Chinese jets intercept U.S surveillance plane: U.S. officials


Two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a U.S. Navy surveillance plane over the South China Sea on Wednesday, with one coming within 200 yards (180 meters) of the American aircraft, U.S. officials told Reuters.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said initial reports showed that the U.S. P-3 Orion surveillance plane was 150 miles (240 km) southeast of Hong Kong in international airspace when the Chinese aircraft carried out the unsafe intercept. One Chinese aircraft flew in front of the American plane, restricting its ability to maneuver.

The Pentagon confirmed that two Chinese jets had carried out the intercept, saying it was “unsafe and unprofessional.”

“We continue to review the facts of this incident and will convey our concerns through appropriate channels with the Chinese government,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Gary Ross said in a statement.

A U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, the first such challenge to Beijing in the strategic waterway since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

China is deeply suspicious of any U.S. military activity around its coastline, especially in the resource-rich South China Sea, parts of which are disputed by China and its smaller neighbors, including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Incidents such as Wednesday’s interception are not uncommon.

Earlier this month, two Chinese SU-30 aircraft intercepted a U.S. aircraft designed to detect radiation while it was flying in international airspace over the East China Sea.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Source: Reuters “Chinese jets intercept U.S surveillance plane: U.S. officials”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Timid US FON Operation Not Affects China’s Control of South China Sea


A China coast guard ship patrolling South China Sea. Photo: Getty Images

I have just reblogged Reuters’ report that showing Western media’s satisfaction at US Navy’s resumption of freedom of navigation (FON) operation in the South China Sea.

Reuters quotes US officials who would not reveal their identities as describing the operation as challenging China. However, Foreign Policy says in its article “In the South China Sea, the U.S. is Struggling to Halt Beijing’s Advance” yesterday, “The Pentagon sought to downplay the significance of the operation, which it described as routine. Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, described the passage at an event in Washington Thursday as ‘not confrontational,’ and said that the so-called freedom of navigation operations by U.S. ships receive exaggerated scrutiny for the supposed diplomatic messages they convey.”

The US can do nothing to put an end to China’s absolute control of the South China Sea with its artificial islands, therefore Foreign Policy says in its article, “Despite a belated U.S. naval patrol, Beijing’s bid to extend its military power over the South China Sea is moving ahead unchecked.”

As pointed our in my previous posts, such FON operations only give China excuse to militarize its artificial islands in the South China Sea.

Foreign Policy describes the situation by quoting Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, as saying, “They basically succeeded in their construction projects, and are now well on their way to having floating bases out in the Spratly Islands, and there’s been really very little pushback and they’ve had to pay very little cost for doing so….It is, unfortunately, now game over.”

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report that I have just reblogged and Foreign Policy’s article, full text of which can be viewed at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/25/in-the-south-china-sea-the-u-s-is-struggling-to-halt-beijings-advance/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Edpix%205-25&utm_term=%2AEditors%20Picks.


U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials


The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey prepares for a replenishment-at-sea in the South China Sea May 19, 2017. Picture taken May 19, 2017. Kryzentia Weiermann/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

By Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom | WASHINGTON Thu May 25, 2017 | 4:04pm EDT

A U.S. warship carried out a “maneuvering drill” when it sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built up by China in the South China Sea, to show Beijing it was not entitled to a territorial sea around it, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
The operation near Mischief Reef on Thursday, Pacific time, among a string of islets, reefs and shoals over which China has disputes with its neighbors, was the boldest U.S. challenge yet to Chinese island-building in the strategic waterway.

It drew an angry response from China, which President Donald Trump has tried to court in recent weeks to persuade it to take a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. [nL1N1IQ2FH]

Analysts say previous U.S. “freedom-of-navigation operations” in the Spratly archipelago involved “innocent passage,” in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily, without stopping.

On Thursday, the destroyer USS Dewey conducted a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that its passage within 12 nautical miles was not innocent passage, U.S. officials said.

“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it.”

It drew an angry response from China, which President Donald Trump has tried to court in recent weeks to persuade it to take a tougher line on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. [nL1N1IQ2FH]

Analysts say previous U.S. “freedom-of-navigation operations” in the Spratly archipelago involved “innocent passage,” in which a warship effectively recognized a territorial sea by crossing it speedily, without stopping.

On Thursday, the destroyer USS Dewey conducted a “man overboard” exercise, specifically to show that its passage within 12 nautical miles was not innocent passage, U.S. officials said.

“USS Dewey engaged in normal operations by conducting a maneuvering drill inside 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef,” one official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The ship’s actions demonstrated that Mischief Reef is not entitled to its own territorial sea regardless of whether an artificial island has been built on top of it.”

Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said that freedom of navigation operations are not specific to one country and the Defense Department would release summaries of these operations in an annual report and not sooner.

“We are continuing regular FONOPS, as we have routinely done in the past and will continue to do in the future,” Ross said, using an acronym for freedom of navigation operations.

The Pentagon has not confirmed the most recent operation.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea and Washington has criticized its construction of islands and build-up of military facilities there, concerned they could be used to restrict free movement and broaden Beijing’s strategic reach.

U.S. allies and partners in the region had grown anxious as the Trump administration held off on carrying out South China Sea operations during its first few months in office.

Greg Poling of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank said that under international law, Mischief Reef was not entitled to a territorial sea as it was underwater at high tide before it was built up by China.

“This was a statement to the Chinese,” he said.

“The previous two freedom-of-navigation operations only challenged China’s demand for prior notification for innocent passage through the territorial sea; this one asserted that there is no territorial sea at all.”

The Trump administration vowed to conduct more robust South China Sea operations after President Barack Obama was criticized for potentially reinforcing China’s claims by sticking to innocent passage.

Even so, this was the first freedom-of-navigation operation since October and since Trump took office in January.

It comes ahead of a visit to Singapore next week by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to discuss security with regional counterparts.

Beijing said two Chinese guided-missile warships had warned the U.S. vessel to leave the waters and that it had lodged “stern representations” with the United States.

China’s claims in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year, are contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Marguerita Choy)

Source: Reuters “U.S. warship drill meant to defy China’s claim over artificial island –officials”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China tells U.S. trade representative stronger cooperation needed


US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer gestures while attending a joint press conference held on the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC) ‘s 23rd Ministers responsible for Trade Meeting being held in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 21, 2017. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool

China’s commerce minister Zhong Shan told new United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer the two sides should strengthen cooperation and manage disputes in trade, according to a statement on the website of China’s Ministry of Commerce on Monday.

The two met on Sunday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Lighthizer said in the meeting with Zhong Shan that trade wars are not in the interest of either country, according to the statement from China’s commerce ministry.

Disagreements over global trade negotiations came to the fore at the APEC forum, which failed to agree on its usual joint statement after U.S. opposition to wording on fighting protectionism.

With the U.S. balking at multilateral trade agreements, Asian trade ministers met to discuss the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which would create a free trade area of more than 3.5 billion people, bringing together China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand as well as Southeast Asian nations.

RCEP talks include the largest geographic area, the most dynamic economies, and the largest population of any regional trade pact, Zhong said, according to a statement on the website of the ministry of commerce.

He said RCEP parties should accelerate RCEP talks and that all sides should show more flexibility to overcome differences.

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Elias Glenn; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Source: Reuters “China tells U.S. trade representative stronger cooperation needed”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China killed CIA sources, hobbled U.S. spying from 2010 to 2012: NYT


A security agent stands guard near the Great Hall of the People as the sun appears through smog ahead of the closing ceremony of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing, China, March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

China killed or imprisoned 18 to 20 CIA sources from 2010 to 2012, hobbling U.S. spying operations in a massive intelligence breach whose origin has not been identified, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Investigators remain divided over whether there was a spy within the Central Intelligence Agency who betrayed the sources or whether the Chinese hacked the CIA’s covert communications system, the newspaper reported, citing current and former U.S. officials.

The Chinese killed at least a dozen people providing information to the CIA from 2010 through 2012, dismantling a network that was years in the making, the newspaper reported.

One was shot and killed in front of a government building in China, three officials told the Times, saying that was designed as a message to others about working with Washington.

The breach was considered particularly damaging, with the number of assets lost rivaling those in the Soviet Union and Russia who perished after information passed to Moscow by spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, the report said. Ames was active as a spy in the 1980s and Hanssen from 1979 to 2001.

The CIA declined to comment when asked about the Times report on Saturday.

The Chinese activities began to emerge in 2010, when the American spy agency had been getting high quality information about the Chinese government from sources deep inside the bureaucracy, including Chinese upset by the Beijing government’s corruption, four former officials told the Times.

The information began to dry up by the end of the year and the sources began disappearing in early 2011, the report said.

As more sources were killed the FBI and the CIA began a joint investigation of the breach, examining all operations run in Beijing and every employee of the U.S. Embassy there.

The investigation ultimately centered on a former CIA operative who worked in a division overseeing China, the newspaper said, but there was not enough evidence to arrest him.

Some investigators believed the Chinese had hacked the CIA’s covert communications system.

Still others thought the breach was a result of careless spy work including traveling the same routes to the same meeting points or meeting sources at restaurants where Chinese had planted listening devices, the newspaper said.

By 2013, U.S. intelligence concluded China’s ability to identify its agents had been curtailed, the newspaper said, and the CIA has been trying to rebuild its spy network there.

(Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Source: Reuters “China killed CIA sources, hobbled U.S. spying from 2010 to 2012: NYT”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


How China Could Defeat America in Asia (And Never Fire a Shot)


Chinese navy’s warplanes. National Interest photo.

Grant Newsham

May 16, 2017

Perhaps owing to being dominant for so long, American leaders sometimes appear so confident of winning in wartime that they are myopic about what happens during peacetime – the so-called “phase zero” in US military terms.

Consider Asia. It’s not that US forces aren’t busy in the region, but rather there’s been a longstanding indifference towards China’s military buildup and its undermining of US alliances and commitment to Asia.

If the US isn’t careful, this creeping subversion could put it in the strategic equivalent of wrestling’s Full Nelson and unable to move beyond phase zero at acceptable cost.

China’s military buildup and expansion has never evoked a consistent sense of threat on the US side — just recall a US Pacific Command chief who considered global warming his biggest challenge in the Asia Pacific.

Admiral Harry Harris, the current PACOM commander, described Chinese submarines as Model-T’s while the American versions are Corvettes.

A previous commander, Admiral Dennis Blair, also downplayed China’s capabilities, noting it would take only 10-15 minutes to neutralize Beijing’s man-made islands in the South China Sea — the so-called “Great Wall of Sand.”

Glib dismissals that make for good newspaper quotes, while the noose tightens.

If more evidence is needed of American dismissiveness mixed with a dose of hubris, consider the decision to invite China to the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise, known as RIMPAC, in Hawaii in 2014 and 2016.

The People’s Liberation Army was invited despite well-understood intelligence risks (try ‘acoustic signatures’ for starters), and apparently in the belief that exposure to US awesomeness would convince China to behave. An invitation to China for RIMPAC 2018 is apparently still open.

One would think American leaders would know better after recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan that you underestimate adversaries or overestimate yourself at your own peril.

Less recent experiences teach the same lesson. Condescension toward China’s military is this generation’s version of 1930’s thinking that the Japanese were incapable of producing fighter aircraft like the Zero or Long Lance torpedoes.

It was equally impossible that the Imperial Japanese Navy could ever match — much less outclass — the Royal Navy. Britannia had ruled the waves for a century, after all.

Improvements in China’s naval and air forces over the phase zero of the last decade are impressive and alarming. It also happened faster than all but a handful of American analysts predicted.

At the same time, Beijing has pulled US allies like the Philippines and Thailand into its orbit, raising doubts in other countries about US commitment.

US military forces — as powerful and professional as they are — would likely defeat the People’s Liberation Army in a straight up fight, though at a cost nobody much wants to think about.

This also assumes moving from phase zero to phase one (war looks likely) and then into phase two (the shooting starts) is automatic. It isn’t.

If China’s military were to do something like, say, grab Japan’s Senkaku islands or perhaps teach Taiwan a lesson, there will be voices in the US arguing that a military response carries too high a price.

This shows that if China as a smart adversary makes the proper strategic moves in phase zero, there might not be a phase one or a phase two, because the US awakes to finds itself in a stranglehold it can’t get out of, except at too high a price.

It’s always the rule to make it so that your adversary, rather than you, can’t get out of phase zero. That comes from taking the adversary seriously.

Grant Newsham is a retired US Marine Officer and a Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies.

This first appeared in AsiaTimes here.

Source: National Interest “How China Could Defeat America in Asia (And Never Fire a Shot) “

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Japan risks isolation in the Asia-Pacific


Jean-Pierre Lehmann

May 16, 2017, 5:00 am SGT

Tokyo needs to make peace with its neighbours, especially those that were its former victims.

I spent March and April at Hong Kong University teaching my course on globalisation and Asia. This coincided with a number of events and developments in this fast-moving and “Vuca” – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous – world, including the Mar-a-Lago summit that was much discussed in class. As I pointed out to the students (roughly half of whom are from China), the good news is that Mr Donald Trump does not seem to be keeping his campaign promises!

The contrast between the Sinophobic offensive campaign rhetoric and recent developments in the evolution of the China-US relationship – “the most important bilateral relationship, bar none”, as we are often reminded – border on the hallucinatory.

The atmosphere in Mar-a-Lago was more than just cordial, sweetened by Ms Ivanka Trump’s children Arabella and Joseph reciting poetry and singing a traditional folk song in Mandarin for Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan. This was an unexpected scenario!

That was on April 9. Last Thursday, hardly a month later, media headlines reported the White House hailing a concluded US-China trade deal, according to which the Chinese will open their market in a dozen areas, including credit cards, natural gas and beef. In this spirit of cooperation, Washington sent a senior delegation to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit that ended yesterday, which until then it had been intent on boycotting. There are noises about China engaging in the Trump Rebuild America Infrastructure Plan, while in turn the US may become a member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Thus, far from engaging in trade war, as many (including this author) had predicted, the US and China appear to be making trade love! Of course, in a Vuca world, everything is possible and this could be the proverbial calm before the storm. For now, things are certainly interesting and encouraging.

The sunshine extends beyond trade. In campaign rhetoric, in his inaugural speech, and in a number of caustic remarks (and tweets!) since then, Mr Trump had intoned that his most poisonous bone of contention with China was North Korea. To that end, he had sought to engage his Asia-Pacific allies South Korea and Japan and impose on the former the US Army’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) anti-ballistic missile system. This was bitterly opposed by Beijing, which saw it as a means to spy on China. In the meantime, another twist in the Asia-Pacific narrative occurred with the impeachment of the hawkish former South Korean president Park Geun Hye and the election of the far more dovish Moon Jae In who has announced he is sending a senior delegation to Beijing to seek a peaceful resolution of the Thaad dispute.

WHERE IS JAPAN?

It is too early to down the cup of Baijiu and shout “Ganbei”, as things could still go terribly wrong, but the tale does illustrate once again a point I have been frequently stressing, including in this column: Japan is out of sync with what is happening in the world generally and in its Asia-Pacific neighbourhood especially.

The Japanese narrative of the period from roughly 1895 to 1995 is one of outstanding success. From feudal Asian backward isolation, Japan, alone among non-Western nations, became both a major industrial and military imperial power. It lost World War II, but this seemed to be a temporary hiatus in its rise. Less than two decades after its devastating defeat, it astonished the world with its “economic miracle” – marking the first time, to my knowledge, that the terms “economic” and “miracle” were made contiguous!

Throughout this century of brilliant – even if at times extremely bloody – ascent, Japan never had any Asian allies: only Asian colonies! It had three successive Western allies: Imperial Britain from 1902 to 1922 (during which it colonised Korea); Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945 (during which it waged implacable war on China and most of South-east Asia, with tens of millions of deaths, including civilians); the US since 1952, during which it has been able to perform the economic miracle while riding on American security coat-tails.

Its defeat in World War II notwithstanding, it was able to retain its leadership position in Asia by virtue of having been transformed from the US’ most hated enemy to its most pampered protege. Japanese “foreign” policy, especially vis-a-vis Asia, was decided in Washington, not in Tokyo. Though denied an active military role by virtue of its US-imposed “peace Constitution”, it supported the US in the Korean and Indo-Chinese (Vietnam and Laos) wars by providing logistic support, as well as R&R (rest and recuperation) facilities for American soldiers, and repair and maintenance facilities for combat ships and planes.

Tokyo also followed to the letter US instructions in refusing to recognise Beijing as the legitimate government of China, opting instead for the renegade government of Chiang Kai Shek in Taipei. It was only after Richard Nixon’s historic visit to Mao Zedong in 1972 – taking Tokyo totally by surprise – that then Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka sheepishly hastened to Beijing in his footsteps.

In the 1980s, as the Japanese economy soared and the American economy plummeted and the relationship was marked by quite acute “trade friction” (boeki masatsu), when the Japanese economy was seen as overtaking the US economy, there was a certain xenophobic resentment of the US, illustrated by publications such as The Japan That Can Say “No” by the late co-founder of Sony Akio Morita and former governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara, and by the coinage of the term “kenbei” – contempt for America.

ABE-TRUMP ROMANCE

Since 1995 – the year of the Great Hanshin earthquake – things have been going downhill for Japan: The economy has stagnated in a deflationary spiral, there was the Fukushima nuclear disaster (2011), and China’s gross domestic product surpassed Japan’s in 2010.

For the previous 100 years – 1895 was the year Japan defeated China in the first Sino-Japanese war – Japan had dominated China, a country for which many Japanese felt contempt. It is for that reason, among others, that Japan never felt compelled to acknowledge, let alone apologise for, all the crimes against humanity it perpetrated in China. Former Tokyo governor Ishihara, to cite only one example among many, stated the Nanjing massacre never occurred!

Since coming to office in 2012, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, notwithstanding his nationalism, has been fawning vis-a-vis Washington and used that as a rampart to constrain China. He enthusiastically supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership in what was seen in Tokyo as fundamentally a US-Japan-led bilateral deal to ostracise China.

He followed the American lead in being the only major Western or Asian economy not to become a member of the Beijing-led AIIB. He paid an official visit to Pearl Harbour – nice, but not necessary as Pearl Harbour was not a crime against humanity – while still refusing to visit Nanjing. Japan was not represented at the BRI summit.

When Mr Trump was elected, Mr Abe was the first head of state to go to pay tribute – in the form of a gold putter – and bask in the balmy breeze of Mar-a-Lago. Mr Trump’s bombastically cacophonic anti-Chinese tirades were undoubtedly sweet music to his ears.

Now, suddenly, unexpectedly, but strongly, the winds have changed. As the Xi-Trump romance seems to blossom, including through bilateral trade deals, participation in the BRI summit, probable membership of AIIB, Tokyo stands out pathetically as the jilted lover left holding the empty can.

It’s an interesting spectacle to watch, but also quite distressing and in many ways alarming. The winds may change again and blow in Tokyo’s direction. But in whatever direction it blows, it is an ill wind that bodes potential danger.

As a Frenchman born in 1945, my generation – in contrast to my father’s (World War II) and to my grandfather’s (World War I) – has lived in serene peace. There are a variety of factors that have determined this situation, but only one really matters: Germany has made peace with and unconditionally expressed apologies to its former victims.

There will be no solid durable peace in the Asia-Pacific until and unless Japan makes peace and unconditionally apologises to its former victims, China and Korea especially. It would be splendid if the current winds could make Tokyo wake up and face this reality. The peace and prosperity of future Asian generations depend on it.

•The writer is emeritus professor of international political economy at IMD business school, with campuses in Lausanne and Singapore, and visiting professor at Hong Kong University.

Source: Straits Times “Japan risks isolation in the Asia-Pacific”

Note: This is Straits Times’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.