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Outgoing Navy secretary wants new fleet near Indian, Pacific Oceans

Outgoing Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite, pictured testifying before the Senate in May, said he has asked the Navy to add a new numbered fleet between the Pacific and Indian oceans. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Outgoing Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite, pictured testifying before the Senate in May, said he has asked the Navy to add a new numbered fleet between the Pacific and Indian oceans. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
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Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite said Tuesday in a speech that he has asked the Navy to establish a new fleet focused on the border between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

It's not clear how far along the planning process is for the fleet, and Braithwaite -- who was appointed by President Donald Trump in March and sworn in in May -- has acknowledged that he is likely to be replaced after President-Elect Joe Biden takes office in January.

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Braithwaite, speaking to a virtual audience attending a Naval Submarine League conference, also didn't say precisely where the fleet would be located.

"We want to put that numbered fleet in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific oceans," Braithwaite said in the speech.

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"If we're really gonna have an Indo-Pacom footprint, we can't just rely on the Seventh Fleet in Japan. We have to look to our other allies and partners like Singapore, like India, and actually put a numbered fleet where it would be extremely relevant if -- God forbid -- we were ever to get in any kind of a dust up," he said.

Braithwaite said the move would be a direct response to Chinese expansionism in the region.

"Most recently I was in a trip to the Far East: every single one of our allies and partners are concerned about how aggressive the Chinese have been. I would argue with anybody that not since the War of 1812 has the United States and our sovereignty been under the kind of pressures that we see today," Braithwaite said.

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Biden's likely pick for defense secretary, Michele Flournoy, has also expressed concern about China's growing military might.

"We have to have enough of an edge, that first and foremost we can deter China from attacking or endangering our vital interests and our allies. That means resolve," Flournoy told Defense News.

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