The US Marine Corps needs to be more agile and maritime focused to counter China’s “long term existential threat” to the United States, according to the Head of the Force.
Marine Corps Commandant General David Berger said the force was working to ensure it would be prepared for war with China or Russia, including more training in amphibious fighting, USNI News, the US Naval Institute’s online news site, quoted him as saying on Wednesday.
Berger, who took command of the force in July, said he believed China was planning to displace the United States as the world’s top power and America needed to stay ahead of that threat.
“We are too heavy, too cumbersome,” Berger said. “We have to go on a diet.”
The Marine Corps also published a four-minute promotional video online early on Thursday, talking up the corps’ ability to “operate inside contested maritime spaces”.
The video also warned that the battle to keep the US safe had changed.
“The world has become more dangerous,” it said as an image of a Chinese Jin-class ballistic missile submarine appeared.
“We are first on the scene, first to help, first to contain a brewing crisis and if required to do so, first to fight.”
Rivalry between the United States and China has intensified in recent months, with the two countries locked in a trade war and at odds over technology and competing interests in the Indo-Pacific region.
The two have also been in dispute over Beijing’s militarisation of the South China Sea, where China has overlapping maritime claims with several nations in the region, and the US has conducted freedom of navigation exercises.
In August, the US Marines conducted 11 days of naval drills in the East and South China seas, testing its amphibious strengths in airfield- and island-seizure exercises.
China has also been displaying its military muscle, showcasing new intercontinental and hypersonic missiles in a parade on Tuesday to mark the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic.
Berger signalled the need for a Marine Corps overhaul in July when he said the force would go through “substantive change” over the next four years, while continuing to support the force’s forward deployment across the world to “compete against the malign activities of China, Russia, Iran, and their proxies”.
He said there would be “a prioritised focus on China’s Belt & Road Initiative and Chinese malign activities” in the East and South China seas.
He also said China’s existing forces did not have the capacity to deter US adversaries or prevent them from using the seas for their own purposes.