Category Archives: Asia

New US Pacific Fleet Commander Acknowledges ‘Great Angst’ Among Allies

The new commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet is seeking to reassure regional allies that the pivot of American military forces will be sustained amid concerns regarding China’s maritime expansion.

Since taking his post three months ago at the helm of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott H. Swift has gone to the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia to meet with counterparts in their navies.

In every one of those destinations there is “great angst” – due to the worrying “scale and scope” of Beijing’s reclamation projects in the South China Sea, Swift told reporters on Tuesday.

New US Pacific Fleet Commander Acknowledges ‘Great Angst’ Among Allies

Ghosts of 1997 financial crisis return to haunt Asia

Eighteen years after a financial crisis ripped through Asia, toppling governments, bankrupting companies and generally wreaking havoc, the region’s currencies are once again coming under intense pressure.

Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, appear to be in trouble. Over the past year, the Malaysian ringgit has lost nearly a quarter of its value against the dollar. Indonesia’s rupiah has shed 15% over the same time period. Both currencies are now at their weakest level since the Asian financial crisis, and losses continue to pile up.

Related: U.S. dollar’s breathtaking rally vs. other currencies

Adding to concerns, Beijing has devalued the yuan in recent days, a move that some think was designed to boost the country’s exporters. If that view finds traction among regional governments, retaliatory actions could spark a currency war in the region, further degrading the rupiah, ringgit and other vulnerable currencies.

Ghosts of 1997 financial crisis return to haunt Asia

Hegemon: Wargaming the South China Sea

This northern summer’s Hegemon simulations centered on the South China Sea. Every game unfolded differently, but the world has a certain ineluctable logic of strategy imposed by objectives, facts on the ground and political will: great powers gonna do great-powering. China looms ever-larger on the South China Sea gameboard tiles; it has the initiative. Because some players secretly fear war and others do not, Hegemon becomes a test of wits where every player suffers from information asymmetry, never sure how their counterparts will react.

Prediction is hard, to paraphrase Niels Bohr, especially of the intentions of other people.

Ten key takeaways from Hegemon:

  1. ‘Wargames’ needn’t involve war. In Potomac’s experience, just half of the South China Sea simulations erupt into violence within 20 years (four turns of five years each). Diplomacy and deal-making are crucial. Personalities matter. With a bunch of navy and air force captains at the keyboard, things often turn kinetic. With political science professors, expect different outcomes.
  2. If China plays a long game with diplomatic initiative, it can win without fighting. Regional nations respect, depend on and fear China, and they are inclined to bandwagon with it. China towers over them in actual power so it can afford to be magnanimous. Over many years consistent Chinese reassurance could work. In that case the US would end up a ‘present but irrelevant’ Asian outsider.
  3. But China may not have such patience, and not every neighbour will join the Sinosphere. In a classic security dilemma, one country’s deterrence is another’s threat. Even as some players bandwagon, others will balance. Under most scenarios Japan sticks with the US alliance. One striking message of the game is how easily Asia could drift toward a bipolar equilibrium. Just about every simulation ends up with some sort of red-versus-blue alignment.

Hegemon: Wargaming the South China Sea

Exposed: China Did NOT Halt Island Building Project in the South China Sea | The National Interest Blog

This is actually what is occurring in the South China Sea. Rather than halting the island building project, China is merely completing the dredging that has transformed seven reefs and rocks in the Spratly Islands into seven new artificial islands. Thus, China has not yielded to international pressure over its aggressive island building scheme; it has merely completed this phase of the operation.

The next phase of the operation is to complete construction of military and civilian facilities on the newly-created islands. In many cases, this work is already well underway. For example, news reports suggest that China is nearly construction of a 3,000 meter airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef, which is now a sizeable island.

This is an audacious action. As the terrific Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has pointed out, this new airstrip is over twice as long as any existing airstrips in the Spratly Islands. This has ominous military implications. For example, a 3,000 meter airstrip will be able to accommodate bombers, which none of the other existing airstrips in the region can do.

Exposed: China Did NOT Halt Island Building Project in the South China Sea | The National Interest Blog

China may be preparing second South China Sea airstrip: think-tank – The Economic Times

Satellite photos of another reef, Subi, where nearly four million square metres (988 acres) of land have been reclaimed, indicate Beijing may be getting ready to build another strip of similar length there, it added.

“A Chinese airbase at Fiery Cross Reef would allow for much-improved situational awareness,” the website said, adding it could let China deploy maritime surveillance aircraft and fighter squadrons in the area.

“China may be more readily able to use the airbase for patrols or limited offensive operations against other South China Sea claimants, or even United States assets,” it added.

Taiwan is currently upgrading its 1,195 metre airstrip on Itu Aba island, CSIS said.

According to the website, Malaysia has the second-longest runway in the area on Swallow Reef at 1,368 metres. The Philippines’ strip is slightly shorter but with an “extremely worn” dirt surface.

China may be preparing second South China Sea airstrip: think-tank – The Economic Times

Experts Concerned China May Soon Establish Southern ADIZ

U.S. and international security experts have expressed concerns that it may just be a matter of time before China establishes an air defense identification zone over disputed waters in the South China Sea.

China has been rapidly reclaiming land and making artificial islands in the South China Sea during the past year, causing strong reaction in the U.S. and many other countries.

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said island building is just the beginning.

McCain said the next step for China will be to militarize those islands and declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea to further its sovereignty claims.

Experts Concerned China May Soon Establish Southern ADIZ

Japan defence paper slams China’s ‘coercive’ maritime demands – Business Insider

Japan on Tuesday slammed Beijing’s bid to reclaim land in the South China Sea as a “coercive attempt” to force through sweeping maritime claims, in a defence paper that comes as Tokyo tries to expand the role of its military.

Tokyo said China was acting “unilaterally and without compromise”, as it also highlighted concern about North Korea’s nuclear programme and Russian moves in violence-wracked Ukraine.

The white paper accused Beijing of “raising concerns among the international community” in ramped-up criticism from last year’s report, an annual summary of Japan’s official view on defence matters.

“China, particularly over maritime issues, continues to act in an assertive manner, including coercive attempts at changing the status quo, and is poised to fulfil its unilateral demands without compromise,” said the report titled “Defense of Japan”.

Japan defence paper slams China’s ‘coercive’ maritime demands – Business Insider

Naval Buildups in the South China Sea | The Diplomat

After decades of operating legacy Soviet platforms, Vietnam’s navy is acquiring advanced new frigates from Russia and the Netherlands, capable new Russian diesel-electric submarines, and a host of modern anti-ship cruise missiles. The Philippines has nearly doubled its fleet of surface combat vessels in the last five years and is working to acquire two advanced new frigates. Malaysia was among the first in the region to add advanced submarines to their fleet and is indigenously building six new advanced French-designed frigates. Meanwhile, Indonesia is building two new Dutch-designed frigates and acquiring two improved South Korean submarines as part of an ambitious 20-year modernization and expansion program.

It is hardly a new observation that naval capabilities in Southeast Asia are surging. Harder to assess, though, is who has the advantage in a peer competition, or sufficient ability to prohibitively raise conflict costs to a more powerful aggressor. Focusing on what the region’s navies are acquiring is not that informative. It glazes over questioning the region’s strategic first principles – namely, assumptions about a country’s goals and what they think they need to achieve those goals – and whether (or to what degree) investments in naval capabilities are relevant to the ongoing disputes that appear to motivate them.

Naval Buildups in the South China Sea | The Diplomat

Philippines ramps up military spending in face of China threat | Reuters

The Philippines plans to ramp up military spending over the next 13 years, earmarking more than $20 billion to modernize its forces in the face of Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the disputed South China Sea, a top air force official told Reuters.

Major-General Raul del Rosario, military chief of plans, said the blueprint includes installing radars and sensors, and buying equipment such as submarines, frigates, fighters, surveillance planes and missile systems.

“By the time, we complete this plan, we will have complete coverage of the South China Sea,” said del Rosario, a former fighter pilot, showing the military’s detailed plan that was approved on Friday.

“We will have 24/7 awareness of what is happening in the disputed area and we’ll be able to respond quicker to any contingency in our own exclusive economic zone.”

Philippines ramps up military spending in face of China threat | Reuters

Japan doubles number of ships around disputed Diaoyu Islands after China sends vessels to the area | South China Morning Post

Japan is to double the size of its naval presence in waters around a set of disputed islands that are also claimed by China.

Less than a week after two ships from China’s coastguard entered a zone around the Diaoyu Islands that Japan claims as the Senkaku Islands, Tokyo announced that it would dispatch a further six of its own coastguard ships to the region.

Six Japanese patrol vessels are already tasked with protecting Japan’s claimed territory but there are growing concerns about increasing Chinese assertiveness.

When the Chinese crews of the Haijing 2307 and 2337 were challenged last week by a Japanese coastguard ship, they replied the islands were the “inherent territory of China” and that the surrounding waters were also Chinese.

Japan doubles number of ships around disputed Diaoyu Islands after China sends vessels to the area | South China Morning Post