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US Navy deployment could leave an aircraft carrier-sized gap in Asia’s tense waters


United States Navy commanders face a potential shortfall in their Asia sea power in the coming weeks as tensions simmer with China in the region’s waters.

According to two unnamed US officials, the Japan-based aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan is expected to head to the Middle East in the next few days to support US troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. But analysts say the move could leave a gap in US carrier coverage in East Asia at a time when Beijing is turning up the heat over the South China Sea and Taiwan.

China may also point to the US deployment as evidence for its claims that Washington cannot live up to its military commitments in Asia, said Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“It’ll be delightful fodder for Beijing’s propaganda machine to be certain,” said Koh, who added the US could be without a carrier in Asia for months.

“Amongst other regional governments, there’ll be shared concerns about the ‘hole’ in the US military posture in the region during this carrier absence,” he said.

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