The top U.S. Navy commander in the Pacific is proposing that the Indonesian, Singaporean and Thai navies acquire U.S. technology to help track suspect ships in the Pacific.
The idea is part of a U.S. military effort to boost awareness of possible pirate and terrorist ships in a region that is home to a large share of the world's trade and many of the world's fastest-growing economies.
The plan would put the United States in a supportive, not front-line, role in any maritime security effort in Southeast Asia. This approach is likely to go over better with countries in the region than having U.S. troops and ships help secure the area, a possibility U.S. defense officials once reportedly suggested but backed away from amid vocal opposition from countries in the region.
The United States is particularly concerned about keeping pirates and terrorists out of the Malacca Strait — a waterway that separates Indonesia from Malaysia and Singapore. Half of the world's oil trade and a third of global commerce passes through the strait, making it a critical channel for regional and international stability.
Adm. Gary Roughead, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, said piracy and maritime terrorist attacks, like the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 American sailors, raise costs for shippers by inflating insurance premiums and otherwise disrupting trade.
"The oceans are great facilitators of trade and commerce, but they are also facilitators of transnational criminal activity," Roughead said in a recent interview at his Pearl Harbor headquarters. "The use of the maritime domain and some of the sea lane for terrorists to move back and forth is a great problem."
Roughead said he proposed to defense officials in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand during a March trip that they use a U.S.-developed system that allows ships to alert one another to the presence of a suspect vessel.
Landing the Big One
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
What seems to be a "secure the seas" effort by the US (see here and here) also is underway in the Pacific, as reported here: