While most nations around the world continue to deal with COVID-19, the military is already looking ahead to the future. The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command requested an extra $20.1 billion between 2021 and 2026. This money would be used to pay for radar warning systems, cruise missiles, new intelligence centers, and increases in additional forces and exercises with allies. While the US has a special plan to deter Russia in Europe, the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI), there is no similar plan for the Pacific and China. The proposed Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) would most likely primarily fund the Navy and the Air Force as opposed to the EDI which funds mainly the Army. The U.S. has three territories in the Pacific, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa, and plans to build up defenses in Guam with this funding.
There are fears China will use the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen their influence in the Pacific. Because China experienced the virus first, they are now slowly returning to normalcy, while the rest of the world is preoccupied with fighting the disease. China has sent N95 masks and other medical supplies to struggling countries; however, this should not be seen as an act of pure goodwill. China is attempting to position themselves as a global leader and benefit from controlling a large amount of supplies. The US and China spent much of the beginning of 2020 blaming each other for the start and spread of COVID-19. The dramatic increase in cases led to an uneasy truce between the two countries; however, it is likely tensions will rise again after the pandemic subsides. The US needs to prepare for a power struggle with China in the Pacific which may come sooner than anticipated due to COVID-19.