Washington: As the administration of US President Barack Obama revamps its Asian strategy in response to China’s rising Army strength, the US military is eyeing a return to some old bases in the South East Asian region, including those used during the Vietnam War.
In recent weeks, the Pentagon has intensified discussions with Thailand about creating a regional disaster-relief hub at an American-built airfield that housed B-52 bombers during the 1960s and 1970s, while US officials said they are also interested in more naval visits to Thai ports and joint surveillance flights to monitor trade routes and military movements.
According to The Washington Post, the Pentagon is also seeking greater accommodations in the Philippines, including at the Subic Bay naval base and the former Clark Air Base, which were once the largest US military installations in Asia as well as key repair and supply hubs during the Vietnam War.
Amid concerns about China’s growing military power and its claims to disputed territories, Pentagon leaders have flocked to the region to speed up negotiations and fortify relations while Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have cautiously put out the welcome mat for the Americans again, the paper said.
However, US officials said they have no desire to re-occupy any of the massive Southeast Asian bases from last century, nor do they have the money to create new ones and are just looking for permission to operate from the old installations as ‘guests’, mostly on a temporary basis, it added.
“I don’t carry around a backpack with American flags and run around the world planting them. We want to be out there partnered with nations and have a rotational presence that would allow us to build up common capabilities for common interests,” Army Gen Martin E Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff clarified.