Tag Archives: Japan

Commentary— Wake Up– China is Awake!

At a family dinner this week, the conversation turned first from domestic politics to fear and then to the Mid-East. I suddenly felt very much in the minority. We were becoming myopic in our view of the world’s present and potential disasters. As much as I tried to steer the conversation from Mid-East to the West and Asia, I was rebuffed on all sides. We have such an emotional and intellectual investment in the Mid-East that we are losing sight of a very dangerous geographic confrontation that is quietly playing itself out on the far side of the Pacific Ocean and what may morph into a dangerous confrontation in that part of the world.

The most recent news that bombards us from ISIS is their latest video released online touting a shari’a school that attempts to instill in its very young pupils the desire of martyrdom—“the cubs of the Caliphate” . The voice-over video announces that it is these children who will be the vanguard of a new army who will conquer Rome, Jerusalem, and Baghdad among other major cities.

It is not easy, after so many years of focus, to move away from those types of threats and focus on a different part of the world, but we must or suffer the consequences. We have done just that in the past. Let us not repeat that error again.

If you look at your map and find the southern tip of Japan, the Philippine Islands is to the south-east, then move in a circular clock-wise direction to Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and finally China you will notice these nations form a large oblong circle, some miles 1,400,000 square miles creating the South China Sea (SCS). This Sea, and its mostly uninhabited islands, have been subject to competing claims of sovereignty for decades by several countries for a number of strategic reasons. Among them: one-third of the worlds shipping ply thru its water, and there are huge oil and gas reserves in its sea beds.

If you google “China” the first thing that will pop-up is that there is a new home buying boom and all the banks in China are in hot pursuit of those new customers. What does not receive the attention it deserves is that China is once again creating new islands out of old coral reefs. That is not a typo– these man-made large islands, sitting upon coral reef, are not being advertised as the new tropical island tourist attraction for those tired of the Caribbean. China is building a major, powerful war machine far from its mainland to control that part of the world.

As we passively watched Europe in 1938, 39 and 40, we are once again almost passively watching the growth of a powerful armed threat against the sovereignty of a number of nations in the South Pacific that will have a direct impact on the economics of world trade and security. If nothing else, remember that one third of the world’s commerce flows thru this area.

Thanks to a series of excellent articles including one by Steve Mollman, we gain additional insight into the present military importance of this area, which we are ignoring at our peril. In the past, I wrote about the Spratly Islands in the SCS, where China, through massive dredging of more than 2,000 acres at three main reefs (reefs!), created a substantial military base of operation. This military complex has sea port facilities, military buildings, and multiple high density airstrips. China then unilaterally announced that it had indisputable sovereignty over the reef/islands and its nearby waters—12 nautical miles. All this announced in clear violation of settled international maritime law. And then the leaders in Beijing angrily called the world’s arbitration court process a “farce” for rejecting its claim.

To the north west of the Spratly Islands and about 200 miles from the coast of Vietnam lies the Paracel Islands. Here too, the Chinese have claimed ownership of disputed territory and then, thru the massive reclamation by dredging, have greatly expanding their acreage. On several of these islands, intelligence photos reveal the building of military garrisons, radar domes, and on one of the islands in the group, a concrete manufacturing plant with an enlarged sea port with reinforced seawalls. What appears to be developing along with new island acquisition, which I will note in the next paragraph, is that an anti-submarine(ASW) helicopter base of operation is being developed that could morph into an enormous ability for massive surveillance without the necessity of supply and surveillance support from main land China.

How that vast area is quickly moving under controlled by China is evidenced by their present illegal adventures to annex the Scarborough Shoal, a large coral atoll with a reef-rimmed lagoon. It encompasses 58 square miles and lies less than 150 miles from the Philippine coast.   If you take that next look at the map of the South Asia Sea you will notice that these three sets of islands (the Spratly Island and Scarborough Shoal and the Paracel Islands) form a formidable strategic triangle that covers just under a million and half square miles and provides China with a superior air dense identification zone. In effect, China controls the air space over this international and vital portion of the world—where more than five trillion dollars’ worth of trade pies its waters each year and is the main passage for Mid-East oil to Japan and South Korea.

China has set a rapid and high urgency agenda to build a sophisticated naval deployment with supporting structures in the South Asia Sea. They are accomplishing this with sophisticated radar equipment, ASW anti-submarine strength facilities, deep water ports, military grade runways, along with building additional aircraft carriers to increase its naval strength with a support fleet all superimposed upon illegal claims of maritime sovereignty. Within the last week, elements of the Chinese and Russian navies concluded an eight day joint war games exercise in the SCS. And today, amid increased tensions over the disputed territories, Beijing announced it is preparing to launch stealthy UAVs to protect and map the contested islands.

It is clear from all of China’s activities, aside from the naval war games with Russia, that there can be no question regarding its strong commitment to its ever increasing territorial claims and the accelerated building of its armed/naval strength and presence. This has caused both military and diplomatic confrontations with the United States in what a former Japanese admiral has called a “game changer.” We must call China’s behavior what it is –unadorned overt military aggression. We must draw a real line in the sand that will be enforced — not by name calling but by concrete military intervention and economic sanctions. Our message must be conveyed in clear and unambiguous terms to China and the international community.

Silence and inaction is an act of capitulation to an international bully and can only lead to damaging both our economic and direct security interests. With China, from a reef to an island in less than a year, is reality. What next?

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

 

 

Connected Unsystematic Thoughts

The U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State began more than a year ago, and then chaos set in. The confusion on the ground and in the air over Syria is only becoming more of a night- mare, caused in part by too many fingers in one pot with no recognition of each other. Two months after Putin’s physical entry to shore up Assad’s regime, there have been too many close calls in the same air space between the fighters and bombers from Russia and the United States. To add to the confusion and disarray is Turkey’s shooting down a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish air space. The crises continue with questions concerning the Turkish control of its boarders and ISIS. And now the present outcry: which country bombed a friendly Syrian army base? The first accused was the United States, but forced to reveal its evidence, the American intelligence confirms it was Moscow’s “Blackfire” bombers that killed three soldiers, wounding at least 13 and destroying vehicles and equipment. And yesterday, a Turkish fishing vessel came within 1600 feet of a Russian destroyer playing a dangerous game of “two close to call navigation” with Russian firepower used to make a military point and Turkey said its losing patience with the Russia.

As we flip to the other side of the world, China continues to pile sand and rocks on reefs to build islands to extend its territorial claims further into the South China Sea and to add its military strength to be piled higher on newly created islands. This is not only an attempt to control so much more of free sea lanes of navigation but to cut heavily into the control and power of China’s many neighbors, especially Japan and the United States’ long reach of its naval might. All this adds up to a new strategic imagery: Japan is moving rapidity away from its post WII pacifism, communist Vietnam is purchasing arms from the United States, and the Philippines is inviting the U.S. Navy back to its ports, some twenty-five years after asking them unceremoniously to leave. And even if you have never visited the tiny island nation Singapore, it is not hard to understand why the United States and Singapore have signed an agreement to provide a launching pad for the United States to monitor the South China Sea. Also, as reported, not only has Malaysia called for the United States to work out of its bases, but I am informed that the United States has added to its aircraft force in the area the P-8 Poseidon thereby putting greater spying know-how ability into play to monitor the Chinese adventures and capabilities in that part of the world.

Two items have become clear since my last comments concerning the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCOP). First, Iran is moving internally further in the direction against the “American Enemy” with greater political movement toward the ideological base of its Supreme Leader and non-adherence to the JCPOA , and, second, my mistrust of Iran’s intentions have become more evident. We have just learned that notwithstanding UN Resolution 2231, which was passed just one day after the nuclear accord was signed and which compels Iran to restrain from any work on ballistic missiles for 8 years, on November 21, in breach of that resolution, a missile known as the Ghadr-110, having a range a little over 1200 miles with the capacity of carrying a nuclear warhead, was tested by the Iranians. So much for international agreements, international resolutions, and international oversight and enforcement.

About three months ago I asked one of my grandsons: What’s the Dark Web? Without hesitation he shot back: “Why? Why do you want to know? You shouldn’t go there!” Since the shooting in San Bernadino with the death of 14 and the injury of scores of others, there is talk of encryption (normal text into code) and the Dark Web. It is on the Dark Web that terrorists communicate, utilizing encrypted messages. The Dark Web is a semi-technical term that refers to a collection of websites that, although they are publicly visible/available, the IP address of the servers that run them is hidden. You and I can utilize the Dark Web with any web browser, but it is more than problematical and ultra-challenging to determine who is behind the sites.

On December 8th the French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that France, not nearly recovered from the ISIS attack last month in Paris, may seek to ban the infamous Tor browser, used to namelessly surf the Dark Web. The French Parliament may also ban use of public Wi-Fi during periods of emergency. But, at this writing, Paris seems to be turning away from those options. The UK has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web, with a particular focus on cracking down on serious criminal rings and child pornography. This very week the FBI has admitted that they can determine who is “speaking” to whom, but cannot crack the encrypted messages, so what it hears is “noise”, without understanding. Of course, only one country has been able to successfully block Tor: China, with its great “other” wall, the firewall.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on December 6th that she supports labeling of Israeli settlement products from the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel had sought Germany’s help in convincing EU member states to reject the implementation of this type of labeling as it has done for many other countries. It refused. So much for a balance, even-handed international policy, and from a person just named TIME’s—Person of the Year in a country synonymous with holocaust.

Each of these random thoughts carries a connecting tissue. The obvious fact being that the United States sits geographically between the conflicts in the east and the west. These conflicts share potentially devastating consequences to its national security not merely abroad but at home, on our own shores. We are also in the midst of a race to the White House in a manner and style never before witnessed, filled with extreme rhetoric and personal vindictive hate. We have seen pictures of foreign parliaments whose member have been moved beyond words to extreme physical conformation. We are not like that; but what have we become?

To live in fear is not acceptable. But to live without care is imprudent and unrealistic. Today, as I write this blog, Americans’ fear of terrorism is as high as immediately after 9/11. Do we cry “ouch “only when we are personally affected? There have so many lessons available to us over the last 75 years, why are we ignoring them and to our peril? What do we teach our children, and why does a grandchild have to become fearful because his grandfather queries about the Dark Web?
Richard Allan
The Editor

Commentary – Looking West

When I look out my window each morning and think of the world, my mind and my eyes instinctively turn eastward. When I think of “the” ocean, I am referring to the Atlantic Ocean, not thirty minutes from my home. My focus on daily history takes me to the map of Eastern Europe and the Mid-East. When I read translations of comments made by diplomats from those regions, the language utilized comports with the customs and usage that I am familiar with. Then reality arrives.

There are two oceans that bookend the United States. Although the Atlantic Ocean is often referred to as “The Pond”, the Pacific not only seems so much larger and further away but on its far side, it is home to over one-half of the world’s population. I know little of that part of the world. And, probably more important, their customs and language are so much more alien than that of the East. We fought a hard and brutal war with Japan and learned of Kamikazi fighter pilots and Harakiri, the ritual suicide. These were not merely unknown and alien concepts to America and the East, but hard to understand and accept as part of daily human behavior in the late 30s and 40s. China is a far off land that has been, for all intent and purposes, closed to us in the United States. Japan was equally so, until the end of WWII. The many nation-states that border the Andaman Sea are far from our daily thoughts or visits, except for the very few of us who travel to their exotic ports of tourism.

And while China lectures the United States that it should “take a responsible attitude, remain committed to neutrality, speak and act cautiously”, its fighter planes, on four separate occurrences in 2014, have intercepted and buzzed unarmed United States surveillance planes over international waters. As predicted, the Chinese authorities first denied the incidents (“totally groundless”), were shown video evidence to the contrary, and then altered their position that Chinese fighter pilots acted rightfully and “professionally”.

China demands, that the U.S. military “should reduce and ultimately stop close-in reconnaissance”, if it hopes to develop meaningful military relations with China. In other words, China is saying, in colloquial terms, to the United States, in an ever shrinking world, get out of my backyard. In diplomatic language, it is demanding the United States change its positions on regional issues such as Taiwan, the South China Sea (where it has continued to forcefully claim it has indisputable sovereignty), and ultimately the entire Asia-Pacific region. One can say with a certain amount of confidence that demands for America to seed the Asia-Pacific zone of interest to China is not going to happen in our life-time.

Regional peace in the Asia-Pacific zone resembles playing the game of pick-up-sticks. Move one stick a little off kilter, and the whole pile of sticks either collapses or moves, and you lose. A Chinese diplomat told United States Ambassador Rice: “We hope the U.S. can promote the healthy development of new China-U.S. military ties with concrete actions.” David M. Lampton, professor and director of China Studies at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, says an “armed conflict” between China and the United States is “possible” because an “incident” between China and one of American allies like Japan and the Philippines “could drag the United States in”. Japan on several occasions has accused Chinese planes of menacing its aircraft around the Senkaku Islands, the cluster known as the Diaoyu by China. Although it is obvious that both the United States and China are strongly self-motivated to keep their economic and other forms of civil intercourse as frictional-free as possible, those peaceful relations do not foreclose the potential of a military clash between these two giant countries. A peaceful relationship between these two countries is anything but certain.

What is not uncertain, the United States will not idly sit by if Chinese actions affect our strategic interest in that part of the world. For example, Beijing has told Washington, in light of the escalation of friction between Japan and China, that Tokyo “has become a growing liability to Washington’s pursuit of its long term interest” with China. One can only guess what was said behind closed doors when that message was received by the Oval Office.

In September of this year, Tokyo and Washington began preliminary talks of providing Japan with offensive weapons that would permit it the fire power to reach far beyond its borders. The first thought: the North Korean missile system would be an appropriate target. That conversation rattled the military and political sabers of the Chinese ruling party. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said “Asian countries had a right to be concerned about any moves to strengthen Japan’s military considering the country’s past and recent mistaken words and actions about its history.” Note, he did not refer to China’s right but to Asian countries (their claimed zone of interest).

Interesting to note is that Japan has not “fired a shot in anger since its defeat”, almost seventy years ago, at the end of WWII. Equally interesting is the economics of the potential change in Japanese security thinking: It would require that Japan would change from a purely defense military system to the purchasing of billions of dollars of offensive systems and weapons. From whom? The United States.

A yearlong investigation conducted by the Senate Armed Services Committee accused the Chinese Government of supporting the most refined form of hacking into networks of companies retained by the Pentagon on at least nineteen occasions. And it doesn’t stop there: Chinese hackers were able to breach computers aboard commercial ships, logistic companies and uploaded malicious software onto an airline computer. There have been five federal indictments of members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army on charges of cyber theft.

In another part of this strategic area is South Korea, looking north to a much oppressed, undernourished population and over-fed military compound, who announced it would create a combined army unit with the United States, reportedly tasked with destroying North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction in the event of an all-out conflict. Here, unlike the U.S. relationship with Japan, there will be a mechanized unit led by a US major general to be organized in 2015, as part of intricate preparations for any war between the two Koreas. “It will be the first combined ‘field combat’ unit to carry out wartime operations,” a defense ministry spokesman announced.

North Korea has repeatedly announced that in the event of war on the Korean Peninsula, Japan and South Korea would be “consumed in nuclear flames”. China, North Korea and, most recently, Russia (of all countries ) all seem to fear that installation of an advanced missile-deterrence on South Korean soil would increase the danger of a regional war, despite U.S. repeated guarantees that the system would only be to ward off missile attacks on South Korea. One must superimpose that conflict upon China’s escalating economic and territorial disputes with not only Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines and its capability to attack those nations with its fighter-jet the J-20 and the picture is not very bright. The capabilities of the J-20 fighter have been increased by China’s outright espionage/ stealing of design secrets from the U.S. It is claimed by some experts that China is still believed to be a long way from developing a home grown engine systems for its fighter jets. I would not want to count on that assurance in my relationship with a country whose language and customs have nuances that we have yet to master.

There are too many niceties that mask or mislead us in the true meaning of China’s and North Korea’s pronouncements. I think it is fair to say that we, as a nation, are not familiar, fluent or totally comfortable with the inner intrigues of the worlds of China and North Korea. China, in particular, presents multiple customs, not merely in the streets of their many diverse cities, but in the numerous cantons of a very large nation. Nor are we sufficiently attuned to the inner workings of the governments of China and North Korea. We have seen, often enough, that nothing can be taken at face value in the United States’ dealing with China.

So where are we? Violence flourishes up and down the Andaman Sea and we know little of that. China sits a waiting dragon, North Korea is a rogue nation-state, and we know little of either country. In addition, we have few if any, “informants” of significant importance, to aid us in the higher ranks in either in China or North Korea. So we must all start looking more diligently each morning not merely to the east but also the west.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

P.S. On the front page of today’s New York Times, a bold headline blares: “Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of Shadows”. The article updates, with distressing and chilling details, what I have previously discussed. We are a long way from the atrocities committed during the Second World War, and those we openly discussed after the end of the war. The issue is today is “whether a subtle societal shift is occurring that has made ant-Jewish remarks or behavior more acceptable.” “’Death to the Jews!’ shouted protesters in Belgium and France. ‘Gas the Jews!’ yelled marchers in Germany. But the list does not end with words, it was only the beginning to be followed by fatal shots in Brussels, the bombing of a Jewish-owned pharmacy in Paris, a synagogue in Germany is firebombed, and a Swedish Jew is beaten with iron pipes.

Only the beginning –and where are all those in the United States, whose kin joined the marches against the violence of Israel in Gaza, marching against the violence of ISIS? Today a Frenchmen was beheaded. Tomorrow, who? And the silence, by those in America whose voices should be in the forefront, is not merely deafing it is outrageous.