WASHINGTON: US Senator John McCain praised the Obama administration’s push to build the US presence in Asia to counter a rising China, but warned it will cost large sums of money in tight budgetary times.
“I applaud the administration’s efforts to spend a lot of our effort and attention on the Asia-Pacific region,” said McCain, Barack Obama’s defeated Republican rival for the presidency.
During a tour of Asia last month, Obama touted a shift in US foreign policy focus from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Asia-Pacific region, where the United States is welcomed as a counter-weight to an assertive China.
McCain said Obama’s move to deploy 2,500 Marines to an Australian base could be a model for other deals elsewhere in the region and help the US avoid building its own hospitals, schools and housing for its military families.
The ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said he did not envision conflict or confrontation with China but said the best way to do that is to have a “robust presence” in the region and a network of alliances.
As US forces pull out of Iraq and draw down in Afghanistan, and “we shift our focus to the Asia-Pacific region, which we should, that means it’s going to be very expensive,” McCain said.
“Because what do you need in those vast expanses? You need air and naval capability,” he told a forum of the Foreign Policy Initiative, a non-partisan group that promotes continued US engagement in the world.
“We’re going to have to make some very tough choices and we’re going to have to educate our voters that money spent on defense is well spent and very important,” McCain said.
But McCain said he and other senators are scrambling for ways to find funds in an era of tight budgets.
The failure of Democrats and Republicans late last month to reach a deal to cut the overall US fiscal deficit has triggered the prospect of the Pentagon automatically losing $600 billion from its coffers at the start of 2013.