Archive for the ‘China – naval power’ category

Expect America’s Tensions with China and Russia to Rise in 2018

December 30, 2017

Expect America’s Tensions with China and Russia to Rise in 2018, Gatestone Institute, John Bolton, December 30, 2017

Yesterday’s 2017 review and forecast for 2018 focused on the most urgent challenges the Trump administration faces: the volatile Middle East, international terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Today, we examine the strategic threats posed by China and Russia and one of President Trump’s continuing priorities: preserving and enhancing American sovereignty.

Russia and China will be among the Trump administration’s key strategic challenges in the coming year. Photo: Wikipedia.

China has likely been Trump’s biggest personal disappointment in 2017, one where he thought that major improvements might be possible, especially in international trade. Despite significant investments of time and attention to President Xi Jinping, now empowered in ways unprecedented since Mao Tse Tung, very little has changed in Beijing’s foreign policy, bilaterally or globally. There is no evidence of improved trade relations, or any effort by China to curb its abuses, such as pirating intellectual property, government discrimination against foreign traders and investors, or biased judicial fora.

Even worse, Beijing’s belligerent steps to annex the South China Sea and threaten Japan and Taiwan in the East China Sea continued unabated, or even accelerated in 2017. In all probability, therefore, 2018 will see tensions ratchet up in these critical regions, as America (and hopefully others) defend against thinly veiled Chinese military aggression. Japan in particular has reached its limits as China has increased its capabilities across the full military spectrum, including at sea, in space and cyberwarfare.

Taiwan is not far behind. Even South Korea’s Moon Jae In may be growing disenchanted with Beijing as it seeks to constrain Seoul’s strategic defense options. And make no mistake, what China is doing in its littoral periphery is closely watched in India, where the rise of Chinese economic and military power is increasingly worrying. The Trump administration should closely monitor all these flash points along China’s frontiers, any one of which could provoke a major military confrontation, if not next year, soon thereafter.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is where China has most disappointed the White House. Xi Jinping has played the United States just like his predecessors, promising increased pressure on Pyongyang but not delivering nearly enough. The most encouraging news came as 2017 ended, in the revelation that Chinese and American military officers have discussed possible scenarios involving regime collapse or military conflict in North Korea. While unclear how far these talks have progressed, the mere fact that China is engaging in them shows a new level of awareness of how explosive the situation is. So, 2018 will be critical not only regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat but also whether Sino-American relations improve or take a distinct turn for the worse.

On Russia, the president has not given up on Vladimir Putin, at least not yet, but that may well come in 2018. Putin is an old-school, hard-edged, national interest-centered Russian leader, defending the “rodina” (the motherland), not a discredited ideology. Confronted with U.S. strength, Putin knows when to pull back, and he is, when it suits him, even capable of making and keeping deals. But there is no point in romanticizing the Moscow-Washington dynamic. It must be based not on personal relationships but on realpolitik.

No better proof exists than Russia’s reaction to Trump’s recent decision to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine, which is now a war zone entirely because of Russian aggression. To hear Moscow react to Trump’s weapons decision, however, one would think he was responsible for increased hostilities. President Obama should have acted at the first evidence of Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine, and even Trump’s aid is a small step compared to President Bush’s 2008 proposal to move Kiev quickly toward NATO membership. Nonetheless, every independent state that emerged from the Soviet Union, NATO member or not, is obsessed with how America handles Ukraine. They should be, because the Kremlin’s calculus about their futures will almost certainly turn on whether Trump draws a line on Moscow’s adventurism in Ukraine.

Just as troubling as Russia’s menace in Eastern and Central Europe is its reemergence as a great power player in the Middle East. Just weeks ago, the Russian Duma ratified an agreement greatly expanding Russia’s naval station at Tartus, Syria. In 2015, Obama stood dumbfounded as Russia built a significant air base in nearby Latakia, thus cementing the intrusion of Russia’s military presence in the Middle East to an extent not seen since Anwar Sadat expelled Soviet military advisers and brought Egypt into the Western orbit in the 1970s.

This expansion constitutes a significant power projection for the Kremlin. Indeed, it seems clear that Russia’s support (even more than Iran’s) for Syria’s Assad regime has kept the dictatorship in power. Russia’s assertiveness in 2017 also empowered Tehran, even as the ISIS caliphate was destroyed, to create an arc of Shia military power from Iran, through Iraq and Syria, linking up with Hezbollah in Lebanon. This Russian-Iranian axis should rank alongside Iran’s nuclear-weapons program on America’s list of threats emanating from the Middle East.

Finally, the pure folly of both the U.N. Security Council and the General Assembly crossing the United States on the Jerusalem embassy decision was a mistake of potentially devastating consequences for the United Nations. Combined with the International Criminal Court’s November decision to move toward investigating alleged U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan, there is now ample space for the White House to expand on the president’s focus on protecting American sovereignty.

Trump’s first insight into the rage for “global governance” among the high minded came on trade issues, and his concern for the World Trade Organization’s adjudication mechanism. These are substantial and legitimate, but the broader issues of “who governs” and the challenges to constitutional, representative government from international bodies and treaties that expressly seek to advance global governing institutions are real and growing. America has long been an obstacle to these efforts, due to our quaint attachment to our Constitution and the exceptionalist notion that we don’t need international treaties to “improve” it.

No recent president has made the sovereignty point as strongly as Trump, and the United Nations and International Criminal Court actions in 2017 now afford him a chance to make decisive political and financial responses in 2018. If 2017 was a tumultuous year internationally, 2018 could make it seem calm by comparison.

John R. Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and as undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs at the U.S. Department of State under President George W. Bush. He is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

This article first appeared in The Hill and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

China’s War Timing Firming Up

October 18, 2017

China’s War Timing Firming Up, American ThinkerDavid Archibald, October 18, 2017

(Please see also, China’s Secret Military Plan: Invade Taiwan by 2020. — DM)

Part of Obama’s baleful legacy is that during the Scarborough Shoal Incident of April to June 2012, the Filipino president travelled to Washington to ask Obama for U.S. support. Obama didn’t offer support, no operational support followed and China read that as the signal to seize territory from a U.S. ally. As is the usual pattern, the consequence of not dealing forcefully against a minor aggression will lead to a much bigger war down the track.

The Chinese leader that organised the seizure of Scarborough Shoal, Xi Jinping, became a national hero and that gave him the political momentum to see off rivals to become president of the People’s Republic of China the following year. As retired U.S. Navy captain James Fanell noted, while in the West the Scarborough seizure was treated as a minor fisheries dispute, Chinese scholars recognized the significance of Xi’s template for mooting U.S. alliances by undercutting confidence in defense agreements, calling it the ‘Scarborough Model’.

Emboldened by Obama’s acquiescence, China is preparing for a “short, sharp war” to seize the Senkaku Islands from Japan. They are building specialised equipment to that end. Again from Captain Fanell:

Size matters in confrontations at sea, especially between coast guard vessels. As China has sought more of its neighbors’ maritime sovereignty, it has built ever-larger coast guard ships. These are intended to enable its civil maritime forces to carry out China’s  campaign more aggressively (having the biggest ship on scene), and to conduct them at  increasing distances from China’s coastline. As such, China has demonstrated its commitment to have the largest coast guard vessels in the Asia Pacific region. In 2014, China commissioned the largest coast guard cutter in the world, at 12,000 tons, the Zhongguo Haijing 2901. This cutter first went to sea for the first time in May 2015 and is subordinated to the East China Sea area of responsibility. A second ship of the class, CCG 3901, was completed and made ready for operations in January 2016. The Communist Party’s People’s Daily made the purpose of these ships crystal-clear, stating they were designed to have “the power to smash into a vessel weighing more than 20,000 tons and will not cause any damage to itself when confronting a vessel weighing under 9,000 tons. It can also destroy a 5,000-ton ship and sink it to the sea floor.”

Note carefully the combat assault mission of these Chinese Coast Guard ships.

Sinking ships by ramming is a throwback to how triremes did battle in the Mediterranean. It also tells us how China plans to start its war. The super-sized Chinese coast guard ships will ram and sink Japanese coast guard vessels.

When the Japanese Navy responds by sinking the Chinese coast guard ships, the Chinese PLA Navy will come over the horizon with amphibious assault ships. China will claim to be the aggrieved party and offer to end hostilities, leaving it in possession of what it seized.

The Chinese have been doing some dry runs for the conflict to come. Around midday on August 5th, 2016, some 200 to 300 Chinese fishing boats swarmed into the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands of Kuban and Uotsuri, followed by 15 Chinese coast guard vessels by August 9th. Come the actual battle, there will be hundreds of Chinese vessels to be sunk, much like plinking tanks in the deserts of the Middle East.

China’s intent is plain, the next question is the timing. The Communist Party of China has directed the People’s Liberation Army to transform itself into a force that will be ready to take Taiwan by 2020. A Senkaku campaign will be a lot easier than subduing Taiwan, and possession of the Senkakus in turn will make the Taiwan campaign easier to mount by partial envelopment of that island. The PLA Navy is still expanding and China might not start its war until its navy is somewhat larger than it is now. Of particular interest is a new class of amphibious assault ships, the Type 075. Approximately the size of the U.S. Navy’s Wasp-class ships, the Type 075 is projected to carry up to 30 helicopters and have the ability to launch six helicopters simultaneously. The first Type 075 class may be launched in 2019 and in service in 2020. Another four might be built by 2025.

There are a few other considerations which have the potential to bring forward China’s war plans. China’s economic growth is mostly debt-funded construction of unproductive assets, so China’s debt to GDP ratio continues to climb. Everyone knows this is unsustainable, that it will end in tears but nobody knows when. A stalling economy and tens of millions of personal bankruptcies as China’s real estate bubble pops would encourage the regime to distract the public with a foreign military adventure. Then there is the question of China’s energy supply. China’s strategic petroleum reserve is estimated to be about 700 million barrels and still building at one million barrels per day. The Chinese reserve will probably keep building until the day the war starts and U.S. and Japanese submarines begin sinking Chinese tankers.

But the big story in energy, internationally, is the projected peaking of Chinese coal production in 2020 before it starts falling away due to resource exhaustion. Chinese coal production of over four billion tons per annum is about four times the U.S. production level. Coal is the source of two thirds of power generation in China, about the same for chemical feedstocks and is the source of all the nitrogenous fertiliser they use. The energy content of Chinese coal production is equivalent to 58 million barrels of oil per day. The production cost of coal, and thus the cost of doing everything in China, will start rising once production has peaked. It is unlikely that China’s nuclear power sector will expand fast enough to compensate. Thus China’s competitiveness relative to countries that have plenty of coal remaining will fall. This will factor into President Xi’s timing of his war.

Now is the time to ask Lenin’s question “What is to be done?” The important thing is to shun anything made in China because that just funds their aggression. Choose the Samsung offering over the iPhone for no other reason. And be nice to any Japanese or Vietnamese you meet. We need them to have courage.

David Archibald is the author of American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare

 

Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power

July 10, 2017

Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power, South China Morning Post, July 10, 2017

(Please see also, Commentary: India must understand borderline is bottom line from Chinese official paper Xinhua. “India should rectify its mistakes and show sincerity to avoid an even more serious situation creating more significant consequences.” — DM)

Troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours have for weeks been engaged in a stand-off on a disputed section of land high near what is known as the trijunction, where Tibet, India and Bhutan meet.

China has alleged that the Indian troops are on its soil, but both Bhutan and India say the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

*********************************

India began holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan off its south coast on Monday, seeking to forge closer military ties to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.

India has a longstanding territorial dispute with its northern neighbour, which is also expanding its naval presence in the region.

It is the fourth consecutive year Japan’s Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) has taken part in the Malabar Exercise, conducted annually by the US and India in the Bay of Bengal since 1992.

In a statement, the US said the exercises had “grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific”.

About 20 vessels including the world’s largest aircraft carrier, USS Nimitz, are participating in drills which will last until July 17.

Helicopter carrier Izumo, the biggest Japanese warship since the second world war, and India’s aircraft carrier Vikramaditya are also participating in the exercises.

China has stepped up its activities in the Indian Ocean in recent years, building ports in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The area also features heavily in Beijing’s new One Belt One Road initiative to revive ancient trade routes from Asia, which has caused concerns in New Delhi.

Troops from the two nuclear-armed neighbours have for weeks been engaged in a stand-off on a disputed section of land high near what is known as the trijunction, where Tibet, India and Bhutan meet.

China has alleged that the Indian troops are on its soil, but both Bhutan and India say the area in question is Bhutanese territory.

The maritime exercises come weeks after US President Donald Trump declared that ties between Washington and New Delhi had “never been stronger” as he held his first talks with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Beijing already claims large swathes of the resource-rich South China Sea and East China Sea, putting it in competition with Japan and other countries in the region.