South China Sea thoughts?

STURM

Well-Known Member
Thus business wise it raise question who wants to pay Canal Tool fee for only saving two days journey.
If I remember correctly the whole idea behind the Kra canal was first mooted by the Thais in the 1990's. Only much later was it looked at by the Chinese. The question is was it driven by the need to avoid the congested, narrow and easy to interdict Straits of Melaka or by the need to cut down on sailing time? Or was it a combination of both?

Robert Kaplan speaks of China's borders being the most secure they have been in centuries. The big problem for China is its dependence on international sea routes for the transport of its energy supplies. Stretching westwards to the Persian Gulf, all the way to the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Melaka and the South Chinese Sea; Chinese shipping is extremely vulnerable to interdiction.

China's recently constructed islands/reefs in the Spratlys area are intended to improve its ability to safeguard sea routes and if needed to project power - part of its contested zone within the First Island Chain. I has also been suggested that china's islands/reefs would have a part to play in the event of a conflict over Taiwan. What I don't get is how the Kra Canal mitigates this - shipping from the western end at the Straits of Melaka will still have to exit at the eastern end where they would still be vulnerable to interdiction.

Imagine scenario that Indonesia-Singapore-Malaysia close China shipping from using Malacca Strait (due to their protest of China closing SCS as China own pool). If China already got the deal to open Kra Canal, then they can use Cambodia (China’s long time ASEAN allies) waters
In such a scenario war would erupt - there's no way that China would allow the littoral states in the area to deny it access to the Straits. If war were to erupt; the U.S. would be involved and it won't make a difference whether Chinese shipping can utilise the Kra Canal to exit via the Gulf of Thailand and move past Cambodia because they would still be interdicted.
 
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Ananda

The Bunker Group
such a scenario war would erupt - there's no way that China would allow the littoral states in the area to deny it access to the Straits. If war were to erupt; the U.S. would be involved and it won't make a difference whether Chinese shipping can utilise the Kra Canal to exit via the Gulf of Thailand and move past Cambodia because they would still be interdicted.
Not necessarily. It actually depends on how far US will go if China close or hindering International routes within SCS. If US still don't want to go all out war, but support the SEA stated to do "tit for tat" action, then it's probable that the scenario happen without all out war yet.

This scenario can only be probable if this is part of Big Powers games. The games where big Powers up the tension, but still avoiding all out war.
 

Ananda

The Bunker Group
remember correctly the whole idea behind the Kra canal was first mooted by the Thais in the 1990's. Only much later was it looked at by the Chinese. The question is was it driven by the need to avoid the congested, narrow and easy to interdict Straits of Melaka or by the need to cut down on sailing time? Or
I answered separately since this is different approach altogether. Thai's infact already looking for Kra Canal since British Malaya times. However nobody wants to finance that, because it cost as much as building Panama's or Suez's canals (in time relative cost), and only saving two days journey time at most.

Too make it profitable, the canal toll fee has to be in the range or close to the range of Suez and Panama's. However shipping industry willing to pay that amount in both canals due to can save up to two weeks journey time. They will not going to pay in that range for a canal that only save two days time.

Even Thai's Financial and Business circles doesn't see it financially feasible for this time or near future.
So if China willing to finance it and still put it as part of their Road and Belt initiatives, then it's clearly not to be seen from simply business point of view. They're looking on alternative route from SCS to Indies that they can control.
 
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OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
Despite its warnings and its credibility being at stake would the U.S. actually risk an all out war if say a Philippines (a treaty ally) naval ship was sunk or if international sea lanes were momentarily disrupted due to a naval clash between Vietnam and China?
Attacks or sinking of ships does not always lead to war. Nor does it create a desire or willingness of the US forces to strike back. Being an American ally does not mean others will not attack you. Beyond the missile attacks on US Navy ships around Yemen waters, the dates and examples of Korean and US naval engagements, that resulted in deaths, damage or loss of vessel, include:
  • On 23 January 1968, when USS Pueblo was captured by North Koreans
  • On 12 October 2000, USS Cole bombing
  • On 29 June 2002, the deaths on PKM-357 after North Korean vessels fired upon them (self defence firing within the engagement only)
  • On 26 March 2010, ROKS Cheonan sinking by a North Korean torpedo attack
 
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Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Attacks or sinking of ships does not always lead to war. Nor does it create a desire or willingness of the US forces to strike back. Being an American ally does not mean others will not attack you. Beyond the missile attacks on US Navy ships around Yemen waters, the dates and examples of Korean and US naval engagements, that resulted in deaths, damage or loss of vessel, include:
  • On 23 January 1968, when USS Pueblo was captured by North Koreans
  • On 12 October 2000, USS Cole bombing
  • On 29 June 2002, the deaths on PKM-357 after North Korean vessels fired upon them (self defence firing within the engagement only)
  • On 26 March 2010, ROKS Cheonan sinking by a North Korean torpedo attack
It would be interesting to see how China would respond to the accidental loss of some of their aggressively erratic fishing and coast guard vessels. This day and age pretty much realtime footage is available of incidents, maybe it's time to stop taking such extraordinary measures to avoid collisions with Chinese vessels.
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
It would be interesting to see how China would respond to the accidental loss of some of their aggressively erratic fishing and coast guard vessels. This day and age pretty much realtime footage is available of incidents, maybe it's time to stop taking such extraordinary measures to avoid collisions with Chinese vessels.
A ram on the bow and accidentally on purpose happened to slice a few of their Milita fishing vessels open from stem to stem. Time for Adm. Nelson's black eyepatch to be reissued.
 

STURM

Well-Known Member
Attacks or sinking of ships does not always lead to war. Nor does it create a desire or willingness of the US forces to strike back. Being an American ally does not mean others will not attack you.
It doesn't indeed and I'm not suggesting as such. Under the current climate however; in the event of armed action against a Philippines ship; inaction on the part of the U.S. would send a wrong message to its allies and would embolden China. It's a dicey situation to be in.


"An armed attack against the Philippines' armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including in the South China Sea, will trigger our obligations under the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty," Price told reporters.
 
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Sandhi Yudha

Well-Known Member
The Philippine Navy has increased the number of maritime assets in the West Philippine Sea because of the high amount of Chinese coastguard and “maritime militia” vessels.

The navy has sent a logistic support vessel and three corvettes, including two worn out Second World War BRP Miguel Malvar (PS-19) class corvettes.

 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Article from the Australian Naval Institute that looks at the learnings the PRC are taking from the Falklands War. Apparently they have been studying it very thoroughly, specifically looking at mistakes the Argentinians made and the inherent weaknesses they had before they launched their invasion of the Falkland Islands. All of this is to inform the PLA during the planning of the PRC invasion of Taiwan.

 

STURM

Well-Known Member
I don’t necessarily agree with everything the writer says (particularly the part about the
S-70s which are needed because the country faces a serous non state threat and because existing assets need to be replaced) but a lot of what he says gives food for thought.

As for the U.S. facing the risk of being dragged into a war because of treaty obligations; the same holds true for a long list of other non NATO U.S. treaty allies (apart from the Philippines another regional non NATO treaty ally is Thailand).


On the PLA; the Gulf War was apparently a sharp wake call; a reminder of how incapable the PLA was in waging modern warfare and the need to revamp itself. In addition to the Falklands; other conflicts including the 1979 clash with Vietnam; would have been thoroughly analysed/studied.

The question really is how well has the PLA been actually able to implement the needed changes identified from analysing various conflicts - China is one party authoritarian state; is this a major obstacle in the PLA’s ability to reinvent itself or is it a contributing factor?
How successful has the PLA been as a “learning organisation” (to borrow a phrase from John Nagl)?

Over the years it was commonly mentioned that although the PLA was modernising; it was still way behind the U.S. and its allies and that whatever the PLA did; the U.S. and its allies would maintain a qualitative edge. Does this assumption still hold true? Many still assume the PLA is capable but capable enough. One could also point out that not being as capable as potential adversaries may not be a major inhibiting factor (as many would assume) in the types of conflict the PLA sees itself fighting in its backyard.
 
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Musashi_kenshin

Active Member
As for the U.S. facing the risk of being dragged into a war because of treaty obligations; the same holds true for a long list of other non NATO U.S. treaty allies (apart from the Philippines another regional non NATO treaty ally is Thailand).
It's the Cato Institute - they have a long-standing tradition of cautioning the US against doing anything that might get it involved in a military conflict with China, and 99% of the time they blame the country other than China for being provocative.

Taiwan? Dares to remain independent.
Japan? Dares to have a foreign policy that doesn't align with China's.
South Korea? Dares to want sophisticated ABMs to counter NK missiles.
ASEAN members? Dare to talk about pushing back against China's territorial ambitions in their backyard.

The day the Cato Institute has a slew of articles criticising China for its foreign policy in unambiguous terms and without seeking to spread the blame around is the day Hell freezes over.
 

Sandhi Yudha

Well-Known Member
I don’t necessarily agree with everything the writer says (particularly the part about the
S-70s which are needed because the country faces a serous non state threat and because existing assets need to be replaced) but a lot of what he says gives food for thought.

As for the U.S. facing the risk of being dragged into a war because of treaty obligations; the same holds true for a long list of other non NATO U.S. treaty allies (apart from the Philippines another regional non NATO treaty ally is Thailand).


On the PLA; the Gulf War was apparently a sharp wake call; a reminder of how incapable the PLA was in waging modern warfare and the need to revamp itself. In addition to the Falklands; other conflicts including the 1979 clash with Vietnam; would have been thoroughly analysed/studied.

The question really is how well has the PLA been actually able to implement the needed changes identified from analysing various conflicts - China is one party authoritarian state; is this a major obstacle in the PLA’s ability to reinvent itself or is it a contributing factor?
How successful has the PLA been as a “learning organisation” (to borrow a phrase from John Nagl)?

Over the years it was commonly mentioned that although the PLA was modernising; it was still way behind the U.S. and its allies and that whatever the PLA did; the U.S. and its allies would maintain a qualitative edge. Does this assumption still hold true? Many still assume the PLA is capable but capable enough. One could also point out that not being as capable as potential adversaries may not be a major inhibiting factor (as many would assume) in the types of conflict the PLA sees itself fighting in its backyard.
Yes it doesnt make any sense to not sell transport helicopters or any other defence equipment to the Philippines. Without it the Philippine Armed Forces will perform even less impressive in situations like the Battle of Marawi.

But the article is also just an opinion of one person.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I don’t necessarily agree with everything the writer says (particularly the part about the
S-70s which are needed because the country faces a serous non state threat and because existing assets need to be replaced) but a lot of what he says gives food for thought.

As for the U.S. facing the risk of being dragged into a war because of treaty obligations; the same holds true for a long list of other non NATO U.S. treaty allies (apart from the Philippines another regional non NATO treaty ally is Thailand).


On the PLA; the Gulf War was apparently a sharp wake call; a reminder of how incapable the PLA was in waging modern warfare and the need to revamp itself. In addition to the Falklands; other conflicts including the 1979 clash with Vietnam; would have been thoroughly analysed/studied.

The question really is how well has the PLA been actually able to implement the needed changes identified from analysing various conflicts - China is one party authoritarian state; is this a major obstacle in the PLA’s ability to reinvent itself or is it a contributing factor?
How successful has the PLA been as a “learning organisation” (to borrow a phrase from John Nagl)?

Over the years it was commonly mentioned that although the PLA was modernising; it was still way behind the U.S. and its allies and that whatever the PLA did; the U.S. and its allies would maintain a qualitative edge. Does this assumption still hold true? Many still assume the PLA is capable but capable enough. One could also point out that not being as capable as potential adversaries may not be a major inhibiting factor (as many would assume) in the types of conflict the PLA sees itself fighting in its backyard.
You are correct when you ask how well can the PLA put it's learnings into practice? And how well is it teaching its students the theories and arts of war? It and we won't really know that until it has to fight a war. We know that last time it fought a war Vietnam handed its arse back to it on a plate. What would happen today if it went up against either Vietnam or India on the field of battle? That would give us a gauge of where it's at.
 

OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
The PLA has grown but is not 10 feet tall — Part 1
...a reminder of how incapable the PLA was in waging modern warfare and the need to revamp itself. In addition to the Falklands; other conflicts including the 1979 clash with Vietnam; would have been thoroughly analysed/studied.

The question really is how well has the PLA been actually able to implement the needed changes identified from analysing various conflicts - China is one party authoritarian state; is this a major obstacle in the PLA’s ability to reinvent itself or is it a contributing factor?
1. After the 1990 Gulf War I (17 Jan 1991 – 28 Feb 1991), the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) had to reinvented itself and implemented significant changes (and we can see the result of these organisation capability changes made by the PLA at ADMM Plus exercises) — much like Singapore’s struggles with the SAF’s tri-service modernisation efforts in the early 1990s. But there is a hard limit to what the PLA can learn (without capable allies to guide them). They lack a cadre of operationally experienced trainers (which is why there are hard limits to the PLA’s ability to learn).

2. The PLA does not understand battlefield geometry in their Ops planing, yet — which is why they lack the ability to create sophisticated war planning scenarios on their own at this time (which they will over come in time).
(a) An amphibious assault on Taiwan is not a World War I artillery war, and yet pundits keep taking about PLA’s missile force taking-out air fields in Taiwan by missile strikes; when we know that, a surrender is not in the cards, even if the Taiwanese Air Force can no longer fly xx days into the start of a conflict.​
(b) As with any scientific approach, any brigade or higher level of war planning strives to be as accurate as possible, but that was not the case in the latest Exercise Cooperation 2019 between the PLA and SAF.​
This lack of tri-service injection of realism was brought this into sharp focus, when the SAF and PLA trained together in 2019. Instead, the focus was on battle procedure and exchange of TTPs; and training paused at times, with troop safety in mind. In SAF’s unilateral exercises, the ability to use AI, mix the virtual and actual, inject UAV feeds, to ground troops, to enhance realism is routinely done (which was not done with the PLA).​

3. What they buy/procure is planning scenario driven. The PLA do well in buying a lot but it all seems terribly wasteful to me. This is not to say that there is no waste within ASEAN military procurement systems — in fact you can argue that the PLA’s procurement system for constant capability delivery is a paragon of virtue compared to some ASEAN countries, like that of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines or even that of Vietnam.
...was commonly mentioned that although the PLA was modernising; it was still way behind the U.S. and its allies and that whatever the PLA did; the U.S. and its allies would maintain a qualitative edge. Does this assumption still hold true? Many still assume the PLA is capable but capable enough.
4. Yes, the US, its allies and partners would maintain a qualitative edge till at least the early 2030s, but how much longer beyond that is an open question. The PLA(N) has studied the 1982 Falklands battle in detail but I am not sure if they learnt the right lessons (as the USAF and USN are a lot more capable to strike at a distance, with stand-off weapons, in 2021).
 
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Volkodav

The Bunker Group
Verified Defense Pro
Both France and the Soviet Union had larger, better equipped militaries prior to WWII yet both were soundly defeated by Germany in the first half of the war. France capitulated and the USSR was saved only by having the space to retreat and regroup, being bolstered by massive transfers of equipment and Germany's over extension.

China is huge, China is investing massively in equipment and infrastructure, but China does not seem to do well at war, not since WWII, nor to be honest, historically either.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
You are correct when you ask how well can the PLA put it's learnings into practice? And how well is it teaching its students the theories and arts of war? It and we won't really know that until it has to fight a war. We know that last time it fought a war Vietnam handed its arse back to it on a plate. What would happen today if it went up against either Vietnam or India on the field of battle? That would give us a gauge of where it's at.
Technology aside, China facing battle hardened Vietnamese troops lead by experienced commanders shortly after the Vietnam war could be repeated should China and the US face off. The US has been producing combat veterans for 20 years now, a significant pool of experience. Possibly the hi-tech nature of peer to peer conflict might make this experience less valuable.
 

OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
The PLA has grown but is not 10 feet tall — Part 2

5. Thai-China defence cooperation is long-standing, but since the 2014 coup it has advanced by leaps and bounds, including the Blue Strike 2010, Blue Strike 2012, Blue Strike 2016 joint training exercises, with the Thai Marines to conduct amphibious combined arms operations. China has also sold the RTAF 50 VT-4 main battle tanks and 30 ZBL-09 armoured vehicles, and has orders to supply it with three S-26T submarines in a hard to resist buy-two-get-one-free deal worth US$1.03 billion and a US$192 million, 22,000-tonne Type 071-E Landing Platform Dock (LPD, a large amphibious landing ship). The Thai armed forces is the only Southeast Asian military to hold annual exercises with all three branches of the PLA.

...China facing battle hardened Vietnamese troops lead by experienced commanders shortly after the Vietnam war could be repeated...
6. The contrasting results from Exercise Falcon Strike 2015 (Su-27s and J11s) to Exercise Falcon Strike 2019 (J10s) (between the PLA(AF) and the Royal Thai Air Force), shows how seriously the Chinese J10, J11 and Su-27s squadrons train to gain air superiority and support PLA troops. Senior Colonel Li Chunghua Hua pointed out that the J-10C was more of a match for the JAS-39C/D in that “its active array radar significantly improves detection distance and multi-target attack capability, the DSI (divertless) air intake of the J-10C reduces the radar intercept area while the PL-15 missile increases the range, making it an over-the-horizon platform.” The various ADMM Plus exercises over the last 6 years, and Exercise Cooperation 2019 showed me that the PLA is slowing getting smarter in their way of war; and have become professional at fighting at Platoon, Company and Battalion levels.
(a) This means that in any land war (eg. Vietnam 2.0 scenario), the PLA will win faster with much less casualties. PLA TPPs are catching up, thanks to Pakistan, Thailand and Russia.​
(b) Many US, allies (eg. Australia, Korea, and Japan) and partners are still more high tech at command and control in 2021; but that may change by late 2030s, when even this edge is C2 is eroded. The high tech part of C2 is jamming and jamming resistance, missile and rocket strikes vs missile defence of higher HQs.​

Possibly the hi-tech nature of peer to peer conflict might make this experience less valuable.
7. Experience at the conduct of actual war at Brigade, Division and Corp level war planning matters in peer conflicts — as sub-units at Brigade level and below need reasonable autonomy to exploit gains up to planned limits of exploitation (eg. think Egypt vs Israel in 1973).

8. When an army HQ organisation (or a naval task group) goes to war, over a period of months, the planning staff co-evolve responses to enemy action. This action-reaction cycle and achievement of military objectives is not fully captured except at war. Iraqi was an example of a real test of US brigade planning staff, as the BCTs rotated through and reported to CENTCOM. The PLA planning HQs (at Brigade, Division and Corp level) are not as yet known for being good at managing dynamic and drastic changes in plans.

8. The US Army is gaining focus back to divisions, with significant changes at IBCT level by 2028; while the 1st Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) will be operational by FY 2022. In 2020, the US Marine Corps began initial experimentation with the 3rd Marine Regiment in Hawaii. This will transition to the MLR construct in FY2022. Plans to form the MLR first came to light in Mar 2020 in Berger’s force design report, which summarized the first two phases of the initiative. Early plans for the MLR suggest it will include 1,800 to 2,000 sailors and US Marines, which is smaller than the 3,400 that currently make up the 3rd Marine Regiment in Hawaii. The MLR will feature a Littoral Combat Team, Littoral Logistics Battalion, and a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion, USNI News previously reported.
 
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Stampede

Well-Known Member
China may well be testing Taiwanese resolve both in the air and at sea today, but I doubt this is a precursor to invasion anytime soon.
That said, it's still concerning and suggestive of potential trouble ahead.

Taiwan is not the Falklands in size of operation.
Invasion would be Operation Corporate on steroids!

So what does it take to invade and conquer a modern western nation of over 23 000 000 people.
Well, I'd suggest lots!
If I was looking at only one indicator of capability; I'd look at Chinas ability to move warm bodies from A to B.
In particular their new Type 075 LHD's.
When some 7 to 8 of these vessels are complete and worked up to a point of competency, it's then I would feel China could potentially be in a position to seek a military solution.
When the LHD's are ready, they'd compliment at that point in time the rest of their Navy and other services who will also be at a similar stage of competency to dare I say ...............go to war!
This will be an ugly day and one I trust never eventuates.

The clock is ticking

Still concerned S
 

Sandhi Yudha

Well-Known Member
Personally i expect that china will try to conquer all Paracel and Spratly islands first, bit by bit, before making an attempt to invade Taiwan.
Not only it is much easier to start with small islands outside territorial waters of the ASEAN-countries which are devided, but using the Spratly Islands during the operation, can make the invasion of Taiwan easier for china.

Looking to the current situation now in the Spratly Sea, this process is maybe already ongoing.
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
Technology aside, China facing battle hardened Vietnamese troops lead by experienced commanders shortly after the Vietnam war could be repeated should China and the US face off. The US has been producing combat veterans for 20 years now, a significant pool of experience. Possibly the hi-tech nature of peer to peer conflict might make this experience less valuable.
It's one thing to face insurgents with IEDS and another to face a peer army armed with armour, artillery, trained infantry, airpower and everything else that a modern army brings to the battlefield. It's a whole different mindset.
 
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