Sen. John McCain is pushing for a $7.5 billion fund to bolster the military’s capabilities in the Asia-Pacific, but experts think it may ultimately serve as a deterrent to North Korea's nuclear weapons buildup, The Hill reported.
"This kind of money can help us bring together our allies and partners," Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, told the outlet. "This could be a very good return on investment if we spend it well, including for deterrence on North Korea."
Proposed in January by the Arizona senator to provide a counterweight to China's growing capabilities, the Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative is gaining more attention as North Korea appears primed to conduct a sixth nuclear test — even as China, launching its first domestically built aircraft carrier, continues to add to its military strength, The Hill noted.
Anthony Ruggiero, a North Korea expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, also believes the money will help provide a stronger U.S. presence in the region — and convince Beijing to curb Pyongyang.
"China is only going to act if their own interests start to be threatened," Ruggiero, told The Hill.
Yet Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, told The Hill the money might not be enough.
"It’s just a drop in bucket, not only to be able to stay in the region but to beef up in the middle of a crisis," he told The Hill, but added at least the tensions have put the focus on Asia.
"We can thank North Korea for one thing in this," he told The Hill. "They’re amplifying the imbalance in the Asia-Pacific."
At a hearing last week, the Arizona Republican pushed for his proposal, as an "initiative [that] could enhance U.S. military power through targeted funding to realign our force posture in the region, improve operationally-relevant infrastructure, fund additional exercises, preposition equipment, and build capacity with our allies and partners,."
Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, lent his support at a Thursday hearing, The Hill reported.
"This effort will reassure our regional partners and send a strong signal to potential adversaries of our persistent commitment to the region," he said.
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