Tuesday, July 8, 2014



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11/12/2019 The Great catfish's view remains the same but that will last indefinitely. The Dragon shows too much aggression for the status quo to continue much longer.

8/8/2018: This three year old 6 month to a year assessment of the situation in South East Asia by the Great Catfish has proven remarkably enduring, Basically the situation as he describes it has remained pretty much the same for three years now. We think it is still good for at least another six months despite recent developments tending to heighten tensions such as the Trump tariffs, which are definitely not helping the Chinese economy. The Chinese public statements are somewhat more tempered than the main stream media has led the American public to believe. The Dragon leadership calmly maintains that they are ready to bargain or retaliate. They continue quietly pursuing their unlawful calims to soverignity in the South China Sea and have established naval dominance, but still avoid out right war. Things will probably remain pretty much status quo till the tariff tiff plays out according to the Great catfish. 

1/4/2015 Editor's Note: This post was meant to be Namazu's 6 to 12 month prediction on the South East Asia's on going maritime disputes. This week marks the 6 month point, so far he appears dead on the money. A hydrophone conference with the Great catfish indicated that he intends to hold with his assessment out to the one year mark unless very unusual circumstances become manifest. Rest assured the Great Catfish is observing and will report.

   Those of you who have been with us a while know that much of the staff here are ex U.S. Navy and Coast Guard types , or Merchant Marine Officers who are always focused for the maritime angle in world events. You also know that they are "naval fans" and root for new and upcoming small navies and coast guards that belong to freedom loving states like they were favorite professional sports teams. . If you've been reading these posts for a year or so you know that Og and Johnas are particularly impressed with the Navies and coast guards of Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. The boys here at AAB regard the navies and coast guards of these states as the true guardians of the South China Sea and its southern approaches. These states may be a bit more authoritarian than say Louisiana, or New Jersey but they don't seem to be wasting nearly as much public money. Over all these states are viewed by the maritime crew here as abiding by international law, committed to the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, and trustworthy to keep the straits and passages open, worthy of the international responsibility thrust on them by geography. Moreover, the crew here likes these nations because unlike the English speaking world at the moment; as small as they are, these nations are making the necessary investments in navies and coast guards to secure their waters and fulfill international obligations. In the mind of Johnas, Russia and China are sparing no expense in building first class navies, America and the Common Wealth should be spending carefully but adequately to at least keep up. So the boys asked me to take a very detailed analytic look at the region of South East Asia and make some hopefully well founded predictions for the upcoming 6 months to a year. They sign my pay checks, so here goes.

 First in the interest of full disclosure and the risk of repeating myself, for those of you joining us recently I'm a 3,000 year old giant catfish and former demigod. As I explained in my defense of demigod reemployment rights with the American religious right, I never claimed the title of demigod that was thrust on me by the people of Japan centuries ago. When they no longer had a real use for demigods myself and the rest of the Namazui found ourselves unemployed. Being 3,000 years old I have a unique perspective, I hope some accumulated wisdom, but no super powers to predict the future. Everything I'm about to tell you is based on very ordinary analytic techniques and my own unique insights. That said; the reason I have the contract that I do is that you can more often than not take my prognostications to the bank. Here goes:

A Region Of Basic Tranquility But Plagued By A Marauding Dragon.

 Southeast Asia is out of the line of fire of all of the unrest and uncertainty presently plaguing the Middle East and regions where the EU and NATO states come closest to Russia.  The Russian Bear however, is roaming the region, but in the guise of a honey bear. The Bear wants to invest and sell. Russia is looking for investments to lessen its interactions and economic dependencies on Western Europe. The Bear wants to acquire replacement export markets, and mitigate economic pressures on its Western flank. Over the next six months to a year Russia will continue to expand its economic overtures in the region. It will not be unwelcome in the region. Many of the nations of the region are basically non aligned and so long as the economic overtures come with no military strings attached will be happy to deal with the Bear guilt free over the fact that such trade doesn't work well for the West. We can pretty much trust the Russians to blow it if they seek formal military alliances. Russia is basically a thug state and when the non aligned get involved with them the iron fist comes out of the velvet glove pretty fast. However the nations of the region have sufficient armed force not to quake in their boots over a growling bear.  They know the importance of their geography to the West and know that despite any non aligned posture they will not be alone if anyone else threatens their sovereignty. These are the trusted guardians of the straits, before they were powerful enough for the role the West was there in force. For the next six months to a year I don't foresee any real problems for the region from the Middle East or the Bear. 

 However that old dragon, China is another matter. With the U.S. attention on the Middle East and the NATO / EU / Russian Border, China will continue to make inroads in her aggressive campaign to own the entire South China Sea. China's nakedly aggressive "Coast Guard" will continue to erode the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam and the Philippines, but will tread more carefully around formal and long time U.S. ally the Philippines. 

 Often over looked in analysis of the region is Japan. While Japan is not located in the Southeast Asian community it has important influence there. Japan like the Philippines and Vietnam face Chinese aggression against long held outer island territories. Japan is the economic rival for leadership in Asia generally with China, which views itself as the "Middle Kingdom". There is nothing middling about the Middle Kingdom. The Dragon intends to draw all other nations to herself using "soft power" to the maximum, but power none the less. China does not seek friends or allies, the Dragon seeks willing vassals. Japan by contrast seeks trading partners and while not threatening militarily, has sufficient military power to give the Dragon pause. The Japanese constitution precludes most forms of direct military assistance but Japan has been cooperating with its WWII enemy the Philippines and providing patrol boats and training assistance. The Philippines in turn recently made a startling public announcement that they had no objections if Japan changed it constitution to allow for more projection of military power. Apparently there is widespread belief in the region that the old imperial aggressive Japan is reliably dead, but the Dragon lives,so all hands to the parapets. 

 As the U.S. turns its attention to the Middle East and Europe the competition to re-balance power and influence in the region continues with economic aspects at the forefront. China will continue to make trouble in at sea territorial disputes of their own making but will avoid an outright act of war for the next six months to a year. There are small, but cooperative, professional and competent navies and coast guards to the Dragon's South, the possibility of a real naval power in Japan to the north , and the grit and determination of the Philippines directly across the sea from the Dragon to make her realize for the time being that the neighbors she is so annoying can hold her at bay for quite while if the U.S. needs some time to come in and administer a final punishing blow. Internal political considerations preclude China from abandoning its unproductive approach to the development of the resources of the South China Sea. External factors will tend to keep the Dragon away from an actual unambiguous act of war for the next six months to a year.

 The biggest daily irritant over the next six months or so will be China's deployment of deep sea drilling equipment near the Paracel Islands. Beijing and Hanoi seem to be avoiding a major military confrontation on the issue. If the drilling doesn't produce a viable show this contest may close for a while. However if the current activity does produce proven reserves, this could erupt into a major concession by Vietnam, literally becoming a vassal of China, or a real shooting war. But the analysis of drilling data, planning, and execution of a production plan take time. We don't see this situation escalating into war within the time frame of six months, a year might be stretching it a bit. Given the aggressive conduct of China's naval and coast guard units in the area an accidental but seemingly deliberate collision is a distinct possibility. 

 Also of concern is the fact that China continues to build infrastructure on uninhabited islands in the region that are clearly within the UN recognized exclusive economic zone of China's neighbors. We expect the Philippines to call for additional Japanese or U.S. assistance in combating this unvarnished lad grab towards the end of the next six months.  However we expect that all sides will try to keep actions below the threshold of actual combat operations for the next six month to a year. China is suffering from recent weak economic performance showing weak industrial performance and a real estate bubble. Dealing with the real estate market issues will keep the Chinese government busy and will be a priority. The real estate market affects more people directly, people know more about the issues, and the anger level is very high. The Chinese government will have to deal with the real estate market issues and this will tend to put something of a dampener on naval adventurism. I predict that the next six to twelve months in South East Asia will look much like the last year there. No better, no worse. Some times festering looks a lot like tranquility. Don't be fooled. If the US and EU can emerge from the next year with lessened problems in Europe and the Middle East the Dragon will be waiting.  



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