U.S. Preparing for New Pacific War Against China that Could Be As Deadly as the Last One Against Japan

In March, the House of Representatives passed a measure to ban the online app TikTok unless its owners found a new buyer.

A soldier wades through a river amid a thicket of jungle.
[Source: nytimes.com]

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) accused TikTok of being “an espionage tool of the Chinese Communist government,” though The Intercept reported that U.S. intelligence had produced “no evidence that TikTok had ever coordinated with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders in Beijing.”

In the summer, politicians and the media had helped manufacture hysteria over an alleged Chinese spy balloon floating over the U.S. The Chinese government said that the balloon was used to carry out meteorological research, while the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, said that it was harmless.1

A flag and the moon

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[Source: nbcnewyork.com]

As the “Yellow Peril” hysteria grows louder, the U.S. military has been actively preparing for a war with China that would be suicidal.

On March 5, The New York Times published an article discussing the formation of a new Marine regiment being trained in California to fight on islands and along coastal shorelines like in the Pacific islands.

In December, the Times published an article pointing to similar exercises being carried out in Hawaii, where Marines were being trained in jungle warfare for a “potential fight with China almost anywhere in the Pacific.”

An aerial view of marines walking across a desert landscape.
Marines taking part in a military exercise in Twentynine Palms, California, in preparation for war with China. [Source: nytimes.com]
Soldiers kneel in a grassy field during a training.
Soldiers practicing tactical movements in the pouring rain. [Source: nytimes.com]

Government records point to new command centers in Hawaii, with piersrunways and barracks, along with a boost in training tempo, sending more planes over beaches and warships in and out of Pearl Harbor in preparation for the new Pacific War.

A person in military uniform in front of a flag

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General Charles Flynn [Source: laprogressive.com]

General Charles A. Flynn, the commander of U.S. Army Pacific, was quoted in the Times piece stating that China had been on “an incremental, insidious and irresponsible path for decades.” Now more than ever, the “total Army needs to prioritize relevant Pacific experience.”

Flynn’s comments are preposterous considering that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has reduced poverty in China markedly in that time, fueled economic development with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and brokered Middle East peace agreements.

The U.S. over the last few decades, meanwhile, has: a) encircled China with military bases; b) sent warships into the South China Sea and spy planes over the Taiwan Strait, which is under Chinese jurisdiction; c) helped to transform Okinawa into a garrison state for war with China; d) sent nuclear-armed submarines and precision weapons to Australia aimed at China; e) furthered military cooperation with India, China’s historic enemy; f) turned Taiwan into a heavily armed “porcupine” that hosts U.S. Special Forces; and g) sent nuclear-armed B-52 bombers to Guam.

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[Source: youtube.com]

Therefore, if any country has been behaving insidiously and irresponsibly, it is the U.S., which has also initiated an expansive covert influence operation in China that dwarfs what the Chinese are accused of doing in the U.S. Under this operation, the CIA has created a new mission center focused on spying on China, including by flying spy planes off its coast.

Rows of fighter jets are seen on the tarmac of an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean.
U.S. Navy fighter jets on an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea in 2019. [Source: nytimes.com]

Planning for War

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides $9 billion to the Pentagon for the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), which aims to enhance American war-making capabilities in the Asia-Pacific.

Some $464 million is being used for Pacific Pathways exercises conducted by U.S. Army Pacific to support military exercises with partner militaries, including Thailand and the Philippines. During one of the training missions—which usually focus on the tactics and weapons favored during the Global War on Terror—Special Forces troops were tasked with completing a mock insertion into Taiwan to defend against a potential Chinese invasion.

U.S. and Thai Soldiers Celebrate Mission Success
U.S. and Thai soldiers in military exercise. [Source: army.mil]

A March 2024 issue of Air & Space Forces Magazine reported that the U.S. Air Force plans to spend $400 million to expand an airfield on the tiny island of Yap in Micronesia between Guam and Palau, some 1,000 miles southeast of China.

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Red marker shows the location of Yap (Google Maps) [Source: news.antiwar.com]

During World War II, Japanese-held Yap was regularly bombed by U.S. ships and aircraft.

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Members of U.S. Third Fleet, I Marine Expeditionary Force and Navy Expeditionary Combat Command offer a prayer at World War II memorial park in Colonia, another Micronesian island. [Source: pacificstarandtimes.com]

In May 2023, the Biden administration signed a deal with Micronesia to extend 20-year-old political and security ties, enabling the U.S. the right to locate military facilities there.

Similar deals were signed with Palau and the Marshall Islands, a collection of 29 coral atolls lying halfway between Hawaii and Australia where Washington has promised to provide $2.3 billion in economic assistance over 20 years in exchange for access to 2.1 million square kilometers of land.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro participates in a wreath-laying at the 81st Infantry Division Memorial in Peleliu, Palau, March 1, 2024, that honors members of the division who assisted the 1st Marine Division in the Battle of Peleliu during World War II.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro participates in a wreath-laying on March 1, 2024, at the 81st Infantry Division Memorial in Peleliu, Palau, that honors members of the division that assisted the 1st Marine Division in the Battle of Peleliu during World War II. [Source: stripes.com]

Jessica Stone wrote for the Voice of America that, “when that is combined with the waters and airspace of the U.S. Pacific territories of Guam and the Northern Marianas, the U.S. military will gain control over a vast sector of the Western Pacific at a time when China is attempting to expand its influence over the region.”

After months of difficult negotiations, the United States and the Marshall Islands signed a new Compact of Free Association governing their relationship. At the ceremony in October are, from left, Carmen Cantor, U.S. assistant secretary of the interior for insular affairs; Joseph Yun, U.S. negotiator for the compact; Jack Ading, the Marshall Islands trade and foreign affairs minister; and Phillip Muller, the Marshall Islands chief negotiator. (Photo courtesy of The Republic of the Marshall Islands Port Authority)
At the signing ceremony of the U.S.-Marshall Islands so-called Compact of Free Association in October 2023 are, from left, Carmen Cantor, U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular and International Affairs; Joseph Yun, U.S. negotiator for the Compact; Jack Ading, the Marshall Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Phillip Muller, the Marshall Islands negotiator for the Compact. [Source: armscontrol.org]

Forgotten in popular consciousness is the horrific devastation meted out by U.S. troops in the Marshall Islands in the original Pacific War.

In late January 1944, as they invaded Kwajalein Atoll, they expended 15,000 tons of naval and land artillery shells and bombs, and 5,270 tons of ammunition over two days. 

A naval officer aboard the USS Rocky Mount quoted Winston Churchill to the effect that “never in the history of human conflict has so much been thrown by so many at so few.”2

Men in a destroyed area

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Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands after it was torched by U.S. Marines. Another Pacific War could be equally deadly and catastrophic for the environment of these pristine islands. [Source: worldwarphotos.info]

When the war ended, the U.S. Air Force expelled the local population in order to conduct nuclear tests that left “hopeless contamination” which will be compounded if the territory taken over by the U.S. is again used for weapons testing.

‘Ashes of Death’: The Marshall Islands Is Still Seeking Justice for US Nuclear Tests
People from the Bikini Atoll boarding a U.S. naval ship for their relocation to new homes in Rongerik. [Source: thediplomat.com]

Restoring World War II Airfields

According to Air & Space Forces Magazine, the U.S. Air Force in 2024 sought $1.24 billion in appropriations in foreign infrastructure investment, a 93% increase over the prior year, and $872.5 million, a 44% jump, in new authorizations for military construction outside the U.S.

A key focus is to restore multiple airfields in the Pacific that were previously used by the U.S. during World War II to bomb Japan, including the infamous Tokyo firebombing that killed approximately 100,000 people in one night, and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic attacks.

Among these is Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, where the U.S. Air Force requested $411 million to fund a North Aircraft Parking Ramp, large enough to park up to 14 bombers. 

B-29 Superfortress bombers of the 462nd Bomb Group taxiing through West Field, Tinian, Mariana Islands, 1945.
B-29 Superfortress bombers of the 462nd Bomb Group taxiing through West Field, Tinian, Mariana Islands, 1945. [Source: ww2db.com]
A pair of black planes flying over a runway

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Drone taking off from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. [Source: reddit.com]

Some $78 million was budgeted for upgrades to a U.S. airfield on Tinian Island in the Marianas near Guam, which was used as a launch point for the atomic attack over Hiroshima by the Enola Gay bomber and which the Air Force reclaimed in 2012 under Obama’s “Pivot to Asia” policy.3

General Kenneth Wilsbach, Commander of the Pacific Air Forces told Nikkei Asia in December that the Tinian base “will become an extensive” facility once work has been completed to reclaim it from the jungle that has grown over the base since the last US Army Air Force units abandoned it in 1946.”

View of the B-29 Superfortress 'Enola Gay' as it is manouvered over the bomb pit on the North Field of Tinian airbase, North Marianas Islands, early August, 1945. The plane was loaded with an atomic bomb, codenamed 'Little Boy,' which it then dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on August 6. (Photo by PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
Enola Gay bomber at Tinian Air Field before taking off on its fateful mission. [Source: taskandpurpose.com]
A military vehicle on the runway

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A USMC F/A-18D lands on Tinian for the first time in 2012, snagging a temporary arresting gear set up on West Field. [Source: twz.com]Ruins of World War II-era buildings at North Airfield, Tinian. [Source: cnn.com]

The ruins of World War II-era buildings at North Airfield, Tinian, are seen in January 2020.
Ruins of World War II-era buildings at North Airfield, Tinian. [Source: cnn.com]

Another $35 million was requested for the building of a “parking apron” for the U.S. Air Force and Defense Department aircraft in the growing number of potential operating bases in the Philippines, which would be separate from those used by the Philippine Air Force.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on a visit to the Philippines in February 2023 that the U.S. would provide $100 million to refurbish at least nine Philippines military bases to which the U.S. now has access. Four new naval bases (Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan) were set to be established close to contested waters in the South China Sea—three of them north of Luzon Island directly facing Taiwan.

Two men in military attire and a third in business attire walk past a line of soldiers.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a visit to the Philippines in February 2023. [Source: defense.gov]

Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., is the son of his country’s most notorious dictator from 1965 to 1986, who had made deals for U.S. military bases that were used as launching pads for attacks on Vietnam in the 1960s and early 1970s.

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, right, shakes hands with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., at the Malacañang Palace in Manila on November 21, 2022. [Source: seattlepi.com]

The building of the U.S. military base infrastructure in the Pacific islands and training of the Marines for jungle warfare with China exemplify Washington’s preparation for a new Pacific War with China that could be as deadly as the war with Japan in the 1940s.

The original war was provoked by the Roosevelt administration, which wanted to dominate Southeast Asia and could not tolerate a rival power.

The prospects of U.S. success in a war with China today are poor compared to World War II because of China’s increasing military-technological superiority.

The goodwill that China has accrued as a result of the Belt and Road Initiative means also that many countries would rally to China’s side. China has further developed strong relations with Russia in an alliance that is fundamentally altering the world’s geopolitical balance.

If policy makers in Washington are foolish enough to go forward with their plans, a new Pacific war would be a disaster and signal the end of the American Century.

  1. Politicians have also been warning of Chinese land grabs and the U.S. has supported legislation to limit Chinese purchase of farmland near U.S. military installations. ↩︎
  2. Historian Samuel Eliot Morison, who sailed with the U.S. Navy in order to chronicle the war, characterized the main island of Kwajalein after the battle as a “stinking mess of debris and dead Japanese. Hardly a tree was left alive in what had been a pretty wooded island, and of the hundred or more buildings, not one was usable. ↩︎
  3. In the Pacific War battle for Tinian, the U.S. made generous use of napalm bombs (filled with jellied gasoline that sticks to human skin and burns all the way to the bone) and subsequently imprisoned large groups of indigenous people, as the Americans feared sabotage and uprising. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which was approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, provides the military with tens of millions of dollars for multiple projects on the island of Tinian. ↩︎

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This article was first published in CovertAction Magazine