Mark Collins – “White House to Pentagon: You will now use new, nicer talking points on China”

Further to these posts,

South China Sea: Why is USN Admiral Leading on US Policy vs China?

USN “Admiral Warns: Russian Subs Waging Cold War-Style ‘Battle of the Atlantic’”–and RCN?

USAF “Officers Give New Details for F-35 in War With China”

the president’s men lay down a bit of lame-duck law regarding the Dragon (though not apparently the Bear)–Defense One’s “D-Brief” notes the leaking:

…For starters, strike “great power competition” from your notes. Navy Times reports that “the National Security Council ordered Pentagon leaders to strike out that phrase and find something less inflammatory, according to four officials familiar with the classified document.” …

The purported reason: “Obama administration officials and some experts say ‘great power competition’ inaccurately frames the U.S. and China as on a collision course, but other experts warn that China’s ship building, man-made islands, and expansive claims in the South and East China seas are hostile to U.S. interests. This needlessly muddies leaders’ efforts to explain the tough measures needed to contain China’s rise.”

One senior admin official: “Nothing is preordained about this relationship… We don’t buy into the notion that an established and rising power are destined for conflict.”

The term has been used multiple times by Pentagon officials in recent months, including Defense Secretary Ash Carter; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford; and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, who has perhaps the closest eye on developments in and around the South China Sea.

The Pentagon reax: “The US-China relationship is composed of competitive and cooperative elements,” said Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross in an email. “It is only natural that, as the deterrent arm of the United States government, the Defense Department is prepared for the possibility of conflict with any potential aggressor. At the same time, we have worked hard at reducing tensions and increasing transparency with China by implementing confidence building measures in both the maritime and air domains. We also have a long-standing military to military relationship. We will continue to engage with China as appropriate, while being open and clear about our differences.”

An alternate take: “What this means is we will spend at least the next 90 days with an administration that’s just trying to tread water,” said Bryan McGrath, a naval expert and retired destroyer skipper. Read the rest, here

Lots more here on the South China Sea. Plus:

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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