As tensions build in the Pacific, the US will dispatch a dozen F-16s to Guam in mid-January.
The deployment will be temporary and is part of a “theatre security package,” or an effort to stabilise and secure an area with increased military muscle.
“Theatre security package deployments such as this one last as long as they are needed by US Pacific Command, but generally last for three to four months,” Master Sgt. Matthew McGovern, a spokesman for the command at Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam, told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The deployment of the F-16s was “scheduled months in advance, and are not related to any specific situation in the region,” McGovern said.
However, military tensions in the Pacific are hitting levels unseen since the cold war.
US allies Japan and South Korean have been rattled by North Korea’s nuclear text last week China’s further deployment of apparent military installations in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, Russia has routinely buzzed US airspace with bombers, notably doing so on July 4 of 2015.
The F-16s going to Guam, which is 3,800 miles farther west than Hawaii, is a “demonstration of the ironclad US commitment to our allies in South Korea, in Japan and to the defence of the American homeland,” US Pacific Command head Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The US demonstrated that commitment when flying a B-52 bomber over South Korea days after North Korea’s nuclear test.
Despite the increase in posturing on both sides of the pacific, McGovern was clear that navigation rights in international space must be preserved.
“The rights, freedoms and uses of sea, air, space and cyberspace guaranteed to all nations in international law are essential to prosperity, stability, and security throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and we encourage all nations to exercise within the parameters laid forth by those laws,” McGovern said, perhaps in reference to China’s condemnation of US Naval patrols of the South China Sea, or their alleged cyber attacks on US government computer networks.
The F-16s in question will make their way from Kadena Air Base in Japan to Guam, where the 112th Fighter Squadron from the Toledo Air National Guard in Ohio will assume control of the fighters.
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