MICHAEL T KLARE
Indian Ocean and Japan in US Grand Strategy
FOR most people, the post-Vietnam era in Asia commenced with the signing of the Peace Agreement on January 23, 1973 and the withdrawal of US combat forces sixty days later. Viewed in geopolitical terms, however, a more accurate date would be January 1, 1972, when the U S Pacific Command (PACOM) was assigned operational jurisdiction over the Indian Ocean and adjacent areas—thus symbolizing the new strategic linkages between the western Pacific, South Asia and the Middle East, and facilitating the expansion of US naval power into the Indian Ocean proper.
PACOM, with headquarters in Hawaii, is now responsible for protecting US interests in a vast region stretching from Alaska in the north to Antartica in the south, and from California in the east to Pakistan in the west—an area of 94 million square miles, or 40 percent of the earth's surface. Although American ground forces have been reduced significantly as a result of ihe Indochina peace settlement and domestic political pressure, naval forces have been strengthened and today the Pacific Fleet constitutes the world's most powerful maritime force. This vast armada, composed of 286 warships (including 7 aircraft carriers), 265,000 sailors and Marines, and 2,100 warplanes,1 is charged with the responsibility of preserving American hegemony in the booming Pacific Rim