China: July 6, 2004

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The U.S. Navy will conduct a major surge exercise (Summer Pulse 04) off the China coast later this Summer. Seven carrier task forces (or strike groups) will rendezvous near Taiwan and conduct joint exercises with the Taiwanese navy. This is part of the new American Fleet Response Plan (FRP). The new plan keeps strike groups in port more, making it possible to concentrate more of them at a major trouble spot in a hurry. The FRP calls for sending six 'forward deployed' (already at sea) or 'ready to surge' (in port) carrier task forces to a trouble spot within 30 days. Two more task forces can be sent with 90 days. This Summers exercise will be the largest concentration of American naval force off the Chinese coast since World War II. The last time this many carriers were in the western Pacific was during the Vietnam war, when there were as many as seven carriers off the Vietnamese coast, and coming and going within the western Pacific, in support of combat operations in Vietnam.

Seven American carrier task forces means that the Chinese would have a much harder time seizing Taiwan by force. Unless the Chinese can take the island within a few weeks, seven American carrier groups is more than the Chinese believe they can handle for the next 5-10 years. At present, the Chinese are trying to muster sufficient air and naval forces to deal with two American carriers. And even that is not a sure thing. Putting seven American carriers off the Chinese coast not only upsets Chinese military planning, but rubs the Chinese the wrong way by pointing out Chinese military weakness. 

Meanwhile, China will conduct it's annual Summer military exercises with amphibious landings and cooperation between land, air and naval forces. In other words, practice for an invasion of Taiwan. These exercises will take place within the next two months.

 

 

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