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South China Sea thoughts?

This is a discussion on South China Sea thoughts? within the Geo-strategic Issues forum, part of the Global Defense & Military category; The USAF is sending 5 Global Hawk UAF from Anderson, Gaum to Yakota, Japan. While the RQ-4 can range the ...


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Old April 10th, 2017   #646
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USAF to deploy 5 Global Hawks to Japan

The USAF is sending 5 Global Hawk UAF from Anderson, Gaum to Yakota, Japan.

While the RQ-4 can range the SCS now This will increase their loiter time for the entire region. Will be interesting to see the PRC response.


US Air Force to deploy five Global Hawk UAVs to Japan | IHS Jane's 360
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Old April 11th, 2017   #647
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The USAF is sending 5 Global Hawk UAF from Anderson, Gaum to Yakota, Japan.

While the RQ-4 can range the SCS now This will increase their loiter time for the entire region. Will be interesting to see the PRC response.


US Air Force to deploy five Global Hawk UAVs to Japan | IHS Jane's 360
Honestly, I don't think they were deployed there with the SCS in mind. Probably there to keep tabs on the Korean peninsula, which makes me a little worried frankly...but that's a topic for another thread.
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Old June 3rd, 2017   #648
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As expected, on 2 June 2017 Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull delivered a speech (see: https://youtu.be/roqYz5gxPuU) that called for states to continue a rules-based world order that has produced decades of peace and prosperity.
“We must commit to the principle that respect for the rules delivers lasting peace. (We must) work together through our regional institutions for the common good, reject the de-globalisation impulse with a principled and sustained commitment to greater economic integration.”
The dialogue, organised by The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), continues over the weekend and is attended by 22 ministerial-level delegates and 12 Chiefs of defence force, as well as senior defence officials and academics from 39 countries. In essence, Malcolm Turnbull is saying that:

One, while countries like Australia and Singapore might be “smaller fish”, they value their sovereignty.

Two, Australia cannot pretend that what happens in the South China Sea is none of its business, and nor does it intend to. His answers to the questions from the floor indicated that he is offering an olive branch but does not advocate accommodating China's island building via territory grabbing in the South China Sea. Rather he wants to approach Australia's giant trading partner with care and socialise China to the region's international norms, so as to help China avoid the “Thucydides' trap.” If they do not accept the olive branch, there will be push back, though this is unspoken and only implied.

In my opinion, the discredited 'China Choice' of conceding control of the South China Sea to Beijing is not an option on the table for ASEAN, regional powers in the Indo-pacific region or middle powers like Australia. Sadly, with President Donald Trump in power, intelligent men of substance, like Malcolm Turnbull and James Mattis have to soft pedal stupid decisions made by an ignorant man. It is my hope that the professionals in the room at IISS will evolve and develop an appropriate security strategy that is credible against a rising and assertive China without being too confrontational. That is the beauty of the American political system of checks and balances; and its steadfast American allies.

For background, I note that in 2016, the Obama administration expected ASEAN to stand up to China and wholeheartedly endorse the Law of the Sea tribunal’s ruling, but some governments were unsure whether the US had their back in case China refused to comply. Instead, under heavy pressure from Beijing, ASEAN blinked and issued a series of watered-down statements—or took no position at all. Against this volatile background, there was considerable relief when towards the end of 2016 Rodrigo Duterte, the maverick newly elected President of the Philippines, who campaigned on taking a firm stand against China, unexpectedly decided to shelve the ruling and vie for better relations with Beijing.

What happened next was instructive about China’s behaviour towards the region. First, China’s belligerent tone subsided. Next, Chinese officials fanned out across the region, offering bilateral cooperation on maritime security. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Beijing promised progress on a code of conduct for the South China Sea—a quest that’s been languishing for more than a decade.

Distracted by recent North Korean shenanigans and other issues, today, the US Defense Secretary James Mattis delivered an underwhelming speech (see: https://youtu.be/Wn-3XmzeLec ) in the first of the five plenary sessions that was short on specifics beyond an incremental increase in American military deployment to Asia, where he said:
"... the United States remains committed to protecting the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea, and the ability of countries to exercise those rights in the strategically important east and south China seas. The 2016 ruling by the permanent court of arbitration on the case brought by the Philippines on the South China Sea is binding. We call on all claimants to use this as a starting point to peacefully manage their disputes in the South China Sea. Artificial island construction and indisputable militarization of facilities on features in international waters undermine regional stability.

The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those of other countries in several key ways. This includes:

• The nature of its militarization;
• China’s blatant disregard for international law;
• Its contempt for other nations’ interests; and
• Its efforts to dismiss non-adversarial resolution of issues.

We oppose countries militarizing artificial islands and enforcing excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law. We cannot and will not accept unilateral, coercive changes to the status quo..."
Despite the US reassurance not to allow further seizure of other maritime features in the South China Sea, the fact is that James Mattis represents but one perspective on US policy in a Trump administration that is less than six months in office, with most of its senior positions still unfilled and with many questions about the direction of its foreign policy direction. However, James Mattis sought to strike a balance in his speech, saying that Washington wants to work closely with Beijing where they have common cause and that a stable relationship between the two superpowers is vital to global stability and prosperity.

As a point of interest, China responded to US Defence Secretary James Mattis’ accusation that the Asian power disregards international order, saying that, to the contrary, it is an upholder and supporter of the international and regional order. Citing China’s signing up to the United Nations charter and its more than 23,000 bilateral agreements and over 400 multilateral agreements, Lieutenant-General He Lei said:
“China can be said to be following, supporting and safeguarding the international and regional order.”
Lt-Gen He, who heads the Chinese delegation to this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue, instead countered that sending navy ships to waters and military jets to airspace close to China’s islands to conduct surveillance and military activities was not within the scope of the principle of freedom of navigation. He also took issue with Mr Mattis’ comments on US relations with Taiwan in accordance with the US’ Taiwan Relations Act, which spells out that the US would assist Taiwan in its defence, including the sale of arms to the island.

Although the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore prides itself on being not just a forum for discussing issues, but also debating and developing potential solutions to in a substantive way, other than another confirmation of the end of American involvement in the TPP, nothing's really changed with a new US administration in power. Unless there are significant policy changes soon, I believe that the same lack of resolve and an inability to act meaningfully will continue from the Obama to the Trump administration.

Australian, Indonesian, Japanese, Malaysian and Singaporean security ultimately depends on a rules-based regional order and one in which the interests of multiple powers are respected. Damage to that order through coercion or unilateral assertiveness as we have seen in these contested waters in recent years, equates with damage to these interests and also cause collateral harm to US prestige (via an American inability to act in a manner that deters unilateral acts of coercion by the regional bully).

A new feature of the dialogue this year is an all-female panel of ministers - Sylvie Goulard, the newly appointed French minister for armed services, as well as Marise Payne and Tomomi Inada, the defence ministers of Australia and Japan, respectively. They expounded on the topic, "Upholding the Rules-based Regional Order". In particular, Marise Payne Australia's defence minister gave an interesting IISS speech with a strong regional flavour on the current maritime security issues and regional cooperation (see: https://youtu.be/ymPnXgDKR6g ). Marisa Payne sent a clear message to China with remarks at today's IISS Shangri-La Dialogue plenary session on upholding the rules-based regional order.
"Our ships and aircraft will operate in the South China Sea, as they have for decades, consistent with the rights of freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight. And we will also continue to strongly support the right of others to exercise these rights."
Further on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the Defence Ministers of Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, NZ and the UK reaffirmed their nations' continued commitment to the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA). The Ministers affirmed that the FPDA is a constructive multilateral agreement and remains an integral part of the region's security architecture. The FPDA has built trust and enhanced interoperability among the militaries of member-nations, promoted respect for international law, and contributed to peace and security in the region. The Ministers also agreed that terrorism poses a clear and present threat to this region and beyond. In keeping with the FPDA's remit, the Ministers agreed to share intelligence to deal with terrorist threats against Malaysia and Singapore, and further measures to strengthen counter-terrorism activities.

For context on the FPDA's relevance, let me share a prior relevant post from March 2016 on page 12 of this thread:

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Originally Posted by OPSSG View Post
A 15 Year Perspective on Developments in the South China Sea (Post 2 of 2)

6. Last month, China also took control over Jackson Atoll, according to sources in the Philippines. An unclassified February 2016 letter from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Senator John McCain, offers a broad assessment of China’s land reclamation activities and military capabilities in the South China Sea.
The letter, first published by USNI News, notes that by early 2017 China will “have significant capacity to quickly project substantial offensive military power to the region.” It also states that China will continue to pursue construction and infrastructure developments on the islands it occupies in the South China Sea.

“China has established the necessary infrastructure to project military capabilities in the South China Sea beyond that which is required for point defense of its outposts,” the letter reads.“These capabilities could include the deployment of modern fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles (SAMS), and coastal defense cruise missiles, as well as increased presence of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surface combatants and China Coast Guard (CCG) large patrol ships.” The letter assesses that the airfield on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands is already operational and can accommodate all types of Chinese military aircraft. China has also installed military radars in the Spratly Islands, although there is no evidence of the deployment of SAMS to any of China’s Spratly outposts. “However, China’s mobile SAMS are field-deployable and do not require fixed, prepared sites,” according to the letter.
7. Therefore, I would say that China has achieved its goals in round 1 (in the period from 2012 to 2016) with regard to its prior deployment oil rig in disputed waters off Viet Nam. China's highly effective use of 'white ships', as strategy to manage its maritime disputes with its South China Sea neighbours and current round of island building in the South China Sea, results in a win for China without the need to fire a single shot.

8. Coupled with the December 2015 deployment of US P-8 Poseidon to Singapore, the number of US military assets proximate to the South China Sea is increasing incrementally. This will hopefully reduce the chance of miscalculation by one party until round 3 in the 2022 to 2026 time frame, when new naval and air power capabilities will be introduced by both the US and China. By that time, the US Marines, USAF and the USN would be well on their way in recapitalising their forward deployed fighter (F-35A/B/C), tanker (KC-46A), long endurance MQ-4C Triton and maritime patrol aircraft (P-8A) fleets. Likewise the Japan Air Self-Defense Force, the ROKAF, the RAAF and the RSAF would have started operating F-35s at that time, over and above an increased pace for developments in maritime domain awareness.

9. Beyond the respective FPDA navies providing an enduring naval presence, the recent additions and announced plans for the RAAF (Super Hornets, the addition of 12 Growlers, Wedgetails, 7 A330 MRTTs, the upcoming acquisition of P-8As, along with the MQ-4C Triton combo for maritime domain awareness and so on) and RSAF (an increase of the number of F-15SGs to 40, G550 AEWs, Fokker-50 MPAs, along with the Heron-1 UAVs for maritime domain awareness and upcoming acquisition of 6 A330 MRTTs, and so on) the combat power available in theatre and force multipliers of these two air forces to boost to the capabilities of the FPDA, to be superior in any fight for control of the air, in preparation of the upcoming round 2 in the 2017 to 2021 time frame (who have the option of operating out of air bases in Butterworth or Singapore). This will be of interim comfort to a budget constrained RMAF, who have limited ability to make new air power related acquisitions in the next few years.
In addition commencing on 19 June 2017, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia will launch joint patrols in the Sulu Sea (off the Mindanao region) to counter threats from Islamic State group militants, Malaysia's defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
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Last edited by OPSSG; June 3rd, 2017 at 09:02 PM.
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Old July 25th, 2017   #649
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An interesting development in the SCS China turning up the screws, interesting to see what develops out of this.

Vietnam halts South China Sea drilling 'after Chinese threats'
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Old July 26th, 2017   #650
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An interesting development in the SCS China turning up the screws, interesting to see what develops out of this.

Vietnam halts South China Sea drilling 'after Chinese threats'
Unbelievable. So difficult not to get emotional over this. I wonder if the Vietnamese discussed the issue with the US first?
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Old July 26th, 2017   #651
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Isn't Vietnam did the same against Chinese oil platforms before. I think they use fleet of fishing boats to do it. Anyway they both do the same towards each other
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Old July 28th, 2017   #652
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China’s future deployment of longer-ranged SLBMs within this reshaped maritime environment could facilitate global nuclear deterrence patrols from within the SC Sea.
From here, they just need to reach the US West Coast, India, European Russia, UK & France. Their SLBMs probably already have the needed range with single/lighter warheads. For the PRC, the deep waters of the SCS is even more "strategic" than for others now voicing their concern!
“There are no longer any British colonies in East Asia and the presence of Britain’s warship in the region is more like an aberration,” China’s Global Times said on Friday in an editorial. “Brexit is weakening Britain’s influence, and it appears that the country needs to do something to assert its sense of identity. If it goes too far, however, it will get itself in trouble.”
The S China Sea Dispute Will Continue To Haunt Philippine-China Relations
China's Window of Opportunity in the South China Sea

Last edited by Tsavo Lion; July 29th, 2017 at 08:45 PM. Reason: add quote, links
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Old August 7th, 2017   #653
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ASEAN meet leans in China’s favor
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While there was an element of consensus and growing cooperation on the North Korean issue, the same couldn’t be said about the South China Sea disputes. Indeed, Asean, a group which operates on a consensus basis, looked as divided as ever given China’s deep relations with countries such as Cambodia and increasingly warm ties with the Philippines, the current rotating chairman of the regional body. ..Crucially, the communiqué also mentioned ..other external powers such as Japan, Australia and India, which have or are planning to ramp up their naval footprint in the area. ..implicitly criticized ..the US, for trying to restrain Beijing’s assertiveness in the area through so-called freedom of navigation operations. As such, the ..meeting was mostly clearly a diplomatic win for China and loss for those who hoped the regional grouping would develop a strong and common stance on the disputes.
The NK & SC Sea issues are interconnected- both based on how US-PRC relations evolve. Vietnam & ROK relations are now closer than NK–Vietnam relations.
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Old August 7th, 2017   #654
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This was unexpected. Most observers were not expecting this.

[ASEAN Talks Tough Vs China Island Building]
ASEAN talks tough vs China island building

''Defying expectations of a weaker statement, Southeast Asian foreign ministers criticized China's land reclamation activities in the South China Sea on Sunday evening, August 6.Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations [ASEAN] also hit the militarization of the disputed waters in a joint communiqué issued on Sunday. ''

This is a very interesting take on ASEAN which has had its share of flak from people who claim that the organisation is not effective.

[Asean's Way Or The Highway]
Asean's way or the highway, Asia News & Top Stories - The Straits Times
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Old August 19th, 2017   #655
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South China Sea: Beijing raises the temperature again
Carpio: China virtually occupying Sandy Cay

Legally or not, China is to stay on those artificial "unsinkable a/c carriers". I'm sure if there were just reefs/shoals in the Caribbean instead of Puerto Rico & Virgin islands, the US would have done the same. They are now a strategic asset similar to Kuril, Franz Josef, Azore, Ascension, Diego Garcia, Aleutian, Hawaii, Guam islands.
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Old September 10th, 2017   #656
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A new article/news report, this time about Indonesia's reinforcements on their Natuna islands.
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Indonesia, Long on Sidelines, Starts to Confront China’s Territorial Claims
By JOE COCHRANESEPT. 10, 2017
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/10/w...er=rss&emc=rss
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Old September 25th, 2017   #657
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Jumping in late on this, but primary reason the US hasn't signed UNCLOS was mainly the International Seabed Authority; when it was submitted to Congress, someone thought they could make money off deep seabed mining and that the US would be best positioned to do so, so we wouldn't sign (there is also some a perpetual concern about losing sovereignty to supranational courts in disputes) . Developments in technology have made it less relevant since then, yet the stricture remains.

As far as the moral disadvantage of the US position...meh, not seeing it. While not a signatory to UNCLOS, the US does it treat it as customary law and follows its provisions. China is in fact a signatory...and ignores it. Would the US signing UNCLOS magically make the Chinese comply, or make them re-evaluate their non-compliance? Doubtful. The Chinese will continue to ignore all the provisions of it in the SCS, because it is not in their interests to comply w/UNCLOS.

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Mind you the US aren't signatories to the Geneva Conventions either.
The US is a signatory to the GC itself, albeit not to the Additional Protocols I and II (it is to AP III). Though interestingly and really off-topic, but hey, why not, a lot of Supreme Court rulings related to the War on Terror (Hamdan especially) probably make a lot of the objections to AP I OBE at this point.
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Old October 12th, 2017   #658
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The South China Sea is a non winner for the West. When in the early 80’s American politicians/businessmen forced open China... they created their own monster. No going back. Now the monster is eating the master.

No democratic country can compete, if we paid our workers so little there would be a revolution.

One symptom of Chinese assent is Africa. There is an economic battle waging for Africa (1990- present) between the West and China. China is winning, by Far! Eating up Africa chunks at a time.

They very smart, they invest with no preconditions. Invest in vast infrastructure projects and extract everything!

China will not be stopped in the South China Sea or anywhere else. Unless the West wakes up to see the bark from the tree.
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