Will Clash of Civilizations between US and China Leads to War

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea in this August 15, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Handout via Reuters/Files

USS Curtis Wilbur patrols in the Philippine Sea in this August 15, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Handout via Reuters/Files

US talented political scientist Samuel Huntington predicted the clash between Western and Islamic civilizations in his well-known writings on the clash of civilizations. In spite of Huntington’s renown, the US failed to take his prediction seriously. As a result, it failed to prevent the 911 Islamic attack at US homeland.

In Huntington’s book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, he predicted the clash of civilizations between the US and China that would lead to a war between the two countries.

Will his prediction proves true again? It seems so.

China claims most of the vast South China Sea within its nine-dash line as its territorial waters based on the Chinese civilization that allows regarding the sea as its own territory, but the US openly challenges China’s claim based on its civilization that stresses freedom of navigation and flyover. Now, according to Reuters’ report “U.S. warship sails near island claimed by China in South China Sea” yesterday, the US has sent its warship again to challenge China’s claim.

Will that leads to a war? Not now as China has not been ready for the war. However, the US is giving China the excuse to militarize the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.

When China has sufficiently militarized the islands to control the sea including the capabilities to deny entry of US submarines into the South China Sea and when it has developed J-20 powerful enough to dominate the sky there, there may be a war if the US concentrates as it plans its aircraft carriers in the area within the range of Chinese anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles.

What China fears most is the cutting of its trade lifelines in the oceans. If the US does not send most of its navy near China to be destroyed by China, the US can easily subdue China by destroying Chinese navy and merchant ships at high seas. However, as China has geographic advantage near its coast, China will be able to destroy most of US aircraft carriers near it so that its navy will be able to deal with what left of US navy at high seas.

From that we can see how strategy illiterate US generals and politicians are. They do not know where they are strong, i.e. in the oceans that they dominate with their powerful navy, but plan to send most of its navy to the area near China to enable China to exploit in full its geographical advantage.

Now, if both sides persist, China will make every effort to conduct a fierce arms race with the US including militarization of its artificial islands. Is the US prepared for the arms race and even a war with China?

Comments by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters report.

The following is the full text of Reuters’s report:

U.S. warship sails near island claimed by China in South China Sea

Reuters/U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Declan Barnes/Hando

China, US, clash of civilizations, South China Sea, artificial islands, US-China war

ut via Reuters/Files

A U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of an island claimed by China and two other states in the South China Sea on Saturday to counter efforts to limit freedom of navigation, the Pentagon said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said no ships from China’s military were in the vicinity of the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur when it passed near Triton Island in the Paracel Islands.

“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants – China, Taiwan and Vietnam – to restrict navigation rights and freedoms,” Davis said, reflecting the U.S. position that the crucial sea lane should be treated as international waters.

The Navy conducted a similar exercise in October in which the guided-missile destroyer Lassen sailed close to one of China’s manmade islands, drawing a rebuke from Beijing.

Davis said the latest operation sought to challenge policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas. He said the United States took no position on competing sovereignty claims to naturally-formed land features in the South China Sea.

“No claimants were notified prior to the transit, which is consistent with our normal process and international law,” Davis said.

The Chinese foreign ministry responded Saturday evening with a statement on its website condemning the action.

“The American warship has violated relevant Chinese laws by entering Chinese territorial waters without prior permission, and the Chinese side has taken relevant measures including monitoring and admonishments,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

China’s defense ministry followed up later Saturday night with a far more forceful statement on its website, calling the American action “intentionally provocative and “irresponsible and extremely dangerous.”

The ministry also said that Chinese navy vessels had immediately taken responsive action, conducted identification checks and promptly gave warnings for the ship to keep its distance.

“Regardless of whatever provocative steps the American side takes, China’s military will take all necessary measures to firmly safeguard national sovereignty and security,” the ministry statement concluded.

The operation followed calls in Congress for the Obama administration to follow up on the October operation.

This month, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee criticized Obama for delaying further freedom of navigation patrols.

Senator John McCain said that allowed China to continue to pursue its territorial ambitions in the region, including by landing a plane on a manmade island in the Spratly Islands archipelago.

In a statement on Saturday, McCain said he was “encouraged” by the news.

“I continue to hope these operations will become so routine that China and other claimants will come to accept them as normal occurrences and releasing press statements to praise them will no longer be necessary,” he said.

McCain added that the operation challenged the “excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States.”

(Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Idrees Ali.; Editing by Tom Heneghan, Bernard Orr)

China’s 052D Better in Radar, Stealth, Weapons than US Burke Destroyer

052D destroyer

052D destroyer

In his interview with Beijing TV, Chinese military expert Fang Bing says that China’s Type 052D destroyer is better than US Arleigh Burke class destroyer as it is equipped with better electronics for communications, especially an advanced phased array radar that can detect and track stealth warplanes including US F-35 stealth fighter jet.

In addition, it is stealth and armed with better missiles fired from vertical launch tubes and has good anti-submarine and air defense capabilities.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Expert: 052D class destroyer better than US Arleigh Burke class destroyer in radar and stealth” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

China’s J-20 Better in Detecting Stealth Plane, Longer Range than F-22





China’s Qianjiang Daily published an article by Chinese writer Tu Chenxin on January 27 that makes a comparison between China’s J-20 and US F-22 stealth fighter jets.

Tu says that as J-20 emerges later than F-22, it has more advanced electronic equipment, especially the EOTS electro-optical system similar to F-35’s that may detect stealth aircrafts a longer distance away than radar. F-22 lacks space to install that system.

F-22 is designed for maintaining air supremacy so that it lacks anti-ground and anti-ship capabilities in being able to carry only one 454kg guided bomb while J-20 is designed as a multifunctional one and can carry anti-ground and anti-ship missiles in its deeper and longer weapon bay.

J-20 has a longer fuselage to carry more fuel so that its range is much longer than F-22.

In case of a war with China, all the airfields within the range of Chinese intermediate-range ballistic missiles will be destroyed. An F-22 from the Guam has to undergo 6 refueling to operate near China. F-22 obviously lacks the geographic advantage in fighting J-20.

However, J-20 lacks good engines. It has good potential in realizing the design for its better maneuverability but the Russian engines it uses now lack the power to achieve that. China is developing its WS-15 engine for J-20 that may enable J-20 to conduct supersonic cruise for a long duration and make it as stealthy as F-22 and better maneuverable than F-22, but it takes time make the engine reliable.

Source: Qianjiang Evening Daily “Comparison between Chinese and US super fighter jets: J-20 is better in detecting stealthy aircraft and has longer range” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the article in Chinese)

China’s New Version of DF-15 Bunker Buster with Thicker Warhead

Launch of new version of DF-15 with thick warhead

Launch of new version of DF-15 with thick warhead

The DF-15 displayed in September parade

The DF-15 displayed in September parade

Mil.huanqiu.com says in its report today that in a drill in Gobi Desert, Inner Mogolia, a brigade of China’s Rocket Army launched a new version of China’s DF-15 bunker busting missile with thicker warhead than the DF-15s displayed in China’s September military parade.

The brigade launched the missile during a drill in very cold weather at minus 30 degree Celsius.

Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Rocket Army launches new version of DF-15 missile with thick warhead” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

China’s Secret Top Science, Technology Awards for Military Technology

Xiang Libin is granted China's top annual science and technology award

Xiang Libin is granted China’s top annual science and technology award

It was a surprise that no one got China’s top annual science and technology award according to official media. CCTV says in its report that no one has won the 2015 top award. It really puzzled me that even Pan Jianwei who was well-qualified to win the top award for his achievement in quantum communication, only won the first-class award.

It has now turned out that the top award was won by Mr. Xiang Libin for his more than 20 achievements mainly in the area of satellite technology. Pan could not get the top award as Xiang’s achievements are much greater.

A photo of Xiang winning the award in the awards granting ceremony is posted above.

As Xiang and his achievements are China’s top secrets, CCTV did not mention him and maybe not even got the news from the Chinese authorities due to the secrecy.

War.163.com got the news of Xiang winning the top award from the special reports by the observation website and the Initiative Foundation of the Science and Technology University of China.

The website says that China’s science and technology awards are given to both common and special items of achievements, in which most of the special items are military ones that have to be kept confidential. Only a few of them have been made public for propaganda such as 921 manned space flight, quantum communication, HY2000 AEW&C aircraft, J-10 and J-11 fighter jets, J-20 stealth fighter jet, Y-20 large transport aircraft, etc.

According to military expert Mr. Lei Ze, due to the secrecy, the names and achievements of quite a few top Chinese scientists have to be remained unknown for decades, including Deng Jiaxian, major organizer of the development of China’s nuclear weapons and Yu Min who has developed China’s H bombs.

Deng Jiaxian

Deng Jiaxian

Yu Min

Yu Min

Another top scientist Research Fellow Ma Weimin has also been kept secret. Ma has won the year’s top national award for Science and Technology Team for his development of China’s electromagnetic catapult and the integrated power system for propulsion in China’s large warships and submarines including that in China’s newest Type 039 conventional submarine.

China's newest Type 039 conventional submarine

China’s newest Type 039 conventional submarine

Source: war.163.com “China’s top science and technology awards are given for military technology in secret, which puzzles the West” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

China Strategic Missile Drill on Road in Extremely Cold Weather

The brigade's first vehicle that carries something like the lower part of DF-5B MIRV ICBM

The brigade’s first vehicle that carries something like the lower part of DF-5B MIRV ICBM

The brigade's vehicle carrying rocket on road

The brigade’s vehicle carrying rocket on road

The brigade's motorcade

The brigade’s motorcade

Cover the vehicles for camouflage

Cover the vehicles for camouflage

Connecting cable to power supply

Connecting cable to power supply

Strategic rocket erected on road

Strategic rocket erected on road

The control panel of the strategic missile

The control panel of the strategic missile

News.xinhuanet.com says that according to CCTV’s report a certain missile brigade of China’s Rocket Army recently conducted a drill in the field in extremely cold weather. Its motorcade drove slowly and it had to check the functions of the equipment constantly.

The oil pressure sensor failed due to excessively low temperature. The commander had to give order to use the auxiliary preheating system.

According to Li Xue, chief of staff of the brigade, in the past they conducted indoor simulated training, but now they have to conduct training in the field on frozen road in extremely cold weather with full precaution.

When they had arrived at the site as ordered, they received an order to rapidly move to another site before 13:00 hours and had to be quickly on the road again.

Then they were ordered to stop on the road and cover their vehicles for camouflage so that they would not be discovered by enemy’s reconnaissance high up in the sky.

They had reached the designated site, connected their equipment with the power plant with cables and got ready for launch.

The brigade’s political commissar Ma Jiaxing said: As the first-line combat force of the Rocket Army, we find that the burden on our shoulders and our responsibilities have grown heavier. Only when we have been prepared to fight under the most complicated, difficult and hard conditions will we be able to fight and win.

Note: The missile on the truck in the photos looks like the lower part of DF-5B. It seems toxic liquid fuel is used so that operators are in protective clothing in the last photo.

Source: news.xinhuanet.com “Drill of the launch of Rocket Army’s strategic missile in extremely cold weather using a great lethal weapon” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)

Stratcom: China Moving Rapidly to Deploy New Hypersonic Glider

A Chinese national flag flutters at the headquarters of a commercial bank on a financial street near the headquarters of the People's Bank of China, China's central bank, in central Beijing November 24, 2014. Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

An artistic rendering of a hypersonic aircraft / AP

Beijing also tested anti-satellite missile in October

China conducted six successful tests of a new high-speed hypersonic glide vehicle, the most recent in November, and also recently tested an anti-satellite missile, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said Friday.

Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the commander in charge of nuclear forces, said the tests are part of a worrying military buildup by China, which also includes China’s aggressive activities in the South China Sea.

“China continues to make significant military investments in their nuclear and conventional capabilities, with their stated goal being that of defending Chinese sovereignty,” Haney said during a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It recently conducted its sixth successful test of a hypersonic glide vehicle, and as we saw in September last year, is parading missiles clearly displaying their modernization and capability advancements,” he added.

The six tests of the hypersonic glide vehicle, regarded by U.S. intelligence agencies as a nuclear delivery system designed to defeat missile defenses, were first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

Defense officials said the hypersonic glide vehicle tested on Nov. 23, known as DF-ZF, was launched atop a ballistic missile fired from China’s Wuzhai missile test center in central China.

The glider separated from the booster and flew at extremely high speed—between Mach 5 and Mach 10—along the edge of space.

Haney confirmed all six tests were successful, indicating the weapon program is proceeding.

Prior to the November test, the DF-ZF was flight tested Aug. 19.

The earlier tests were carried out on June 7, and on Jan. 9, 2014; Aug. 7, 2014; and Dec. 2, 2014.

Haney described the hypersonic threat as a challenge to U.S. strategic deterrence.

The congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission stated in its latest annual report that the hypersonic glide vehicle program is “progressing rapidly” and the weapon could be deployed by 2020.

China also is building a powered version of the high-speed vehicle that could be fielded by 2025.

“The very high speeds of these weapons, combined with their maneuverability and ability to travel at lower, radar-evading altitudes, would make them far less vulnerable than existing missiles to current missile defenses,” the commission stated.

In a second speech to another think tank on Friday, Haney also confirmed that China recently conducted a test of an anti-satellite missile.

Defense officials said the Dong Neng-3 exoatmospheric strike vehicle was flight-tested Oct. 30 from China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in western China. The test was also first reported by the Free Beacon, and officials said the missile threatens U.S. satellites.

Chinese Internet posts of pictures from the area showed what appeared to be contrails from the missile test.

A Chinese military official later confirmed the anti-satellite test in a state-run press report.

Zhou Derong, a professor at the People’s Liberation Army Logistics Academy, described the development of anti-satellite weapons as part of China’s national defense.

“It is perfectly legitimate for China to carry out normal missile launch tests,” Zhou was quoted as saying. “Besides, even if China were developing anti-satellite weapons, these would be no more than self-defense measures taken to protect its own space resources.”

The official criticized the United States for what he said were efforts to oppose and exaggerate anti-satellite tests.

The DN-3 is the third known anti-satellite missile operational or under development by China. Earlier tests involved anti-satellite missiles known as the DN-1 and DN-2. The DN-1 has also been labeled the SC-19.

Rick Fisher, a China military analyst at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said Adm. Haney has advanced details of China’s nuclear and strategic developments.

“Adm. Haney is the first U.S. official to call attention to China’s pursuit of prompt global strike capabilities, or non nuclear missile strike systems,” Fisher said. “The United States has been talking about Prompt Global Strike for nearly 20 years but has not built any such system.”

Also, China’s lack of transparency on nuclear forces is undermining Beijing’s often-stated policy of not being the first to use nuclear arms in a conflict.

“China’s development of two and possibly up to two more MIRV-equipped intercontinental missiles could indicate China seeks a nuclear first strike capability,” he said.

China also appears to be seeking to “sprint to parity” with the United States in warhead numbers along with growing space warfare capabilities poses “a much greater danger to U.S. strategic forces,” Fisher said, and should prompt a build up of U.S. nuclear forces.

Haney said another concern of Strategic Command is China’s re-engineering of its long-range missile to carry multiple nuclear warheads.

U.S. intelligence agencies detected the test of a new DF-41 intercontinental ballistic missile on Dec. 4 with two independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs.

By contrast, the United States has removed all multiple warheads from its land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles

Haney, in the CSIS speech, said the current strategic environment is “more complex, dynamic, and volatile, perhaps more so than any time in our history.”

“The dangers posed by this unpredictable security environment are compounded by the continuing propagation of asymmetric capabilities and methods, the unprecedented proliferation of advanced capacities and technologies, and the increasingly provocative and destabilizing behavior on the part of both current and potential adversaries,” he said.

The threats include terrorists in the Middle East, and activities by nation states including Russia, China, and North Korea.

Russia is continuing to modernize both its conventional and strategic forces and is stressing new strategic approaches and destabilizing activities in Syria and Ukraine, while developing space weapons and conducting cyber attacks, Haney said.

North Korea continues to threaten the Korean Peninsula and the Northeast Asia region with strategic advancements, including claims of “miniaturized” nuclear warheads and recent claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test, the four-star admiral said.

Pyongyang also is developing road-mobile and submarine-launched ballistic missile technologies, he added.

To meet the challenges, Haney said U.S. nuclear forces need to be modernized with new missiles, submarines, and bombers.

“Without timely investment, we risk degrading the deterring and the stabilizing effect of a strong and credible nuclear deterrent force,” he said.

Haney also warned about the growing threat of space warfare capabilities.

“We need to get our heads around the fact that a future conflict may bleed into space,” Haney said.

“Simply put, the threats are real and are evolving faster than we probably ever imagined. Irresponsible acts in space can have damaging consequences for all space-faring and space-dependent nations.”

Space attacks pose “a multifaceted space challenge, and potentially threatens national sovereignty and survival,” Haney said.

To counter space threats, the Pentagon is working to counter space attacks on satellites with new capabilities, more secure satellites, and smaller, more easily replaceable satellites.

Both Russia and China are working on space weapons, including lasers and other directed energy weapons that can blind satellites.

The debris resulting from China’s destruction of a weather satellite with a missile in 2007 is still posing problems for satellites and manned spacecraft.

North Korea also appears to be building satellites for space weapons.

“We must be able to maintain situational awareness of it all, act where necessary, and as stated in the 2010 Space Policy, preserve the space environment,” Haney said.

The Pentagon is spending more than $5.5 billion to prepare space systems for a future conflict, Haney said.

“We must have assured access to space such that we can function through a multi-layered approach, through all phases of conflict,” he said.

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Stratcom: China Moving Rapidly to Deploy New Hypersonic Glider”

China’s Growing Space Warfare Capabilities

Illustration of China’s Shenlong ‘Divine Dragon’ space plane

Illustration of China’s Shenlong ‘Divine Dragon’ space plane

US media Washington Free Beacon published yesterday a summary of Asia Times’ article titled “China’s Shenlong space plane is part of growing space warfare program: Gertz” on China’s development of Shenlong space plane to enhance its space warfare capabilities. It says:

China’s military space program is getting a boost from a recent reorganization within the People’s Liberation Army.

A Chinese military expert disclosed earlier this month that a Chinese space plane known as the Shenlong will likely be deployed with the newly formed Strategic Support Force, the PLA’s new high-technology warfare unit.

China announced in late December the launching of a significant reorganization within the PLA that includes the renaming of its missile forces as the Rocket Forces, and creating the Strategic Support Force that is designed for high-technology warfare, including space, cyber and electronic warfare.

Full text of Asia Times’ article can be viewed at http://atimes.com/2016/01/chinas-shenlong-space-plane-revealed-as-part-of-growing-space-warfare-program-gertz/

Source: Washington Free Beacon “Asia Times: China’s Shenlong Space Plane Is Part of Growing Space Warfare Program”

Kerry Happy at His Success in Laos to Subdue China by Diplomacy

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tours the That Luang Stupa or "Pha That Luang," with Phouvieng Phothisane, Acting Director of the Vientiane Museums, and Tata Keovilay, with the U.S. Embassy, in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tours the That Luang Stupa or “Pha That Luang,” with Phouvieng Phothisane, Acting Director of the Vientiane Museums, and Tata Keovilay, with the U.S. Embassy, in Vientiane, Laos, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool

Reuters says in its report today that Kerry says Laos keen to avoid militarization of South China Sea. The above photo shows how happy he is at his success in subduing China with diplomacy.

However, China has repeatedly said that it has no intention to militarize the South China Sea. If so, what success Kerry has achieved in getting Laos to oppose the militarization.

Anyway, after China’s diplomatic successes in Russia, Central Asia, Pakistan and the Middle East, the US has learnt the lesson and is now intensifying its diplomatic efforts. Resolving problems even subduing an enemy with diplomacy is much better than fighting a war.

Comments by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report.

Full text of Reuters’ report can be viewed below:

Kerry says Laos keen to avoid militarization of South China Sea

Laos wants to see maritime rights respected and avoid a military build-up in the South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday, after a meeting with Laos’ Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong to urge ASEAN unity in the face of Chinese claims.

Laos is the 2016 chair of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and hosts a summit later in the year that will include the leaders of the United States and China.

“He was very clear he wants a unified ASEAN and he wants maritime rights protected, and he wants to avoid militarization and to avoid conflict,” Kerry told reporters after meeting Thongsing in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

Kerry, only the third U.S. secretary of state to visit Cambodia since John Foster Dulles in 1955 and Hillary Clinton in 2012, was responding to a question whether Laos would take a strong line on territorial disputes in the South China Sea as ASEAN chair.

Laos has close political and economic ties with giant neighbor China, prompting the Obama administration to worry that Vientiane might behave like Cambodia did when it held the ASEAN chair in 2012.

Cambodia was accused of obstructing consensus in the bloc over standing up to China’s assertive pursuit of its South China Sea claims, which have since included the building of artificial islands suitable for military use.

“It is particularly important that Laos finds itself playing a critical role within ASEAN, and ASEAN itself is critical to upholding the rules-based system in the Asia-Pacific and ensuring that every country, big and small, has a say in addressing the matters of shared concern,” Kerry said.

“We want everybody to have a voice within the region without regards to size, power and clout.”

Kerry will travel on to Cambodia later on Monday as part of his effort to urge ASEAN unity ahead of a summit President Barack Obama has called with leaders of the bloc for Feb. 15-16 in Sunnylands, California..

Kerry heads to Beijing for talks on Wednesday with the leadership there.

A senior U.S. State Department official said Kerry would seek to set an encouraging tone in Laos by discussing increased U.S. aid, including more funds for work to dispose of unexploded U.S. ordnance left over from the Vietnam War, when Laos became one of history’s most heavily bombed countries, as the United States tried to destroy communist supply lines running through it.

Kerry, who fought in the Vietnam War and then became a champion of post-war reconciliation, said the United States had boosted funding for the disposal of unexploded ordnance over the years “and we are looking at whether or not that could be plussed-up even more.”

The number of people killed or badly hurt by such ordnance had fallen to about 50 a year, from about 300 a few years ago, he said, adding, “Fifty a year is still too many.”

The senior U.S. official said announcements on additional funding could be expected when Barack Obama becomes the first U.S. president ever to visit the country when he attends an ASEAN summit in Laos in September.

After meeting the prime minister, Kerry visited That Luang Stupa, the most important Buddhist monument in Laos, and offered a bouquet of closed white lotus blossoms dedicated to its people.

In Cambodia, Kerry will meet Hun Sen, now Asia’s longest serving prime minister, and will draw attention to U.S. concerns about human rights and the treatment of government critics by meeting opposition members and civil activists, the State Department official said.

Ties between the former Cold War foes have warmed over the last 15 years or so, following cooperation over efforts to locate American soldiers missing during the Vietnam war and to dispose of unexploded U.S. ordnance.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Writing by Simon Webb; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam that offers eye on China

A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off the shore of Vietnam, in this May 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh/Files

A ship (top) of the Chinese Coast Guard is seen near a ship of the Vietnam Marine Guard in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) off the shore of Vietnam, in this May 14, 2014 file photo. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh/Files

India will set up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam that will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region, including China and the South China Sea, Indian officials said.

The move, which could irritate Beijing, deepens ties between India and Vietnam, who both have long-running territorial disputes with China.

While billed as a civilian facility – earth observation satellites have agricultural, scientific and environmental applications – security experts said improved imaging technology meant the pictures could also be used for military purposes.

Hanoi especially has been looking for advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies as tensions rise with China over the disputed South China Sea, they said.

“In military terms, this move could be quite significant,” said Collin Koh, a marine security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. “It looks like a win-win for both sides, filling significant holes for the Vietnamese and expanding the range for the Indians.”

The state-run Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will fund and set up the satellite tracking and data reception centre in Ho Chi Minh City to monitor Indian satellite launches, the Indian officials said. Indian media put the cost at around $23 million.

India, whose 54-year-old space programme is accelerating, with one satellite launch scheduled every month, has ground stations in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, Brunei, Biak in eastern Indonesia and Mauritius that track its satellites in the initial stages of flight.

The Vietnam facility will bolster those capabilities, said Deviprasad Karnik, an ISRO spokesman.


But unlike the other overseas stations, the facility will also be equipped to receive images from India’s earth observation satellites that Vietnam can use in return for granting India the tracking site, said an Indian government official connected with the space programme.

“This is a sort of quid pro quo which will enable Vietnam to receive IRS (Indian remote sensing) pictures directly, that is, without asking India,” said the official, who declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

“Obviously it will include parts of China of interest to Vietnam.”

Chinese coastal naval bases, the operations of its coastguard and navy and its new man-made islands in the disputed Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea would be targets of Vietnamese interest, security experts said.

Another Indian official said New Delhi would also have access to the imagery.

India has 11 earth observation satellites in orbit, offering pictures with differing resolutions and areas, the ISRO said.

Indian officials had no timeframe for when the centre would be operational.

“This is at the beginning stages, we are still in dialogue with Vietnamese authorities,” said Karnik.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the project, but provided few other details.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing that Beijing hoped the facility “will be able to make a positive contribution to pushing forward relevant cooperation in the region”. China’s Defence Ministry said the proposed tracking station wasn’t a military issue.

Vietnam launched its first earth observation satellite in 2013, but Koh said it was not thought to produce particularly high resolution images.


Security experts said Vietnam would likely seek real-time access to images from the Indian satellites as well as training in imagery analysis, a specialised intelligence field.

“The advance of technology means the lines are blurring between civilian and military satellites,” said Trevor Hollingsbee, a retired naval intelligence analyst with Britain’s Defence Ministry. “In some cases, the imagery from a modern civilian satellite is good enough for military use.”

Sophisticated military reconnaissance satellites can be used to capture military signals and communications, as well as detailed photographs of objects on land, capturing detail to less than a metre, Koh and other experts said.

The tracking station will be the first such foreign facility in Vietnam and follows other agreements between Hanoi and New Delhi that have cemented security ties.

India has extended a $100 million credit line for Hanoi to buy patrol boats and is training Vietnamese submariners in India while Hanoi has granted oil exploration blocks to India in waters off Vietnam that are disputed with China.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has shown a greater willingness to step up security ties with countries such as Vietnam, overriding concerns this would upset China, military officials said.

“You want to engage Vietnam in every sphere. The reason is obvious – China,” said retired Indian Air Force group captain Ajay Lele at the New Delhi-based Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.

Both India and Vietnam are also modernising their militaries in the face of Beijing’s growing assertiveness, having separately fought wars with China in past decades.

Australian-based scholar Carl Thayer, who has studied Vietnam’s military since the late 1960s, said the satellite tracking facility showed both nations wanted to enhance security ties.

“Their interests are converging over China and the South China Sea,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in Beijing and Ho Binh Minh in Hanoi; Editing by Dean Yates)

Source: Reuters “India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam that offers eye on China”