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South China Sea thoughts?

Discussion in 'Geostrategic Issues' started by SpartanSG, Jul 14, 2012.

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  1. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    You're right it did not; and that is one reason why - in the 1990's - a U.S. official publicly stated that the Mutual Defence Treaty did not cover the Spratlys. I forgot who the U.S official was and in what context the statement was made [it could have been after the Mischief Reef Incident] but I remember reading it in a local paper.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2013
  2. STURM

    STURM Well-Known Member

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    Given current events in the Middle East and the potential for trouble there to spread elsewhere, the last thing the world needs is another conflict anywhere; not just in Asia.

    China - like everyone else - has no desire to get involved in a conflict with anyone. As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe that unless someone does something to drastically alter the statu quo or does something that China pervceives to be very 'provocative', China is contend to let things remain as they are and offer other claimants the ''carrot and stick'' approach.
     
  3. klaXonn

    klaXonn New Member

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    1.) More like a lack of money rather than political will. Our politicians might like big ticket defense items because they could have something to parade come re-election time. There might be a lack of money, or lack of will to supply the money intended for other sectors, for supporting infrastructures or maintenance of these items. Some want the sharp pointy end of the spear without bothering to see if the handle is long or strong enough to be usable.

    2.) I don't know about the political wrangling or such so I might be wrong on this (Please feel free to correct me. It's not my cup of tea) but Brunei is a fellow claimant so there must be some political reasons involved.

    3.) The GMA administration didn't bicker much with China or cause intense rhetoric unlike the current admin. Nationalism, you see. The louder you shout, the more people will look up at you, neglecting to look at your efforts to solve the issue and judge whether it is fast enough or not.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 26, 2013
  4. tonnyc

    tonnyc Member

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    1. If you look at the "Defence Economic Trends 2013" (use a search engine to look for it, I can't post links yet) prepared by the Australian Department of Defense, you will see that the Philippine defense budget, when viewed both as a percentage of the GDP and as a percentage of the national budget, is consistently less than most of its ASEAN neighbours up until 2011. From 2011 onward it is almost the same as its ASEAN neighbours, although still on the low side. Mind you, the numbers given by the document above isn't accurate (it usually fails to account for mid-year adjustments, for example), but it's close enough of government work. Again, this is the defense budget as a percentage. The obvious conclusion to take is that the Philippine, compared to its ASEAN neighbours, considers defense to be less a priority.

    One caveat. The Philippine defense budget as a percentage is roughly similar to Indonesia's. However, Indonesia's economy is big. As a result, even a small percentage still means quite a bit of money. Indonesia also has no significant dispute with its neighbours and thus the situation isn't as urgent for them.

    2. There's no way to know what is really going on, but the idea that since Brunei is a fellow claimant then it's somehow discouraged from selling the ships to Philippine is preposterous. Brunei's claim does not overlap the Philippine's. China has little leverage on Brunei. Brunei does not export anything in significant amount to China and while China exports a lot of consumer goods to Brunei, if China stops them other countries can step in. Brunei wants to liquidate those ships. I argue that the real reason why the Philippine did not bid on the Nakhoda Ragam ships was because it's hoping to get a better deal from the Italians with the Maestrale. Except then it backed out because the cost of maintenance and thus getting neither.

    It really looks to me that the Philippine DND is looking around for the "perfect bargain". Top quality at dollar store prices. The problem is that such a thing does not exist. You get what you pay for. Thus the DND wastes time going from vendor to vendor, only to back down again at the last minute in the hope that the next guy will offer a better deal. This is not necessarily the DND's fault. After all, it looks to me like the DND is given only half the money it needs and thus it must try to find ways to stretch that.

    No comment on point 3.

    I am convinced that the money is actually there and it is the political will that is lacking. The generally accepted wisdom is that countries can afford to spend 2-3% of its GDP on defense without any ill-effect (the usual caveat of good planning applies) and possibly even 4-5% of its GDP on defense as many countries have done (see Singapore for example). And yet in 2012 the Philippine spent 1% of its GDP and in 2013 the defense budget is only 1.1% GDP.

    One last thing. Politicians also love saying "I killed this big ticket defense item so I can spend the money on your education and health. Vote for me."

    EDIT 1: To be fair, President Benigno Aquino III does a much better job on defense compared to the previous administration. The problem is that this attention to defense started in 2011 instead of 2001. That's 10 years of lost time.

    EDIT 2: Link to "Defence Economic Trends 2013" provided.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 6, 2013
  5. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The Mod Team is not a fan of a person who does not read the thread and does not provide sources for his claims. Further, we note that this is your second warning in just 6 posts, which means you are well on track to being a former member of the forum.

    You make the above claim - which I note is not true.

    The Mod Team hereby issues a source challenge. Please provide the title, author and relevant section of the article you read. If you are unable to provide a source that demonstrate that the other claimants like Brunei and Malaysia (or for that matter Taiwan) are dropping their EEZ claims to the South China Sea, you will face sanctions for posting false information.

    You have 24 hours to provide the source.


    Please provide the title, author and relevant section of the article that states that the Philippines is putting the last touches in its COIN efforts. We do not think your characterization of the scale of the insurgency problems in the Philippines is neither fair nor honest. Since the Mod Team has doubts about your claim, we hereby issue a second source challenge.

    From my perspective, Philippines is a house divided with presence of internal insurgents. The southern Philippines lies along a strategic fault line, with its porous borders, weak rule of law, long-standing and unaddressed grievances of Muslim minorities, and high levels of poverty and corruption offering a fertile field for nurturing terrorist groups.

    According to the Terrorism Risk Index (TRI) developed by Maplecroft, Philippines is ranked 8th (under the category of extreme risk) in their report dated 12 Dec 2012, whose ranking is unchanged from 2010 (however, it is worse that its 2011 ranking of 13th). TRI comprises of three separate sub-indices: incidence – which calculates the frequency of attacks over a 12-month period; intensity – a calculation of how lethal terrorist attacks are. The third sub-index includes historical aspects – the historical component looks at a country’s past experience of terrorism, whether it has a long-standing militant group that has operated in the country. Based on these parameters the TRI, released annually covers 196 countries.

    Beyond the failure to address the issue of terrorism in the Philippines, let us start with few facts to begin your education on a system where incompetence and corruption is rewarded (read up on the scandal regarding military comptroller Carlos Garcia). Retired Philippine Army Gen. Ricardo C. Morales wrote in 2003, that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suffered from widespread corruption and incompetence. This is why the various rebel groups are able to win battles, close roads, plant car bombs and impose additional local revolutionary taxes.

    Despite some progress and US assistance, the Philippine Government, has not been able to deny terrorists, safe-havens within its own territory because of an inability to address structural and/or local grievances, stop the spread of powerful ideologies within disadvantaged communities and the inability to stop existing groups from mobilising these radicalised individuals from their respective disadvantaged communities.

    As recently as October 2011, a special forces unit of 40 Philippines soldiers were overrun in Al-Barka, Basilan with 19 killed. More recently, in July 2013, a rebel group was able to close stretches of the Cotabato-General Santos Highway. On 5 August 2013, a car bomb was set off in in Cotabato. It was the second bombing to hit Mindanao in 10 days - a month after the United States, Australia and Canada warned its diplomatic staff against travelling to Cotabato and two other southern cities on Mindanao -- Zamboanga and Davao -- over fresh threats of terrorism. Despite reports of some AFP successes against the New Peoples Army (NPA), in August 2013, the NPA attacked the Japanese Sumitumo Fruits Co., in Bangbang, a village in North Cotabato province in Mindanao. It is believed that the attack was instigated by the Japanese firm's refusal to pay the NPA's 'revolutionary' tax. This means the various rebel groups are able to win battles, close roads, plant car bombs and impose additional local revolutionary taxes.

    The Aquino administration has worked on the peace process and is interested in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration insurgents in Mindanao and other areas, but it has no strategy that connects assistance to former rebels to making communities more peaceful and secure in the long run. Two recent examples illustrate the chronic piss poor performance at gathering actionable intelligence, and being pro-active at stopping organised terror attacks (instead of the curent reactive mode of whack-the-mole, when it appears):-

    In September 2013, about 300 rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked and are holding four neighborhoods, with a number of hostages being used as human shields in Zamboanga City. For the last few days, normal life for Zamboanga City has ground to a halt during the standoff, with flights into the area canceled and schools and most offices closed (see NY Times report dated 10 September 2013 for details).

    Two, local government officials and military officers reported that around 150 guerrillas from Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group joined forces and attacked the outskirts of the predominantly Christian town of Lamitan on Basilan island that resulted in 3 AFP soldiers being wounded. It is not clear if this latest Basilan battle is related or unrelated the Zamboanga City crisis, as Lamitan is a short boat ride from Zamboanga City (see NY Times report dated 12 September 2013 for details). The AFP also said a battalion of troops was deployed to Lamitan to augment the Army Scout Rangers on reports that some 200 armed men were spotted just outside the city.​

    The Muslim rebel groups are not the only terrorist threats in the Philippines. The New People's Army (NPA) continues to pose a security challenge to Philippine military and law enforcement agencies, despite having its capacity for action diminished. As recently as June 2013, the NPA was still able to kill civilians who refuse to pay extortion fees and kidnap soldiers. The NPA is strongest in areas where local big men and their families can operate above the law. There are big men with private armies (aka gangs of armed thugs) that co-opt local police through shared profits from illegal business. It is not just simply a case where the local government fails to deliver infrastructure and services. The NPA is still able to recruit members in the Philippines because their members see the government as a threat. What drives recruitment for the NPA is not just lack of development. Rather, it is the systematic and pervasive breakdown in the rule-of-law in many areas. Areas were the local government (who are controlled by big-men and their families) is at the core of the problem. Thankfully, the NPA suffers from a self-inflicted leadership crisis (see link to February 2013 SWJ article), which ensures that they are less effective.

    As you may be aware, at the local level, there are numerous problems which include abuse of power, corruption and the absence of 'rule of law' in many provincial areas. The Ampatuan Massacre in Nov 2009 by the clan of then incumbent Maguindanao governor is an illustrative example. To make matters more complicated and as part of the COIN fight, the AFP and PNP have provided weapons and training to auxiliary units, which in some instances have become a law onto themselves. The AFP continues to use of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), which it considers as very important force multipliers for local government units. Following from the Ampatuan Massacre, the PNP has suspended the recruitment of police auxiliary units. The CAFGUs are part of the solution for COIN but they can create an additional governance problem too. Anyone who has an interest in the Philippines would naturally question the Philippine capacity for effective and responsive governance at both the provincial and national level.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2013
  6. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    @ klaXonn, please note that responses to point 1 and 4 are required (as it will affect the length of your ban).

    The freedom to speak comes with some responsibility. You can't even string two sentences together without introducing factual errors. Your evasive response to a source challenge, shows that you are not willing to be a responsible member of this forum. This is your third warning in two different threads for either a failure to observe the Forum Rules or writing factually deficient posts that defy logic. You have been provided with detailed guidance on expectations in another thread, which you are ignoring again.

    Your above reply fails provide sources required in the prior Mod Warning. An evasive answer will not do. Kindly note that failure to reply in the next 24 hours will result in sanctions.


    1. Do you agree that no other country (i.e. Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan) have given given up their claims in the South China Sea?

    - Yes or No? (if your answer is no, please provide source)


    2. Absolute rubbish - your reply demonstrates that you have not read the thread. Philippines is not the only one facing the problem. You country is unable to effectively patrol your EEZ (i.e. never or seldom there), unlike Brunei. Brunei does not have a problem because, its navy effectively patrols its small EEZ claims. This means that Brunei is sovereign in its EEZ, while the Philippines is not. By a failure to resource the Philippine Navy, your country has by default surrendered it's sovereign claims over disputed EEZ areas. There is no doubt to all external observers that your navy is impotent - it is armed like a coast guard - making your pronouncements, simply statements of delusion. The Malaysian Navy also faces-off with PLAN ships in the South China Sea but they don't shout about it. The Malaysians don't shout about it because they have effective control of all 5 EEZ stations they occupy (i.e. always there) and they are able to conduct effective patrols in response to PLAN presence patrols - which means they are sovereign with regards to their EEZ claims. The more capable and potent navies in ASEAN are able to protect their country's national interests. In the event of an armed conflict, these navies can make their enemies pay a price for miscalculation, unlike yours.

    3. Your ignorance about the position of other ASEAN claimant states is stunning. The Malaysians and Vietnamese have adopted a joint submission to the UN on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. Please note that the Vietnamese and Malaysian claims over-lap with Philippine claims. If your country is willing to accept the joint Vietnamese and Malaysian position, ASEAN can work to present a joint position. But it is precisely the incompetence of your country's diplomats and politicians that prevent the emergence such a joint multi-country position. Further, on 21 Nov 2012, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario again demonstrated your country's ability to make an announcement (that Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam will meet on 12 Dec 2012) without doing the ground work necessary (or win support from fellow ASEAN claimants to hold a meeting). Your country's neighbours have a demonstrated track record of working to resolve or manage boundary and trans-boundary issues. Please don't blindly blame other countries for your country's failures in the diplomatic arena.

    4. Do you agree that you do not have a source that demonstrates your point on Philippine COIN efforts?

    - Yes or No? (if your answer is no, please provide source)

    Edit: klaXonn has been banned for 12 months (6 months for each failure to provide sources based on 2 source challenges).
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
  7. gf0012-aust

    gf0012-aust Grumpy Old Man Staff Member Verified Defense Pro

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    @ klaXonn, your inability to cite references does not stop you from typing the link and removing the hyperlink

    that way people can still edit and convert to check the link even though you can't add files etc...

    claims of citation are required for validation in this forum
     
  8. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    As discussed earlier in this thread, Taiwan had issued a list of four demands -- a formal apology, punishment of those responsible for the shooting, compensation for the Hung family and bilateral fishery talks to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future. After Manila failed to meet the demands, Taiwan on 15 May 2013 imposed a series of 11 punitive measures against the Philippines, including a ban on the further hiring of Filipino workers in Taiwan and the suspension of most bilateral exchanges.
    Yesterday, Manila released an investigative report on fatal shooting. In it the Philippine Authorities have recommended the filing of homicide charges against eight Filipino coast guards for the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in May 2013. The investigative also report found that four of these personnel will be charged with obstruction of justice for tampering with the video evidence submitted to the investigators. This includes a falsified gunnery report which reduced the rounds of ammunition used in the incident. The Filipino coast guard also spliced the video taken of the incident cutting off vital portions.

    With this latest development, Taiwan's foreign ministry has said that it willing to lift sanctions against Manila, if the four Taiwanese demands are met. Taiwan's Deputy Foreign Minister Joseph Shih also noted that Taiwan and the Philippines agreed during a meeting in June that there should be no use of force in disputed waters and that a mechanism should be set up to inform each other of any fishery incidents.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
  9. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Below, the latest news of Taiwan lifting the sanctions imposed against the Philippines.
    Using a soccer analogy, Taiwan 4: Philippines 0 - with at least 2 own goals. Pinoy pride and inability to crisis manage at the start made things worse and resulted in public humiliation in the face of Taiwanese coercive diplomacy.

    Given that all four Taiwanese demands are met, it is a demonstration that coercive diplomacy works against the Philippines. Taiwan's diplomatic moves will serve as a useful template for other countries in the region to manage future at sea incidents with the Philippines. This includes the use of overseas Taiwanese missions to provide relevant information to the international community - demonstrating the importance of Taiwan actively telling its side of the story. Taiwan's ability to line up members of the US Congress as part of its public communication efforts demonstrated to the international audience Taiwan mastery of its taking points - by sticking to a script and not veering off-script, Taiwan was able to counter Philippine efforts to portray themselves as a victim of circumstance, when in fact, it was Philippine insincerity that forced Taiwan to issue an ultimatum.

    The immediate crisis at hand was that Philippines law enforcement authorities in a bigger and faster boat (a 115.45 ton vessel and over 30m in length) killed an unarmed Taiwanese citizen in a smaller fishing boat (a 15.15 ton vessel at 14.7m in length). However, the search for justice for the Taiwanese dead fisherman does not tell the complete story. This story is in essence a fisheries dispute between Taiwan and Philippines, with Taiwan applying economic sanctions to motivate the Philippines authorities to prosecute eight members of the Filipino coast guard for their criminal acts and to get the parties started on a fisheries agreement with certain preconditions - that there should be no use of force in disputed waters and that a mechanism should be set up to inform each other of any fishery incidents.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2013
  10. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Some 'unpleasantness' between Malaysia and China may have occurred; but the nature of these at sea incidents may not be as well reported (see section in bold and quoted below) because both parties are keen to play-down any incidents at sea.

    Certainly Malaysia is engaged in what is commonly called 'Phase Zero' planning (in American military lingo) as reflected in the latest Janes article, dated 15 October 2013, by Dzirhan Mahadzir. This is forward looking article, which provides some context for the latest developments in the region. The planned development of better amphibious warfare capabilities for Malaysia will benefit the security posture of Eastern Sabah Security Command, given the porous nature of the borders in that area.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2013
  11. bdique

    bdique Member

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    There is a reason why there isn't a NATO-style military establishment. Check out the ASEAN Way Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) which are principles that guide the actions of the ASEAN states in their international relations.

    The very aim of it all is to avoid confrontation, and resolve matters through peaceful means as much as possible.
     
  12. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    ASEAN member states seek to engage with China but not at any price; and certainly not as vassal states. Unfortunately, China's vessels have a track record of operating as full time, maritime harassment vessels, to be selectively used against the US or ASEAN claimants in the South China Sea (SCS), namely, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam. In particular, the Philippines and Vietnam have been targets of China's displeasure. Resorting to harassment, as a power of global standing, shows China's lack of leadership skills and lack ideas on how to evolve the regional security architecture.

    I note that like the US, Singapore is not a claimant state and takes no position on the merits or otherwise of the various claims in the SCS. But as a trading nation, Singapore has a critical interest in anything affecting freedom of navigation in all international sea lanes, including those in the SCS. China's stance on the SCS had resulted in media queries on the visit of Chinese maritime surveillance vessel Haixun 31 to Singapore in June 2011. As Singapore's MFA Spokesman said:-

    "There has indeed been an unusual number of enquires about Haixun 31's visit to Singapore. The MPA has made a statement on the purpose of this port call. It is obvious that what ought to have been a routine visit has occasioned a high level of attention because of recent incidents between China and Vietnam and China and the Philippines in the SCS...

    ...We have repeatedly said that we think it is in China's own interests to clarify its claims in the SCS with more precision as the current ambiguity as to their extent has caused serious concerns in the international maritime community. The recent incidents have heightened these concerns and raise serious questions in relation to the interpretation of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

    This is precisely why this port call in Singapore by the Haixun 31 has provoked such interest. After all scores of vessels from many countries, including naval vessels, call at Singapore every day without arousing the slightest excitement..."​

    Asia is a very diverse and complex region that has regional dynamics that is often poorly understood by outsiders. The simple urge ask ASEAN members to enter into formal alliances or utter the word 'containment', indicates that the speaker does not understand the complexity of the region. People who post and suggest a SEATO type alliance, demonstrate a deep, deep lack of understanding of the regional dynamics. An important role of ASEAN, in its diplomatic efforts, is preventing conflicting between ASEAN members from breaking-out (i.e. prevent intra-ASEAN armed conflict). Let us start a quote from Carlos Romulo.

    I would suggest that cdxbow, starts with reading up on a report released on 3 Nov 2011. The U.S.-ASEAN Strategy Commission produced a report called 'Developing an Enduring Strategy for Southeast Asia' (See Video: [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L4o2_8A4LM"]Video: U.S.-ASEAN Strategy Commission Report Rollout - YouTube[/nomedia]). On 11 Nov 2011, the Asia Society added its considerable weight behind this call for a shift in priorities, with a report “U.S.-East Asia Relations, A Strategy for Multilateral Engagement.” These recommendations include:

    (1) Recognize and prepare for a change in the U.S.-Asia relationship.
    (2) U.S. engagement with Asia can and should continue to be deepened.
    (3) Asian regionalism should be supplemented by efforts to engage more deeply with the U.S. and to avoid Asian triumphalism.
    (4) U.S.-China ties are most important for the region, but others in Asia also have a stake.
    (5) ASEAN can serve as a foundation.
    (6) Recognize that integration on different economic and security issues will continue at different speeds in the region.
    (7) A new U.S. diplomacy with ASEAN is needed.
    (8) ASEAN must be more dynamic to offer regional leadership.

    BTW, China is ASEAN's biggest trading partner, regardless of what ASEAN does militarily, our economic interests in China will be devastated by any serious conflict between Beijing and Washington. This logic applies to all the Northeast Asian states, Australia and NZ whose economic capacity is fundamentally contingent on uninterrupted maritime and telecommunications flows – the first casualty of war in East Asia or the South China Sea. See also the link to the May 2011 Joint Declaration of the ASEAN Defence Ministers, which includes the inauguration of the ASEAN Military Operations Informal Meeting(AMOIM), to enhance practical cooperation among defence forces within ASEAN.

    The security dynamics of South East Asia (SEA), in turn, is different from the security dymanics of East Asia (China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea), South Asia (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh) and the Pacific (which in turn will affect SEA). The October 2012 CSIS report on "Asian Defense Spending, 2000–2011", the North East Asian powers of China (defence spending of US$89.9 billion in 2011), Japan (defence spending of US$58.2 billion in 2011), South Korea (defence spending of US$28.6 billion in 2011) and Taiwan (defence spending of US$10.1 billion in 2011), provides some context. Border disputes and flashpoints are sources of tension, and sometimes threats can mutate and arise from an unexpected direction. These threats in Asia include:

    (i) the Mumbai terrorist attack (from 26 to 29 November 2008) by members of Lashkar-eTayyiba, that killed 164 people and wounded at least 308 others;

    (ii) the sinking of the Republic of Korea Navy, corvette Cheonan on 26 March 2010, in the Yellow Sea just south of the disputed Northern Limit Line, killing 46 South Korean seamen;

    (iii) the killing of 76 Indian para-military policemen and the wounding 50 others, in Chattisgarh's Dantewada district in India on 6 April 2010, by the Naxalites (a Maoist terrorist movement located in the states of Jharkhand, West Bengal and Odisha);

    (iv) the bombardment of Yeonpyeong Island on 23 November 2010, where, a North Korean artillery attack killed four South Koreans and injured 19 others;

    (v) the Thai-Cambodian conflict at the Preah Vihear temple re-ignited in February 2011 and April to May 2011; that saw a number killed, and the evacuation of thousands of residents on both sides of the border to safe-zones (because of artillery shelling and skirmishes);

    (vi) the February/March 2011 non-combatant evacuation of Chinese citizens from Libya involving the dispatch of a Jiangkai-II class frigate and the deployment of four PLA Air Force Il-76 transport aircraft to the south of Libya (via Khartoum as a stopover on both the inbound and outbound legs of the trip) to extract Chinese citizens was unprecedented;

    (vii) the January 2013 India–Pakistan border incidents, where a series of armed skirmishes occurred along the Line of Control in the disputed Kashmir area, that resulted in a number of deaths on both sides; and

    (viii) the invasion of Lahad Datu, Sabah by over a hundred armed Filipino gunmen (from the Tausug community) on 12 February 2013. The killing of Malaysian police by these gunmen resulted in the Malaysian Armed Forces having to conduct clearing operations with armour supported by artillery and close air support that continued till April 2013.​

    cdxbow will need to read up much much more on Indonesia (as a key nation in ASEAN) and Malaysia for a participant to understand some of the important state actors in maritime SEA (that straddle a key maritime choke point - the Straits of Malacca and Singapore) and cdxbow will also need to read up on Thailand and Vietnam to get a feel of traditional rivalries in mainland SEA.
    Further, even if ASEAN members were to form an alliance, in most cases, the differences in the capabilities between the different member states are so divergent that each member state's hardware, command and control systems, communications are not inter-operable. Therefore, ASEAN members have been working hard to bridge the gap in communications by taking a crawl, walk, and run approach to incremental development of capabilities through military exercises via the ADMM Plus platform (see the thread on military exercises held by the ADMM Plus members, for details). As I mentioned in point 16 of another thread, kindly note the following:

    One, other ASEAN states, like Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam do hedge against the rise of China by being extra-welcoming of US port visits and some even in participating in US led exercises abroad; US forces and ships like the littoral combat ship (LCS) are already operating from Singapore - under the 2005 US-Singapore Strategic Framework Agreement (a partnership in defence and security). In Singapore, the Americans has long had a military presence, mostly to handle logistics, but that has now grown; and eventually will also include up to four LCSs.

    Two, Thailand and US already co-host large annual exercises like Cobra Gold (see the Cobra Gold Execise facebook account) and so on, where Japan, South Korea and select members of ASEAN are invited.

    Three, this behaviour of hedging is not new and has been in place in ASEAN and other Asian countries for years - in the triennial Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force's 2012 International Fleet Review, the Australian and Singaporean navies were invited (but the Philippines was not). The number of US Marines deployed in Darwin will rise from its current 250 troops to 1,000 in 2014. In fact, US leaders have encouraged Japan to expand its military and to strengthen the alliance by working with other US allies and partners - the May 2013 report that Japan will provide coast guard patrol ships to the Philippines, is part of the Japanese out-reach efforts.

    Four, do not mistake the silence kept by other ASEAN states as ignorance of the policy failures of successive Philippine administrations. On 25 November 2005, in a press interview, the then commanding general Lt. Gen. Jose Reyes Jr. of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) admitted the country will have to make do without any air defense until 2011 when internal threats are hopefully addressed. It is now July 2013, and the PAF still has not been able to sign a contract for LIFT/SAA - making announcements of future plans of the PAF, a joke.

    Five, the Philippine Government operates at such a snail like pace that it is surprise to me that that they have taken this long to come to the same conclusion as other ASEAN states. For that, we must blame the lack of strategic culture in the ruling political oligarchies of the Philippines - in a country that decided not to renew the leases to US bases at Clark and Subic in 1991 and thereafter disband the PAF's last fighter squadron without replacement by budget choice in 2005.

    Six, with the notable exception of the Philippines, most ASEAN members are fluent in the management of military escalation without further provocation; but from what I have seen, Philippine leaders do not seem to understand the difference between escalation and provocation, notwithstanding the AFP's lack of relevant basic naval capabilities. Often times, Philippine politicians are too feeble and weak domestically to enter into sensible compromise - but I do admire Philippine political genius at blaming other countries in front of their electorate, instead of working to fix what is broken domestically.

    Seven, on 9 September 2013, about 180 to 300 rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) attacked and held four neighborhoods in Zamboanga City (a busy port city of 800,000 that is known for its Hispanic influences in its culture) for over a month and burnt over 10,000 homes in that city. This incident demonstrates the normal incompetence of the Philippine Government in crisis management. Therefore, there is no expectation within ASEAN that the Philippines will be able to work together with other ASEAN members to deal with sovereignty matters relating to the South China Sea, as they are not even sovereign within their borders. ​

    Chronic Philippine incompetence is a handicap that ASEAN as an organisation has had to work around. Other members of ASEAN, do believe in standing together with the Philippines and are not neutral, but its another thing entirely to demonstrate open hostility to a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Demonstrating open hostility to China, as permanent member of the UN Security Council is against the national interest of other ASEAN members, especially since the US has said that it wants to work with China. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, on 13 December 2013, Singapore's Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said:-

    [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAPBPmVvtHA"]The Rise of Asia: Reaping Promises, Avoiding Perils - YouTube[/nomedia]


    "Asian nations have also witnessed an increase in nationalism amongst their people. As countries develop, it is natural and proper for governments and citizens to feel a sense of pride and assert their national identity and sovereignty. This is a legitimate right. However, unabated and unaccommodating, this assertiveness can accentuate tensions and even precipitate conflicts. In the East China Sea, strong nationalist sentiments have been roused in both China and Japan over the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands. Tit-for-tat deployments of patrols and naval vessels of both countries have occurred. Fighter jets have been scrambled to respond to aircraft overflights, and there have even been allegations of a fire-control radar locked on a country's destroyer. Strong reactions have also occurred in response to the recent Air Defence Identification Zone designated by China. While no physical incidents have occurred as yet, the risks are not theoretical. In another incident in May 2013, a Taiwanese fisherman was shot and killed by the Philippine Coast Guard in the South China Sea.

    On the Korean Peninsula, North Korea ratcheted up the rhetoric and threatened at one point to void the armistice that ended the Korean War and launch a nuclear attack on the US. All of us watch these unfolding and escalatory events with concern. Indeed, we should, as these security challenges and flashpoints could derail the stability and growth of Asia.

    While the world reaps the harvests of Asia's economic rise, we must pay heed lest Asia stumbles, as the impact on the world will be deeply felt. Collectively, we must do all we can to continue to provide and create conducive conditions for Asia's virtuous growth to continue. There is much we can do, anchored on dialogue, cooperation and shared beliefs.

    As a start, we must deepen economic ties by enhancing the flow of trade and investment. As PM Lee said during his visit to the US in Apr 2013, "in Asia, trade is strategy", and he urged the US to "push the Trans-Pacific Partnership energetically" to further liberalise trade across the Pacific. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership between ASEAN and its Free Trade Agreement partners, is another such initiative that expands trade.

    In the social-cultural domain, we should increase people-to-people and institutional exchanges to foster understanding and forge ties from the ground up." ​
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
  13. cdxbow

    cdxbow Member

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    OPSSG, thank you very much for the incredibly detailed post. Are you looking to be the Singaporean foreign minister in the near future?

    I have followed some of the links and when I have time will read them all. I am not completely ignorant of the SEA, I have travelled to many of them, have friends from all of them and even worked in a couple. I do understand there are many complexities/rivalries between the players, and ASEAN manages these reasonably well. There's nothing I don't agree with in your post, but I think the game has changed, and recognizing the paradigm has changed is vital. The Panda has turned into the Dragon.

    This only works if you are all playing by the same rules. I would put it to you that the PRC is now playing by different rules now, which require a different set of responses. ASEAN will not be up to the challenge, something else is needed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  14. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    In the past many liked to call ASEAN a talk shop; but it has it's purposes despite it's limitations. Many ASEAN members did not join SEATO and without local support, the US attempt to create a 'bloc' to oppose the Soviet threat did not succeed. IMO, ASEAN is a security community in the non-traditional sense (no active military alliance) but it can influence world opinion - as demonstrated by the then ASEAN 5 opposition to Vietnam's past invasion of Cambodia. If things get heated again, the ASEAN 10 will come together. It is this regional dynamics that serves as a soft power check to moderate China's claims in the South China Sea, which is why China uses the white ship approach (rather than grey ships) to enforce claims.

    While the era of China biding their time and keeping a low profile is over, it does not follow that the US or ASEAN are trying to contain China. US officials have stated that they are not trying to contain China, nor will any attempt to contain China work. Containment against is not possible because the US Government will not resource such a futile venture. As an editorial recently noted:-

    "The Pentagon budget is a bubble, notes a Wall Street veteran: “All bubbles last longer than you think they would,” he says, “And when they burst, they burst louder and harder than you ever imagined.”

    A bursting defense bubble has far-reaching implications for people, programs and military capabilities vital not only to US security but also to the security of America’s many allies around the world. China, meanwhile, is positioning itself to fill voids a waning America leaves behind in the Western Pacific."​

    Containment is also not possible because of the limitations of US allies by treaty in Asia (Korea, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, Australia and New Zealand). Further, within ASEAN itself, only ONE member country, has armed forces that are sufficiently advanced to interoperate with US forces at a combined arms level. In ASEAN, Singapore is the most pro-US but at the same time not anti-China. It's a fine line, actively trying to promote mutual understanding of these great powers. The position Singapore takes is complex and you can start with my post on 'Understanding the Little Red Dot'.

    Good to see that you claim to know something about South East Asia. Let us test if there is any substance behind your claim.

    Beyond SEATO (which failed), there were two prior failed attempts to create a regional organisation in South East Asia before the formation of ASEAN. The first of these failed attempts lasted from July 1961 to August 1967 (and the name of this failed organisation begins with an 'A'). The second failed attempt lasted from July 1963 to August 1963 (and the name of this failed organisation begins with a 'M').

    (1) Name the these two organisations.

    (2) Name the member nations included in these two failed regional organisations.

    (3) Why did they fail?

    These are very basic questions about South East Asia. Answer them. The quality of your answers will tell me, if you have some basic knowledge of the region. If you can't answer them, it tells me how little you know, despite your claims.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  15. cdxbow

    cdxbow Member

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    You are a hard task master OPSSG, I feel like I am in history class at school again.

    The 'M' would be the Manilla Accord, which was between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia and was set up to sort out issues related to Borneo and Sarawak. It failed because those issues were not resolved.

    The 'A' would be ASA (Association of Southeast Asia) an alliance between Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. In 1967 ASEAN would supersede it, so I don't think it failed so much as expanded.

    PS can I have my post back which you seem to have deleted.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  16. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    From 2002 to 2012, Asia's defence spending rose from US$203 billion to US$356 billion; a 75% increase compared to a 12% increase in Europe over the same period. In 2012, for the first time, Asia spent more on defence than Europe. This trend is likely to continue. This is why, Singapore believes in 'a balance of powers' in its attempt to navigate in the sea of change in Asia. Using data from the Military Balance 2013, the Japanese Ministry of Defence made a comparison of the military strength of China, South Korea, Japan and all of South East Asia. It is clear that spending on defence by the North East Asian powers of China, South Korea, and Japan dwarf any country's defence spending in South East Asia.

    (i) China: 1.6 million ground troops, 2,580 combat aircraft, total tonnage of vessels is 1,469 million tons; and a defence budge of US$96.3 billion;

    (ii) South Korea: 522,000 ground troops, 620 combat aircraft, total tonnage of vessels is 193,000 tons; and a defence budge of US$26.8 billion;

    (iii) Japan: 140,000 ground troops, 410 combat aircraft, total tonnage of vessels is 452,000 tons; and a defence budge of US$57.3 billion; and

    (iv) South East Asia: 1.655 million ground troops, 820 combat aircraft, total tonnage of vessels is 645,000 tons; and a defence budge of US$36.4 billion. ​

    If you are interested in reading more on geo-politics, please take a look at two posts on private Singaporean diplomacy behind closed doors and the topic of 'Fellowship of the Geopolitical Chess Masters' (Part 1 of 2) and (Part 2 of 2). These posts cover the topic of "Promoting Peace and Stability in the Asia-Pacific through Stable Military-to-Military Relationships" (in particular, watch the video for the introductory remarks by Governor Jon Huntsman, former US Ambassador to Singapore and at a later stage US Ambassador to China --- [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jUsazLoUtc"]Security in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Singapore Perspective - YouTube[/nomedia]); and how these international linkages between American, German and Singaporean leaders encourage the recent American and European pivot to Asia. It would be accurate to state that as a city-state, Singapore has forward looking leadership that gives form to the forward presence of US forces in South East Asia; knowing full well that Japan is a key maritime power and also the largest host country for US forces in Asia (with over 40,000 US troops).

    If you watch Dr Ng speak in both videos (the one here in this post and the one before on the Rise of Asia), kindly note the depreciating Singaporean humour and the humility by which the message was delivered to a sophisticated American audience (to cement the presumption of geo-political competence for the current generation of leaders in the Singapore Government, as leadership renewal has taken place over the years).
    Wrong. Here's another clue. The organisation is called MaXXXXXXdo. There was an attempt led by Indonesia and the Philippines to create this regional organisation, organised along racial lines, that is intended to include another country.

    Correct on the name and members; but the reasoning behind ASA's failure is not quite accurate (however, it is not wrong, either).

    P.S. At least you tried to answer the three questions asked. Your posts in this thread are now approved.

    P.P.S. Bonus question for the A+ reader on ASEAN matters: The current ASEAN country coordinator for ASEAN Dialogue with Australia is the Philippines. Name the two ASEAN country coordinators for China and the US, respectively.
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2013
  17. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    China has used trade to try to influence international disputes. In the past China halted shipments of rare earth to Japan, the US and Europe in bids to apply pressure against policies not in its favor.

    Recently, China has refused to import bananas and other fruits from the Philippines, claiming to find bugs in shipments. By exerting economic pressure to maintain territorial ambitions, China could set a precedent that intimidates other nations bordering the South Sea into similar concessions. Interestingly, the embargo on the import of bananas from the Philippines has had an effect on the retail price of bananas in Tokyo in 2012.

    Even for middle powers, who have more freedom to speak their mind, China's past conduct is a source of concern, as shown the two questions asked by the Australian Press. See below for the Australian Prime Minister’s response to questions about Australia’s calling in of the Chinese Ambassador to protest the declaration of the air defence zone:-

    QUESTION: Prime Minister, has Australia overstepped the mark in calling in the Chinese Ambassador to complain about its declaration of an air defence zone off the coast of China?

    PRIME MINISTER: No, I think it’s important for Australia to stand up for its values. We have to be reasonable and proportionate about these things and have to treat other countries and their leaders with respect and with courtesy but where we think Australia’s values and interests have been compromised I think it’s important to speak our mind and we believe in freedom of navigation – navigation of the seas, navigation of the air – and I think there is a significant issue here, and that’s why it was important to call in the Chinese Ambassador and put a point of view to him.

    QUESTION: Prime Minister, are you concerned about China’s reaction? Do you think it could damage our trade with that country?

    PRIME MINISTER: China trades with us because it is in China’s interest to trade with us. We have good products, we have good reliability as a supplier, we can supply at competitive prices and I hope that is always the case. I expect China to be a strong and valuable economic partner of ours because it is in China’s interest to be a strong and valuable economic partner of ours. I think China fully understands that on some issues we are going to take a different position to them. We are a strong ally of the United States, we are a strong ally of Japan, we have a very strong view that international disputes should be settled peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law and where we think that is not happening, or it is not happening appropriately, we will speak our mind. ​
    It cannot be denied that China's pattern of behaviour with regard to using non-tariff trade sanctions as a tool of coercive diplomacy has resulted in caution by the smaller regional players. It tells ASEAN members that the China-ASEAN free trade agreement only works, if they follow Beijing's lead. Which is why, ASEAN members are now even more welcoming of US and comforted by the presence of forward deployed US military forces in Asia.
    Rather than over reacting, the US military is still reaching out to establish stronger military to military ties with the PLA. The Chinese navy is still scheduled to participate in the 23-nation RIMPAC 2014 exercise in Hawaii. While China is also wary of what it terms “encirclement” by United States allies, with its current pattern of behaviour China will soon be the architect of its own containment, as its neighbors continue to balance against it. The more the US takes a balanced approach to the 5 December 2013, USS Cowpens at sea incident, the stronger the US hand in future geo-political matters in Asia. The more China pushes, the greater the need of China's neighbours to hedge against China's rise.

    In November 2013 during Exercise Bersama Lima, the air forces of Malaysia and Singapore deployed fighters to each other’s air bases in the first cross base exercise between them since 1998, said Armed Forces chief Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin. The cross deployment stipulated under the Base Support Arrangement (BSA) would enabled the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to cooperate and assist each to cater to the needs and requirements in terms of security of both countries.

    It it not so long ago when Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore worked hard collectively to convince Lloyd's of London to remove the "War Risk" premium for the Malacca Strait due to the then prevalence of piracy or sea robber activity. This premium was only removed by the Lloyd’s Market Association’s Joint War Committee in August 2006. Until the "War Risk" premium was removed, every piece of cargo shipped incurred higher shipping costs (because of higher insurance premiums), which leads to higher price tags for all goods shipped through the region. At some point in the near future, China's current path of unilateral and hostile actions will result in an incident that will push up the cost of shipping goods through the region. Which from my point of view is strategically short sighted.

    A recent speech on China by strategist Edward Luttwak (see video: [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQDtWzqQSks#t=263"]The Middle Kingdom Looks East, West, North and South: China's Strategies on its Periphery - YouTube[/nomedia]) on why China Can Win Big In The Pacific By Backing Down, may be instructive. Conflict is a choice, not an inevitability, said Luttwak. Beijing has stumbled into a strategy of offending most of its neighbors at once: Japan, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. “The least necessary Chinese quarrel is with the Republic of Korea,” he sighed, “the only country I saw entering voluntarily the Chinese orbit, becoming voluntarily a Chinese client, until China decided to kick them in the shins over a submerged rock.”

    Just as any US-led containment against China is doomed, China's futile attempt to push back on the US, as resident power in Asia, is also doomed to failure.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  18. Eeshaan

    Eeshaan New Member

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    Remind me not to get on your bad side, OPSSG. :tomato

    Anyways, in regards to your question :

    Coordinator for China = Thailand

    USA = Myanmar.

    What do I win ? :D
     
  19. Sampanviking

    Sampanviking Banned Member

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    I think what your post boils down to is that the PRC is an emerging regional power and a global rival to the USA (albeit it based on its own terms and norms rather than America’s) and that it is prepared to use such leverage that it has to influence the decision making of others and advance its own interest.

    Well, yes it is and yes it does. With reference to leverage I would simply invite you to list all the nations which do not use their leverage. I think it might be a very short list.

    I do however take exception to the presumption that everything would be happy in the magic garden if only the nasty old Chinese were not trying to spoil the party for everybody and that this is the only reason that the US is repositioning the larger part of its fire power.

    Such a view is rather naïve and you surely know as well as I do that this is the situation of a new and an old Power in direct confrontation. That the old power is more than happy for things to stay the way they have been since 1945 and the new power determined to ensure that they change. Both powers are pursuing their national interests and will do so with all the vigour that can muster.

    China is a peer competitor/rival to the USA. It threatens the US status quo simply by its existence and by its existing and nascent future power. It does not matter what type of Government the PRC has; it could even make the Dalai Lama President for Life, as it would make no difference and the US would still view the rise of China as an existential threat and would continue to move against it with all its power.
    There can be only one number one and China is the first really serious challenger to displace the US for the top slot and the laurel leaves and accolades that come with the position.

    Currently in SE Asia, China wields the greatest economic leverage and the US the greatest military and this is the effective current balance of power between the nations. This is why the other nations in the region make security deals with Washington and then fly to Beijing to talk business and loans.

    I am sure that there is nervousness in the region, but it is too simplistic to lay the blame purely at China’s door, although as the new emerging power, it is as easy as it is misleading to point the finger for disturbing the status quo. The cause of nervousness among the smaller nations is the prospect of being caught between the conflicting demands of rival giants and being put into impossible decision making positions.

    Trying to blame the PRC for not deliberately restraining its growth and power is as pointless and unrealistic as blaming the US for not simply rolling over. Both nations will play to the peak of their power and advantages. You say both are wrong. I say both are right and that this is the only mechanism that will be produce a genuine and most likely stable balance of power. It is also true that China's ongoing rapid growth and modernisation is causing this balance to change at an equally rapid rate and the US and many others have having difficulty adjusting in real time.

    I also disagree that the Arms Race underway in SE Asia is a response purely to Chinese modernisation. You have yourself on many occasions given detailed (and excellent btw) accounts of the divisions and disputes between ASEAN members. This of itself is enough to ensure that any increase by one, will spark a chain reaction throughout the region.

    The positive however is that increased risk and capability is usually the catalyst for ensuring that problems are no longer swept under the carpet but actually dusted down and dealt with. Fortunately the signs are that nearly all players great and small are sane and ultimately do want to resolve matters without major disruption.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2014
  20. OPSSG

    OPSSG Super Moderator Staff Member

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    The answer is correct and you win respect, for bothering to read up and find-out more. Which is more than I can say for Sampanviking.

    Your basic inability to understand the US and ASEAN strategy's to manage China's rise, is not my problem. ASEAN member states promoted the concept of regional autonomy to prevent any one power from exercising hegemony over Southeast Asia. ASEAN’s assertion of regional autonomy took two forms.

    One, it involved the expansion of membership from its initial core of five to ten of South East Asia’s eleven states.

    Two, ASEAN’s assertion of regional autonomy also took the form of political declarations and treaties covering Southeast Asia. In recent years ASEAN has advanced the concept of regional autonomy by ratifying the ASEAN Charter and setting the goal of creating an ASEAN Community by 2015. ASEAN's approach in relations with external powers has been to assert its centrality in the region’s security architecture -- this includes the creation of ADMM Plus 8 (see this thread, here, for additional information). ​

    The strategy's manifestation for many of the ASEAN members is via non-alignment (with the exception of the Philippines and Thailand, who are US allies) and the general unwillingness of most ASEAN members to take a side on conflicts/rivalry between the plus 8 powers. Indonesia with regards to the great powers has argued for a policy of ''dynamic equilibrium'' with no one power dominating (or what Singapore's defence minister would call an inclusive security architecture).

    I would like to thank you for putting your inability to understand the region's dynamics on display in this thread. In fact, I am thankful that China and advocates of China Strong! demonstrate such a wonderful combination of both ignorance and arrogance. Even satire websites are having a field day with the new Ministry of Harmony, which tells us what to think on China related issued, eh? :D

    As noted in my prior post, Beijing's stance on the South China Sea (SCS) had resulted in media queries on the visit of Chinese maritime surveillance vessel Haixun 31 to Singapore in June 2011. The Singaporean MFA spokeman statement demonstrates that Beijing's understanding of harmonious ocean differs from that of some other ASEAN countries (see this CCTV4 video on China's documented strategy to ram Vietnamese ships in the SCS: [nomedia]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzaBjIbQJlI[/nomedia]). With regard to disputes in the SCS, from Beijing's perspective, there are two certainties to ensure that they play the long game:-

    (i) time is on China's side, so delay or even non-settlement of issues, is to China's advantage, as it continues its rise; and

    (ii) other claimants, namely, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines, in the SCS are not united against China, and it is not in China's interest to unite the interests of these claimants.​

    At the bilateral level, Singapore balances a disposition of deference towards China but has firm resolve to preserve its autonomy. At the regional level, Singapore’s efforts at engaging China have no doubt been complicated by regional circumspection about Chinese motives, growing power, and its ideas about the global commons is to be managed (or mis-managed) with China's might.

    China's latest moves in establishing an ADIZ in disputed territory is seen as destabilising; and do cause concern in all capitals in Asia. It is not simply an issue of finding a new balance of power.

    The US is a resident power in Asia, but its attention has not always been on Asia. Despite some benign neglect during certain periods, the US security engagement with members of ASEAN is broad, and deep. US security engagement tools used includes Foreign Military Financing (FMF), and International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding. When the US talks about a 'pivot' to Asia, there are distinct phases, where the US had in the past pivoted away from Asia.

    The first US pivot away from Asia occurred in mid-1970s, with the Paris Peace Accords, which resulted the US withdrawal of ground troops from South Vietnam (i.e. the US pivot away from mainland South East Asia). While South Vietnam, was an official US ALLY, and it was allowed to fail, as a state. I see the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975, as the date on which the US pivoted away from mainland SE Asia. For Thailand, this was a pivotal moment, when they understood that they were an US ally, and if they lost against the communists, they would also be allowed to fail.

    The second US pivot away from Asia occurred in the early-1990s, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on 26 December 1991. It is at this moment that the Philippines, as an US ally, decided that they no longer needed the US and refused to renew the leases to the American bases in the 1991/2 period. For all of maritime South East Asia (i.e. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore), this was a pivotal moment - in which Singapore understood to be an event not in ASEAN's interest (which is why Singapore, at that moment offered to host a logistics presence for US forces). ​

    Thanks to prior US pivots away from Asia, ASEAN members are struggling to keep the US engaged in the region, as a counter-weight. I think it is a mistake to think of the issues in terms of a contest for resources, when there is also a contest for ideas. This includes some ideas that might have profound and negative consequences for how the global commons is to be managed in the future.

    Another strawman argument. The Japanese and Indians understand the need to come together to countervail an increasingly assertive China (see here). For instance, both New Delhi and Tokyo have border disputes with Beijing and both are at the receiving end of muscle-flexing by it. The Indian press have reported on Beijing's aggressive move to create the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering parts of the East China Sea that includes Senkaku Islands, which are controlled by Japan, but coveted by China.

    Marvin C. Ott has a February 2013 article, 'The Geopolitical Transformation Of Southeast Asia', which serves as an excellent backgrounder. Others who are more hawkish have seen China's ADIZ as a strategic move to control First Island Chain and Paul D. Miller sees it as an opportunity for the United States to force the issue with China now, on its own terms. Such a confrontation need not be belligerent or mean-spirited, but it should be firm. The goal is not to start a war as an excuse to humiliate China, but to counter China's coercive diplomacy and forcibly socialize China into responsible great power behavior. As Jeffrey W. Hornung has also noted, China’s ADIZ is a challenge to international norms. By telling airplanes to comply by its rules even if they have no intention on entering China’s territorial airspace, China is attempting to control airspace far from its shores, thereby limiting freedom of overflight in airspace above what is commonly treated as international waters. This is a tactic China last employed in 1998 when it adopted its Law on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf, which represented China’s attempt to limit maritime activities in its EEZ by military vessels that differed from more widely held interpretations of UNCLOS. In essence, China is bucking international norms that guarantee freedom of movement in both the maritime and aerial realms. Both China and the US understand that small islands throughout the First Island Chain (the Japan-Taiwan-Philippines archipelago) could become a mechanism for either China or the US to contest the local sea by controlling the land.

    Beyond events in North East Asia and South Asia, there is a long track record of intra-ASEAN cooperation on maritime security and counter-terrorism (see the thread on the capture of Mas Selamat, as one example); and intra-ASEAN cooperation extends to the realm of cyberspace, with the Malaysian authorities arresting a hacker attacking Singapore Government websites. As the ZDnet article noted, James Raj Arokiasamy was arrested by Malaysian police on 4 November 2013, and brought back to Singapore and charged for a range of offences, both prior and current. So while ASEAN members do have disagreements and squabble from time to time, they also have a history of cooperation. More importantly with regard to maritime boundaries, such as the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute over Pulau Ligitan and Pulau Sipadan, and the Malaysia-Singapore dispute over Pedra Branca have been settled with reference to the International Court of Justice.

    Members of ASEAN have contributed forces to CTF-151 (see Singapore's efforts: [nomedia="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpFPwXcENIE"]The SAF Command Team - CTF 151 - YouTube[/nomedia] and Thailand's efforts: [nomedia]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOimY1Xy9Ac[/nomedia]) and to counter-piracy efforts in the Malacca Strait (i.e. the joint patrols by Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore). Thanks to the efforts of its members and a strategic mindset (of inclusive diplomacy), ASEAN is seen as a dynamic regional organisation that is occasionally envied for its ability to punch above its weight in international matters.

    Like the US, ASEAN itself is not a party to the maritime disputes in the South China Sea or in the East China Sea. On the one hand, ASEAN member states:-

    (i) are finding a way to move on to manage the issue with China (including the crucial task of keeping the lines of communications open between China and ASEAN member states). Most ASEAN members seek to improve their relationship with the US and China at the same time with some more beholden to aid from one side; and

    (ii) have given voice to concerns of Vietnam and the Philippines at numerous international events (to assist Vietnam and the Philippines in voicing their concerns). ​

    On the other hand, China too has sought to advance its military ties with Singapore as early as November 2005, with a visit to Singapore by Wu Bangguo (vice-chairman of the CMC) and General Cao Gangchuan (Minister of National Defence). This visit eventually paved the way for the COOPERATION series of the joint counter-terrorism training exercises between the PLA (PLA Emergency Response Office and Guangzhou Military Region) and the SAF (with units from the 2PDF and the CBRE Defence Group), under the auspices of the bilateral Agreement on Defence Exchanges and Security Cooperation in January 2008.

    The COOPERATION joint counter-terrorism training exercises were held in June 2009 at Guilin, China and in November 2010 at Singapore. COOPERATION 2010 was a nine-day exercise. It consisted of 60 personnel from the SAF and 86 personnel from the PLA. Joint bilateral military exercises with China is not unique to Singapore. Indonesia (eg. Exercise Knife Sharp, anti-terror joint military exercise), Thailand (eg. Exercise Strike, a joint counter-terrorism exercise; and Exercise Blue Strike, an exercise between Thai and Chinese marine units), and Malaysia have conducted or are going to conduct bilateral exercises with China.

    While the era of China biding their time and keeping a low profile is over, it does not follow that the US or ASEAN are trying to contain China. Quoted below are extracts of a real 12 December 2013 speech by Tom Kelly (Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he said:-

    "Let me take a minute to talk specifically about China. I know that there are some who think our rebalance to Asia is part of a broader American effort to contain China. Let me be clear: it’s not true. On the contrary, the United States wants to build a cooperative partnership with China, just like Malaysia does. We understand that China will play an important role in critical global challenges like fighting climate change, wildlife trafficking, and countering proliferation. We welcome that role. And we recognize that our two economies are deeply intertwined, just as Malaysia’s is with China. We consistently seek to engage with China on all levels on a wide range of issues. Vice President Biden’s recent travel to Beijing is just the latest example of our ongoing dialogue with China. We want to do more with China in many areas, including economic relations. National Security Advisor Susan Rice recently said that the United States welcomes China and any other nation interested in joining and sharing the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership so long as they can commit to the high standards of the agreement.

    The United States seeks to build healthy, stable, reliable, and continuous military-to-military relations with China. We maintain a robust schedule of military-to-military exchanges and dialogues in pursuit of that goal and to encourage transparency. In addition, U.S. military, diplomatic, and defense officials participate in a range of combined civilian-military dialogues with the Chinese in which we work to build mutual trust and understanding. I’ve participated personally in some of them. We welcome strong relations between China and Malaysia and believe it is in the interest of the United States for China to have positive and stable ties with its regional partners."​

    An evolving security landscape has forced Kuala Lumpur to adopt a nuanced strategy, of courting China while preparing for the worst. In this regard, Malaysia is pursuing a three-fold strategy, as follows:-

    One, Malaysia is engaging in confidence building measures with China, by making an effort to launch direct contact between Malaysia’s Naval Sea Region 2 (which is responsible for the area around the Spratly Islands, and China’s South Sea Fleet).

    Two, it is working with its ASEAN neighbours on the defence and diplomacy track by establishing a maritime cable link between Malaysia’s Naval Sea Region 1, and Vietnam’s Southern Command (i.e. enables the two countries to directly contact each other during potential incidents in the South China Sea).

    Three, it is also strengthening its ties with its Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) partners in Exercise Bersama Lima 2013. ​

    Again you are using a strawman argument. Simply speaking you are wrong, because both the US and ASEAN are not trying to contain, compete, or blame China. All eleven countries welcome the rise of China, with a number even going so far as engaging in bilateral and multilateral military exercises, as a confidence building measure between the parties. Through the ADMM Plus mechanism, ASEAN has created a platform to host multilateral military exercises with its Plus Eight partners - WITH CHINA included as one of the Plus Eight. The problem is not with China's rise or ASEAN's reaction to its rise. The problem is with China's pattern of behaviour that not only reeks of arrogance, but lacking in ideas on how foster international cooperation to manage the global commons.

    Sampanviking persists in inaccurately oversimplifying all matters to suit China's great power narrative (where might is right), while ignoring the history of US-ASEAN interaction and very real concerns of other states in Asia. The US and ASEAN are treating China as a key stakeholder, but at times, China just behaves as a brute force veto holder that resorts to harassment, as a default mode of engagement.

    In that case, it is equally easy to present China's might in a negative light via satire websites.

    China's ignorance of regional dynamics leads to a perception of arrogance towards the other ASEAN members, Japan and South Korea. As a citizen living in one of ten ASEAN member states, I thank you for your help in presenting China's rise in the correct light, or what it boils down to - that China's might, is right.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2015