Indo Pacific strategy

foxdemon

Member
"Japan is particularly vulnerable to sea interdiction." Japan isn't the only nation with that level of vulnerability - so is Australia and New Zealand and all for the same reasons. Energy i.e., oil, war materials and food. Neither of our nations are self sufficient in any of those. 50 odd years ago we could quite easily feed ourselves, but now I think that is somewhat doubtful because of globalisation and our dependence upon foreign sources.

I don’t think Australia or New Zealand are as vulnerable as Japan and S Korea to sea interdiction. Still, it is certainly not desirable. Mahan stated that a nation’s economic access to the sea is the basic rationale of naval power. This includes fishing rights. But surely Au and NZ issues are more around another point Mahan made: the borders of a great maritime power end at the coastline of lesser nations.

We need to step back and take a look at the big picture. China harbours ambitions of great power status. But to achieve this, they must first become hegemon in Asia. Russia, Japan and India are their true rivals and must be convinced, one way or the other, to accede to the Middle Kingdom’s authority. China needs to evict the Americans in order to do this. A successful interdiction of Japan and other E Asian littoral states, will demonstrate China’s dominance and end America’s credibility as guarantor of regional security.

In time, sea interdiction, or even direct attack, on NZ and Au might possibly become a real concern. And, being the odd sort of fellow that I am, I have been pondering what might be done sans USA. However, preventing such dire circumstances would surely be preferable, hence my concern with thawting a Chinese interdiction of E Asian littoral states and there by sustaining US credibility as a counter balance to Chinese ambition.
 

seaspear

Active Member
This is a lot of guess work on something like three hundred submarines in combat in the Pacific arena ,a large number of surface ships ,plus aircraft to compare them to the second world war when vessels and aircraft could be built relatively quickly to replace losses does not compare ,
This has robally been wargamed in the various defence forces to work out tactics ,my own belief is that submarines will concentrate on strategic targets
 

Raven22

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
I would not imagine that merchant shipping would be targeted "wholesale" but it would certainly be possible for some of the larger armed forces to target particular types of shipping, and/or shipping bounce for certain ports or owned by certain nations. With the use of intelligence resources, special forces, and/or submarines, it could even be possible for small numbers of merchant shipping to be lost in ways that would be difficult to attribute to a specific nation.

I do not wish to expound on this, since I do not wish to give anyone ideas, but it would certainly be possible to harm the economy if a specific nation's shipping was targeted, as well as portions of the international economy if certain types of shipping were targeted.
My point wasn’t that it can’t be done, just that it wouldn’t be done. I have yet to hear a rational argument for why China destroying merchant shipping (not shipping supporting military action, but merchant ships plying the world trade) would be in their national interest. I get the covert disruption for specific shaping ends, but any destruction of trade would certainly undermine their ‘three warfares’ way of doing business.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I understand sinking merchant ships wouldn’t be in China’s interest but how would they know what’s in containers? Perhaps China’s hacking skills are able to determine what’s in containers on all ships at any given time. This would be scarier than their claimed hypersonic missiles, Quantum radar, and rail guns.:D
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
I could see China restricting access to the SCS. Intercepting and checking ships manifests and only letting through what it wanted and turning away other ships. Doing that in an around the Malacca straits wouldn't stop every ship, but would stop a huge number of valuable cargo ships, mostly oil ones from the middle east, from reaching Guam, Japan, SKorea, Taiwan etc. Russia of course might be interested in cutting a deal supplying oil and with the chaos going on, resolve some of its issues. Saudis and Iran have an all out war, supported by different partners.
If nations then opposed the new Chinese measure, well, small fleets might start appearing offshore.
While your unpopular you might as well do all your other unpopular things and invade Taiwan as well.

US would have to choose which issues it would want to tackle first. Why not in an election year, trust in the US's election mechanics are at an all time low and political divide is at an all time high. Its a period that the US is most internally concerned as well and loses focus on international issues.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
I could see China restricting access to the SCS. Intercepting and checking ships manifests and only letting through what it wanted and turning away other ships. Doing that in an around the Malacca straits wouldn't stop every ship, but would stop a huge number of valuable cargo ships, mostly oil ones from the middle east, from reaching Guam, Japan, SKorea, Taiwan etc.
China could try to blockade the Malacca straits with subs but intercepting and checking ships with surface ships, good way to get sunk yourself I would think.


US would have to choose which issues it would want to tackle first. Why not in an election year, trust in the US's election mechanics are at an all time low and political divide is at an all time high. Its a period that the US is most internally concerned as well and loses focus on international issues.
Possibly but the US isn't the only country with internal problems. China has its own issues and screwing with world trade might be ok for Xi but other players in China may not be so impressed. Whether they could do anything about it is debatable.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
China could try to blockade the Malacca straits with subs but intercepting and checking ships with surface ships, good way to get sunk yourself I would think.
Who is going to stop them?

Chinese coast guard would do the stopping, firing on a civilian police vessel is not really a great way to start a war. The Chinese fleet wouldn't be far away. Its a small stretch of water, so its quite possible to block it and make life very hard. They could do it under the guise of stopping pirates, drugs, etc.

China does have its own problems, growth is slowing and and its facing its population crunch. (The biggest threats to both the US and China are internal IMO). We at basically at peak China now. Windows on action are closing for them.

Which is why there is this feeling in Australia we aren't doing enough. It seems certain, something is going to happen, but our new subs are many long years away out future frigates are only likely to have 1 or 2 built in any potential conflict period.

Japan is locked by history and in any tension will likely be tied up around its own shores. Same with SKorea. The rest of the ASEAN nations are in weak positions. Malaysia is near failed state, Singapore has its own concerns and problems post LKY, Indonesia is flat out staying a cohesive state, Philippines are up to their eye balls in problems, Vietnam is struggling over the east west identity and its future, Thailand is in a military dictatorship and has a new King, Cambodia is mini-China. Australia isn't without its own political problems and identity crisis. UK is on the verge of imploding and the white house is the very definition of chaos. Canada, Germany, France? Not exactly in strong positions either.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Depressing summary on the sad state of world affairs. The US and India can’t be taken for granted and are a counter weight to Chinese ambitions, at least for the time being. There’s always alcohol.:D
 

buffy9

Active Member
Not a good global affairs situation. Almost makes me wish we had the more black and white days of the Cold War.

If China does move into the Malacca Strait then Singapore and Malaysia could enact the FPDT, should they justify that their shipping or sovereignty is under threat. If that were the case Australia, New Zealand and the UK would be pushed to intervene else lose face.

Indonesia could intervene and is likely to do so due to it's concerns over China's efforts around the Natuna Islands.

Additionally, regardless of America's election years, it would likely intervene in any particular situation in the Malacca Strait. Singapore is a key naval asset to America, particularly at a time when it is seeking to contain China. Even if the Whitehouse for whatever reason doesn't want to intervene, opposition figures could (and in my mind would) use it as a means to question it's foreign affairs portfolio considering recent diplomatic instability surrounding it.

Japan and South Korea would likely stick to themselves as usual, but I honestly have no idea what India would do. It benefits from trade with China, but China's "String of Pearls" can be seen as some loose naval form of containment (in addition to force projection).

Poor times indeed. At the very least we are looking long-term at our naval future, as opposed to mid-term projects that could lose superiority at a faster rate.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
Japan and South Korea would likely stick to themselves as usual, but I honestly have no idea what India would do.
India.. The country blocking Australian participation from military exercise Malabar.
India blocks Australia from Malabar naval exercise

Which this Diplomat piece puts down to India being concerned if Australia joined the exercise it would make the Quad to much of a military focus and freak China out... All that Australian military might would tip it out of control.
India Keeps Australia Out of the Malabar Exercise -- Again

The decision to keep Australia out of the Malabar exercises is perhaps well-founded, to ensure that the Quad does not prematurely possess a direct associated military angle, which could provoke and severely increase Chinese security concerns in the Indo-Pacific.
You expect a country who constantly blocks another nations participation at an exercise to mount up when its show time with said nation?

India won't do squat to help. They have hardly been strong in keeping China out of the Maldives or anywhere else (Nepal), they are more comfortable applying their own strategy, which is unlikely to be meeting them on the high seas further away from where they have ever operated, protecting trade that has nothing to do with them. India does not operate like this. There is some point as India as a counter weight, but they aren't going to integrate into an Aegis fleet, kick down some doors and blow China out of the water, particularly in an area out of their immediate zone in some sort of expeditionary operation. For India, the Quad is about keeping the US and Japan in the Indian ocean and engaged with her. India isn't terribly threatened by China. Later this century they will have twice the population of China and likely a much larger GDP. They are also direct neighbors, so play a bit nicer with each other than those further away.

Countries like Indonesia won't be looking at engaging with Chinese forces outside of their immediate territorial waters. Fair enough, that is a level arguably beyond them, politically, diplomatically, military, ideologically, logistically.

As for activating the FDPA, the only nation that could activate anything would be Australia, for without Australia's commitment, power and leadership there is no FDPA. Now is its about Protecting Singapore and Malaysia, or about intervening with China on the open seas in and outside of their EEZ. Remembering Singapore would be a conscript force, and will be focused on purely defending Singapore. As a non-aligned nation, be hesitant they will go all the way with an American force.

While this all sounds pessimistic, it shouldn't be so dark. The Chinese aren't stupid. Things would have to deteriorate a lot to get to this sort of level we are discussing. It also seems excessively clumsy, the Chinese have much cheaper, more effective means at their disposal. If its even possible to attempt the actions we are casually talking about.

But if we are searching for some guiding possible scenarios, and using them to equip ourselves I think there are remote but plausible situations. Most of those keep coming up with key issues being lack of leadership, lack of integration, lack of engagement. We are surrounded by nations who are very much on the developing nations timeline. Later this century countries like Indonesia and India may play a bigger role in world affairs and have a bigger economy than China does today.

We have a very central role to play in this environment.
 

hauritz

Well-Known Member
Who is going to stop them?

Chinese coast guard would do the stopping, firing on a civilian police vessel is not really a great way to start a war. The Chinese fleet wouldn't be far away. Its a small stretch of water, so its quite possible to block it and make life very hard. They could do it under the guise of stopping pirates, drugs, etc.

China does have its own problems, growth is slowing and and its facing its population crunch. (The biggest threats to both the US and China are internal IMO). We at basically at peak China now. Windows on action are closing for them.

Which is why there is this feeling in Australia we aren't doing enough. It seems certain, something is going to happen, but our new subs are many long years away out future frigates are only likely to have 1 or 2 built in any potential conflict period.

Japan is locked by history and in any tension will likely be tied up around its own shores. Same with SKorea. The rest of the ASEAN nations are in weak positions. Malaysia is near failed state, Singapore has its own concerns and problems post LKY, Indonesia is flat out staying a cohesive state, Philippines are up to their eye balls in problems, Vietnam is struggling over the east west identity and its future, Thailand is in a military dictatorship and has a new King, Cambodia is mini-China. Australia isn't without its own political problems and identity crisis. UK is on the verge of imploding and the white house is the very definition of chaos. Canada, Germany, France? Not exactly in strong positions either.
This region has always been complex with shifting allegiances, and acrimonious relationships. In a way it makes me nostalgic for the cold war era because at least then you had a line in the sand rather than the shifting sands we have today.

It makes military planning extremely precarious. It will be interesting to see what Australia's next Defence White paper will say when it comes out around 2021.

One bright spot is that China has as many security problems as anyone with few real allies and economy that is almost entirely built on exporting manufactured goods to the west. Any major war and I can actually see the Chinese economy going belly up in double quick time. China probably does have a genuine concern about maintaining its own SLOCs.
 

buffy9

Active Member
India.. The country blocking Australian participation from military exercise Malabar.
India blocks Australia from Malabar naval exercise

Which this Diplomat piece puts down to India being concerned if Australia joined the exercise it would make the Quad to much of a military focus and freak China out... All that Australian military might would tip it out of control.
India Keeps Australia Out of the Malabar Exercise -- Again



You expect a country who constantly blocks another nations participation at an exercise to mount up when its show time with said nation?

India won't do squat to help. They have hardly been strong in keeping China out of the Maldives or anywhere else (Nepal), they are more comfortable applying their own strategy, which is unlikely to be meeting them on the high seas further away from where they have ever operated, protecting trade that has nothing to do with them. India does not operate like this. There is some point as India as a counter weight, but they aren't going to integrate into an Aegis fleet, kick down some doors and blow China out of the water, particularly in an area out of their immediate zone in some sort of expeditionary operation. For India, the Quad is about keeping the US and Japan in the Indian ocean and engaged with her. India isn't terribly threatened by China. Later this century they will have twice the population of China and likely a much larger GDP. They are also direct neighbors, so play a bit nicer with each other than those further away.

Countries like Indonesia won't be looking at engaging with Chinese forces outside of their immediate territorial waters. Fair enough, that is a level arguably beyond them, politically, diplomatically, military, ideologically, logistically.

As for activating the FDPA, the only nation that could activate anything would be Australia, for without Australia's commitment, power and leadership there is no FDPA. Now is its about Protecting Singapore and Malaysia, or about intervening with China on the open seas in and outside of their EEZ. Remembering Singapore would be a conscript force, and will be focused on purely defending Singapore. As a non-aligned nation, be hesitant they will go all the way with an American force.

While this all sounds pessimistic, it shouldn't be so dark. The Chinese aren't stupid. Things would have to deteriorate a lot to get to this sort of level we are discussing. It also seems excessively clumsy, the Chinese have much cheaper, more effective means at their disposal. If its even possible to attempt the actions we are casually talking about.

But if we are searching for some guiding possible scenarios, and using them to equip ourselves I think there are remote but plausible situations. Most of those keep coming up with key issues being lack of leadership, lack of integration, lack of engagement. We are surrounded by nations who are very much on the developing nations timeline. Later this century countries like Indonesia and India may play a bigger role in world affairs and have a bigger economy than China does today.

We have a very central role to play in this environment.
I only meant in regards to China conducting security style operations in the Malacca Strait, roughly between Aceh and Malaya as well as North Borneo and the Natuna Islands. If that were the case then it would be a mostly defensive operation, one that would probably see one side back down before the other.

The SCS is a different scenario. If conflict did break out here then ASEAN members would probably stick to themselves, likewise (as stated) for India. I see it as a more complex scenario, not one for this thread.

I do agree that regional countries are developing and could play a larger role - particularly Indonesia. However I am personally skeptical of India's growth, for a variety of reasons I won't discuss here.

As a tangent, does anyone know the potential naval mine threat in the South Pacific? I'm not sure if they're deployable via patrol boats or modified civ boats, but if the threat is there it might be worth it to speculate.

PS:

If I post something that leans more towards the geopolitics/strategy thread, please do let me know.
 

Hazdog

Member
In regards to the perception of a waining US commitment to the world's defense. There are many points one could argue that the US is now stronger than ever in terms of during a war like scenario.

- The US is now a net energy exporter. Which in a wartime scenario is of extreme benefit to their allied nations.

- The US military has a growing budget and maturing procurement strategy to sustain such a large and expanding budget.

- Although the personal connection between allied leaders is not perfect, the US maintains a "Don't tread on me" stance. This stance is not only valuable in staving off war but it is of vital importance to the US and its trading partners in case of war.

- As the US capabilities mature in the SSC and they adapt to the changing warfare of the 'Chinese' military, the US military will be better aimed at countering any movements by the Chinese Government/Military arm.

- China has a deep-rooted discomfort with the cultural aspects of life and the potential threats that such a large population entails...

- The presidents need for acceptance on the big issue of useless wars and combat; along with the requirement that he BE the defender of the western world provides a clear reason for the US's either understated or misunderstood commitment to the 'Wests' defence. (Yes he called out NATO and look another $100 billion is being spent to strengthen NATO... case and point. He is using the ability of unknowns to get the rest of the world to cement their weight as they stand).

* Who knows where all these points lead but they certainly CAN point in a positive direction as an ally of the RAN.

With all the flaws of the US leadership, one thing remains constant the US aims to stay on top.
 

Gjwai

New Member
India.. The country blocking Australian participation from military exercise Malabar.
India blocks Australia from Malabar naval exercise

Which this Diplomat piece puts down to India being concerned if Australia joined the exercise it would make the Quad to much of a military focus and freak China out... All that Australian military might would tip it out of control.
India Keeps Australia Out of the Malabar Exercise -- Again

You expect a country who constantly blocks another nations participation at an exercise to mount up when its show time with said nation?

India won't do squat to help. They have hardly been strong in keeping China out of the Maldives or anywhere else (Nepal), they are more comfortable applying their own strategy, which is unlikely to be meeting them on the high seas further away from where they have ever operated, protecting trade that has nothing to do with them. India does not operate like this.
I don't disagree regarding their appetite in the naval theatre - and I don't dispute your sources, but India did respond very effectively to the most recent land confrontation on the Doklam Heights;
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_China–India_border_standoff- the Indians forced a halt to Chinese road building activities on the Doklam Plain into Bhutan (specifically towards a Bhutanese Army camp) with a quick escalation. The end result was a mutual stand down of forces and the typical face-saving 'win-win' declaration from the Chinese side - with no road built.

It's a small quibble, but it's pretty recent event and suggests a possible change in attitudes, especially if the Indians feel their direct interests are being threatened. Totally agree with you re:Navy, I'm just suggesting that if you bring up land-locked Nepal as an example of the Indian appetite to confront China, that's not necessarily the whole picture.

So we can end on the same page - I can unconditionally endorse that there is probably no desire for a major Chinese/Indian Naval standoff over Nepal :)
 

foxdemon

Member
I have started this thread for discussion of all issues pertaining to strategy and geopolitics in the Far East, especially with a maritime focus.

Currently, there is a major history shift in geopolitical power underway. For the last 70 years or so, global commerce via sea routes, and thus the global economy, has been able to thrive due to the US navy’s command of the world’s oceans. This is changing today as a wealthy China builds the navy strength to rival American naval strength. What will be the consequences of this challenge to American maritime hegemony?

One response has been an attempt at forming an alliance to balance growing Chinese influence, known as the Quad. This group includes the US, Japan, India and Australia. This is not a formal alliance in the tradition of NATO, as each of the participants has different goals. How relevant is it in Asia’s security architecture?

From the Chinese point of view, have they done anything wrong? They argue that if America can aspire to be a great power, why can’t they? Were the Athenians correct in their speech to the Melians, as reported by Thucydides: “The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”?

There also appears to be increasing interest from European countries to get involved in the balance of power in the region. This includes Russia, the UK, as well as continental powers. Is this to gain world influence or to market weapons?

Finally, there is a growing arms race among many regional countries, enabled by greater prosperity and concerns about Chinese intentions. Where will this lead?
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I have started this thread for discussion of all issues pertaining to strategy and geopolitics in the Far East, especially with a maritime focus.
@foxdemon Thanks for starting this thread. I've moved most of the appropriate posts across from the RAN thread to this one.

NM.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
Agreed, my points were that the political will power is not touted as we will defend you, but we will defend if push comes to shove. What direct quote makes you believe that the US is not willing to combat a growing threat in the SSC. Please answer in an appropriate thread as not to heat the mods.
There is no direct quote but rather a growing number of factors. After almost 20 years of fighting the war on terror there is the fatigue factor. There is also the cost. The war on terror has cost several trillion dollars with the US debt soaring to 22 trillion. With Democrats now controlling the House of Representives, new foreign deployments will face funding challenges from the House. There is the Trump factor. Won’t bother with this because it is an unknown. With regards to the SCS, currently the political will is probably present for now. This is likely because any lack of resolve at this point will be a political liability. Losing SLOC in the SCS would create huge problems for a more serious future confrontation with China. Should China ever be successful in gaining complete control of the SCS, the return to status quo would be extremely difficult. A few years down the road, US decision makers will have to weigh the effect of Chinese sovereignty over the SCS and the effects on its Asia-Pacific partners versus a direct military confrontation with China and all the negative consequences that entails. All the while the US must still consider what Putin will be up to.
 

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
There is a difference between soft power action and hard power action. Bhutan has arguably an easier relationship with India, than India has with Nepal, and the internal politics in Nepal are very complicated. Nepal now has a deal to access Chinese ports for example and seems to be drifting much closer to China. Obviously India didn't help matters by blocking access back in 2015...
Nepal gets access to China ports, analysts say it's a 'huge deal'

There are still issues with the quad as an entity, while Americans (and others) envisage a NATO type relationship, it is clear it will never ever be that. India is still a non-aligned nation, the Quad doesn't change that, and there are other issues. Specifically India and Australia. Also even NATO doesn't work as some expect it to, as it doesn't do expeditionary capability very well. It has also fractured notably with Turkey. Japan also isn't exactly well setup for expeditious operations outside of its immediate territory, although that is slowly changing. The quad isn't SEATO II, it isn't even as cohesive as SEATO was. The Japanese don't see it that way, it was more about four nations with a common concern. India's big contribution to the Quad, I believe is not military.

I don't think there is a realistic questioning of American military might. But even the Americans have limitations, and there is a limit to the number of places they can be at the same time. There is also the far bigger concern of American political commitment.

America struggles when choosing priorities and prioritising allies. It also struggles with long term focus on international issues. These have always been issues, for over a hundred years. But now there is a power that is of a simular economic size and is interested in challenging norms.
 

seaspear

Active Member
There are also economic considerations in this discussion ,China's rise in military spending has closely followed its gdp at around two percent over a number of years ,if its military buildup has been sudden its really followed its growing economy ,that its economy is slowing recently may effect its own military buildup certainly Russia which had its defence spending over fifteen percent recently has cut back due to falling oil prices and trade restrictions as a result of its activities elsewhere , America and China are in trade discussions its a pity they were not linked into the P.L.A.N.,S seizing of islands and the imprisonment of a sizable number of people for their religious beliefs , how quickly people forget concentration camps
 
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