Tuesday, October 2, 2012


U.S.Navy Photo by PH3 Alta I Cutler of Multi- National Task Force
For weeks now we have been alerting our readers to unusual movements by naval forces around the globe. For months we have been describing the globe trotting tendencies of the Chinese People's Liberation Army's Navy or "PLAN" as individual ships and small flotillas have tracked from the High Arctic to the Black Sea under our series titled "HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM"?: Then there was the rash of traffic into the Mediterranean Sea by Russian, Chinese, and Indian naval craft. This was followed by the first direct Coast Guard on Coast Guard confrontations between the the Japanese Coast Guard and Coast Guard like vessels of China, and then Taiwan
over the disputed Japanese controlled Senkaku/Dinoyu islands. Some of the same navies that appeared confrontational with each other like Japan and China in the China sea were at the same time cooperative in piracy suppression in the Gulf of Aden. In the last couple of days we have alerted and linked you to the following stories of unusual naval deployments.

South China Sea

By Kirk Spitzer | September 30, 2012

"TOKYO – It’s probably just a coincidence; no need to worry yet. But the U.S. has quietly assembled a powerful air, land and sea armada not far from where Japan and China are squaring off over disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Two Navy aircraft carrier battle groups and a Marine Corps air-ground task force have begun operating in the Western Pacific, within easy reach of the Senkaku Islands. That’s where Japanese and Chinese patrol boats are engaged in an increasingly tense standoff." Check  TIME for additional Details. 

"Philippines sends more troops to guard disputed islands
(AFP) – 30 Sept 2012
MANILA — The Philippines has deployed 800 more Marines and opened a new headquarters to guard its interests in the disputed Spratly islands, which China also claims, a senior military official said Sunday.
Straddling vital shipping lanes and believed sitting atop vast reserves of mineral deposits, including oil, the Spratlys chain in the South China Sea has long been considered a flashpoint for conflict in the region.
Apart from the Philippines and China, the Spratlys are claimed in whole or in part by Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan."

STRATFOR a private global intelligence service offered the below copied report as a sort of free sample for those of you who might be interested in subscribing. We do not link to this service in our NEWS SERVICE because it is a subscription service only. But here is their link if any of you are interested in subscribing or further exploring the service: http://www.stratfor.com/ . We actually utilize a lot of information from this service that we receive through the individual subscriptions of AAIS members who introduce the material into our discussions of naval events. If you have a need for serious political, economic, and maritime news and analysis we can recommend this source.

The military movements described below are yet another sample of unusual naval, marine, military movements around the world.

Curious U.S. and French Military Deployments

September 28, 2012 | 2008 GMT
Four F/A-18 Super Hornets from U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314
Stratfor has received multiple reports of U.S. and French military movements that we would like to highlight to our readers. These movements could have multiple explanations and might not be linked. But given the numerous ongoing crises specifically centered in North Africa and the Middle East, we consider these developments to be worth following.
According to a worldwide network of aircraft spotters and trackers, at least a dozen MC-130H, HC-130N, HC-130P and AC-130U military transport planes and gunships crossed the Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 13 heading eastbound. These aircraft are typically used for a variety of special tasks, including in close cooperation with special operations forces. The last reported stop for the aircraft was Souda Bay, Crete. It is unclear whether the aircraft have left Crete, but we are working on tracking them down.
A week and a half later, on Sept. 24, the same network of aircraft spotters noted 12 U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets arriving in two waves at Moron air base in Spain. It is not known where the squadron is heading, though it could be en route to Afghanistan to reinforce elements there. The Harrier squadron that suffered heavy losses in the Sept. 14 attack on Camp Bastion has already been replaced by another Harrier unit, so it is unlikely that the squadron's deployment is directly linked to that event. It is also possible that the F/A-18s are heading to the Gulf Cooperation Council region. A number of air superiority squadrons, including an F-22 Raptor squadron, have already deployed to the region. If that is the case, the squadron is intended simply as reinforcements or replacements for assets currently deployed there.
Also on Sept. 24, The New York Times published an article stating that Iraq and the United States were negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of U.S. soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to U.S. Gen. Robert Caslen, a unit of Army special operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and to help with intelligence. It is possible that at least some of the MC-130 aircraft previously mentioned were delivering these special operations troops to Iraq.
Western                                                           Military                                                           Deployments
Another report on Sept. 24, this one by the Le Figaro French-language newspaper, said some 100 French special operations troops had been deployed in the sub-Saharan region to counteract militants in northern Mali. Le Figaro also reported that maritime patrol aircraft that can be used to collect intelligence will be deployed to the region and that commandos of the French navy will reinforce the French special operations troops.
Finally, Italian journalist Guido Olimpio reported in September that U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles are currently tracking militants in Cyrenaica, the historical name for eastern Libya. He also said "reliable sources" had confirmed that U.S. special operations forces were planning to carry out intelligence operations that could be in preparation for surgical strikes in North Africa, including in Libya and in Mali.
All these deployments could be previously scheduled movements for training or part of ongoing operations. They also do not necessarily mean any one mission is imminent. The United States and France could simply be positioning military assets in a region that is rife with conflict and that may eventually require rapid military intervention or action. 
Whatever the intent, these deployments, taken together, are too compelling to ignore. Given the fluid conflicts in North AfricaSyria and Afghanistan, as well as the current tensions with Iran, these movements and reports are important to highlight to our readers.

 So what does it all mean? Is World War III getting cranked up? By our analysis the answer is a mixed bag in an ever more interrelated and complicated world. There is probably going to be some more shooting in the Middle East. Israel is becoming more and more concerned with Iran's nuclear developments and is threatening attack. Iran has stated that it will close the world's oil gate, the Strait of Hormuz and a multi- national naval force composed in some cases of seemingly strange bed fellows is assembling to assure that  this vital marine choke point remains open to commercial navigation. In the Mediterranean, Syria is self destructing and Russia has a stake in the game with its only naval outpost in the region being based in Syria and contracted for with the present embattled regime. No one sides with the pirates in the Gulf of Aden where Japanese Maritime Self Defense Forces (JMSDF) and Chinese Navy  (PLAN) vessels cooperate in piracy suppression while their Coast Guards have been in direct confrontation in the China sea over the Senkaku/Denoyu Islands.

 Here is why we think that at least for the next 12 months the real shooting will be directed only against rogue states like Iran committing rogue acts like attempting to shut down maritime choke points, and against international outlaws like pirates. Despite bitter disputes between important powers like Japan, China, India, Pakistan and others we don't see naval war breaking out between nation states in the immediate future. First, all of the nations presently having disputes over maritime territories and rights have major and profitable trade relations with each other. Much of the worth of the disputed areas is actually unknown while the value of the existing trade is substantial and quite well quantified. Few of the disputes are really all or nothing.

 Japan has a solid international legal case for owner ship of the disputed Senkaku /DnoyuIslands but how large of an exclusive economic zone Japan can claim around these islands is very limited. The islands are in too close a proximity to the Chinese mainland and the island of Taiwan for the traditional 200 mile zone to ever be applied. So while each side lays claim to the islands and the entire area, the most likely legal resolution will be a negotiated carving up of the maritime areas within 200 miles of the disputed islands.Unless and until the disputing nations can arrive at a satisfactory legal regime that provides for orderly leasing , oil companies will avoid exploration. Until exploration can be conducted no party at interest really knows how valuable the area in dispute actually is. Is it worth it to risk all in a war over the areas?

 The constant use of Coast Guard like forces to monitor, protect, challenge, and confront each other in the area points to deliberate attempts by all nations involved to keep the level of confrontation low. Coast Guard forces are more law enforcement orientated than traditional naval forces and generally lightly armed. Coast Guard forces tend to use minimal force to ensure compliance. And so, in recent days the worst confrontation was between the Japanese and Taiwanese Coast Guards where Taiwan's cutters invaded Japan's territorial seas in response to Japan's efforts to evict illegal Taiwan based fishermen. The Japanese turned water cannon on Taiwanese commercial fishermen who refused to obey orders to leave Japanese territorial waters. A Taiwan Coast Guard craft rushed into Japan's territorial sea and turned its water cannon on the Japanese Coast Guard vessel. There was a brief water cannon dual until the Taiwan fishermen slipped back out into international waters and then the Coast Guards broke off contact and Taiwan withdrew back into international waters. These are the acts of maritime nations with a serious dispute but clearly signaling that war is to be avoided.The employment of Coast Guard forces being met by Coast Guard forces belonging to nations with real combat ready navies is usually a signal ,of unofficial agreement that the dispute has limits.

 While naval threats are implied in these disputes the non use of actual naval warships coupled with the cooperation between apparently "rival" navies in areas far from the disputed areas indicates that at least for the time being the glue that binds is stronger  than than the claims that separate. This is why we worry about China's navy. Japan has a powerful "navy" in its' JMSDF and while India has a somewhat new modern Navy it has exhibited skill and ethics of the highest order. China, the Dragon, seems the most likely to miscalculate. The Chinese navy shot more than 60 unarmed Vietnamese sailors over a dispute over a semi submerged shoal. Fortunately for China Vietnam was not only weak but also rather friendless at the time. The U.S. now has war ships in easy reach of the Senkaku / Donoyu islands because we have a defense treaty with Japan, we also have security obligations with the Philippines. So far China has shown a willingness to act quite aggressively in these disputes but by using the ships of their Coast Guard like Ocean  Surveillance Service China signals a desire, so far, to keep the maritime territorial conflicts within bounds short of real war. The times are dangerous and complex. and risk of naval war is exposed, but the contra- indications are also strong , the prominent role of Coast Guard forces in these disputes and the out of area naval cooperation between the powers seems to bode well for conflict containment if not actual peace.

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