Pacific Pathways 2020 to include more island rotations

Pacific Pathways 2020 to include more island rotations

Top Stories | Feb 16, 2020:

U.S. military personnel will rotate through the Pacific island nations of Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji, Palau and Yap during Pacific Pathways rotations in 2020, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported.

It’s the first time an extended Pacific islands rotation has been added to Pacific Pathways program as the United States solidifies strong partnerships in the Pacific.

Pacific Pathways began in 2014 to support bilateral needs and training opportunities between the U.S. Army and its allies and partners in the region. What was once roughly three-month rotations throughout the year has shifted to longer rotations that involve fewer countries, allowing the United States to developer deeper ties through military and cultural exchanges.

Pacific Pathways 2.0, as the new model is often called, will consist of four- to five-month rotations. (Pictured: U.S. Army Spc. Christian Latham, left, and Fijian Army Sgt. Iowane Seru participate in a jungle warfare exercise in Napuka Village, Fiji.)

“The Army is reinvigorating our presence and disposition in the Pacific,” Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said in early January 2020 at the nonprofit Brookings Institution. “Long before conditions escalate to war, there will be a battle of ideas. This is warfare by other means, and decisions will occur in the heart of the people. We must be present to offer an alternative.”

McCarthy’s remarks refer to the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) attempts to partner with Pacific island nations in economic and diplomatic agreements that overwhelmingly benefit the PRC and ultimately leave the host nation with burdensome debt.

“There is an ongoing fight for influence in the region for which access and presence are critical,” McCarthy said at Brookings. “Partners matter, but the type of partner is paramount. China uses coercive economics, and many partner with them out of necessity, and in this lies a great deal of vulnerability.”

The U.S. National Defense Strategy classifies the PRC as a long-term strategic competitor. Pacific Pathways is one tool the U.S. military uses to counter that competition.

“In this area of great power competition, China will emerge as America’s strategic threat,” McCarthy said. “Having the U.S. Army in the region with modernized weaponry nestled alongside our counterparts changes the calculus and creates dilemmas for potential adversaries. Furthermore, having the U.S. Army in the region strengthens America’s position to conduct global commerce, build confidence with investors and compete economically.”

A U.S. Army partnership also comes with modern and interoperable equipment and training on a continuous basis, McCarthy said.

“And a commitment should deterrence fail, a present partner in the world’s best fighting force,” he added. “China may be the partner of coercion, but the U.S. Army is the partner of choice.”