HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM ?
Pretty Far, That's Why We're Going Out To Meet Him
The Pivot towards the Pacific
According to Leon Panetta speaking at the recent Shangri- La dialogue for Asian defence ministers in Singapore, the United States now recognizes that China is bullying her neighbors in the South China Sea. Her neighbors include some of our formal allies. While the United States has no territorial claim in the area, and is officially neutral on such claims we know bullying when we see it.
What's the point in being a U.S. ally if we won't raise a finger when someone puts a gun to your head and demands something you believe is yours. We might be neutral, but we can measure. China is claiming actual sovereignty as well as exclusive economic rights over islands and shoals a thousand miles from China but sometimes less than 200 miles from the mainland of other nations. We may be a long ways off but we can see. China uses guns on unarmed people to get its way. If you don't believe it check out our previous blogs on the issue and their hyperlinks to actual video of Chinese naval units actually firing on unarmed sailors. The U.S. response is the "pivot towards the Pacific" which includes a change to our "Sea Air Battle Strategy".
According to Panetta the changes will include:
(1) By 2020 60% of America's war ships will be stationed in the Pacific, including six carrier battle groups.
(2) New acquisitions for the Pacific will include littoral zone warships able to work in close to land, fast attack submarines, a missile defense interceptor now under development with Japan, beefed up cyber and communications systems and a new long range bomber.
(3) A change in our battle strategy devised to deflect the so-called anti access and area denial capabilities being developed by China.
In short the U.S. continues to assert that we continue to maintain and improve on our ability to "kick in the door" if hostilities break out in the South China Sea.
As usual, not everyone in the U.S. is pleased,. Certain elements maintain that this is a ploy by the Navy and Air Force to gain relevancy in the defense budget. We don't buy the arguments of the critics. Anyone who really knows the history of American inter-service rivalry would recognize the Navy and Air Force as very strange bedfellows.We think we have made the case in our previous blogs that China is engaged in bullying her neighbors. So we believe in the pivot and the change in the Air Sea Battle strategy. With our friends threatened by a fire breathing dragon we favor the ability to give that swimming reptile a good "Bop on the snout" as my grandmother used to say.
But because we have the capability doesn't mean that we are obligated to administer the proverbial "bop on the snout". China's aggression is basically a violation of international conventions on the law of the sea that the United States has never signed off on, and we claim that we have no stake in these claims. Nothing, at this point compels us to come running to the rescue of Japan, or the Philippines, and certainly not India with whom we have no formal defense obligations. Vietnam, Indonesia, and other smaller nations with exclusive economic zone type claims in the south China Sea may wish that we would come in and send the big ugly beast home but we really have no dog in that race.
The key is Japan. China still has ill will towards Japan because of Japan's brutal invasion on the eve of World War II and it's brutal occupation during most of the war. China claims ownership over islands long held by Japan and has been quite aggressive in asserting that claim, though quite a bit less aggressive than they have been towards the Philippines, and way short of the mass murder they participated in forwarding their claim against Vietnam. If the Dragon starts a real act of war against Japan, where we have formal defense treaties operative, and troops, aircraft, and ships permanently stationed; it would be very hard for us not to come to the military assistance of Japan.
Whether we like it or not China's outlandish claim on the South China sea as their private lake has forced important middle powers in the region like Japan and India into a policy of containment. While our American media's eyes were focused on the Middle East, the American public barely noticed that we were being pushed into a containment mode with China. With the "pivot towards the Pacific" containment mode has begun. This can end only in one of two ways. The Dragon gets the idea that's it's claims have to be settled by a neutral international tribunal, or there will be real shooting. The Dragon's behavior can not continue. China must make its territorial and exclusive economic zone claims through international legal process. The Dragon must accept that such a process will grant it some of the areas disputed and preclude others. A legal process will never provide the Dragon with the South China sea as the beast's personal lagoon.
The entire swimming dragon drama developed with so little notice by the American general public that we feel compelled to add to our services a maritime news service. The American media understands very little of the maritime world and rarely covers the serious news stories happening out of sight of land until they emerge as major international saber rattling or outright shooting stories. But there is a fairly comprehensive , if somewhat scattered maritime media. As we build our new maritime news section we will provide you with descriptions of these various news sources, hyperlinks to everything available on line and our own analysis on certain stories. We won't be able to build this feature over night, but its on the way. Drop in and visit as we progress. Remember your visits help drive revenue to keep us afloat, even when you don't purchase books through us.
Thank you, stay tuned.