Background and Thesis for this Advantage
What is the “Asia Pivot” or “rebalancing” ?...
In November 2011, President Obama unveiled a rough outline for his “Asia Pivot”. The idea was to have the US pay more attention to Asian affairs. Many feel that announcement was in reaction to two concerns.
First, Asia had received especially little attention during the first term of the Obama administration. Asian allies arguably feared they were 2nd or 3rd fiddle.
Second, China has been more military aggressive in Asia. They have specifically pushed disputed territorial claims against Japan (in the East China Sea) and against Southeast Asian nations in the South China Sea.
FWIW, the US denies “the pivot” is directed at China – but most analysts disagree. As part of the pivot, the Pentagon announced that it would focus 60 percent of its fleet and air force in the Asia-Pacific region and that it would start to train marines in northern Australia for the first time. It also espoused economic goals – like expanding the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership – a regional trade agreement).
Since the original announcement, the name of “the Pivot” was rhetorically adjusted to “Rebalancing”.
How does the Aff change the Pivot ?...
For Asian allies, the proof will be in the pudding. The Aff argues that the plan is the pudding.
Bailing on the effort to search for MH370 has hurt US credibility in the region. Reversing this could help the US gain allies in the region. Stronger US alliances with ASEAN countries (“ASEAN” is an international organization of Southeast Asia countries) will dissuade China from being aggressive in the South China Sea.
Malaysia is an important twist to this advantage – they are especially interested in finding the plane. And, they are claimant in the South China Sea that presently errs against standing-up to Chinese aggression. That said, they are increasingly on the fence. The Aff could argue that they “swing” Malaysian support by boosting US credibility via the Aff plan.
What about the South China Sea ?..
The South China Sea (or SCS for short) is home to many disputed islands. It also is an area that could be drilled for oil and gas. Thus, questions of “exclusive economic zones” come into play.
Seven countries have areas in the South China Sea that are under dispute with China. In these disputes China does not recognize the UN’s EEZ concept. Instead, China advanced an alternate map called “the nine dotted line”.
The nine-dotted line is so weird that you should consider looking at it visually on Wikipedia. In short, the nine dotted line draws territory in a favorable light for China. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia all officially protest this line.
Recently both Vietnam and the Philippines have had significant spats with China over the SCS. In May 2014, China set-up an oil rig inside the Vietnamese EEZ. Vietnam was not informed this was going to take place – leading many to believe that the “message” from China was “this territory is ours”. Eventually, the dispute led to “water cannons” being fired – a provocative gesture that falls short of all-out war.
The Aff will argue that regional war is coming over the South China Sea and that it will draw-in the US. This evidence for this is particularly recent and fairly strong.
The Aff will then claim that by building US alliances in the region, China will be forced to think twice before taking over islands. From a military perspective, if there were several geographically dispersed Southeast Asia countries that were willing to ally with the US, it would make it hard for China to initiate serious aggression over the South China Seas (China, for instance, would have to fight on many fronts). China wouldn’t just “change their mind” and bail on pursuing the islands – but they might have to pursue their claims through non-military means.
Asia Pivot Advantage
Advantage Three is Asia Pivot
Continued support for the 370 search is key to US credibility and its “Asia pivot” strategy.
Chris Zappone – Foreign News editor at the newspaper The Age. Also writes for the Sydney Morning Herald. Formerly wrote for CNN. “MH370: The Geopolitical Dimension — a list of events and angles” – The Cold War Daily – March 29th – http://acoldwarmentality.wordpress.com/category/mh370/
The US has had a continual presence in the search efforts, either through direct participation in the search flights. Much like the US’s quick response to Tyhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013, lots of US credibility in Asia is on the line. The motivation for the US in the MH370 search is for Washington to show its continued role and relevance in the Indo-Pacific region, which supports the broader US Pivot to Asia. Amid the understandably sharp words from China for Malaysia over Kuala Lumpur’s handling of the matter, Malaysia has more comfortably turned to the US for help with the investigation.
The search is no longer a pure humanitarian mission. It’s spilled-over to geopolitical dimensions that intersect with the Asia Pivot.
Chris Zappone – Foreign News editor at the newspaper The Age. Also writes for the Sydney Morning Herald. Formerly wrote for CNN. “Rivalries, sensitivities form prism for MH370 search” – Sydney Morning Herald – April 21, 2014 – http://www.smh.com.au/world/rivalries-sensitivities-form-prism-for-mh370-search-20140421-zqxa0.html#ixzz32cKISWpl
The co-operation of militaries in the search for the missing Flight 370 has created a unique event in a region increasingly fraught with rivalries. On one hand, global and regional powers are at pains to show off their military capabilities in conducting the search. A British government statement on its submarine deployment earlier this month captures the mood: “While we do not routinely comment on submarine operations, we can, exceptionally, confirm that HMS Tireless has been tasked to assist in the humanitarian search mission for Flight MH370.” On the other hand, the fear of conflict in Asia has made countries wary of exposing too many of their abilities in sensitive areas such as satellite imaging, surveillance technology and underwater listening. The search for the Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people has entered a "critical juncture", Malaysia's acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Friday, suggesting the lack of any findings will push authorities to discuss the "next move". An ex-RAAF officer now active in the aerospace industry described the search, which has been going for six weeks, as a “really interesting dance” in which civilian and international militaries “want to co-operate without disclosing or compromising their capabilities”. Global powers would also be tempted to keep an eye on each others’ capabilities, the expert said. Military and commercial imaging satellites have predictable, low-earth orbits. If photos released of a certain spot in the ocean are thought to have originated with classified satellites, competing powers could triangulate which satellite is the source, potentially learning about its capabilities, he said. . “Boiled down, it becomes a matter of maths.” And while governments peer at each others’ satellite abilities, it is expected that any image that is too revealing of a nation’s capability would be “fuzzed-up” before public release. Driving these concerns are the vastly different strategic objectives of the countries involved, which loom behind the humanitarian mission to determine the fate of the the plane. China, in addition to the concern for its 153 citizens on the flight, wants to demonstrate the growing reach of its navy, its operational expertise, and the ease with which it can deploy far from its shores. The United States wants to show its continued presence in the region, as part of its pivot to Asia. It also has an interest in learning what happened to the US-built plane. Australia can reinforce its image as a vital regional power, able to forge co-operation among Asian neighbours. "It’s heart-rending to see the families [of the missing passengers] in the middle of high-stakes intelligence games, but they are caught in a global geopolitical game of cat-and-mouse," said US-based Everett Dolman, author of Astropolitik, a study of geopolitics and space. The geopolitical setting had given the search a unique quality, Dr Dolman said. Military transparency, he said, was typically considered a confidence-building measure in much of the West. In ‘‘much of Asia — and in every intelligence agency in the world’’ the opposite view was held, he said. “If your opponents know precisely what your capabilities are, they can come up with a plan to defeat you in detail." Behind it all are the concerns of a potential Asian conflict involving China, Japan and others. In this competitive sphere, countries are also pushing their technology to new levels to find the missing plane. The Bluefin-21, the undersea drone contracted by the US Navy, has dived "beyond its depth rating" of 4500 metres in an attempt to locate the plane's black boxes. Earlier, Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy detailed modifications made to RAAF’s P-3 acoustic processor used for underwater listening. The changes were "only started after the MH370 aircraft was lost", he said. British satellite firm Inmarsat, which operates 11 satellites in geostationary orbit, pulled a week of all-nighters for “an analysis that had never been done before” that narrowed down a more precise point of where MH370 dropped off the satellite communication grid. That helped lead to the current search zone, where the underwater pinging has been detected. These are the modifications and innovations linked to the search for MH370 that the public knows about. With so much national pride at stake at a time when a peace in Asia is less certain, behind-the-scenes competition is likely.
370 search key to forging lasting allies and will spillover to security questions.
David Brewster is a Visiting Fellow with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University. His is the author of the new book, India’s Ocean: the story of India’s bid for regional leadership. “The geopolitics of flight MH370” – Pragmati: the Indian National Interest Review – May 2, 2014 – http://pragati.nationalinterest.in/2014/05/the-geopolitics-of-flight-mh370/
Major international humanitarian and disaster relief efforts are becoming ever more important tools in generating goodwill, demonstrating capabilities and reinforcing international relationships. The efforts by the US, Indian, Australian and Japanese navies in providing humanitarian assistance in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami were seen being as a key factor in prompting the development of closer maritime security relationships between those states. That is a process that is still bearing fruit. The absence of China from international relief efforts in response to the tsunami was also noted by many in the region. The international response to the MH370 disaster could also have significant long term strategic implications.
The Pivot can build alliances that deter Chinese aggression. The US will need more diplomatic credibility going forward.
Robert, Managing Editor of Small Wars Journal and lead writer for the “This Week at War” column for Foreign Policy. In addition to Foreign Policy and Small Wars Journal, Haddick's writing has been published in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Air & Space Power Journal, and other publications. He has appeared in many radio and television interviews. This Week at War: An Arms Race America Can’t Win, 6-8-12.
In a speech delivered on June 2 to the Shangri-La Security Dialogue conference in Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta attempted to convince his audience that America's "rebalancing" strategy to the Asia-Pacific region -- previous called a "pivot" -- is serious and will be backed by expanded military power. Panetta announced that by 2020, 60 percent of the U.S. Navy will be positioned in the Pacific. He also openly discussed the controversial Air-Sea Battle concept, while denying that the reinforcements and new plans are a challenge to China. He also promised to step up the presence of U.S. military forces in the region, both through new basing arrangements and by an expanded list of training exercises with partner military forces. Panetta likely hoped his remarks would bolster the credibility of the administration's strategy. On closer examination, there is less to Panetta's Pacific naval buildup than meets the eye. The U.S. Navy's intelligence office, by contrast, expects China's naval expansion this decade to be more substantial, especially when it comes to its submarine force. The reinforcements that Panetta discussed and new ideas like the Air-Sea Battle concept are necessary but insufficient responses to the worsening military trends in the region. The United States should not expect to win an arms race in the Western Pacific. Instead, it will have to find other more enduring advantages if it hopes to craft a sustainable strategy for the region. Panetta's promise to base 60 percent of the U.S. fleet in the Pacific was not news -- Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced this intention in a speech back in March. Panetta's assertion that there is currently a "50/50 percent split between the Pacific and the Atlantic" is also not quite right. According to the department's website, of the Navy's 186 major conventional warships (aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers, amphibious ships, and attack and cruise missile submarines), 101, or 54 percent, current have home ports on the Pacific Ocean. The Navy's latest 30-year shipbuilding plan forecasts 181 of these major combat ships in the fleet in 2020. A 60 percent allocation implies 109 major combatants in the Pacific in 2020, an increase of eight such ships from today. On the other hand, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) forecasts that China's navy will own 106 major warships in 2020, up from 86 in 2009. Seventy-two of these are expected to be attack submarines, compared to 29 for the United States in the Pacific in 2020, under the 60 percent allocation assumption. For the two decades beyond 2020, the U.S. Navy's shipbuilding plan projects no increase in the number of major warships. China's long-range shipbuilding plans are unknown; however, its defense budget has increased at an 11.8 percent compound annual rate, after inflation, between 2000 and 2012, with no indications of any changes to that trend. Of course, counting ships does not tell the whole story. Even more critical are the missions assigned to these ships and the conditions under which they will fight. In a hypothetical conflict between the United States and China for control of the South and East China Seas, the continental power would enjoy substantial structural advantages over U.S. forces. China, for instance, would be able to use its land-based air power, located at many dispersed and hardened bases, against naval targets. The ONI forecasts China's inventory of maritime strike aircraft rising from 145 in 2009 to 348 by 2020. U.S. land-based air power in the Western Pacific operates from just a few bases, which are vulnerable to missile attack from China (the Cold War-era Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty prevents the United States from developing theater-based surface-to-surface missiles with ranges sufficient to put Chinese bases at risk). A comparison of ship counts similarly does not include China's land-based anti-ship cruise missiles, fired from mobile truck launchers. Nor does it account for China's fleet of coastal patrol boats, also armed with anti-ship cruise missiles. The Air-Sea Battle concept began as an effort to improve staff coordination and planning between the Navy and the Air Force in an effort to address the structural disadvantages these forces would have when going up against a well-armed continental power like China. The concept is about creating operational synergies between the services. An example of this synergy occurred in last year's campaign against Libya, when U.S. Navy cruise missiles destroyed Libya's air defense system, clearing the way for the U.S. Air Force to operate freely over the country. But Air-Sea Battle still faces enormous challenges in overcoming the "home court" advantage a continental power enjoys deploying its missile forces from hidden, dispersed, and hardened sites. In addition, the United States faces a steep "marginal cost" problem with an opponent like China; additional defenses for U.S. ships are more expensive than additional Chinese missiles. And China can acquire hundreds or even thousands of missiles for the cost of one major U.S. warship. Given these structural weaknesses, Air-Sea Battle's success will rely not on endlessly parrying the enemy's missiles, but striking deeply at the adversary's command posts, communications networks, reconnaissance systems, and basing hubs in order to prevent missiles from being launched in the first place. Such strikes would mean attacks on space systems, computer networks, and infrastructure, with implications for the broader civilian economy and society. Some critics of Air-Sea Battle reason that raising the stakes in this manner would make terminating a conflict much more difficult and would escalate the conflict into domains -- such as space and cyber -- that are particular vulnerabilities for the United States. The United States won't be able to win an arms race against China and currently has no plans to do so. Nor can the Pentagon count on superior military technology; China already has impressive scientific and engineering capabilities, which are only getting better. Instead, U.S. policymakers need to discover enduring strategic advantages that don't require keeping a qualitative or quantitative lead in weapons. Geography may be one such benefit. In a conflict, the so-called First Island Chain that runs from Japan to Taiwan and then to the Philippines could become a barrier to the Chinese navy and provide outposts for U.S. and allied sensors and missiles. China would likely view such preparations as a provocation, but from the allied perspective, they will complicate Chinese military planning. Second, the United States and its allies are far more experienced at planning and conducting complicated military operations that require coordination across countries and military services. With a long-established network of alliances and partnerships in the region, U.S. commanders and their counterparts have accumulated decades of experience operating together. One aspect of Air-Sea Battle is to further extend this advantage. The most powerful U.S. advantage is the alliance network itself. Washington's long list of treaty allies and partners provides options for U.S. and allied policymakers and planners. The alliance network could also help convert the threat of escalation to a U.S. advantage. The more U.S. military forces are able to disperse across the region, at temporary or rotational basing arrangements, the more difficult it will be for China to gain an advantage with military power. In order to achieve such an advantage, China will have to attack a wider number of countries, bringing them into a war on the U.S. side. This prospect should deter conflict from beginning. The more successful U.S. diplomacy is at building up a large network in the region, the stronger the deterrent effect and the less risk assumed by each member. With its outreach to ASEAN countries and others over the past decade, the United States seems to be on this path. New rotational basing deals with Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines are more evidence of this approach. But more diplomatic success will be required as the challenge from China increases. U.S. military planners face unfavorable trends in the Western Pacific. Panetta and his lieutenants have sent reinforcements to the region and are rewriting their military doctrines. Although these measures necessary, U.S. policymakers will need another way. Good strategy requires finding enduring advantages. The alliance network in the region provides U.S. commanders with partner military forces, basing options, operational experience, and deterrence against escalation, advantages China won't match any time soon. In this sense, the solution to the challenging military problem U.S. forces face in the Western Pacific will be found as much with more diplomacy as with more firepower.
Successful Pivot dissuades both China and ASEAN partners from initiating increasingly proactive stances in the South China Sea.
(Col Vivek Chadha (Retd) is a Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses -- ASIAN STRATEGIC REVIEW: US Pivot and Asian Security – a book edited by S.D. Muni, Vivek Chadha – From Chapter Three: “Military Implications of the
US Rebalancing Strategy” – by Vivek Chadha – http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCUQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fidsa.in%2Fsystem%2Ffiles%2Fbook_ASR2013.pdf&ei=AY-XU8rjNuaO8gG3g4CQBg&usg=AFQjCNG_ooiEIMhuGCnMzg7oy_t67sZTgQ)
The US rebalance or the pivot to the Asia-Pacific is not merely a military move aimed at readjusting the deployment of platforms in light of the withdrawal from Iraq and drawdown from Afghanistan. It is the fulcrum of the US efforts to retain its economic growth, strategic influence and competitive edge in all spheres. It is also about the often unsaid China factor—a factor that has the potential to impact every domain of undeniable US leadership. It would be an overstatement to classify the rebalance as a paradigm shift in the US strategy for the region. The US has been and is likely to remain a Pacific power in the foreseeable future. In the past, the pillars of its association with the region have been similar to the ones proposed. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the US has remained a pre-eminent power in the Asia-Pacific, through its economic and military strength and network of alliances with countries like Japan, South Korea and Australia. It has also maintained a substantial forward presence in Japan and South Korea. This coupled with a generational lead in military technology has kept the US ahead of its rivals. It is through these salient pillars of its strategy that the US has maintained a favourable environment in the Asia- Pacific region. It therefore emerges that the pivot or rebalance is not entirely a fresh perspective, nor is it aimed at achieving anything substantially different. It does, however, reinforce the importance of the region, in light of the emergence of China as the greatest threat to US supremacy and a desire to move away from nation building, which was a by-product of the war on terror. Rebalancing rather than being a new strategy can be described as a readjustment of priorities and focus, backed by military capability. This capability will mirror the policy through asset reallocation both between theatres and within the Asia-Pacific. In addition to the China factor, the readjustment is likely to be impacted for the first time in the last five decades by the cloud of severe budgetary constraints. When these two factors are viewed in concert, the challenges posed become evident. China is emerging as the largest trading partner in the area of focus of the pivot.1 Its strategic influence is on the rise and it is competing with the US in all spheres for leadership, including military modernisation. Simultaneously, the US Armed Forces are threatened by a $ 500 billion budget cut over the next decade. Therefore, the rebalance should be seen as a larger strategy of the US to maintain its slipping position as the strategic prime mover in the Asia-Pacific and by co-relation the world. In doing so, it will deter the ability of China to disturb the regional status quo within the financial constraints of depleting financial outlays. This will demand of the US both ingenuity and resilient partnerships for it to remain a pre-eminent power in the region. The US is likely to pursue this goal through the following objectives: • Establish a military posture, which has both deterrence and punitive capability in the region within its reducing means. • Maintain a generational lead in military technology over China, to achieve its strategic objectives. • Create and strengthen a network of allies and partners, who have vested interests in building their economies in an environment of peace and security. • Strike a balance between credibility of alliances with partner countries in the region and simultaneously discourage any temptation on their part to use this as a leverage for escalating military tensions in bilateral disputes. The paper briefly traces the trajectory of events leading to the announcement of rebalance by the US. It further analyses the factors that have forced a more proactive and vocal enunciation of the policy. This is followed up by a focus on the military shift as a result of the rebalance strategy, its implications and finally the impact of sequestration. The US “Pivot” to the Asia-Pacific or the “rebalancing”, as it was subsequently christened, was a shift waiting to happen after the end of the Cold War. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the US as the preeminent power, the strategic significance of both Europe and the Atlantic diminished. This intervening period witnessed the US in a state of strategic stall, with the absence of a potential adversary, which could challenge the brief phase of unipolarity in world politics. Referring to this period, Condoleezza Rice, wrote: “That we did not know how to think about what follows the US-Soviet confrontation is clear from the continued references to the ‘post Cold-War period’.”2 It was not until the rise of China was finally acknowledged as a threat to US influence in the world in general and the Asia-Pacific region in particular that the need for a shift was realised. Rice identifying the threat from China wrote in the year 2000: “What we do know is that China is a great power with unresolved vital interests, particularly concerning Taiwan and the South China Sea. China resents the role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region. This means that China is not a status-quo power but one that would like to alter Asia’s balance of power in its favor [sic].”3 However, the open admission of a definitive threat from China during the initial years of the Bush administration’s first tenure in the White House faded after the launch of the “war on terror”. The shift in focus towards terrorism led to a softening of US focus on China, given the need for wide ranging cooperation against a common threat and the inability to focus militarily on two major fronts. Thus, despite the threat perceptions enunciated by senior officials in the Bush administration, the pivot did happen, but it tuned towards Iraq and Afghanistan. This preoccupation with the “war on terrorism” and a simultaneous economic slowdown, opened a window of opportunity for China to enlarge its area of influence. Its core interests increased in rapid succession from Taiwan to Tibet and then the South and East China Seas4, bringing into focus the disputes with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.5 Chinese activism raised concerns amongst the US allies and partners about the ability and lack of will of the sole superpower to assert its influence in the region. This was reinforced after the slowdown of the US and European economy in 2008. Joseph S. Nye felt that this very assessment led to an increase in Chinese activism and a desire to take a more proactive stance in the South China Sea dispute.6 Reflecting on this strategic direction, the US clearly signalled its intent to enlarge its role in the region in concert with its allies and partners.9 The amplification of this intent aimed at ensuring “security” in the region, “international order”, which would guarantee the rights of countries and adherence to “international law”, thereby safeguarding freedom of navigation. The specific contours of the US rebalance from the overall strategic perspective were outlined by the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she said: “Our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.”10 Factors Influencing US Rebalancing The strategic guidance laid down by the Department of Defense outlines the shifting contours of priorities for the US. It aims at a smaller footprint while countering terrorism through surgical strikes, maintaining presence and influence to shape events in the Middle East, reducing presence in Europe, Africa and Latin America and providing an impetus to its presence and focus on the Asia- Pacific.11 Amongst the areas of interest outlined, the Asia-Pacific has emerged as a priority for the US in the foreseeable future. Given this reassessment of interests, a rebalance of strategic focus became inevitable. The US rebalancing has been influenced by a number of factors. This paper will consider three, as a prelude to an assessment of its military implications. The visual aspect of the US rebalancing, has been the redeployment of its military hardware, which became the focus of world attention. However, the shift is not merely military in nature and more importantly it represents a strategic rebalance. This includes enhancing economic ties in the region, strengthening and building partnerships with allies and friendly countries and finally ensuring that a stable environment can be ensured by deterring the disturbance of status quo.12 The US decision to join the East Asia Summit indicated its willingness to increase its influence at the multilateral level.13 Similarly, an impetus to bilateral ties, with specific focus on military engagement, is also evident. This is evident through stronger military ties with Australia, India, Japan, Singapore and other countries of the region, as will be dealt with later in the paper. On the economic front, the US initiative to establish a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with countries like Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam on November 12, 2011 was seen as an attempt to enhance trade, investment and influence.14 There is broad consensus on “ensuring that the United States plays a key role in shaping Asian economic architecture will also affect its influence in the region.”15 This is seen in the US as the economic lever of the pivot to the Asia-Pacific.16 The feeling that the Asia-Pacific region had not received adequate attention in the recent past was accentuated most by the rise of China. This was especially in light of China’s growing assertiveness as well as its enhanced capability. It is evident from the article written by Condoleezza Rice in 2000 that China was firmly on the US radar. However, the rapidity of its rise and growing assertiveness was a catalyst in the ensuring shift. This assertiveness has been most pronounced amongst the US partners and allies in Southeast and East Asia, who have territorial disputes with China. The decision to include some of these disputes as core issues by China, by implication, could lead to the use of force in case of a showdown. China’s state-owned Global Times in a blunt warning wrote, “If these countries don’t want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sound of cannons. We need to be ready for that, as it may be the only way for the disputes in the sea to be resolved.”17 China’s military capability gives it the ability to take pre-emptive action to assert its territorial claims and simultaneously deter US intervention. This could become an important factor in the capacity of the US to retain its influence in the region. China’s ability to use force and its qualitative enhancement has been a subject of debate in the past. However, recent advances have greatly augmented its capability. This is increasingly becoming a cause for concern in the US. In its assessment, the US Department of Defense (DoD) China Report for 2012, says: “China’s approach to dealing with this challenge is manifested in a sustained effort to develop the capability to attack, at long ranges, military forces that might deploy and or operate within the western Pacific, which the DoD characterizes [sic] as ‘anti-access’ and ‘area denial’ (A2/AD) capabilities.”
South China Sea war is coming in the squo. The US will get drawn-in. Miscalc is likely.
Denmark – May 31st
2014 – Abraham M. Denmark is Vice President for Political and Security Affairs at The National Bureau of Asian Research. He previously served as Country Director for China Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “Could Tensions in the South China Sea Spark a War?” – National Interest – May 31, 2014 – http://nationalinterest.org/feature/could-tensions-the-south-china-sea-spark-war-10572
One topic that is raised regularly in both countries is, a bit incongruously, Crimea. Elites in both Manila and Vietnam see much of themselves in Ukraine—a small nation embroiled in a serious territorial dispute with their (relatively) economically vital and militarily dominant neighbor. Russia’s intervention and subsequent annexation of Crimea seemed to demonstrate to leaders in Southeast Asia that economic dependence and military weakness is a geopolitical liability, and that territorial integrity and national sovereignty are not inviolate in the twenty-first century. These countries fear that Russia has set the stage for China to use force to take control over disputed territories. As a reaction, they are seeking to diversify their economies in order to reduce their dependence on China while also building their own military power somewhat reduce China’s military advantage. Vietnam has in recent years purchased 6 Kilo-class submarines from Russia, maritime patrol aircraft from Canada, and Sigma Corvettes from the Netherlands. The Philippines has likewise announced plans to increase its defense spending and to purchase three decommissioned Hamilton-class cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard, along with twelve new FA-50 fighters from Korea. Both also seek to buttress their defense cooperation with the United States—Hanoi’s engagement with Washington has increased noticeably in recent years, and Manila recently signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with Washington to strengthen defense cooperation and expand the American military presence in the Philippines. Vietnam and the Philippines will not stand idly by as China gradually erodes their hold on what they believe to be their territory. Yet they also do not want a war with China—their strategy appears to be focused on resisting China’s efforts to erode their claims while buying time to build their power, reduce their dependence on China, and hope the international community will intervene. Manila has brought its dispute with China to the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration, a decision from which is expected near the end of 2015. Moreover, both have turned to ASEAN to bring added geopolitical weight to negotiations with Beijing to develop a legally binding maritime code of conduct in the South China Sea—an agreement that would not affect the disputes themselves, but would considerably reduce tensions. Chilly Times Ahead The future of these disputes is not promising for long-term peace and stability. Neither side has demonstrated any interest in backing down or compromising, and the potential for future escalation and crisis is high. China’s approach to these disputes is particularly problematic. Its refusal to compromise, its continued reliance on escalation, and its commitment to change the status quo (no matter how gradually) is a recipe for persistent tension. Most troubling is the confidence with which China approaches escalation. Beijing appears to see escalation as a tool that can be used with absolute control and predictability. China’s strategists and policy makers are fairly new to major power geopolitics, and have not learned the lessons their American and Russian counterparts learned during the Cold War: that escalation is a dangerous tool, that an adversary can respond in very unpredictable ways, and that tension can quickly spiral out of control. One problem on the near horizon is how China will react to the arrest of Chinese fishermen by the Philippines. Beijing will certainly react, and will again seek to punish Manila and strengthen China’s claims in the process. One option would be to arrest Philippine fishermen operating in waters claimed by China. Another more likely and more provocative response would be to evict the Philippine forces currently on the grounded Sierra Madre on the Second Thomas Reef. China has already harassed routine efforts by the Philippines to resupply those sailors, and may seek to tighten the blockade on the ship in order to force the sailors to withdraw. The potential for shots to be fired or another ship to be rammed and sunk would be high, and lives may be lost. Without serious engagement, China is unlikely to back down. Beijing has painted this issue as directly related to its territorial integrity and national sovereignty, and its recent public marking of the 95th anniversary of the May 4 movement—in which the existing government was overthrown by a popular uprising that judged Beijing as weak in the face of foreign exploitation—strongly suggests that China’s leaders are sensitive to linkages between perceived weakness abroad and instability at home. With the growth of China’s economy likely to slow dramatically in coming years, Beijing appears to see incidents like these as useful in stirring nationalist sentiments at home to buttress the popular legitimacy of the Chinese Communist Party. Should China use force against the Philippines, no matter how much Beijing may try to describe the act as defensive or reactive, the United States would probably be drawn into the crisis—certainly in a diplomatic sense, and potentially in a military sense as well. The United States will be unlikely to back down in such a situation, as the credibility of America’s willingness to intervene overseas has already come into question after decisions to not intervene in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or Assad’s crossing the chemical weapons “redline” in Syria. While Washington would certainly attempt to de-escalate any crisis and prevent the use of force, it will also be sure to demonstrate will and resolve in order to both deter hostilities and reassure its allies. While the United States is not a party to these disputes per se, it has a major interest in seeing them resolved peacefully. A conflict in the South China Sea would be disastrous for regional trade and for U.S.-China relations—both of which are of singular importance to the United States. The United States could enhance deterrence for Beijing by raising the costs to China for additional incidents—potential initiatives include further strengthening military cooperation with the other claimants in the South China Sea, building their military capabilities, and enhancing mechanisms for multinational training and exercises. Additionally, Washington should work as an honest broker among all parties to identify opportunities for de-escalation and to develop a roadmap to the peaceful resolution of disputes. The upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue is an important opportunity for Beijing and Washington to speak directly about these issues and the dangers they post, and to find a way to prevent a crisis. China and other claimants in the South China Sea are on a collision course, and it is incumbent on the United States to demonstrate leadership by forestalling a future crisis that could throw the entire region into conflict. Unless the claimants are able to turn away from aggression and see de-escalation as a useful tool of strategy, it is only a matter of time until Beijing miscalculates and escalates over a redline that leads to crisis and raises the potential for conflict. A mix of countries with incompatible, apparently nonnegotiable interests willing to use force and unwilling to acknowledge any way out than the absolute capitulation of the other side is a highly dangerous mix—this is how wars start.
That escalates to a nuclear exchange
Avery Goldstein is the David M. Knott Professor of Global Politics and International Relations, Director of the Center for the Study of Contemporary China, and Associate Director of the Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics at the University of Pennsylvania, “First Things First: The Pressing Danger of Crisis Instability in U.S.-China Relations,” International Security, Vol. 37, no 4, Spring, 2013, pp 49-89
In a crisis, the U.S. and Chinese interests at stake will be high, and either side could decide that the risk of escalation introduced by conventional, space, or cyberattacks was worth running. Even though no stake in a crisis would be high enough for either the United States or China to choose an unrestrained nuclear exchange, some stakes might be high enough for either one to choose to initiate military actions that elevate the risk of escalation to such a disastrous outcome.88 As discussed above, both China and the United States have important interests over which they could find themselves locked in a war threatening crisis in the Western Pacific. The recent pattern of pointed Chinese and U.S. statements about the handling of persistent disputes in the South China Sea, for example, suggests that both sides attach a high and perhaps increasing value to their stakes in this region. Whether that value is high enough to contribute to crisis instability is an empirical question that cannot be answered in advance. The most worrisome source of instability, however, is clear—the temptation to use nonnuclear strikes as a way to gain bargaining leverage, even if doing so generates an unknowable risk of nuclear catastrophe that both China and the United States will have incentives to manipulate.
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