Archive for the ‘pirates’ Category

History, precedent, diplomacy and war

April 11, 2009

The current President of the United States, his government and cabinet secretaries seem totally unaware of and unconcerned about the importance of history, precedent, diplomacy and war.

Precedent makes law.  And precedent and how to respond in both diplomatic settings and in a crisis tells both friends and enemies what to expect from great powers.

The precedent that the United States will respond almost immediately and with force at signs of piracy and other troubles on the high seas dates almost to the start of the Republic.  In 1804, at the very start of the U.S. Navy, war ensued with pirates off the coast of North Africa because the price of ransom paid to pirates just kept going up.

But this year we have seen the Chinese disrupt at-sea operations of a U.S. naval vessel, without much U.S. response, and now African pirates hold for ransom a U.S. merchant captain.

I guess Jimmy Carter showed the world that the U.S. would be slow to respond in hostage situations.  But Ronald Reagan and others made sure the message was sent again that toying with the American people even in far flung assignments would not be tolerated and could result in war or lesser uses of more than strong language.

But President Obama has more rapidly re-written precedent on how the U.S. will respond than any president in modern history.  That is his course to take but he needs to be aware that others have tried the soft approach before: earning Neville Chamberlain the nickname “appeaser.”

Nations usually change their diplomatic course gradually, like the gigantic ships of state that they are.  Putting the rudder over quickly toward appeasement or force has its dangers.

It would have seemed an open and shut case a few weeks ago, for example, that Presidents of the United States do not bow to anyone.

The President of the United States Barack Obama greets King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

The President of the United States Barack Obama greets King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Photo: Getty Images

Now that they do: what does that mean?  After two hundred years, outsiders have to see America in a new light, which is apparently what Mr. Obama wants.  But who has guessed at the consequences?  Who in team Obama is telling the president how China, Russia and the others see this great breakthrough and what it might mean?

My guess would be nobody is discussing this At the White House (who denied that a bow ocurred) or at State.  Nobody who can make an educated guess at how others will see the new U.S. and its conduct.  I base this observation on Hillary Clinton presenting her counterpart in Russia with a giant red button bearing a misspelled word and with an unclear meaning.  In most Russian experience, I believe, giant red buttons launch nuclear weapons — not improved or “reset” relations — even if you could spell the word correctly.

My real point here is this: when a few thugs at sea can hold an entire sea faring nation like the United States hostage for ransom something is certainly amiss — and a dangerous precedent could be in the making.  The precedent now being set by President Obama and his Administration is that perhaps America will cower to brigands of any and all sorts.

After all, precendent sets law so precedent bears watching.

This line of thinking would also include North Korea’s recent missile launch and the inability of the United States to make the United Nations act in a sure and responsible way in condemning that nation.  Japan has already withdrawn its demand that harsh actions be taken in response to the North Korean missile flight.  Japan’s voice is unheard without U.S. backing.

What precendent did America’s top ally in the Pacific just learn?

The message now sent by Mr. Obama around the globe is that he will bow to just about anybody at any time and on any terms.  This does not bode well for America’s future or the security of the United States and allies like Israel.

Each American has to judge for him or her self if this is good or bad.  But my experience tells me that in places like Moscow, Beijing and Tehran; leaders are seeing a new precedent set by the United States.  And that can mean mischief.

See Michelle Malkin


Was it Joe Biden, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton that thought it was a good idea to encourage Russia to just hit the “reset” button?  Well, whoever…..

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button marked "reset" in English and "overload" in Russian.

 Barack, Hillary: Moronic “Reset” Idea for Relations With Russia


Barack Obama’s “Great Bow to Saudi” and the red “reset” button given to Russia are more than faux pas and less than the end of the world.  But they do certainly indicate a certain lack of professionalism and due care for diplomacy.

The almost unnoticed fact that Austrians do do speak Austrian and other errors great and small means to me that we are in for more errors unless the Obama Administration starts to do some homework and learns from the errors committed thus far….

See the “faux pas” view from the Washington Post:

Japan’s Navy Warships Deploy to Somalia to Fight Piracy

March 14, 2009

Two Japanese navy destroyers left a port in southern Japan on Saturday to join an international anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.

Prime Minister Taro Aso was on hand to see the ships off.

“It is well known that piracy is growing in the Gulf of Aden,” Aso said. “We hope you will fulfill your mission and return safely.”

Japan has had restrictions on the use of what other nations call “military forces” since the end of World War II.  To even send warships as far away from Japan on a mission that could including fighting required special government steps for Japan.

Japan’s Cabinet had to approve  a new anti-piracy bill to allow the mission.

Japan’s ships can only be deployed to protect Japanese vessels and their crews, during normal mission and Japan’s navy has been called the “Maritime Self Defense Force” for decades.

About 2,000 Japanese ships pass near Somalia each year.

A special Japanese law designed to relax restrictions on the use of arms by personnel on navy ships if engaged by pirates will allow Japan’s vessels to escort foreign ships in danger.

The anti-piracy effort has now drawn ships from Japan and China far away from home for the first time in decades to conduct actions that could involve actual engagement with another armed force.

China’s ships in the anti-piracy mission are the first Chinese warships sent outside China’s territorial waters in centuries.

Ironically, one of the two Japanese warships on the anti-piracy mission, Sazanami, visited China last June — the first visit to China by a Japanese waship since the 1940s.


Japan's 4,650-tonne destroyer Sazanami arrives ...

Warships from several countries including Britain, the United States, France, China and Germany are participating in the anti-paracy mission that the Japanese warships will join when they get to the waters off Somalia.


Associated Press

China Extends Navy’s Anti-Piracy Mission Near Somalia

March 9, 2009

he Chinese naval fleet joining the international anti-piracy campaign in Somali waters is likely to be replaced by new ships late April or early May, according to the deputy chief of staff of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily, Major General Zhang Deshun disclosed for the first time that the current mission for the naval fleet lasts about four months and the fleet will be replaced near the end of its mission.

The current fleet left the coastal resort city of Sanya in Hainan province on Dec 26, 2008, and began patrolling and guiding Chinese and overseas civilian vessels since its arrival in Somali waters this January.

Citing the mission so far as a great success, the major general said the navy has prepared for a prolonged endeavor in which China joins forces with international naval forces to combat piracy.

“We feel this is not a short mission. The length of the mission depends on the Somali political situation and whether Somali pirates can be eventually kept away,” he said.

The major general said substitute warships and personnel were ready to take charge, but he was not privileged to disclose either the number of warships replaced or the names of the new warships that would sail towards the Gulf of Aden next, just yet.

But he did say that some officers and soldiers with the current fleet would stay longer to ensure the “consistency and effectiveness of the mission”.

“Some key members will be staying for the second phase,” the general said, adding the navy has drawn up multiple plans for the replacement, to be carried out once approved.

The plans also include emergency cases, such as the failure of a warship and the impact of the monsoon due next month on the Indian Ocean.

Zhang said a welcome ceremony would be held at the naval base when the current fleet returns.

The current naval fleet includes flagship Wuhan, destroyer Haikou and supplier ship Weishanhu.

By March 7, the fleet has completed over 110 patrolling missions in Somali waters.

The officer said not a single vessel, including three foreign ships, were attacked under the Chinese navy’s protection.

The general said the destroyer Haikou also escorted Tianyu 8, a fishing vessel from Tianjin released by Somali pirates on Feb 8.

The warship guided the vessel to safe water territory, providing food and medical aid to the 24 crew members aboard.

Source: China Daily

 Pentagon: Chinese Ships Harassed Unarmed Navy Craft in International Waters

China Says Its Navy Expansion “No threat to others”

Above: Missile Destroyer Haikou 171 of the PLA Navy’s South China Sea Fleet.  She departed with two other Chinese warships on a mission to the Gulf of Aden near Somali on anti-pirate patrol in December.  Many in the West see this as a sign of renewed cooperation between China and other military powers.  Haikou and the other ships of China’s anti-pirate patrol near Somalia will be replaced by similar ships next month.

Japan To Send Warships On Anti-Piracy Mission

February 3, 2009

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) said Tuesday that it will dispatch two destroyers on an anti-piracy mission off Somalia once receiving the order from the defense minister.

To be sent on the mission are the 4,650-ton Sazanami and 4,550-ton Samidare of the 8th Escort Division of the 4th Escort Flotillain Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture, the MSDF said.


On Wednesday Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada ordered the Maritime Self-Defense Forces (MSDF) to prepare for the mission in a bid to protect Japanese and Japan-linked ships from pirates’ attacks.

In line with Article 82 of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) Law, which governs policing action on the seas, the MSDF will dispatch the two destroyers, according to an outline of the operational guidelines for the MSDF released on Jan. 27.

Under the maritime policing provision, the MSDF will protect only Japan-related vessels, including Japanese-registered ships and foreign vessels with Japanese nationals or shipments aboard.

The dispatch of the MSDF, the first overseas military deployment under the SDF law, is expected to take place in March at the earliest after training and other preparatory work is finished.



Associated Press:

Japan's Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, right in the background, ... 
Japan’s Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada, right in the background, meet leaders of Self Defense Force as the minister orders the dispatch of the ships to fight piracy off the shores of Somalia, at Defense Ministry in Tokyo Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009.(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Somali pirates hijack German gas tanker, 13 crew

January 29, 2009

Somali pirates hijacked a German tanker loaded with liquefied petroleum gas Thursday off the Horn of Africa. The ship’s 13-man crew was reported safe even though gunshots were heard over the ship’s radio.

The MV Longchamp is the third ship captured this month in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

By ELIZABETH A. KENNEDY, Associated Press Writer

This photo released on Wednesday Jan.28, 2009 by the French ... 
This photo released on Wednesday Jan.28, 2009 by the French Defense ministry, shows suspected pirates intercepted by Marine commandos of the French Navy in the Gulf of Aden, off Somalia’s coast, Tuesday Jan.27, 2009. The soldiers from the ‘Le Floreal’ frigate intercepted nine people trying to take over the Indian cargo ship ‘African Ruby’.(AP Photo/Ecpad/French Defense Ministry/HO)

The Longchamp, registered in the Bahamas, is managed by the German firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which said in a statement that seven pirates boarded the tanker early Thursday.

Spokesman Andre Delau said the ship’s master had been briefly allowed to communicate with the firm and had said the crew of 12 Filipinos and one Indonesian were safe.

“We think that everything is in order, nobody is injured,” he told The Associated Press.

No ransom demands have been made yet, the company said.

Read the rest:

US Navy Seeks Arms Bound for Hamas in Gaza

January 25, 2009

AN American naval taskforce in the Gulf of Aden has been ordered to hunt for suspicious Iranian arms ships heading for the Red Sea as Tehran seeks to re-equip Hamas, its Islamist ally in Gaza.

According to US diplomatic sources, Combined Task Force 151, which is countering pirates in the Gulf of Aden, has been instructed to track Iranian arms shipments.

Last week the USS San Antonio, an amphibious transport dockship that serves as the command and control centre for the taskforce, boarded the former Russian cargo vessel Monchegorsk, which is registered in Limassol and flying a Cypriot flag.

The ship docked at an Egyptian Red Sea port for a detailed search during which, according to unconfirmed reports, weapons were found.

LPD-17 Class.jpg
Above: USS San Antonio

Read the rest:

Russian navy saves Dutch ship from Somali pirates

January 14, 2009

The Russian navy helped foil an attack by Somali pirates on a Dutch container ship in the dangerous Gulf of Aden, a maritime watchdog said Wednesday.

Six pirates fired rocket-propelled grenades at the ship, which took evasive maneuvers while calling for help, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center in Malaysia.

The pirates chased the vessel for about 30 minutes but aborted their attempt to board the ship after a Russian warship and helicopter arrived at the scene, Choong said.

Associated Press

Pirates last year attacked 111 ships and seized 42 off the Horn of Africa, many in the Gulf of Aden. An international flotilla including U.S. warships has stopped many attacks, but the area is too vast to keep all ships safe in the vital sea lane that links Asia to Europe.

Choong said it was nevertheless getting harder for Somali pirates to hijack ships because of increased naval patrols and the vigilant watch kept by ships that pass through the area.

“The attacks are continuing but successful hijackings by pirates have (been) reduced,” he said.

There have been 11 attacks in Somali waters this year, with two ships hijacked. In total, 11 vessels with 210 crew members remain in pirate hands, Choong said.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and its lawless coastline is a haven for pirates. The multimillion dollar ransoms are one of the only ways to make money in the impoverished nation.

Somali Pirates Drown With Share of $3 Million Ransom

January 10, 2009

The sea gets even?  Part of $3 Million in ransom paid to Somali pirates went down the drain and several pirates lost their lives as rough seas capsized the small boat of the pirates yesterday….

This is the strangest twist yet in the more than year-long saga of piracy near Somalia….


Five of the Somali pirates who released a hijacked oil-laden Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a reported $3 million ransom after their small boat capsized, a pirate and port town resident said Saturday.

Pirate Daud Nure says the boat with eight people on board overturned in a storm after dozens of pirates left the Sirius Star following a two-month standoff in the Gulf of Aden that ended Friday.

He said five people died and three people reached shore after swimming for several hours. Daud Nure was not part of the pirate operation but knew those involved.

By MOHAMED OLAD HASSAN, Associated Press Writer

A parachute dropped by a small aircraft drops over the MV  Sirius ... 
A parachute dropped by a small aircraft drops over the MV Sirius Star at anchor, in this U.S. Navy photo, Friday, Jan. 9, 2009, following an apparent payment via a parachuted container to pirates holding the ship. Somali pirates released the oil-laden Saudi supertanker after receiving a $3 million ransom, a negotiator for the bandits said Friday. The ship owner did not confirm it. The brand new tanker, with a 25-member crew, was seized in the Indian Ocean Nov. 15 in a dramatic escalation of high seas crime.(AP Photo/U.S. Navy,Air Crewman 2nd Class David B. Hudson)

Jamal Abdulle, a resident of the Somali coastal town of Haradhere, close to where the ship was anchored also confirmed that the boat sank and that the eight’s portion of the ransom money that had been shared between dozens of pirates was lost.

U.S. Navy photos showed a parachute, carrying what they described as “an apparent payment,” floating toward the tanker. The Sirius Star and its 25-member crew had been held since Nov. 15. Its cargo of crude oil was valued at US$100 million at the time.

The capture was seen as a dramatic demonstration of the pirates’ ability to strike high value targets hundreds of miles offshore.

On the same day the Saudi ship was freed, pirates released a captured Iranian-chartered cargo ship, Iran’s state television reported Saturday. It said the ship Daylight was carrying 36 tons of wheat when it was attacked in the Gulf of Aden Nov. 18 and seized by pirates. All 25 crew are in good health and the vessel is sailing toward Iran, the TV report said.

Read the rest:

Pirate Patrol Off Somalia To Be Headed By U.S. Navy

January 8, 2009

The U.S. Navy says one of its commanders will lead a new international force to battle pirates off the coast of Somalia.

More than 20 nations are expected to take part in the mission once it is fully under way later this month. The announcement Thursday by U.S. Navy officials in Bahrain did not list the countries participating, but said the force will be headed by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Terence McKnight.

Merchant fleets have been calling for a stronger military response to pirates after a sharp escalation in attacks last year. At least 111 ships were attacked and more than 40 of them commandeered.

It is not clear whether the new anti-pirate force will have any expanded powers to battle pirates.

–Associated Press

The French warship Nivose escorts a convoy of commercial ships ... 
The French warship Nivose escorts a convoy of commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden.(AFP/Eric Cabanis)

China begins landmark Somali piracy patrols

January 6, 2009

A Chinese naval convoy arrived Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden on a landmark mission to protect the country’s shipping from Somali pirates and escorted its first four vessels, state media reported.

The four ships escorted were Chinese merchant vessels, including one from Hong Kong, Xinhua news agency said in a dispatch filed from aboard the destroyer Wuhan.

The naval mission, deploying two destroyers and a supply ship, marks China‘s first potential combat mission beyond its territorial waters in centuries.


In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, China's ... 
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, China’s missile destroyer Wuhan leads Chinese ships sailing in the Gulf of Aden off Somalia Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009. The Chinese naval fleet arrived in the area on Tuesday to carry out the first escort mission against pirates, Xinhua said.(AP Photo/Xinhua, Qian Xiaohu)

The fleet was deployed in response to an escalation of pirate attacks on merchant ships, including Chinese vessels, plying the crucial shipping route linking Asia and Europe.

The missile-armed destroyers DDG-171 Haikou and DDG-169 Wuhan, and the Weishanhu supply ship, are among China’s most sophisticated and have all entered service this decade, Xinhua said previously.

They will operate alongside other international warships patrolling the area near the Gulf of Aden, part of the Suez Canal route.

The fleet will mainly protect Chinese vessels, including those from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, but will also escort foreign ships passing through the area on request, Xinhua has said.

After three months the ships will be replaced by another flotilla, depending on UN Security Council decisions and the situation at the time, reports have said.

China has said its warships will investigate any suspected pirate vessels, and approach them and demand that they show their relevant documents and certificates.

Two helicopters accompanying the flotilla will be used during such tasks, military officials said earlier.