MONCh attended the Global Pacific Panel & gives a brief overview of the key points
While at Sea Air Space 2018, MONCh attended the Global Pacific Panel, which aimed to discuss some of the key roles the US Navy (USN) and the US Marine Corps (USMC) are playing in this complex region.
Captain Grant Jackson, USN, Director of Operations and Intelligence/J3 Joint Interagency Task Forces West spoke of the key role the USN is playing in the Pacific for counter-narcotics. He reminded the audience that the US is currently witnessing a significant increase in the number of drug-related deaths and that one of the main culprits is fentanyl, a drug originally prescribed as a painkiller and which the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) considers to be 50-100 times more potent than morphine and 20-25 times more potent than heroine. According to Captain Jackson, there is a common misconception that this drug comes from Mexico when in reality it arrives from China to Mexico as 90 per cent pure and is then processed in Mexico to arrive in the US 5% pure. The PACOM is working hard in the Pacific to stop the drug coming from China. This also involves working as closely as possible with the Chinese Department of Public Security to share information on potential drug producers, which has resulted in a few successful drug interdiction missions.
SES Gayle Von Eckartsberg, Director Pacific Division, on the other hand discussed the role of the USMC in the region. She noted that the region is very important for the Corps, with 31,000 Marines stationed in regional bases to contribute to protecting 64million square miles of water that make up the Pacific Ocean. To ensure that such missions are carried out to their best, the USMC is now modernising, with the F35s deployed from the US Japanese bases for instance. SES Von Eckartsberg also noted that the USMC works really closely with the government of Japan, and that they are currently focusing on transferring approximately 4,000 of the 19,000 marines stationed in Okinawa Prefecture to Guam. The relationship with Japan was a core point of SES Von Eckartsberg’s intervention in the panel and remains, as she pointed out, one of the key allies of the US in the region.
During the Q&A session the panellists were asked what they would like to improve in the USN and USMC missions the region. Captain Jackson indicated that he would like to increase USN’s ability to go against dark targets, in particular have more insights into what is going on in China regarding fentanyl production, while SES Von Eckartsberg noted that it would be good to continue increasing the readiness of the force in the region. Both panellist remained rather reserved and diplomatic in their answers regarding the possibility of a confrontation with China in the Pacific, however they both noted that while they are putting diplomacy before anything else, the forces are ready if unfortunately anything were to happen.