U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said June 2 the United States would reposition its naval fleet so that 60 percent of its battleships would be in the Asia-Pacific by the end of the decade, up from about 50 percent now.
China has long been wary of U.S. intentions, with hawkish voices in the People’s Liberation Army saying that the United States was bent on encircling China and crippling its rise.
China’s fast-modernizing navy has stirred worries among neighbours, including in Southeast Asia, where several countries are in dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Under the U.S. plans, Panetta announced the Navy would maintain six aircraft carriers assigned to the Pacific. Six of its 11 carriers are now assigned to the Pacific, but that will fall to five when the USS Enterprise is decommissioned soon.
The number will return to six when a new carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is completed in 2015.
The U.S. Navy had a fleet of 282 ships as of March. That is expected to slip to about 276 over the next two years before beginning to rise toward the goal of a 300-ship fleet, according to a 30-year Navy projection released in March.