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Chains of Interest: Discussing East Asia on Thursday, Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Gary North noted two Pacific island chains that serve as important geographical markers for military planners. Several US military baseslike Kadena AB, Japanfall within these chains and the Chinese appear intent on challenging the US military's free movement within them, he told attendees at AFA's Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Fla. The first chain stretches south of Japan, runs through the East China Sea and down to the South China Sea. It includes the Senkaku Islands. North said this chain is rife with conflicting territorial claims and rich in natural resources and gas deposits. The second line of islands lies 1,800 miles off the Chinese coast and stretches from Palau in the south up through the Northern Marianas. This chain figures heavily in Chinese military writings and doctrine, he said. Chinese military trends and investment indicate the desire to project power out to both of these areas. North said China's fighter fleet is now 25 percent "modern" and its air defense structure is 45 percent modern. The Chinese are expected to roll out an aircraft carrier by 2012, he said.