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The U.S. Army is retooling itself to build up deterrence against China

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

President Biden and China's leader, Xi Jinping, are supposed to meet in person at the G20 summit in Indonesia this month. But as tensions grow, the two countries' militaries are preparing for the worst - potential conflict with each other. So the U.S. Army is retooling itself in a large and key strategic region - the Indo-Pacific. NPR's Emily Feng reports.

EMILY FENG, BYLINE: Charles Flynn, commanding general of the United States Army Pacific, has been following China closely for a while. He's covered the Indo-Pacific region that encompasses a huge portion of the world from Mongolia all the way to Australia since 2014 with a focus on China.

CHARLES FLYNN: What I have witnessed them doing is increasingly alarming and irresponsible.

FENG: Specifically, he says, live fire military drills China conducted around Taiwan earlier this summer. China said it was retaliation for a U.S. government visit led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taipei. But this week it's General Flynn overseeing military training exercises at a new Army center in tropical Hawaii. And these exercises are a big step for an army that hasn't fought much in the Pacific lately. Instead, the focus for the last two decades was Iraq and Afghanistan.

FLYNN: You know, for a long time, particularly due to sort of the conveyor belt of providing forces to the Middle East over the last 20 years, we were sending forces from Hawaii and Alaska, tactical forces, back to the training centers in the continental United States. But the time it takes to ship all your equipment back there, the time it takes to move all your soldiers back there - you know, it just really - it doesn't make sense to do that any longer.

FENG: Which is why the Army set up a permanent training center on the islands of Hawaii - because now the focus is back on threats in the Pacific, including from China.

FLYNN: We are training in the environment and the conditions that more closely replicate where we have to operate and potentially fight.

FENG: And it's not just the U.S. which is jittery about China and its threats against Taiwan. Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia sent infantry units to train with U.S. forces this week. Nine other countries, including Australia and Japan, are in Hawaii observing the American soldiers. Some are planning similar drills or even building their own training centers to work with the U.S. The idea is that by training together, the U.S. and its allies can hopefully deter China and prevent conflict. Emily Feng, NPR News, Oahu, Hawaii.

(SOUNDBITE OF KILLER MIKE SONG, "RUN FT. DAVE CHAPPELLE AND YOUNG THUG") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.