US struggles to counter Chinese maritime hegemony

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.”

But what consequences? Two successive US administrations – Barack Obama’s and now Donald Trump’s – have failed to push back credibly against China’s expansionism in the South China Sea, which has accelerated despite a 2016 international arbitral tribunal ruling invalidating its territorial claims there. Instead, the US has relied on rhetoric or symbolic actions. Continue reading

‘Guam Express’ DF-26 missiles in service with PLA

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The DF-26 missiles were first seen during a PLA parade in 2015. Photo: Xinhua

 

Carrier killer missiles are now operational along China’s coastal provinces and possibly on South China Sea atolls

China’s defense ministry confirmed on Thursday that high-tech DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missiles have been deployed with the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force.

The DF-26 is tailor-made for precision offensives as well as swift nuclear counter-attacks – with its nuclear-tipped variant – against land- and sea-based targets.

The new missiles, with a hit range of 3,000-4,000km, are also known as the “Guam Express” among Chinese military buffs. They are the PLA’s first conventionally-armed missiles capable of reaching the US outpost of Guam if fired from China’s southeastern coastline. Continue reading

U.S. vs. China in South China Sea

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson left a four-day port visit in the Philippines on Tuesday and is leading a strike group to conduct a “freedom of navigation operation” in the South China Sea. (Associated Press)

 

The Pentagon is stepping up its strategic messaging targeting China with the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson now underway in the South China Sea.

The Vinson strike group, including the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain and guided-missile destroyers USS Wayne E. Meyer and USS Michael Murphy, left a four-day port visit in the Philippines on Tuesday.

The carrier will resume operations in the contested sea — close to where China is militarizing several disputed islets, including Scarborough Shoal, some 100 miles from the Philippines. Continue reading

World View: Chinese Vessels Massing Near Philippines Island in South China Sea

AP Photo/Rolex Dela Pena, Pool

 

A statement by Philippines Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warns that government must act in response to an “invasion of Philippine territory by China” in the South China Sea.

The warning was triggered when Rep. Gary Alejano said that the military reported early last week that Chinese vessels appeared to be massing north of Pag-asa Island (Thitu Island), a Philippine territory. The Philippines maintains a small population of about 100 people on Pag-asa Island in order to guarantee that it maintains its sovereignty. Continue reading

Two Chinese fighter jets intercept US plane over East China Sea

Disputed islands in the East China Sea. (Photo: Reuters)

 

WASHINGTON: Two Chinese SU-30 aircraft carried out what the US military described on Thursday (May 18) as an “unprofessional” intercept of a US aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international airspace over the East China Sea.

“The issue is being addressed with China through appropriate diplomatic and military channels,” said Air Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Lori Hodge. Continue reading

Duterte Seems Alarmingly Resigned to Beijing’s New Building in the South China Sea

Over the last couple of years it has been said several times that Asian nations can no longer consider the United States a reliable partner. Its military has been decimated by budget cuts, technical problems (think F-35) and politics. The Obama administration had thrown into doubt the protection of Taiwan and Japan should either or both go to war with China. Asian nations see this and they don’t want to take chances on dealing with a bi-polar United States that changes policy whenever and whichever direction the wind blows with every new administration.

So, simply put, President Duterte has confirmed and cemented the the continuous prediction:

You take a gamble on a shaky alliance with the United States, go to war and see what happens. Maybe you’ll be defended, maybe you won’t. Maybe you won’t be offered full protection of the U.S. forces.

or

You play it safe, abandon the old club and join the club, and guarantee yourself not to get crushed in 48 hours by the Asian juggernaut.

Because of this realization, the day is coming where an Asian bloc will form under a Chinese protectorate. The vacuum is already there and is starting to be filled.

For further information, see the following (handful of many) articles:

Japan needs to seek out regional allies, view U.S. as ‘second resort,’ says head of think tank

Duterte Aligns Philippines With China, Says U.S. ‘Has Lost’

Beijing strengthens police powers in South China Sea

New blocs emerging: China and Russia vs US and Japan

Is Vietnam tilting toward China?

 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a joint press conference with Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, March 21, 2017.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during a joint press conference with Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, Tuesday, March 21, 2017. [SAKCHAI LALIT/AP]

‘What will I do? Declare a war against China? I can, but we’ll all lose our military and policemen tomorrow,’ President Duterte said this week.

In the mid-1990s Beijing reassured Manila that structures it was building atop Mischief Reef, near the Philippines in the South China Sea, were merely fishermen’s shelters. Today China has a militarized island at that “shelter,” complete with a runway and large anti-aircraft guns.

A similar progression could begin this year at the currently undeveloped Scarborough Shoal, which China seized from the Philippines in 2012. For Beijing, an installation there would go a long way toward establishing effective control over the waterway, creating a strategic triangle in conjunction with other facilities it’s built in the sea in recent years. Continue reading

Pax China: Manila’s capitulation sets ominous precedent for U.S. allies in Far East

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, with Chinese President Xi Jinping after a signing ceremony in Beijing on Oct. 20. / Ng Han Guan / AP

 

Rodrigo Duterte was reputed as a killer long before his election as president of the Philippines five months ago. He countenanced the slaughter of hundreds of drug addicts and dealers while mayor of Davao, the major port city on the rebel-infested southern island of Mindanao, and has applauded the arbitrary killing of upwards of 2,000 more druggies as president.

Duterte’s brutality, though, doesn’t mean he’s interested in battling China on behalf of his country in the South China Sea. In fact, he’s confounded strategists in Washington by appearing to disavow the historic Philippine-American alliance, aligning with the Chinese while tossing out agreements with the U.S. He’s saying, in effect, “Yankee Go Home.” Continue reading

Beijing sends nuclear capable H-6K bomber over Scarborough Shoal in new South China Sea escalation

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People’s Liberation Army air force (PLAAF) H-6K long-range bomber is shown over Scarborough Shoal. Picture: Weibo

 

The United States has conducted several B-52 bomber ‘freedom of navigation’ flights over the contested waterway in recent months, along with flights by surveillance and patrol aircraft.

Beijing on Friday returned the favour. Continue reading

China lands aircraft on disputed South China Sea reefs and coastguard blocks Philippine fishing boat as Beijing defies ruling

Two Chinese aircraft landed on disputed reefs and Beijing’s coastguard reportedly blocked a Philippine boat from a contested shoal, in acts of defiance after a landmark ruling found China’s vast claims in the South China Sea legally baseless.

Vietnam protested on Thursday that the recent Chinese actions seriously violated Vietnamese sovereignty.

Chinese state media reported that two Chinese civilian aircraft landed successfully on Wednesday on two new airstrips on Mischief and Subi reefs. China also said it had completed four lighthouses on disputed reefs and was launching a fifth. Continue reading

China Orders Military to “Prepare for Combat” (with United States) Over Hague Ruling on South China Sea

If you ever wanted to understand China’s view on America and its true intentions, let this be the only thing you read:

War Is Not Far from Us and Is the Midwife of the Chinese Century

 

 

Chinese president Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for combat. This comes after an international tribunal on Tuesday issued an unfavorable ruling against China’s claims over the South China Sea.  U.S.-based Boxun News said Tuesday that the instruction was given in case the United States takes provocative action in the waters once the ruling is made.

The U.S. and China have been expanding their military activities across the sea, stoking heavy tension between the two superpowers. Continue reading

Passivity in the Face of Big-Power Aggression

  • The West has developed reasonable-sounding rationales for not acting in the face of what is clearly aggression by big powers. That inaction has bought peace, but the peace has never been more than temporary.
  • Officials in Beijing and Moscow believe their countries should be bigger than they are today. Faced with little or no resistance, China and Russia are succeeding in redrawing their borders by force.
  • Should we be concerned by a nuclear-armed, hostile state falling apart? Of course, but we should be more worried by a hostile state launching nuclear attacks on the Baltics, as the Kremlin has repeatedly threatened to do.
  • The Chinese and Russians may be villains, but it is we, through inaction, who have permitted them to be villainous. The choice is no longer risk versus no risk. The choice is which awful risk to assume.

Speaking in April at the Aspen Security Forum in London, Douglas Lute, Washington’s permanent representative to NATO, said:

“So essentially there is a sense that, yes, there is a new more assertive, maybe even more aggressive Russia, but that fundamentally Russia is a state in decline. We have conversations in NATO headquarters about states in decline and arrive at two fundamental models: states in rapid decline which typically lead to chaos and breakdown, and states in gradual decline. Then we ask ourselves: Which of these two tracks would we rather have our nearest, most militarily capable neighbor, with thousands of nuclear weapons, move along? To many, trying to manage Russia’s decline seems more attractive than a failed state of that size and magnitude right on the border of NATO.”

Continue reading

Pentagon Warns of Conflict Over Chinese Buildup on Disputed Island

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Beijing asserts Scarborough Shoal is Chinese territory

China’s plans to build up a disputed island near the Philippines could lead to a regional conflict, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress on Thursday.

Carter was asked about the strategic significance of China’s plan to add military facilities to a disputed island known as Scarborough Shoal located about 120 miles—within missile range—of Subic Bay, Philippines, where U.S. warships will be based. Continue reading

Obama strategy in South China Sea dismissed as ‘nothing but symbolic’

“We’ve reached a point now where there’s no denying the fact that China has positioned itself as a geopolitical rival to the United States,” Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, told the Foreign Relations Committee.

“I don’t know why we’re not doing it (freedom of navigation operations) weekly or monthly,” Corker added. “I don’t think it’s any question but that China views that solely as a light-touch, symbolic effort, and I have no idea why we’re not cruising within those 12 nautical miles on a weekly basis.”

“The calculated and incremental strategy on the part of Beijing to challenge U.S. power is having real consequences for U.S. interests and international norms in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.” Continue reading

China to build on disputed Scarborough Shoal this year: Report

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Chinese surveillance ships are seen off Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea

 

Beijing will start construction this year on a South China Sea islet within the Philippines’ claimed exclusive economic zone as it seeks to project its power in the disputed waters, Hong Kong media reported Monday.

China will establish an outpost on Scarborough Shoal, 230 kilometres (143 miles) off the Philippine coast, the South China Morning Post newspaper cited an unnamed source close to the People’s Liberation Army as saying.

Beijing claims nearly all the strategically vital sea, despite competing claims from several Southeast Asian neighbors, and in recent months it has developed contested reefs into artificial islands, some topped with airstrips. Continue reading

China Outlines Plan for Military Buildup on Disputed Island

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Website reveals future warship deployment to Philippines’ Scarborough Shoal

China’s plan for a new military buildup on a disputed island near the Philippines shows the future deployment of Chinese warships close to where U.S. naval forces will be stationed in the future.

Details of the militarization plan for Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands were obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies over the last several months, according to defense officials. Continue reading