Congratulations, Beijing. The South China Sea Is Now Yours.

Chinese sailors march in a massive military parade in Beijing. (GETTY IMAGES)

 

China’s dominance of this strategic sea gate is effectively complete.

As recently as July 2016, it looked as if conflict could erupt between the United States, China, and possibly some smaller Asian nations over Beijing’s belligerent drive to transform the South China Sea into a “Chinese lake.” That month, the already fraught situation became far more volatile when the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against some of China’s territorial claims in the area, after which China vowed to use “all necessary measures” to safeguard its control of the region.

But now, despite the Trump administration’s decision on May 24 to conduct a naval action in the region, it is clear that China has emerged from this dispute victorious. The South China Sea—the vast, resource-rich region through which a third of global maritime commerce flows—is now the de facto territory of Beijing.

“It is, unfortunately, now game over,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Center for a New American Security.

This “unfortunate” turn of the tides reveals America’s fading influence, China’s rising power (and increasing shrewdness about how to effectively use that power), and that the smaller Asian states are pragmatic and circumspect about these shifts.

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China Sends Warships, Fighter Jets to Intercept U.S. Destroyer in South China Sea

 

Just days before Trump’s meeting with the Chinese president in Hamburg later this week for the G-20 summit, the Trump administration sent a guided-missile destroyer near Triton Island in the South China Sea, Bloomberg reported, a move “which may cause concern ahead of President Donald Trump’s meeting with his Chinese counterpart.”

According to an anonymous official cited by Bloomberg, the U.S. Navy sent the destroyer USS Stethem within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Triton Island on Sunday, passing through the contested waters on the basis of “innocent passage.” Continue reading

Russia’s New Weapons: Aircraft Carriers No Longer Rule the Seas

 

The US Navy received the first of its new generation aircraft carriers, USS Gerald R. Ford, on June 1, moving the $13 billion ship closer to becoming operational. It is expected to be commissioned this summer. Two other Ford-class carriers, the John F. Kennedy and Enterprise, are also planned. The ship can carry more aircraft, weapons and fuel with its larger flight deck and features the newly designed electromagnetic aircraft launch system. Once commissioned, the Ford will undergo a series of tests and is slated to be operational in 2020.

She carries 75-90 aircraft. Ships of the Ford class are intended to sustain 160 sorties per day for 30-plus days, with a surge capability of 270 sorties per day. Continue reading

China’s Latest Threat Is an Invisible Sub Built for “Research Purposes”

As noted in a previous article, China is ticking all the boxes on its path to war.

 

 

China has a new plan of attack in the South China Sea: espionage.

This morning, Beijing declared its new “invisible sub” primed and ready for its first official post-trial phase “research” mission. The sub is called the Jiaolong – named for a mythical sea creature – and its alleged purpose is to collect deep-sea samples of sediment, rock, and water for scientific research.

But the difficult-to-see, deep-water probe is now headed from the South China Sea to the East China Sea – a route that has raised some eyebrows among defense analysts and maritime law experts.

Here’s why they’re so skeptical about the Jiaolong’s deep-sea movements, with some even wondering if China’s true intent has less to do with scientific research and more to do with spying on its competition in nearby Pacific waters…

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China’s maritime Strategic Realignment

A simplified view of the PLAN maritime lines of communication between its major naval bases in southern China and its newly established oversees bases. The major island bases in the South China Sea are omitted from this map, but should be considered in gaining an accurate picture of Chinese maritime defense posture.

 

Introduction

China has begun construction of the first Type 075 Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) at the Shanghai based Hudong Zhonghua Shipbuilding Company. Construction most likely started in January or February of this year, with some satellite imagery and digital photos appearing online of at least one pre-fabricated hull cell. The Type 075 will be the largest amphibious warfare vessel in the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with similar displacement and dimensions as the U.S. Navy Wasp Class LHD. The PLA has also made it known through non-official channels that the force plans to expand the current PLA Marine Corps from 20,000 personnel to 100,000. As China completes preparations for its new military base in Djibouti, located in the strategic Horn of Africa, it has also continued its substantial investment in developing the port of Gwadar, Pakistan. Not only will Gwadar become a key logistics hub as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative, but will also be a key naval base in providing security for China’s maritime trade in the region. Continue reading

Pentagon report highlights Chinese submarine buildup

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is seen during its launch ceremony in Dalian. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

 

The large-scale buildup of China’s naval forces is the most visible part of a major rearmament campaign that has been under way for more than a decade. But Chinese development of modern and increasingly quiet submarines poses one of the more serious strategic challenges for the United States and other nations concerned about Beijing’s growing hegemony in Asia.

The increasing size of the People’s Liberation Army Navy fleet of surface vessels captures most international attention, based on the sheer numbers and advanced weapons on an array of new warships. Continue reading

Iran, China Conduct Joint Naval Drills

Last summer, when the Syrian conflict was near its peak under the Obama administration, China unexpectedly warned it was ready to enter the proxy war when in a stunning announcement, Xinhua reported that Beijing was prepared to side with Syria and Russia, against the US-led alliance, and that Xi and Assad had agreed that the Chinese military will have closer ties with Syria and provide humanitarian aid to the civil war torn nation.

A high-ranking People’s Liberation Army officer also said that the training of Syrian personnel by Chinese instructors has also been discussed: the Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China’s Central Military Commission, Guan Youfei, arrived in Damascus on Tuesday for talks with Syrian Defense Minister Fahad Jassim al-Freij, Xinhua added. Guan said China had consistently played a positive role in pushing for a political resolution in Syria. “China and Syria’s militaries have a traditionally friendly relationship, and China’s military is willing to keep strengthening exchanges and cooperation with Syria’s military,” Xinhua quoted Guan. Continue reading

Pentagon: US shoots down Syrian aircraft for first time

(AP) — The U.S. military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force fighter jet that bombed local forces aligned with the Americans in the fight against Islamic State militants, an action that appeared to mark a new escalation of the conflict.

The U.S. had not shot down a Syrian regime aircraft before Sunday’s confrontation, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. While the U.S. has said since it began recruiting, training and advising what it calls moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight IS that it would protect them from potential Syrian government retribution, this was the first time it resorted to engaging in air-to-air combat to make good on that promise.

The U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Iraq said in a written statement that a U.S. F-18 Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 after it dropped bombs near the U.S. partner forces, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces.

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Iran boat beams laser at U.S. helicopter over Strait of Hormuz

CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter. / U.S. Navy photo

 

An Iranian missile boat shined a laser at a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter flying over the Strait of Hormuz on June 13 in what the U.S. military called an “unsafe and unprofessional” action.

The Iranian vessel also turned its spotlight on two Navy ships that the helicopter was accompanying as they transited the strait, according to U.S. Navy Commander Bill Urban, a U.S. Fifth Fleet spokesman. Continue reading

How an Iranian general duped US command in Syria

The Iranian-made Syrian drone downed by US F-15 fighters in southeastern Syria on June 8 was presented by American media as a “pro-regime” drone. It was in fact, as DEBKAfile’s military sources can disclose, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Shahed-129, which was fired as a part of a complicated ruse to dupe the US commanders while pro-Iranian forces surreptiously moved in on the Syrian-Iraqi border.

The Americans had drawn a line in the Syrian Desert sand 55 km outside the Al-Tanf border crossing embedded in the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle, which is under the control of US, Western and Jordanian special forces, together with a US-trained Syrian rebel group. The Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the US military command in Syria and Iraq were confident that by securing this perimeter, their forces would keep the pro-Iranian advance at bay and the border safe. Continue reading

Nuclear Defense Experts Urge Revitalization of U.S. Ballistic Missile Programs

In this handout from the U.S. Navy, Standard Missile-3 is launched in Kauai, Hawaii / Getty Images

 

Former senator Jon Kyl: Current non-proliferation treaties between Russia, U.S. ineffective for threat reduction

The report, “A New Nuclear Review for a New Age,” reassessed the United States’s relation with its primary nuclear adversaries—China, North Korea, and Russia—and urged lawmakers to increase defense spending on ballistic missile development and testing.

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Sources: 3rd US Naval Strike Force Deployed to Deter North Korea

FILE – Ships assigned to the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group participate in a strait transit exercise in the Pacific Ocean in this April 3, 2017 photo.

 

The USS Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will join two other supercarriers, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Ronald Reagan, in the western Pacific, the sources told VOA’s Steve Herman.

The U.S. military has rarely simultaneously deployed three aircraft carriers to the same region. Continue reading

In first under Trump, U.S. warship challenges Beijing’s claims in South China Sea

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey prepares for a replenishment-at-sea in the South China Sea May 19, 2017. Picture taken May 19, 2017. Kryzentia Weiermann/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

 

A U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the USS Dewey traveled close to the Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has territorial disputes with its neighbors.

The so-called freedom of navigation operation, which is sure to anger China, comes as Trump is seeking Beijing’s cooperation to rein in ally North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. 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

U.S. Needs Larger Fleet to Counter Russia, China – Navy Chief

Source: navy.com

 

The US needs a bigger fleet in order to counteer [sic] Russia, China in the era of maritime competition, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson told reporters at a Singapore naval base used by the US.

“We are getting back into, after decades really, an era of maritime competition,” Richardson said. “Some of these global powers, China, Russia, they’ve been growing, China in particular. They’re maturing in every dimension of power (and) at some point you turn to the sea to expand and continue to prosper.” Continue reading