Alaska F-22s deployed to Pacific even as tensions escalate between China, Japan [alaskadispatch]

Alaska’s fleet of F-22 fighter jets and their elite pilots have been deployed to an airbase in the Pacific U.S. territory of Guam, according to officials at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage. The deployment has been planned for some time, but happens to coincide with a period of escalating tension in the Pacific Theater, as Japan and China dispute who has the rights to a set of uninhabited, resource-rich islands.

A press release sent out Monday night from JBER said that the F-22 Raptors were deployed to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, located nearly 2,000 miles from China. According to public affairs officer Capt. Ashley Conner, it is the first time since January of 2011 that the F-22s have been deployed to the region, and is part of a series of rotations that began in 2009.

“This deployment is the second F-22 Pacific Command theater deployment since 2011,” Conner said. “The F-22s from Langley AFB, Virginia were the first to deploy. It is a rotational deployment that signifies a continued commitment to regional stability and security and allows our units to become familiar with operating in the Pacific theater.”

The move to the Pacific is interesting in light of the heightened tension between Japan and China, originating from a dispute over what the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands and the Chinese refer to as the Diaoyu Islands. While some of the debate revolves around the fishing waters around the islands — China launched a 1,000-fishing-vessel fleet over the weekend — that’s not the real issue.

“These islands are just tiny little rocks in the ocean, not inhabitable, so the land itself is not really the point,” said Dr. Paul Dunscomb, a professor of East Asian history at the University of Alaska Anchorage. “But the ocean territories and the seabed resources around the islands are very much the point, in particular oil and gas and minerals.”

The F-22s based out of Langley are currently stationed in Kadena, Japan, very close to the islands in question. The U.S. has a security treaty with Japan which would obligate military intervention should the situation escalate, but Conner said that this most recent deployment is entirely unrelated the situation.


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