Wednesday, December 23, 2015

US In The Middle Of Rising Tensions Between China & Neighbors

US In The Middle Of Rising Tensions Between China & Neighbors
December 21, 2015  
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Tensions in the South China Sea continue to rise after China accused the United States of a serious military provocation following an incident wherein an American B-52 bomber flew over an area that China claims as part of its territory.

Indications are that the Australian military is also exerting the same right by carrying out previously unannounced "freedom of navigation" flights over the South China Sea.

The two countries appear to have adopted a 'stop us if you can’ strategy that would also serve as a counter-warning to Beijing’s expansionist strategies in contravention of International laws and military protocols.

Last month the U.S. navy also received a warning from China after the USS Lassen came within 12 nautical miles of the disputed area which the US admits was necessary to assert navigation rights in this commercially important waterway.

While the Chinese Defense Ministry has said such military provocations could cause a militarization in the region, indications are that this is already well underway.

The latest defense spending statistics indicate that, of the ten countries globally whose defense budgets grew fastest in 2015, four are states bordering the South China Sea. These are the Philippines, Indonesia, China, and Vietnam.

Vietnam's military has even put its key units on "high combat readiness" as it seeks to modernize it's military, including the purchase of six advanced Kilo-class submarines from Russia.

Satellite imagery has shown that Beijing is building seven man-made islands on reefs in the Spratly Islands, including a 3,000-metre-long (10,000ft) airstrip on one of the sites.

And the pace of China’s expansionist aggression is startling. According to a recent account, the US Department of Defense assesses that as of June 2015, China had reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months in the South China Sea than all the other claimants combined over the past 40 years.

Admiral Scott Swift, America’s top military commander for the Pacific is reported to have taken a thinly veiled swipe at China as he warned that a dangerous arms race over the disputed waters of the South China Sea could “engulf” the region.

He said that nations could be increasingly tempted to use military force instead of international law to settle territorial claims.

Admiral Swift also made reference to what he considered Beijing’s true motive under the ‘land reclamation’ guise: “Claimants and non-claimants alike are transferring larger shares of national wealth to develop more capable naval forces beyond what is needed merely for self-defense”.

The Pentagon's report on Asia Pacific Maritime Security Strategy echoes Swift’s concern and decried the potential damage to diplomatic solutions: "China is unilaterally altering the physical status quo in the region, thereby complicating diplomatic initiatives that could lower tensions."

In addition to geographical expansion is the economic bait that China finds irresistible. The waters are among the world’s busiest and most strategic and goods worth more than $5 trillion (£3.3 trillion) are carried by ships through them each year.

Admiral Swift had a further related complaint: “Even now, ships and aircraft operating nearby these features, in accordance with international law are subject to superfluous warnings that threaten routine and commercial operations.”

China has been preparing for its polices to cause some unrest among neighboring countries and practiced war games recently that address potential conflicts with neighbors in the region.

Manila reacted to the war games by asking the permanent court of arbitration in The Hague to affirm its right to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, under the terms of a UN convention and called Beijing's latest 'land reclamation' project an encroachment of Philippine waters.

China, however, doesn’t seem to be fazed and seems keen to stand up to the U.S. particularly. The reported that a Chinese attack submarine recently conducted a simulated cruise missile attack on the aircraft carrier USS Reagan during a close encounter several weeks ago, according to American defense officials.

The targeting incident near the Sea of Japan in October violated China’s 2014 commitment to the multinational Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, known as CUES, designed to reduce the risk of a shooting incident between naval vessels, according to officials familiar with details of the encounter they described as “serious.”

Naval warfare analysts said the incident highlights Chinese efforts to counter U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups, the United States’ major power projection capability in the Pacific.

The Obama administration had attempted to keep details of the submarine targeting incident secret to avoid upsetting military relations between the Pentagon and the People’s Liberation Army.

The Pentagon has therefore adopted a strategy of developing closer ties with the Chinese military as a top priority, despite concerns that the exchanges are boosting Chinese war-fighting capabilities.

Members of Congress have instead called for curbing the exchanges in the face of Chinese cyber-attacks and destabilizing activities in the South China Sea.

The October incident was not the first time a Chinese submarine threatened a U.S. carrier strike group. In 2006, a Song-class attack submarine surfaced undetected within torpedo range of the USS Kitty Hawk.

And it is unlikely to be the last such incident. The further reported that Lyle J. Goldstein, a U.S. Naval War College expert on the Chinese military, wrote in the National Interest that a Chinese defense journal recently discussed ways to sink U.S. aircraft carriers.

China is also closely studying a report from earlier this year revealing that a small nuclear-powered French submarine successfully conducted a simulated attack on the aircraft carrier, USS Roosevelt, sinking the ship and several support ships in the simulation.

“The article illustrates how Chinese military analysts are diligently probing for cracks in the U.S. Navy’s armor,” Goldstein wrote.

The tension between the U.S and China is rising rapidly and the stakes are getting higher as illustrated by these developments. Another example has been reported on by the, which divulged that Singapore agreed to let the US deploy a spy plane from its territory to monitor Chinese activities in the South China Sea.

In Kim Ghattas’ article for the BBC titled ‘China Remains Biggest Challenge For US’ is the incisive comment: "It is a reminder that while Washington's thinking, bandwidth and resources, including military, seem continually consumed by the crisis and threats emanating from the Middle East, the more serious long-term challenge for US national security interests remains the management of its relationship with China".

Ghattas further stated that Beijing has emerged as a regional and world power at an unusual speed for a rising power, spreading its money across the globe as well as aggressively asserting itself in Asia.

“So if the headlines today are urgent and the crisis in the Middle East real, the long-term strategic implications for the US of mismanaging the relationship with China are worse,” Ghattas concludes.

China’s ambitions go way beyond just the Pacific and containing the U.S. Reports show that China is setting up military bases worldwide, indicating a desire to spread her military powers globally.

China is establishing its first military base in Djibouti, Africa which will significantly improve its intelligence gathering capabilities over the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Eastern Libya and well into Central Africa.
The move into Africa represents a challenge to the dominance of the United States, which has its own military base in Djibouti, at Camp Lemonnier, from which it conducts intelligence, counter-piracy and counterterrorism operations.

It is not without significance that the move into Africa follows what U.S. officials consider increasingly aggressive behavior in the South China Sea by Beijing.

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