Tag Archives: South China Sea

Mark Collins – South China Sea: Why is USN Admiral Leading on US Policy vs China? Part 2

Further to this post in May, the head of US Pacific Command is at it again, note my italics–one would have thought such statements should be for civilian policy makers (in any event President Trump unlikely to be bothered)–at Defense One’sD-Brief“:

The U.S. will cooperate with China, “but we will be ready to confront when we must,” said PACOM’s Adm. Harry Harris during a speech this morning in Sydney. “We will not allow a shared domain to be closed down unilaterally no matter how many bases are built on artificial features in the South China Sea,” he said. “The U.S. fought its first war following our independence to ensure freedom of navigation. This is an enduring principle and one of the reasons our forces stand ready to fight tonight [emphasis added, talk about robust]”. More here

More here on the South China Sea.

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

Mark Collins – Big Dragon “Yikes!”–From 2010 to 2020 “China is set to nearly double its military spending…”

This should sure get the attention of PEOTUS Trump–the rest of the headline:

…as an arms race heats up in Asia.
China’s defense spending will balloon to $233 billion in 2020, up from $123 billion in 2010, according to a new report by IHS Jane’s.

Very relevant:

Can the US Cope With a Big War Against a Major Power? Part 2

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

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

US Navy: Carriers or Subs, with the Dragon in Mind

Rising Sun’s Yen for Defence Spending, Part 3

Take that Dragon! Indian PM Modi Embraces the Rising Sun (plus the Eagle and the Bear)

A real Asian military cockpit, what? Meanwhile quite a few Canadians want to embrace the Chicoms.

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

Mark Collins – South China Sea Update: Vietnam Building; Philippines Smacking US

Two stories:

1) Exclusive: Risking Beijing’s ire, Vietnam begins dredging on South China Sea reef


2) Manila says will not help US on patrols in South China Sea

So the US and Vietnam are closer and close to being  de facto allies vs China whilst President Duterte’s Philippines smoozes the Dragon, effectively saying “Up yours, Uncle Sam!” What will PEOTUS Trump do in office? Looks a job for the good old CIA to me.

Meanwhile India and Vietnam are also getting together with Beijing much in mind. Lots of great games going on.

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

Mark Collins – Trump vs Trade: CPP Instead of TPP?

That’s the China-Pacific Partnership–a NY Times story on important talks with little public profile:

China’s Influence Grows in Ashes of Trans-Pacific Trade Pact

A toxic political war over money, jobs and globalization killed the vast and complex trade deal that was supposed to be a signature legacy of President Obama. But the deal, between the United States and 11 Asian and Pacific nations, was never just about trade.

The agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, was conceived as a vital move in the increasingly tense chess match between China and the United States for economic and military influence in the fastest-growing and most strategically uncertain part of the world. The deal, which excluded China, was intended to give those 11 nations more leverage in that strained match by providing them with a viable economic alternative. And its defeat is an unalloyed triumph for China, the country that President-elect Donald J. Trump castigated repeatedly over trade

Much of Asia has for decades quietly accepted American security guarantees while also running large trade surpluses with the United States, turning them into prosperous manufacturing powerhouses. But China is now the largest trading partner for most of the region, while at the same time making territorial claims against many of its neighbors [see e.g. the South China Sea].

The neighbors fear they could soon face a stark choice among money, pride and place: Accede to China’s security demands, or lose access to China’s vast market…

Just three days before Mr. Obama’s arrival here, Peru’s foreign minister, Eduardo Ferreyros, said the country still hoped the Pacific pact would someday become a reality. But given the changing dynamics, his government also opened talks this autumn with Beijing to join the rival, Chinese-led trade pact, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

“Since Mr. Trump is not so interested in requiring economic integration and trade liberalization, why not have other countries follow this free-trade proposal?” asked Song Guoyou, a longtime trade specialist who is the deputy director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Since the election, Australia’s government has also called for rapid progress in concluding that rival trade pact. Even Japan, despite facing territorial demands from China and close, but peaceful, confrontations between the two countries’ military jets and coast guard vessels, is paying more attention to China’s vision for global trade [note also Japan’s military build-up].

Australia and Japan have been bargaining for years with China on the deal. But they wanted it as a complement to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to balance their economic relationship with the United States instead of replacing it with ties to China.

“If T.P.P. doesn’t move forward, there’s no doubt that the focus will shift” to the China-led deal, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan told his country’s Parliament on Tuesday [Nov. 15, emphasis added] . Mr. Abe met with Mr. Trump on Thursday.

Since 2011, trade negotiators from China, Japan, Australia, India and 12 other Asian nations have been meeting several times a year to stitch together the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership [more here]. And with Mr. Trump’s victory, those efforts are almost certain to accelerate. The next round of talks is to be held in Indonesia early next month [emphasis added].

Trade officials across Asia met to negotiate details in Cebu, the Philippines, the week before Mr. Trump won the election. Almost no one noticed outside of Cebu. The next meeting, scheduled for early December, could attract far more attention, including some at this weekend’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting in Lima…

Will Canada try to get involved or just negotiate bilaterally with the Dragon?

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Oh, that cuddly panda. But consider:

The Dragon and the Beaver: Ottawa in Cloud Cuckoo Land

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

Mark Collins – Philippines and the US: President Duterte off the Deep End in China

Further to these posts,

South China Sea Update: Scarborough Shoal, China and Philippines

New(ish) Philippines President Takes On US

matters have taken a stunning turn. It would seem President Duterte is not too bothered about Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea and has it in enough for the Americans to turn wholeheartedly towards Beijing. If the president is truly serious this will put the US in a very ugly pickle (just this April, before the Philippine elections, the US secured an agreement to increase its military presence in the islands), especially in terms of any international solidarity vs China’s maritime claims. And what about the long-standing US/Philippines mutual defence treaty, scroll down here?

In China, Duterte announces split with US: ‘America has lost’

Rodrigo Duterte left no room for doubt about where his allegiance lies.

In a state visit aimed at cozying up to Beijing as he pushes away from Washington, the Philippine President announced his military and economic “separation” from the United States.

“America has lost now. I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow,” he told business leaders in Beijing on Thursday [Oct. 20]. “And maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world: China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way.”

Duterte didn’t provide details about how he’d break away from the United States, or what the separation could entail.

US officials stressed the long history of diplomatic, military and financial ties between the two countries…

Relations between China and the Philippines had soured over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

But now Duterte is taking a different tack, pushing that issue to the background as he tries to forge closer ties with China…

Chinese President Xi Jingping welcomed Duterte with full military honors at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Thursday.

He called the two countries “neighbors across the sea” and said they’d agreed to achieve “full improvement” in bilateral ties, state media reported.

The two leaders signed some 13 bilateral deals including pacts on trade, investment, tourism, crime and drug prohibition, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua.

However, there was no specific agreement about the South China Sea, where the two have overlapping maritime claims. They agreed to address the matter through talks, according to Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.

Duterte’s pivot toward China comes as relations with long-time ally the United States are at an all-time low.

At a news conference in Laos in September, he called US President Barack Obama a son of a bitch, when asked what he would say if Obama was critical about his anti-drug efforts, which critics say violate human rights. Since Duterte took office, hundreds of drug dealers and users have been killed in police operations…

Earlier in October, President Duterte confirmed that his country would not participate in joint military drills with the US that are set for next year. He did say, however, that the treaty alliance with the US would remain intact.

Really?

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

Mark Collins – New(ish) Philippines President Takes On US

The fellow is really (foolishly?) feeling his oats–at Foreign Policy‘s “Situation Report”:


Manilla turning everything on its head. If Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte makes good on his threats to walk away from his country’s 65-year-old alliance with the United States, FP’s Dan De Luce writes in a great piece on the latest South China Sea headache for the Obama administration, “the first casualty would likely be the U.S. military mission there, which has become a model for successful counterterrorism operations worldwide.”

Duterte has already warned that the U.S. military contingent of several hundred troops has to go, and on Wednesday [Sept. 28] said an upcoming joint military exercise would be the last with the United States. But his threat to push out the team of up to 100 U.S. Special Operations Forces, along with an additional 300 to 500 American conventional troops, “comes as concerns mount in Washington and Southeast Asia about the Islamic State’s efforts to spread its tentacles in the region,” De Luce says…

Remember those two Canadian hostages beheaded by ISIS-affiliate  Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Philippines. The president, for his part, appears to have his own penchant for extrajudicial killing.

Related:

South China Sea Update: Scarborough Shoal, China and Philippines

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

Mark Collins – War Between the Dragon and the Eagle: USN Carriers up to It?

Further to this post (note “Comments”),

RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

the carriers’ future capabilities are questioned (both the people quoted are retired naval officers):

The US Navy Is Now Facing Its Greatest Fear: Obsolete Aircraft Carriers?

If the United States Navy is either unwilling or unable to conceptualize a carrier air wing that can fight on the first day of a high-end conflict, then the question becomes: Why should the American taxpayer shell out $13 billion for a Ford-class carrier?

That’s the potent question being raised by naval analysts in Washington—noting that there are many options that the Navy could pursue including a stealthy new long-range, carrier-based unmanned combat aircraft or a much heavier investment in submarines [emphasis added]. However, the current short-range Boeing F/A-18 Hornet-based air wing is not likely to be sufficient in the 2030s even with the addition of the longer ranged Lockheed Martin F-35C Joint Strike Fighter.

“If these carriers can’t do that first day lethal strike mission inside an A2/AD bubble, why are we paying $13 billion dollars for them?” asks Jerry Hendrix [see here], director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security [see here], during an interview with The National Interest. “There are people making that statement: ‘it’s not our job on day one’—they can say there are all these other missions—presence and show-the-flag—but if that’s where they fit, their price ought to be scaled to that.”

To justify the expense of the carrier, and to keep them relevant, the U.S. Navy needs to revamp the composition of the carrier air wing so that it can participate in countering anti-access/area denial bubbles on the first day of combat, Hendrix said. The Navy must develop a new, long-range, unmanned strike aircraft that can counter those emerging threats, “Otherwise, what’s the point?” Hendrix asked. “If you’re not willing to make the shift in investment to have an asset that can do long-range strike from the carrier, perhaps we need to look at investing elsewhere [see “New US Navy Drones: UCLASS to be Tankers Not Recon/Strike?“].”

Bryan McGrath [see here], managing director of the naval consultancy FerryBridge Group, agreed with Hendrix. “The case for the carrier will suffer if the Navy drags its feet on what comes next in the air wing,” he told The National Interest—also advocating for the development of a new carrier-based long-range unmanned strike aircraft. “Always remember—the carrier doesn’t care what it launches and recovers. It is just a floating airport. The air wing is the key. Get the air wing wrong—or continue to—and yes, the CVN investment makes less sense.”

While many within senior Navy leadership know and understand the problem—the protracted and expensive development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 has left the Navy gun-shy. “The plain truth is that the F-35 acquisition has negatively reinforced learned behavior in naval aviation acquisition. There is real fear in what you hear acquisition officials saying in why they want to slow-roll UCLASS into a tanker/ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] platform rather than a rangy, semi-stealthy, striker,” McGrath said. “Of course the tanking and the ISR are important… But they are additive to what is already in the Joint architecture. What the Joint architecture lacks is mobile, semi-stealthy, long-range strike. Utterly lacks it. But the technical challenges are judged to be more difficult than those associated with an ISR/Tanker bird, and there is no appetite or stomach—or any other appropriate noun—within the acquisition community to take on tough technical challenges.”

Not only has the F-35 experience scared the Navy away from developing an unmanned strike aircraft, it is also one of the major factors behind the sea service’s vision for a scaled-down F/A-XX that is little more than a ‘super’ Super Hornet. “They’ve been burned by F-35, and no one wants to get burned again. But this is exactly the wrong lesson to be taken from F-35,” McGrath said. “What should be taken from F-35 is how difficult it is to create a ‘one-size-fits all’ solution to a great variety of missions and conditions. We can, should, and must design and build a largely unmanned semi-stealthy long-range carrier strike aircraft purpose built for carrier aviation.”

However, if the Navy doesn’t embark on developing a long-range penetrating strike aircraft, at a bare minimum, the service needs a stealthy new air-launched cruise missile—ideally with supersonic terminal speeds—with a range of more than 500 nautical miles. That missile would have to fit onto pylons underneath either the Super Hornet or the F-35C—which would carry the weapon the first 600 or so miles before releasing it…

Yet another alternative is to stop building aircraft carriers and focus on building additional submarines—which are extremely stealthy and operate with all but impunity, Hendrix said. The Navy could buy two Ohio Replacement Program (ORP) ballistic missile submarines or four Virginia-class attack submarines for the price of a single Ford-class. That would address the Navy’s pressing need to replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile boomers and start to address the  attack submarine shortfall much more quickly and without breaking the bank. Moreover, given the that future attack submarines will add the Virginia Payload Module, which would allow the vessels to carry 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles, those vessels are expected to deliver an enormous punch…

So maybe subs the way to go.

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

Mark Collins – RAND on War Between the Dragon and the Eagle

Further to these posts,

Chinese Threat to US Navy/Would US Dare Attack Mainland?

Making the Case For the Eagle’s Carriers vs the Dragon: NOT

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

the original and still very serious and sensible defence think tank thinks about the unthinkable (keep the South China Sea very much in mind and note the references to Japan):

War with China
Thinking Through the Unthinkable

Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored. Thus, while neither state wants war, both states’ militaries have plans to fight one. As Chinese anti-access and area-denial (A2AD) capabilities improve, the United States can no longer be so certain that war would follow its plan and lead to decisive victory. This analysis illuminates various paths a war with China could take and their possible consequences.

Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other’s forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first. This implies fierce early exchanges, with steep military losses on both sides, until one gains control. At present, Chinese losses would greatly exceed U.S. losses, and the gap would only grow as fighting persisted. But, by 2025, that gap could be much smaller. Even then, however, China could not be confident of gaining military advantage, which suggests the possibility of a prolonged and destructive, yet inconclusive, war. In that event, nonmilitary factors — economic costs, internal political effects, and international reactions — could become more important.

Political leaders on both sides could limit the severity of war by ordering their respective militaries to refrain from swift and massive conventional counterforce attacks [note the analysis does not overtly include nukes]. The resulting restricted, sporadic fighting could substantially reduce military losses and economic harm. This possibility underscores the importance of firm civilian control over wartime decisionmaking and of communication between capitals. At the same time, the United States can prepare for a long and severe war by reducing its vulnerability to Chinese A2AD forces and developing plans to ensure that economic and international consequences would work to its advantage.

Key Findings

Unless Both U.S. and Chinese Political Leaders Decline to Carry Out Counterforce Strategies, the Ability of Either State to Control the Ensuing Conflict Would Be Greatly Impaired

– Both sides would suffer large military losses in a severe conflict. In 2015, U.S. losses could be a relatively small fraction of forces committed, but still significant; Chinese losses could be much heavier than U.S. losses and a substantial fraction of forces committed.

– This gap in losses will shrink as Chinese A2AD improves. By 2025, U.S. losses could range from significant to heavy; Chinese losses, while still very heavy, could be somewhat less than in 2015, owing to increased degradation of U.S. strike capabilities [see links at start of the post].

– China’s A2AD will make it increasingly difficult for the United States to gain military-operational dominance and victory, even in a long war [emphasis added].

Conflict Could Be Decided by Domestic Political, International, and Economic Factors, All of Which Would Favor the United States in a Long, Severe War

– Although a war would harm both economies, damage to China’s would be far worse.

– Because much of the Western Pacific would become a war zone, China’s trade with the region and the rest of the world would decline substantially.

– China’s loss of seaborne energy supplies would be especially damaging.

– A long conflict could expose China to internal political divisions.

– Japan’s increased military activity in the region could have a considerable influence on military operations [see “Rising Sun’s Yen for Defence Spending, Part 2“].

Recommendations

– U.S. and Chinese political leaders alike should have military options other than immediate strikes to destroy opposing forces.

– U.S. leaders should have the means to confer with Chinese leaders and contain a conflict before it gets out of hand.

– The United States should guard against automaticity in implementing immediate attacks on Chinese A2AD and have plans and means to prevent hostilities from becoming severe. Establishing “fail safe” arrangements will guarantee definitive, informed political approval for military operations.

– The United States should reduce the effect of Chinese A2AD by investing in more-survivable force platforms (e.g., submarines [i.e. carriers at increasing risk) and in counter-A2AD (e.g., theater missiles).

– The United States should conduct contingency planning with key allies, especially Japan.

– The United States should ensure that the Chinese are specifically aware of the potential for catastrophic results even if a war is not lost militarily.

– The United States should improve its ability to sustain intense military operations.

– U.S. leaders should develop options to deny China access to war-critical commodities and technologies in the event of war.

– The United States should undertake measures to mitigate the interruption of critical products from China.

– Additionally, the U.S. Army should invest in land-based A2AD capabilities, encourage and enable East Asian partners to mount strong defense, improve interoperability with partners (especially Japan), and contribute to the expansion and deepening of Sino-U.S. military-to-military understanding and cooperation to reduce dangers of misperception and miscalculation.

Of course the real world is often not very sensible. As for “unthinkable” scroll down here: “Herman Kahn is perhaps best known (to those who know of him at all) as the model for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove [more here].”

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

Mark Collins – China Loses South China Sea Arbitration–Calls Decision “political farce”

Further to this post,

South China Sea: Verbal Fire from the Dragon

Beijing reacts exactly as one expected; murky, quite possibly dangerous, seas ahead:

Hague Court Strikes Down Beijing’s South China Sea Claims
In a victory for the Philippines, an international tribunal ruled China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea are illegal, setting the stage for more tension in one of the world’s flashpoints.

An international tribunal delivered a stinging rebuke to China on Tuesday [July 12], ruling unanimously that Beijing has no historic title to the huge swathe of the South China Sea that it claims.

The decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague represents the first explicit, legal repudiation of China’s claims to the waters of the South China Sea, a territorial land grab that has in recent years soured relations between Beijing and many of its neighbors, especially the Philippines. China refused to recognize the tribunal and has repeatedly said that it will ignore the decision, which is binding and not subject to appeal.

The much-awaited decision will almost certainly further inflame tensions in the South China Sea, which has seen frequent clashes between Chinese coast guard ships and fishermen and vessels from other countries. The United States has over the past year sought to uphold international law and freedom of navigation in one of the world’s busiest waterways by dispatching navy ships to sail through waters that Beijing has tried to fence off.

As expected, Beijing dismissed the ruling, reiterating previous arguments questioning the tribunal’s ability to even hear the case. “China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards,” the Chinese government said in a written statement. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed the ruling as a “political farce” and insisted that, despite the decision, Beijing has sovereignty over the islets and waters of the South China Sea.

“Any attempt by any force to undermine or deny in any way China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests will be futile and will fail,” he said.

Wary of China’s reaction to the verdict, the Philippines called for “restraint.”..

State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that Washington supports the rule of law, and that the arbitration panel’s ruling is “final and legally binding on both China and the Philippines. The United States expresses its hope and expectation that both parties will comply with their obligations.”..

In the wake of the ruling by the panel, which China has spent months trying to discredit, experts said Beijing could respond in a variety of ways. It could send more fighter jets to bases it is building on the disputed islets, or it could declare an air defense identification zone in part of the South China Sea, much as it did in 2013 in the East China Sea [see “Chinese ADIZ for South China Sea?“].

China could also ratchet up the fight with the Philippines by carrying out dredging and reclamation work at Scarborough Shoal, one of the features close to the Philippine coast and a reef at the center of the spat between the two countries. Or China could even try to blockade Philippine marines currently stationed at one of the tiny atolls, potentially threatening a showdown with the United States, which has a mutual defense treaty with Manila…

Experts said that China could choose to stop short of provocative action and instead take more incremental steps to signal Beijing was not backing off of its claims. Under that scenario, China would continue to build hangars on artificial islands in the Spratlys and draw boundaries or “baselines” connecting reefs and rocks it claims. That would pave the way for an eventual air defense identification zone in which China would demand all aircraft seek permission before flying into the area.

China’s track record over the past few years suggests it will press on with its aggressive tactics despite the court ruling, and possibly start dredging work at Scarborough Shoal, said James Kraska, professor of international law at the U.S. Naval War College [more here].

“Unfortunately, if the past is the best indication, it doesn’t look real good in my view,” Kraska told FP. “I just don’t know if the U.S. has enough influence to stop China from doing something they want to do.”..

Quite. Plus a Washington Post headline:

Chinese state media melt down over South China Sea Ruling

An earlier post featuring Prof. Kraska:

South China Sea and International Law:China, US and Australia

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

Mark Collins – South China Sea: Verbal Fire from the Dragon

Further to this post and “Comments”,

South China Sea: USN Freedom of Navigation Ops vs China–Plus Vietnam

China is really throwing its weight around as it awaits a likely unfavourable arbitration court ruling soon on a South China Sea case brought by the Philippines–two stories:

China Declares a No-Sail-Zone in Disputed Waters During Wargame
The area is larger than the US state of Maine.

China should prepare for ‘military confrontation‘ in South China Sea, newspaper declares
China should prepare itself for military confrontation in the South China Sea, an influential Chinese paper [owned by the Communist Party] has reported, a week ahead of a decision by an international court on a dispute between China and the Philippines…

Freedom of navigation? One worries furiously that things could easily get rather out of hand should some incident occur. And curiously enough the Chinese navy is at this time taking part in the large American-led multinational exercise RIMPAC 2016 underway around Hawaii (the Canadian Forces are participating significantly).

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