Archive for the ‘South China Sea’ Category

Pressuring Obama: International Actors Take Risks Amid Uncertainty

March 14, 2009

An international series of moves on the strategic map or chessborad is ongoing in an apparent effort to get the first move from America’s new president, Barack Obama.

Russia has orchestrated the closing of a key U.S. air base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan, China has seen fit to harass a U.S. naval vessel in the South China Sea and now Russia has failed to deny the possibility that Russian bombers could be based in Venezuela and or Cuba.

The problem with these moves is that it puts the president into a reactive rather than a proactive position and the incidents themselves lend themselves to escalation unintended and accidental.

When China wanted to send the “back-off” message to President George W. Bush early in his administration by harassing a U.S. Navy surveillance  aircrft using a Chinese PLA (Air Force) fighter, the aircaft collided, killing the Chinese pilot and leading to “detention” of the American aircrew.

One has to hope that the Obama Administration has made it perfectly clear to China and Russia that this kind of conduct is not helpful at the least and potentially very dangerous.

But no public mention of that effort has been made publically, which could mean other like Hugi Chavez in Venezuela get the wrong idea and take additional unnecassary risks and miscalcualtions we don’t need….
“Mark my words,” Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden warned last October. “It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking.”

“Remember I said it standing here if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”


By DAVID NOWAK, Asssociated Press
MOSCOW – A Russian Air Force chief said Saturday that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has offered an island as a temporary base for strategic Russian bombers, the Interfax news agency reported.

The chief of staff of Russia‘s long range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, also said Cuba could be used to base the aircraft, Interfax reported.

The Kremlin, however, said the situation was hypothetical.

“The military is speaking about technical possibilities, that’s all,” Alexei Pavlov, a Kremlin official, told The Associated Press. “If there will be a development of the situation, then we can comment,” he said.

Zhikharev said Chavez had offered “a whole island with an airdrome, which we can use as a temporary base for strategic bombers,” the agency reported. “If there is a corresponding political decision, then the use of the island … by the Russian Air Force is possible.”

Interfax reported he said earlier that Cuba has air bases with four or five runways long enough for the huge bombers and could be used to host the long-range planes.

Two Russian bombers landed in Venezuela last year in what experts said was the first Western Hemisphere touchdown of Russian military craft since the end of the Cold War.

Cuba has never permanently hosted Russian or Soviet strategic aircraft. But Soviet short-range bombers often made stopovers there during the Cold War.

Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus.

Independent military analyst Alexander Golts said from a strategic point of view there was nothing for Russia to gain from basing long-range craft within relatively short range of U.S. shores.

“It has no military sense. The bombers don’t need any base. This is just a retaliatory gesture,” Golts said, saying Russia wanted to hit back after U.S. ships patrolled Black Sea waters.

Read the rest:

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Analysts: Russia outmaneuvered U.S. over air base

 Obama Could Lose Afghanistan, Pakistan

 Obama bans term “enemy combatant,” joins “terrorist” in unusable list

Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

 Obama Backs Off, Japan Ready To Shoot Down North Korean Missile

Obama: Troop move to Mexican border under consideration

 Obama Backs-Off On Human Rights Issues: Economy is That Important

In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, one of two Russian ... 
In this photo released by the U.S. Navy, one of two Russian Tupolev 95 Bear long rang bomber aircraft is seen near the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz on Feb. 9, 2008, south of Japan. The Interfax news agency reported Saturday March 14, 2009 that a Russian Air Force chief says Russian strategic bombers may be based in Cuba. Russia resumed long-range bomber patrols in 2007 after a 15-year hiatus. (AP Photo/U.S. Navy)

China Provoked Obama; Now Works To Smooth Situation: Why?

March 11, 2009

China probably provoked the U.S. at sea last weekend in an effort to gain an edge over new President Barack Obama.

China did just that, analysts now say, in the early months of George W. Bush’s presidency.

On April 1, 2001 , two Chinese J-8 fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy EP-3 surveillance aircraft that was 70 miles off Hainan Island , resulting in a collision with one of them, forcing it into the sea. The EP-3 made an emergency landing on Hainan , where China kept it captive for three months, long after the 24 crew members were released.

U.S. Navy P-3 aircraft

At that time, China used this approach: the U.S. violated intenational law, China was within its rights, the U.S. needs to back off.

China is fairly predictable and formulaic, sometimes.

When China was found to have a deadly disease called SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) spreading a few years ago (November 2002 to July 2003; over 700 people died)China used this media strategy: denial, discovery, immense response, media explosion of good news, return to normal.

China used this same play-book when accused of exporting all kinds of poisoned food products from toothpaste to dog and cat food, cough medicine, cookies, candy and seafood. 

Denial, discovery, immense response, media explosion of good news, return to normal.

When China was accused of building shoddy schools which quickly collapsed killing tens of thousands of school children in the recent earthquakes, the Chinese public response included denial, discovery, immense response, media explosion of good news, return to normal.

In 2006, Senator John McCain called China “immature” over its lack of effort in helping the U.S. and the world to address North Korea’s nuclear program. 

Laugh at McCain now — but North Korea remains a trouble spot in the world today only because China allows them to play that role.
Just this week, North Korea threatened war with the United States — a war that would certainly involve Japan and South Korea.  North Korea could not be making such threats and could not even think about testing a long range strategic missile just now unless China consented to this brazen move or at least looked the other way.  China supplies North Korea with almost all of its food, oil, luxury goods and currency.  Without China, North Korea would be impotent and meaningless.

China’s at sea provocation of international law and Barack Obama seems remarkably similar to previous Chinese forays into the mind of at least one previous President of the United States sending the unmistakable message: the U.S. violated intenational law, China was within its rights, the U.S. needs to back off.

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

An excellent report on the international law:


By FOSTER KLUG, Associated Press Writer

The top U.S. and Chinese diplomats have work to do to keep a confrontation between American and Chinese naval vessels from damaging a relationship that President Barack Obama deems crucial to confronting the world’s toughest crises.

Even if diplomatic efforts by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi are successful in toning down the dispute — the two were scheduled to meet Wednesday in Washington — they may ease anger only temporarily over a larger military disagreement.

Beijing has long complained about U.S. surveillance operations around China’s borders. Without better communications between the two militaries as they operate in the South China Sea, the possibility for future conflict will remain.

Clinton and Yang “can have a productive exchange to keep this bounded, but the real bureaucracies that need to be there aren’t going to be at the meeting,” said Jonathan Pollack, professor of Asian studies at the U.S. Naval War College.

This US Navy file photo shows the military Sealift Command ocean ... 
This US Navy file photo shows the military Sealift Command ocean surveillance ship USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23). Five Chinese vessels maneuvered dangerously close to a US Navy ship in the South China Sea on Sunday, March 8, 2009, approaching within 25 feet of the unarmed surveillance ship, the Pentagon said.(AFP/NVNS)

He suggested that without stronger military-to-military links, the potential for “something ugly” happening “should not be minimized.”

China says a U.S. Navy mapping ship confronted by Chinese vessels Sunday was operating illegally in China’s exclusive economic zone. The United States says Chinese ships surrounded and harassed the Navy vessel in international waters in the South China Sea.

Read the rest:


Era of Obama, American Weakness Emboldens Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Terrorists

China Wants U.S. Out of Asia’s International Waters
Era of Obama, American Weakness Emboldens Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Terrorists
 Pentagon: Chinese Ships Harassed Unarmed U.S. Navy Craft in International Waters

What’s China’s Long Term Global Strategy?

China uses naval showdown with U.S. to flex muscle

China Says U.S. Ship Was Breaking Law

Philippines Enacts Law Claiming Islands also Claimed by China, Others

China’s Naval Officers Join Anti-American Voices

 China’s Love/Hate Relationship With The U.S.

Behind the U.S. and China At Sea Incident

China Wants U.S. Out of Asia’s International Waters

March 10, 2009

The incident at sea between China and the U.S. Navy this last weekend indicates a growing truth among Chinese military officers: the seas adjacent to China wherever they extend are de facto Chinese terrirtory and the U.S. needs to leave.

This is in violation of international law which grants free passage to all who operate in international waters.

China is complaining saying the U.S. ship, while not in their territorial waters was in their “economic zone,” a claim that also pits the Chinese directly at odds with 5 countries (Taiwan, Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia) who would like to have their own territorial waters.

But China now has repeatedly expressed and demonstrated distain for international law — a a certain ability to push people around.

“They seem to be more militarily aggressive,” National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“I think the debate is still on in China whether as their military power increases they will be used for good or for pushing people around.”

But the Chinese say all the fault for this weekend’s incident belongs to the U.S. 

“Go and ask the Americans, ask their embassy,” China’s Vice Admiral Jin Mao, former PLA Navy vice commander in chief, told Reuters on the sidelines of parliament when asked about the incident. “Ask their officials what their ship was doing in Chinese waters.”

The fact is, the American ship operating in international waters is protected by international law — even if it is searching for submarines.


Beijing will take a tougher stand against other nations as its naval ambitions grow, said analyst Shi Yinhong.

“The United States is present everywhere on the world’s seas, but these kinds of incidents may grow as China’s naval activities expand,” Shi, an expert on regional security at Renmin University in Beijing, said.

Analyst Shi said the seas off Hainan were important to China’s projection of its influence with a modern naval fleet.

“The change is in China’s attitude. This reflects the hardening line in Chinese foreign policy and the importance we attach to the strategic value of the South China Sea.”

See a report from Reuters:

See also:

Chong-pin Lin, Professor at the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taiwan says, “I think the objective of the grand strategy of China is to squeeze out, very slowly and very gradually, the influence of the United States in East Asia, without war.”

A budget analyst at the U.S. Navy in the Pentagon told Peace and Freedom, “Our futue problem is this: with our current and projected budget deficits and debt, the U.S. will not be able to afford the navy it has now — while China will grow and improve its navy and take whatever it wants in the world.  That is the trend we see.”

 Era of Obama, American Weakness Emboldens Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Terrorists
 Pentagon: Chinese Ships Harassed Unarmed U.S. Navy Craft in International Waters

What’s China’s Long Term Global Strategy?

China uses naval showdown with U.S. to flex muscle

China Says U.S. Ship Was Breaking Law

China Says U.S. Ship Was Breaking Law

China Conducts Massive Anti-Piracy Drill; May Send Ships Near Somalia

December 14, 2008

Thousands of Chinse military personnel have been participating in a “massive” People’s Liberation Army (Navy) and Air Force anti-pracy training exercise in the South China Sea.

China has been widely criticized for not contributing any military forces to anti-pirate patrols in the vicinity of the Gulf of Aden where Somali and Yemeni pirates are taking ships hostage and ransoming them back to owners for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

China worries about interruptions of its economically vital shipping.  World-wide, the piracy has caused insurance prices to soar for the shipping companies — costs passed on to consumers on a global scale.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union(EU), India,  Russia  and others have ships engaged in anti-piracy missions in and around the Gulf of Aden.

See a video from Reuters on China’s anti-piracy training:

Anti-Piracy: Where’s China’s Navy?

Indian Navy Captures 23 Somali, Yemeni Pirates


China: Debate Rages On Somali Anti-Piracy Mission

By Zhang Haizhou
China Daily

Chinese military strategists and international relations experts are debating whether China should dispatch its navy to the troubled waters off Somalia.

The debate was first kicked off by Major-General Jin Yinan of the National Defense University, when he told a radio station last week that “nobody should be shocked” if the Chinese government one day decides to send navy ships to deal with the pirates.

The general’s views came after two Chinese ships – a fishing vessel and a Hong Kong-flag ship with 25 crew aboard – were seized by Somali pirates in mid Nov.

Jin gave no sign that such a naval mission was under immediate consideration, but he said China’s growing influence has made it likely that the government might use its forces in security operations far from home.
“I believe the Chinese navy should send naval vessels to the Gulf of Aden to carry out anti-piracy duties,” he said. “If one day, the Chinese navy sends ships to deal with pirates, nobody should be shocked.”

“With China being a major world economy, it’s very difficult to say that security problems across the world have nothing to do with us,” Jin said.

Type 052B Guangzhou in Leningrad.jpg
China has many capable warships that could contribute to the anti-piracy mission of the international community.  Above: a Guangzhou class destroyer.

While the military strategist is urging an active deployment, other scholars think the government should be cautious before a decision is made.

The Chinese military vessels should go there “only within the UN framework,” said Pang Zhongying, a professor of international relations with Renmin University of China.

Since July, the UN has adopted three resolutions urging the international community to respond to the piracy problem off Somalia; the EU started an anti-piracy mission earlier this week in response to the UN resolution.

“Non-intervention is the principle of China’s foreign policy, which has not changed,” Pang said. However, China is trying to “play a more constructive and responsible role in international conflicts and other crises,” he said.

“China is now trying to balance its old principle and the new reality,” he added.

China has never dispatched any troops for combat missions overseas. The Chinese army personnel joining UN peacekeeping missions are engineering and medical staff, or police, apart from peacekeepers.

“Non-intervention is in the process of slow change,” Pang said, adding China is trying to cooperate with international organizations such as the UN and the African Union (AU) in solving regional and international conflicts, Pang said.

Pang added that he also had some concerns over the Chinese navy’s capability.

“I don’t think the Chinese navy has the capacity to counter unconventional threats far in the ocean,” he said, adding supplying and refueling in the Indian Ocean are key challenges.

However, some military strategists do not agree.

Professor Li Jie, a navy researcher, said the Chinese navy has proved that it is capable of such missions.

In 2002, two Chinese vessels spent four months on a global tour, the country’s first.

“Also, the UN resolutions mean that such deployment is legitimate,” Li said, noting that rampant piracy is a problem not only for other countries, but also for China.

“I think we should go there,” he added, acknowledging that command and communication will be challenges for such multi-national missions.

“But the mission can also be good training for the Chinese navy,” he said.

However, Professor Jin Canrong of Renmin University told China Daily: “I think we should not dispatch navy ships there unless we have to do so.”

Sending naval vessels to the waters off Somalia may raise some concerns and provide ammunition to “China threat” demagogues, he said.

Instead, joining a prospective UN peacekeeping force is a better choice.


From Forbes:

The U.S.-led Combined Task Force 150 has been patrolling the waters in question since 2002 and has expanded its mission beyond counterterrorism and counter-proliferation to combating piracy.

CTF 150 constitutes mainly the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group and, on a rotating basis, several ships from other, primarily European, countries. To protect its own shipping, Malaysia–as well as Russia and India–has sent military vessels to the region. NATO and the European Union, too, are seized of the problem and are deploying four ships to loiter in the Somalis’ area of operation next month.

Political will among major and regional powers, then, does not appear to be the issue. Rather, the real bugbears have been a lack of central coordination–in particular as to adherence to international law, optimal deployment of resources and rules of engagement.

In June, the United Nations passed a resolution making it an international duty of member states to fight piracy and allowing them to pursue Somali pirates into Somalia’s territorial waters–in effect denying the pirates legal maritime sanctuary. That theoretically solves the international law problem. But, with nations like India and Malaysia responding only episodically to emerging threats, sustaining a maritime presence large enough to deter or respond to an appreciable number of pirate attacks remains difficult. And even if all of the affected nations committed to standing patrols, their oversight of various sectors of the pirates’ operational space would have to be determined by a central command to maximize geographical coverage.

Differing national rules of engagement would have to be better harmonized and perhaps rethought. For example, a U.S. crew can act preemptively only once it determines pirates are “in the act” of piracy, yet they must back off once hostages have been taken for fear of imperiling them. It might therefore make sense to establish procedures whereby an American ship making initial contact with a pirate vessel can delegate interdiction responsibility to a vessel with more liberal engagement policies–say, a French one–or indeed to consider liberalizing rules of engagement.

Whatever the particular solutions to these essentially operational quandaries, the first step is diplomatic. The U.S., by default, has assumed primary responsibility for policing the waters off Somalia and its vicinity. Now it should call on all governments and private concerns with interests in the safety and security of those waters to meet and determine precisely how to achieve them.

Jonathan Stevenson is a professor of strategic studies at the U.S. Naval War College.Read it all: