Archive for the ‘U.S. Navy’ category

How Trump’s tweets and three fleets can help move the North Korea needle

October 26, 2017

How Trump’s tweets and three fleets can help move the North Korea needle, Washington ExaminerTom Rogan, October 25, 2017

OPINION

The Nimitz transit route will translated in Beijing as: “if you don’t help us with North Korea, we are going to escalate against your interests.”

President Trump’s public skepticism about diplomacy lends threat credibility to this CSG posture. Under Trump’s authority, the international community cannot assume these CSGs are just for show. At the strategic level, Trump’s potential to move the diplomatic needle rests in external perceptions that he will use military force absent that movement. Again, this is especially important in Beijing, which is reflexively predisposed against making concessions to the United States.

I recognize that sending three CSGs into potential conflict zones isn’t without risk. Still, considering that we only have a few months to reach a diplomatic agreement with North Korea, a show of muscle with these deployments is the right call.

Put simply, Trump must roll the dice, and CSGs roll well.

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In a rare occurrence, three U.S. Navy carrier strike groups (CSGs) are now in the Indian Ocean or western Pacific Ocean. While the Navy claims these deployments were pre-planned, its heavy publicity of this news suggests it was told to make a show of its presence.

As such, I suspect the Trump administration is attempting to raise Chinese and North Korean concerns that the U.S. is preparing to use force against the latter.

In specific terms, Trump wants China to put additional economic pressure on North Korea. While President Xi of China has made some limited efforts in this regard, he could do much more to restrict the financial intermediaries that deliver Kim Jong Un his foreign capital. And whether coincidental or not, these three arrivals align well with the news that diplomats are struggling to make headway. The timing and contrast between diplomats and carriers allows the U.S. to present a binary choice between the carrot of diplomacy and the stick of military power.

Still, the pressure on China is also extended by basic geography. After all, unless it takes a big detour, the Nimitz CSG will navigate past China’s artificial islands in the East and South China Seas in order to get to the Korean Peninsula. We know this because the Navy’s press release makes clear the Nimitz is sailing from the Middle East and asserts that the CSG “will be ready to support operations throughout the [Western Pacific area of operations].” Seeing as North Korea is the primary threat contingency in that area, we should assume the Nimitz will head towards the peninsula.

The Nimitz transit route will translated in Beijing as: “if you don’t help us with North Korea, we are going to escalate against your interests.”

Yet Trump himself is also crucial here.

That’s because President Trump’s public skepticism about diplomacy lends threat credibility to this CSG posture. Under Trump’s authority, the international community cannot assume these CSGs are just for show. At the strategic level, Trump’s potential to move the diplomatic needle rests in external perceptions that he will use military force absent that movement. Again, this is especially important in Beijing, which is reflexively predisposed against making concessions to the United States.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that sending three CSGs into potential conflict zones isn’t without risk. Still, considering that we only have a few months to reach a diplomatic agreement with North Korea, a show of muscle with these deployments is the right call.

Put simply, Trump must roll the dice, and CSGs roll well.

EXCLUSIVE: Trump’s Pentagon Plans to Challenge Chinese Claims in South China Sea

July 21, 2017

EXCLUSIVE: Trump’s Pentagon Plans to Challenge Chinese Claims in South China Sea, BreitbartKristina Wong, July 20, 2017

AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File

The Trump administration has already conducted three FONOPs in the South China Sea since May. The Obama administration conducted three during all of last year.

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President Trump approved a Pentagon plan this year that will require regular challenges to China’s excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea, Breitbart News has learned.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent the plan to the White House in April that outlines a schedule for the whole year of when U.S. Navy ships will sail through international waters China illegally claims, according to a U.S. official.

Although the U.S. Navy has routinely conducted these “freedom of navigation operations” all around the world for decades, the Obama administration put a stop on them in the South China Sea from 2012 to 2015, with only a few in 2016, out of concern for upsetting China.

Under Obama, the Pentagon would send requests for FONOPs to the National Security Council, where they would stall. There was a concern “of doing anything that would cause anybody to get their feathers ruffled,” the official said.

During that time, China began aggressively building up islands and reefs in the South China Sea and increasingly placing military equipment on them, even though the territory is also claimed by Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

Under the new plan, the White House will already be aware of the planned operations so that they will not be “a surprise” every time a request comes up the chain of command, and they will be approved faster than before, the official said.

Having them approved faster will allow the operations to be conducted on a “very routine, very regular” basis, with the benefit of making each operation part of a regular program to keep the waters open, versus a “one-off event.”

Under the Obama administration, the operations were requested, considered, and approved in a “one-off” fashion, which took longer to approve and gave the impression that they were in response to something specific China had done, rather than part of routine naval operations.

It is not clear yet whether the plan is part of a larger Asia Pacific strategy or for the narrower purpose of making FONOPs more routine in the area. But one expert said the frequency of FONOPs do have importance in and of themselves.

“The frequency of FONOPs is often seen as a litmus test, for better or worse, of American commitment,” Joseph Liow, dean of comparative and international politics at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said at a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies event.

The Trump administration has already conducted three FONOPs in the South China Sea since May. The Obama administration conducted three during all of last year.

“You have a definite return to normal,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White told Breitbart News.

“This administration has definitely given the authority back to the people who are in the best position to execute those authorities, so it’s a return to normal,” she said.

Although the U.S. does not take sides in the numerous South China Sea territorial disputes, the U.S. military conducts FONOPs there to ensure waters remain open to international commerce. An estimated $5 trillion in goods are transported through the area each year.

Under the plan, FONOP requests will begin with the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet, go up to Pacific Fleet, to Pacific Command, to the Pentagon, and then to the National Security Council.

The Pentagon will also send the requests to the State Department the same time they are sent to the NSC, to make sure they do not undermine any concurrent diplomatic initiatives, the official said.

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, said, “having regular, steady deployments of U.S. naval assets conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea is a good thing – and something I support 100 percent.”

“China must know we will surely operate wherever allowed by international law, just like Beijing does when they conduct missions around Guam, Hawaii or near Alaska. This is standard military operating procedure and codified in international law. In fact, it shouldn’t even be controversial,” he said.

In May, a bipartisan group of senators urged the Trump administration to conduct FONOPs in the South China Sea, expressing concern that one had not been conducted since last October.

“In recent years, China, in particular, has taken a series of aggressive steps in disputed areas of the South China Sea,” they wrote. “We believe that United States engagement in the South China Sea remains essential to continue to protect freedom of navigation and overflight and to uphold international law.”

Early on in the Trump administration, FONOP requests being sent to the Pentagon were not being approved and forwarded to the White House, as first reported by Breitbart News in March, and later by the New York Times in May.

The official said at the time that Mattis did not want to approve and send up any piecemeal requests to the White House until an overall plan could be devised.

The plan was approved before the first FONOP was conducted on May 24, when the destroyer USS Dewey sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands. On July 2, the destroyer USS Stethem sailed within 12 miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands. On July 6, two Air Force B-1B Lancers flew over the East and South China Seas.

The official said FONOPs will still remain “a tool in our tool bag to show [when] we don’t agree with something.”

Kazianis warned, however, that FONOPs cannot be the sole instrument Washington uses to push back against China’s excessive claims, as was the case under the Obama administration.

“The Trump Administration needs to layout a comprehensive strategy to push back against China’s coercive and bullying actions that stretch from the East China Sea all the way to the depths of the South China Sea. If not, in a few years’ time, Beijing will be the unquestioned master of the Asia-Pacific – something Washington simply can’t allow,” he said.

Liow agreed: “The non-military toolkit … is also quite important and needs to be developed.”

While Nobody’s Looking, China And India Are Carrying Out A Real-Life ‘Game Of Thrones’

July 20, 2017

While Nobody’s Looking, China And India Are Carrying Out A Real-Life ‘Game Of Thrones’, The Federalist, July 20, 2017

(The article, dated July 20th, states, “Starting this week, India is holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan, a move viewed by observers as a show of force against China’s rising naval power.” However, the link provided, dated July 10th, states that “The Malabar exercises involving Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the US and Indian navies are taking place in the Bay of Bengal and will last until July 17.” Please see also, Malabar Exercise: India, US and Japan deploy its biggest carriers in show of force against China’s growing naval power at Warsclerotic. — DM)

The Asian version of the conflict between House Lannister and House Stark is playing out over a patch of remote land high in the Himalayas, bordered by China, India, and Bhutan. The Chinese dragon and the Indian tiger, the two most populous nations with nuclear weapons, are engaging in their worst border dispute in 40 years, which has turned this spit of land into the most dangerous place in Asia.

You haven’t heard anything about it until now because the U.S. media is so focused on who talked to whom during the 2016 presidential campaign that they can’t spare any resources to report on truly consequential events taking place around the world.

China and India share a very long border of more than 2,000 miles. The two countries have engaged in various border disputes since the nineteenth century. They even fought a war in 1962 over border issues. China claimed it won the war but India only admitted that the war resulted in a stalemate and left many border issues unresolved.

The most recent border dispute started in June, when Indian soldiers stopped a Chinese army construction crew from building a road in a pocket of land in the Dokalam region. Since this land lies between Bhutan, China, and the Indian state of Sikkim, all three countries claim ownership of it. China calls this region Donglang and treats it as part of Chinese-controlled Tibet. Thus, China firmly believes that it has every right to build the road within its sovereign territory. China let India know that “trespass into Chinese territory is a blatant infringement on China’s sovereignty, which should be immediately and unconditionally rectified.” However, Bhutan and India disagree.

This Land Is My Land

Bhutan is a tiny country wedged between two nuclear-armed superpowers. It doesn’t have an official diplomatic relationship with China. The government of Bhutan issued a demarche to China over the road construction, asking China to stop. Since Bhutan has a close relationship with India and relies on India for security protection, it also asked India for help. China has tried unsuccessfully to break the Bhutan-India alliance by engaging Bhutan directly. Bhutan, however, follows India’s lead on this matter.

From India’s perspective, it intervenes on behalf of both India and Bhutan because both have historical claims to the disputed land. Since Beijing and New Delhi agreed back in 2012 to solve their particular border dispute in this tri-junction area through consultations with all countries involved, New Delhi regards China’s recent road construction as a unilateral violation of the 2012 understanding.

Furthermore, India’s military is concerned that the road China intends to build will give China easier access to a strategically important area in India, which is known as the “chicken’s neck,” “a 20km (12-mile) wide corridor that links the seven north-eastern states to the Indian mainland.” If China’s road project succeeds, India military believes it would diminish their own “terrain and tactical advantage” over the Chinese army in this area.

India is also suspicious of the road project’s timing. The construction began right around the same time that India’s Prime Minister Modi was giving U.S. President Trump bear hugs and President Trump proclaimed that the U.S.-India relationship was “never better.” Did China try to warn India not to get too close to the United States by starting a road construction in the disputed area at this particular time? Many in India seem to think so.

Soldiers Face Off ‘Eyeball to Eyeball’

The border standoff continues with no obvious solution in sight. Both China and India increased their troop levels at the border. Online video shows soldiers from both countries facing off “eyeball to eyeball.” So far no one has fired the first shot yet, but the war of words has been heating up, not just at the border, but through both countries’ government officials and media.

China’s ambassador to India said “the first priority is that the Indian troops unconditionally pull back to the Indian side of the boundary. That is the precondition for any meaningful dialogue between China and India.” Chinese media used the 1962 Sino-India border war as an example to forewarn India that if the two sides get into a military conflict again, India will have the most to lose. Chinese media also warned Tibetan exiles in India not to take advantage of the situation because “sovereignty over Tibet is nonnegotiable.”

Indian Defense and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley fired back at China’s rhetoric by reminding China that the India of 2017 is not the India of 1962. He further pointed out that China’s intended construction site was on “Bhutan’s land, close to the Indian border, and Bhutan and India have an arrangement to provide security…To say we will come there and grab the land of some other country is what China is doing and it is absolutely wrong.”

Any Misstep Can Be Fatal

This dispute is a reflection of a deeper problem: the underlying, deep-rooted mistrust and hostility between China and India. Each feels insecure of the other nation’s growing economic and military power. These two countries, with a combined population of more than 2 billion people, both have nuclear weapons and strong nationalistic leaders, and are elbowing each other for the iron throne—ultimate dominance in the region. No one is willing to back down at this point.

Besides border disputes, both nations have breathed plenty of fires to irritate the other side. China’s pipeline project with Myanmar not only allows China to have easier access to cheap oil, but also enables Chinese ships to be present in India’s eastern backyard. India snubbed China’s “One Belt and One Road”(OBOR) economic summit in May by not sending a high-level delegation. India media even called the OBOR initiative “a new kind of colonization.” Starting this week, India is holding naval exercises with the United States and Japan, a move viewed by observers as a show of force against China’s rising naval power.

If there’s a lesson to be learned from the 1962 war, it’s this: any miscalculation or any missteps by either nation could lead to a war with devastating consequences not just for the region, but for the rest of the world. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential that the two nations find a peaceful resolution to their border dispute as soon as possible.

The United States probably will need support from both China and India to deal with the rising threat from North Korea. Therefore, it’s in the United States’ best interest to serve as a mediator to help both nations reach a diplomatic solution, before the “Game of Thrones” Asian edition moves from a fantasy to a bloody reality.

Helen Raleigh owns Red Meadow Advisors, LLC, and is an immigration policy fellow at the Centennial Institute in Colorado. She is the author of several books, including “Confucius Never Said” and “The Broken Welcome Mat.

U.S. Navy Tests World’s First Laser Weapons System

July 18, 2017

U.S. Navy Tests World’s First Laser Weapons System, Washington Free Beacon, July 18, 2017

(Can it be deployed by ground-based troops? — DM)

The U.S. Navy recently tested the world’s first-ever active laser weapons system, which is now deployed and ready for war.

The Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, is now deployed aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, where CNN was able to witness the system destroy a drone in flight and moving targets on the Persian Gulf.

The system has special materials that release photons, and, at the speed of light, it silently hits an object, burning it to a temperature of thousands of degrees. Each strike travels 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM.

In one test, a drone’s wing caught fire after being hit by the LaWS, leading it to crash into the sea.

“We don’t worry about wind, we don’t worry about range, we don’t worry about anything else. We’re able to engage the targets at the speed of light,” Lt. Cale Hughes, a laser weapons system officer, told CNN.

“We’re doing that engagement at the speed of light so it really is a point and shoot—we see it, we focus on it, and we can negate that target,” he added.

Its cost per use is also quite impressive for such a revolutionary new weapon: approximately $1 per shot. The $40 million system requires electrical power and a three-man team.

The LaWS is also extremely accurate. The system can target a single component of an enemy target, such as a boat’s engine, and make it catch fire so that the entire vessel does not have to be destroyed and the Navy can avoid collateral damage.

“I can aim that at any particular spot on a target, and disable and destroy as necessary,” said Christopher Wells, captain of the USS Ponce. “It reduces collateral damage—I no longer have to worry about rounds that may go beyond the target and potentially hurt or damage things that I don’t want to hurt or damage.”

The system, whose strikes are silent and invisible, is currently active at sea, ready on the USS Ponce for an enemy. It is primarily intended to take on drones, aircraft, and small vessels that could be used in an attack from countries such as Iran and North Korea.

One of the weapon’s biggest strengths is its versatility.

“It’s not a niche weapon system like some other weapons that we have throughout the military where it’s only good against air contacts, or it’s only good against surface targets, or it’s only good against, you know, ground-based targets,” Wells said. “In this case this is a very versatile weapon, it can be used against a variety of targets.”

A second generation LaWS system is currently in development, CNN reported. The newer system is believed to be intended to take on faster targets such as incoming missiles.

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.

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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.

US Tomahawk cruise missiles for ISIS-Sinai HQ

April 18, 2017

US Tomahawk cruise missiles for ISIS-Sinai HQ, DEBKAfile, April 18, 2017

 

A final decision to go ahead with a US missile assault on central Sinai rests with Defense Secretary James Mattis. He is due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, April 19.

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The US Mediterranean fleet is moving into position ready for a decision to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles for a crushing assault on the Islamic State’s mountain strongholds in central Sinai, DEBKAfile’s military and counterterrorism sources report.

This would be the second American strike in a month against a Middle East target, after 59 cruise missiles destroyed one-fifth of the Syrian air force at the Shayrat air base on April 7 in response for Assad’s chemical attack on Syrian civilians.

The prospective American missile attack in Sinai would raise the war on ISIS in the Middle East to a new plane. It would have been discussed during the Egyptian President Abdul-Fatteh El-Sisi’s visit to the White House on April 3. He explained to his host, President Donald Trump, the immense difficulty of overcoming the Islamic State’s affiliate when its headquarters were dug into an interconnected web of tunnels and caves in the central Jabal (Mount) Halal of the peninsula. Nicknamed the “Tora Bora of Sinai,” approach roads to this mountain fastness are few and far between, in common with the Afghan cave network near the Pakistan border destroyed on April 13 by the biggest non-nuclear bomb, the GBU-43/B, in the American arsenal.

The last Egyptian assault on ISIS’ towering mountain stronghold took place on April 2, shortly before El-Sisi travelled to Washington. The Egyptian military announced that 31 terrorists had been killed and a number of caves holding arms and ammunition destroyed.

But the damage was not devastating enough to disrupt the Islamist terrorists’ operations, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. Most of the terrorists escaped with the help of allied Bedouin tribesmen who, familiar with every nook and cranny in the desert peninsula, guided them to safety in new caves in Jabal Halal that were even more inaccessible to Egyptian troops.

Their new headquarters can only be destroyed by cruise missiles capable of exploding underground.

The Egyptians and Americans believe that if the Jabal Halal cave system sheltering the ISIS-Sinai core command center is destroyed, its long campaign of terror will be curtailed. The flow of terrorist manpower, arms and explosives from the mountain to the networks which terrorize the population and Egyptian forces of northern Sinai will dry up.

Jabal Halal is also the hub of the ISIS smuggling networks, through which fighters and arms are moved from southern Libya into Sinai and Egypt. Knocking it out will also deliver a resounding blow to that traffic.

A final decision to go ahead with a US missile assault on central Sinai rests with Defense Secretary James Mattis. He is due to arrive in Cairo on Wednesday, April 19.

China’s nuclear get-out clause over defence of North Korea

April 13, 2017

China’s nuclear get-out clause over defence of North Korea, South China Morning PostKristin Huang, April 13, 2017

(Another “hint” from China to North Korea? — DM)

China is not obliged to help defend North Korea from military attack if the reclusive state developed nuclear weapons, according to Chinese diplomatic and military observers.

The assessment comes as senior officials in Washington warn of a strike against the Pyongyang regime.

China and North Korea signed a mutual aid and cooperation treaty in 1961 as they sought to mount a united front against Western powers. It specifies that if one of the parties comes under armed attack, the other should render immediate assistance, including military support.

But the treaty also says both nations should safeguard peace and security.

For China, North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons in violation of the United Nations treaty on non-proliferation could amount to a breach of their pact, leaving Beijing with no obligation to lend a hand, observers said.

 

China could also have a get-out clause if any US military intervention was not deemed an armed attack.

“It’s hard to say how China would assist North Korea militarily in case of war, since North Korea is developing nuclear weapons, an act that might have already breached the treaty between the two nations,” said Li Jie, a retired Chinese naval colonel.

Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong said China would need to provide military assistance to North Korea if US land forces invaded, but Pyongyang’s violation of the UN non-proliferation treaty was a “strong reason” for Beijing to choose not to help.

Threats of military action against North Korea have grown, with US President Donald Trump saying Washington was prepared to act alone against Pyongyang.

A strike group headed by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson has also been deployed to waters off the Korean peninsula.

Nevertheless, Beijing, North Korea’s economic lifeline, does have some interest in backing up its old ally. China fears the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang could lead to an influx of refugees into China and eliminate the buffer zone keeping US troops from the Chinese border.

But Ni said the possibility of a full-scale war was slim because the US was unlikely to send land forces into North Korea, preferring air strikes or missile launches instead.

“The situation would be much easier for China in this case. China would not have to mobilise its land forces to help North Korea,” he said. “China then only needs to send the North Sea Fleet or military aircraft to step up patrols of the Korean peninsula.”

Zhou Chenming, from the Knowfar Institute for Strategic and Defence Studies think tank, said war over North Korea was unlikely because all the parties involved were looking for ways to defuse tensions.

But if military conflict did erupt, China could help Pyongyang with supplies such as food and weaponry, such as old tanks.