US Navy Secretary Wants New Fleet at Indo-Pacific ‘Crossroads’ in Case of ‘Dust-Up’ With China

A new proposal to recreate a defunct US Navy fleet in the western Pacific could provide the US with another way to confront China in the South China Sea, but could also alienate regional partners at the same time.

US Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite has proposed refounding the US First Fleet and basing it in the Indo-Pacific region, possibly Singapore, at the southern tip of the South China Sea.

“We want to stand up a new numbered fleet,” Braithwaite said Tuesday, at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium, according to USNI News. “And we want to put that numbered fleet in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans, and we’re really going to have an Indo-PACOM [Indo-Pacific Command] footprint.”

“More importantly, it can provide a much more formidable deterrence. So we’re going to create the First Fleet, and we’re going to put it, if not Singapore right out of the chocks, we’re going to look to make it more expeditionary-oriented and move it across the Pacific until it is where our allies and partners see that it could best assist them as well as to assist us,” the Navy chief said.

He added he had not yet spoken with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller about the idea, but had “crossed all the other T’s and dotted all the other I’s.” Miller took office earlier this week after US President Donald Trump suddenly fired Mark Esper from the position.

Beginning in 1947, the US First Fleet patrolled the western Pacific…

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