the past weeks voiced their support for Ukraine over allegations that Russia has been deploying thousands of forces across its border with the Eastern European country. Referring to what they described as "unusual" Russian troop movements near common borders with Ukraine, they have also issued warnings over a possible attack by Russia.

Moscow has strongly rejected the possibility of any attack, saying Washington is involved in aggressive moves in the Black Sea, where Ukraine and the US held war games earlier in the month.

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