It’s More Than a Balloon – It’s Fishing

As I write this Commentary, my world view has shifted toward greater anxiety. My personal mantra has always been “if it’s not going to kill me, I’ll deal with it”. But the world’s temperature is getting hotter with sizzling temperature in parts of the U.S. with deadly results, the Ukrainian war continues to threaten the use of nuclear weapons, and the insurrection that was aimed at Moscow is creating waves toward international political crisis. The U.N. Security Council warned that the threat of terrorism has increased and is becoming more diffuse in various regions of the world, aided by new technologies. The intensity of these attacks across the board only increases. My focus, though, is on China for several reasons that do not make sensational, front-page headlines.

Yigal Carmon noting in MEMRI that the Pacific Ocean is no longer the United States’ sole playground with Russia and China presently holding naval exercises off the cost of Alaska, as the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps held joint exercises in the South China Sea. All at a time of heightened tensions with Beijing over, initially, the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon. The 7th Fleet, based in Japan – USS Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit – have conducted “integrated expeditionary strike force operations” in the South China Sea, in a clear message to China about its aggression. And I have just learned that one of our largest aircraft carriers will soon be deployed to the Pacific Ocean.

China, as I have noted on previous occasions, claims virtually – the entire South China Sea as its sovereign territorial water. It has strongly objected to military activity by other nations in the contested portions of the waterway through which $5 trillion in goods are shipped every year. Not only is the South China Sea an important part of the world economy and stability but, domestically, the polls indicate that Americans are starting to think of China, as they once did about the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Is there a new Cold War on the horizon with China?

Although the U.S.  alleges that it has no “official” position on sovereignty claims of some of the island nations in the South China Sea, it maintains that freedom of navigation and overflight in that area must be protect. Several times a year, the U.S. will have its ships sailing past newly fortified Chinese outposts in the Spratly Islands, prompting the expected furious protests from Beijing.

The U.S. has also been strengthening its military alliances with the Philippines who, along with other parts of the world, have faced encroachment on their coastline and fisheries by the Chinese fishing fleets protected by the Chinese Coast Guard which acts more like an armed naval fleet than a coast guard. Japan, too, according to Japan’s Sankei press, has been deploying U.S. long-range hyper-sonic weapons and Tomahawks to the region, in a concerted effort to contain China’s forces in the area. As noted elsewhere in this commentary, China is also involved in disputes with Malaysia, Brunel and Vietnam, over territory and claimed fishing rights in the South China Sea and far beyond that part of the world, where it forcefully encroaches on the territorial fishing rights of other nations.

Although not the focus of this Commentary, its noteworthy in the context of Chinese hostility in multiple areas of international affairs that India, has announced that its troops foiled yet another attempt by Chinese soldiers to encroach into Indian territory along their disputed border in the eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. The incident is the most serious face-off between the Asian giants since a skirmish in another part of their Himalayan mountains. Then just after we digested that news, it had been reported that Five North Korean drones crossed into South Korean airspace, prompting the South Korean military to deploy fighter jets and attack helicopters, this while the Chinese welcomed its New Year by sending 71 planes and seven ships toward Taiwan in a 24-hour display of force directed at the island population. This was not an isolated display of violating their airspace.

To understand the physical magnitude of China’s breath, I found it astonishing that the UK could house its entire population in China’s unused apartments, and there would be an abundance of leftover room. The reason for the wealth of living quarters is that China’s population is shrinking which compounds its economic growth concerns which, for decades, has been the engine of the global economy, as reported in Prospect a UK publication.  What I have been saying for years and has finally made the national news headlines: that China has blended its private industrial firms with its military infrastructure. A New York Times article did bring a smile – the Chinese have built a 26-story monolithic tower in central China, where agricultural land is scarce, that resembles a huge housing block for the sole purposes of raising pigs. Pork, as is fish, which I will discuss in greater length in this Commentary, is in high demand in China. As described, the pigs are segregated and maintained in strictly controlled environments.

What is clear, is the hostility between the U.S. and China, is only increasing by the day – just three months ago, China announced its plans to substantially increase its military buildup as tensions rise between the two governments. Tokyo, this week, hedged on confirming whether Chinese hackers had compromised the most classified military secrets of U.S. interests with its most important East Asian ally. Our intelligence agencies continually warn us that Chinese spy efforts within the U.S. is vast. And as we look to the future, China’s Mideast buildup stirs security worries for U.S. as Chinese state-owned companies are funding billions of dollars in investments near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s prime conduits for oil shipments — a move that could lay the groundwork for a future military presence. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party’s first overseas training institute is teaching up-and-coming African leaders Beijing’s approach to governing. It’s part of China’s plan to create an authoritarian-friendly political bloc in Africa.

As China moves aggressively to dominate not only the western pacific, it enjoys having the world’s largest navy and is replacing Russia as the No. 2 in space power, as it moves aggressively in parts of the world’s oceans, far from its shores. But its population, along with its shrinking economic output, is pushing the Country into a demographic crisis. Deaths outnumbered births in China last year, for the first time in more than 60 years. At the same time, the country is experiencing its worst annual economic performance in nearly half a century, growing just 3% for the year — far below the government’s target of 5.5%. And as I write this commentary, there are fears among economics and investors that the country’s economy, with its mounting debt, is on the cusp of moving into deflation affecting the world’s economy. While the two leading superpowers are increasingly playing out their aggression in the technological sphere, China, as the world’s largest natural source of metals required in the manufacturing of the precious semiconductors, is restricting the world exports of these key natural elements. A clear warning to both Europe and the United States in their very open and escalating technological war – supposedly on the grounds of national security. Unspoken and under the public radar is an equally, if not more profound crisis that will affect the well being of individuals around the globe that depend upon the supply of fish for their real-life substance. With its own coastal water depleted by over fishing, China has built a massive global fishing industry unmatched by any other country.

A typical example of that impact is in July of 2020, Ian Urbina wrote a frightening article that sounded more like a horror novel than a true case of mass murder on the high seas.  Somewhere off the coast of South Korea – “battered wooden ‘ghost boats’ drifted through the Sea of Japan for months,” what was discovered: – the “only cargo (were) the corpses of starved North Korean fishermen whose bodies” had been “reduced to skeletons”. Mr. Urbina reported that in 2019 more than 150 “of these macabre vessels washed ashore in Japan. There have been more than 500 fishing vessels in the past five years. It appears from his account and based upon an NBC News investigation team, along with collected satellite data, that the most plausible explanation was: “China is sending a …armada of industrial boats to illegally fish in North Korean waters, violently displacing smaller Korean boats…” Almost 800 of these illegal Chinese fishing boats were in violation of internationally imposed sanction, that forbid their fishing in North Korean waters. “This is the largest known case of illegal fishing perpetrated by a single industrial fleet operating in another nation’s waters,” said Jaeyoon Park, a data scientist. The story doesn’t end there.

Ray Mabus, a former secretary of the navy, wrote a scathing article in the Seattle Times decrying the international communities’ lack of response to China’s openly aggressive threats to that ribbon of national security that plays out in contested maritime boundaries and, most important, global marine resources impacting the world-wide fishing industry. “The ‘invisible’ national security threat of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and China’s role in exacerbating the problem, is real, and must not be ignored.” “…fishing without authorization inside a country’s maritime boundary, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, and fishing with prohibited gear or for prohibited fish or wildlife.”

Unknown to me until I started my research for this Commentary is that there is a Global Illegal Fishing Index, and China is ranked worst on this Index as “most likely” to engage in IUU fishing. It has deployed its massive size processing factory fishing ships (the mother ship) at the center of a fleet of smaller vessels that do the harvesting of fish around the world. These fishing fleets invade and lay claim not only in disputed territories but have laid claim to the territories of other nations and, as I have written before, the Chinese have constructed artificial islands to be able to lay claim to fishing rights in wide swaths of the surrounding seas. These “pseudo-navies”, as Mr. Mabus has dubbed them because of their size, aggressive and hostile action, maneuver far from the South China Sea, with, at times, positing 300 smaller fishing boats, plus a mammoth mother processing vessel at one time off the coast of Ecuador, Peru or Chile and Argentina and off the coast of Europe and Africa. The Chinese fishing fleets, since 2016, have operated off the coast of South America “virtually every day, all day, all year, moving with the fishing seasons” from the coasts of Ecuador, to eventually to Argentina. This is replicated around the globe.

As a pseudo navy, operating in large groups with at times protection/intimidation sources provided by the Chinese Coast Guard which acts more like a naval command and, to make matters worse, are illegal as they operate in a stealth mode – either by switching off their automatic tracking systems or operating

without them. They become an immense, invisible fleet of fishing vessels. China has become, by their illegal and hostile acts, the world’s largest fish processor, exporter and consumer of seafood products, with an impressive world-wide value in excessive of 21 billion dollars.

The Senkaku Islands are a group of uninhabited islands just southwest of Japan. The archipelago has been controlled by Japan since 1895. In September 2012, the Japanese government purchased three of the disputed islands from their private owner, prompting an immediate protest by the Chinese Government. Its importance is that these islands are not only close to key international shipping lanes, but there is the possibility of oil reserves and, most important, rich and vital fishing grounds. Since then, “China has been using this as an excuse to send their Coast Guard and other agencies’ ships into Japan’s contiguous zone almost every day except for stormy weather days, and these ships intrude into Japanese territorial waters several times a month,” said the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Chinese coast guard carried out similar patrols in early June this year. “China Coast Guard ships – mounted with artillery – persistently continue unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the waters around the Senkaku Islands,” said the ministry.

What is clear from all the collected data is that China has over fished and depleted its coastal waters of the fish necessary to feed its own population. Its response, the Chinese developed and built a fishing operation that spans thousands of miles from the homeland – unrivaled by any other nation.  For example, the Chinese, since 2016, have operated its massive fishing fleet off “South America, virtually all day, all year, moving with the seasons from coast to coast.” Over the last two decades, China has built the world’s largest deep-water fishing fleet, with nearly 3,000 (the precise number being unknown) ships plundering by any and all means the rich and environmentally diverse fishing waters across the globe. Rear Admiral Mike Studeman, a person with deep maritime intelligence experience has written that “these industrial-scale flotillas are able to drag massive nets, literally capturing everything in their wake, often without regard for fisheries law or consent of the coastal nations.” Having severely depleted stocks in its own coastal waters, China now fishes in any ocean or sea in the world, and on “a scale that dwarfs some countries’ entire fleets near their own waters”.

The impact financially and ecologically is by increments being felt from the Indian Ocean to the South Pacific, from the coasts of Africa to those crucial fishing areas off South America – a display on the high seas of China’s global economic might staring straight at the U.S. In 2017, Ecuador seized a refrigerated cargo ship, the Fu Yuan Yu Leng, carrying an illicit cargo of 6,620 sharks, whose fins are a delicacy in China. The fins had been removed by the fleet’s crew, and the carcasses of the dead sharks were dumped back into the sea. Chinese ships like the Hai Feng are generally registered in Panama but managed by a company in Beijing and are state-owned and operated. They are known in the industry as “motherships” and are built to refrigerate and   preserve tons of fish caught by a fleet of smaller ships who do the actual fishing. They not only process the fish caught but carry supplies for the smaller fishing or harvesting ships so that they, in turn, can maintain long periods at sea chasing the fish without the necessity to return to a nearby port for fuel and marine parts. According to Global Fishing Watch, this particular mother ship met at sea, at one point in 2021, with more than six dozen smaller fishing boats all controlled by the Chinese Government. Their purpose was to transfer caught fish by the smaller boats to the mother sometimes referred to as a processing or floating factory. This process or procedure, I have learned, is called “transshipment” and is noted for its marking the transfer of tons of fish that normally would have had to be unloaded at a distant port possibly hundreds of miles away. Ultimately, the mother ship (for example, the Hai Feng has more than 500,000 cubic feet of cargo space, enough to carry thousands of tons of fish) with tons of processed fish, returns home to China, unloads its massive catch, and then heads out to sea again, seeking fish in some other distant ocean, pursuing a different season of fishing.    There are already worrisome signs of worldwide, diminishing fish reserves, which in all likely hood, is a precursor to an ecological collapse of fishing supply. “The concern is the sheer number of ships and the lack of accountability, to know how much is being fished out and where it’s going to,” said Marla Valentine, an oceanographer with Oceana, the conservation group. “And I’m worried that the impacts that are happening now are going to cascade into the future.” Within the last two weeks the United States Coast Guard, on two separate occasions, destroyed hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels illegally fishing in the South China Sea.

Early in this commentary, I asked whether the United States and China are headed toward a cold war. I believe it has already commenced. The United States and China are poised to move further apart. Each morning, I read both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and then scan a slew of new sites. Over a time, the print space and airtime covering Russia, the Ukraine and NATO has diminished, with greater emphasis placed on China’s threats and hostile activities around the globe, not merely in the Western Pacific. It is an immense nation, physically, with a large population controlled by an iron-fisted government. It has decided to challenge the rest of the world for supremacy and to, unabashedly, employ its growing military, scientific and economic power. And as I wrote the conclusion to this Commentary, I read in the New York Times “…elect officials critical of Beijing were targets of a Chinese state that has increasingly exerted its influence over Chinese diaspora communities worldwide, as part its aggressive campaign to extend its global reach…” To that end, and although internationally condemned, China continues to extend its Indo-China sphere of fishing dominance. Not thirty days ago, it openly flaunted the sovereignty of the Philippine Economic Exclusion zone, as it guarded a large fishing fleet not only by its Coast Guard (thousands of miles from home) but also by “The People’s Liberation Army Navy.” How many unintended mistakes will occur when the People’s Liberation Army Navy encroaches upon the territory of a nation unwilling to be intimidated, and the cold war turns hot? One prominent American general has already announced he is preparing his troops for that eventuality, and to that end, not one month ago, the U.S. kicked off a most important, both in scale and message, large scale military drills with its allies in the Western Pacific, described as “the most expansive in the exercise’s history”. Will the message be received?  

Richard Allan

The Editor

Rage – Violence and Espionage

Locally, everywhere I turn I see rage and the sorrow of domestic mass shootings. Violence is currently a prominent feature of a new America. And political violence is but just one element.

The head of Homeland Security Secretary commented, and echoed by the director of the FBI ”that domestic violent extremism is one of the greatest terrorism-related threats that we face in the homeland today.” The FBI director Christopher Wray testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the first week of August this year that political violence is becoming “almost a 365 day phenomenon.” “Many domestic terrorism cases now have an international component, as would-be killers are ‘egging each other on’ and drawing inspiration from racist or neo-Nazi attacks overseas,” the head of the FBI and his British counterpart M15 announced in a joint communique. “Travel and technology,” the FBI director said, “have really blurred the lines between foreign and domestic threats.” Their agencies have spent decades developing a concept called “tip-sharing systems” to handle international terrorism cases, and that “muscle memory” is now being applied to domestic terrorism investigations. The most currant attacks have taken on a new kind of definition along with an increased and new urgency, because attackers can mobilize quickly and more than often are not part of a known, identifiable well-established network. On the other hand, in many terrorism cases, Wray commented, the terrorist is a lone actor, with maybe one or two other people with a minimum of plotting and little financial resources. In the midst of this information, the top watchdog at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dropped a small bomb when he said that the DHS “could do more to address the threats of domestic terrorism.” This admission, in a new 29-page report, followed an increase in mass shootings that have been jolting the country and prompting questions about how effective federal law enforcement responses are.

Which leads me to the conclusion that after many years analysis we can no longer be automatically compartmentalizing terrorism as either domestic or foreign. There must be a more nuanced approach in our analysis and clearly a more proactive stance by law enforcement.

Globally, constant hostiles and a profound lack humanity are being pushed to the breaking point. Today, although the headlines have become smaller, we remain frontpage focused on the Ukraine, as a war of attrition lingers on with civilians more often than not, being targeted by Russian missiles. What is not being presented to the general public, even in a slightest ripple, is China’s silent, some may say stealth, attack on the United States, and that is the focus of the remainder of this Commentary. I am not referring to its open aggression in the East China and South China Sea area, neither disguised nor denied by any of the parties — the United States included. This comes amid increasingly more aggressive military action by Chinese pilots, obviously on command from Beijing. Last month, in the East and South China Seas, a Chinese fighter jet had an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” interaction with a U.S. special operations C-130 aircraft in the South China Sea. There was no apology from the Chinese. There has been unmasked hostility by Chinese jet fighters in recent months involving Australian and Canadian aircraft. In February, personnel aboard a Chinese navy ship pointed a laser at an Australian P-8 maritime surveillance aircraft, and another Chinese jet cut off an Australian P-8 and released chaff that the Australian plane was forced to ingest into its engine.

After Pelosi’s visit to Twain, the Chinese fired 11 missiles that hit the seas surrounding the democratic island, and although the Chinese said they all hit their intended targets, some landed in Japanese waters. After protests by both the U.S. and Japanese Governments, the bombardment stopped and then restarted with a large armada of Chinese naval force on display. As it turned, out it was a good military exercise for the Chinese government in preparation for future hostilities against Taiwan. Equally important for the United States, it afforded us the opportunity to study the coordination of Chinese military services in a live military full scale exercise. In addition, our “education” in observing the reaction of the Chinese at home — the mood of the mainland population was not as expected: Chinese social media exploded in condemnation of its government’s weak response to Pelosi’s trip to Twain — “don’t put on a show of power if you don’t have power,” and “what a loss of face.” The Chinese government then announced, I assume to placate its population, that it would cease all conversations with the U.S. concerning significant issues of national security for each nation. The “silent” treatment.

It is China’s “silent war” against us, only slightly cover in the press, that has captured my attention because of its depth and the danger it poses to a wide swath of our national security. One is its espionage, and the second is China’s invasion into our economy. First is the FBI’s ongoing investigation to determine whether the Chinese-made Huawei equipment could disrupt U.S. nuclear arsenal communications. Second, is a new Senate report that Beijing has targeted the ranks of our Federal Reserve system, this nation’s central bank and probably the most powerful economic institution in the world, to gain access to nonpublic information. China, over a period of more than a decade, sought to enlist Federal Reserve employees to provide sensitive and classified information in exchange for money and other enticements, according to the investigation led by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Pete Williams, in a very interesting article, alleges that Chinese intense spying in the U.S. has become so penetrating, concentrated and widespread that the FBI is opening two to three counterintelligence investigations daily. FBI Director Wray has said, on more than one occasion, that the “sheer scale” of the Chinese efforts to steal U.S. technology “shocked him” when he became FBI director in 2017. “This one blew me away,” with over 2,000 investigations presently in progress. “There is no country that presents a broader, more severe threat to our innovation, our ideas and our economic security than China does,” he said. “More brazen, more damaging, than ever before.” targeting a wide range of U.S. innovations — including Covid vaccines, computer chips, nuclear power plants, wind turbines and smartphones. More than mere worrisome, Wray said, China has no equal.

WSJ reported that China attempted to build a network of informants inside the Federal Reserve system. During their attempt to infiltrate the FED, they threatened to imprison a Fed economist during his trip to Mainland China unless he agreed to provide nonpublic economic data. This was not the first time the Chinese offered cash payment or the use of corrosion in detaining those with sensitive information concerning the nonpublic workings at the FED.

Last November, a Chinese intelligence office was convicted of trying to steal closely guarded technology developed by GE for making jet engines’ fan blades. At times a company’s technology is stolen by planting spies inside a targeted company. And this may, I add, is only the tip of the iceberg of their activity in and against the United States.

Wray has long accused China of using pressure tactics to block criticism from dissidents and members of the immigrant community in the United States, which he said amounts to Chinese officials exporting their well-known social oppressive tactics. “China may be the first country to combine that kind of authoritarian ambition with cutting-edge technical capability. It’s like the surveillance nightmare of East Germany combined with the tech of Silicon Valley,” Wray said. Wray cited the example of Zhihao Kong, who was a graduate student at Purdue University in Indiana in 2020 when he publicly praised student protesters who were killed in 1989 at Tiananmen Square. After doing so, Kong said China’s Ministry of State Security visited his parents in China to warn them about his activism.

Wray was quick to emphasized that the source of the trouble is China’s leaders, not its citizens, adding “I’m referring not to the Chinese people, not to people of Chinese descent or heritage,” he said. “What we’re talking about here is the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.” I find this hard to accept considering the outcry on social media within China that criticized their government for their weak response to Pelosi’s visit to Twain.

Some Asian American groups have accused the Justice Department and the FBI of overreaching, especially with a Trump-era national security program called the China Initiative, created to address Chinese economic espionage in universities and research institutions. The groups have alleged that federal agents, much too often, go after academic researchers for paperwork offenses that have no effect on national security.

FBI officials, while acknowledging some missteps, said the bureau’s focus is on efforts to steal from American companies, not on academia. But both is true, and the scope of their intrusion into our economic well-being is immense, as discussed below.

While other nations, including North Korea, Russia and Iran, have carried out sustained attacks on American computer networks, Wray said China stands in a class by itself. “There’s just no other country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation and economic security than China,” and here he has hit the center of the target. There has been a sustained invasion in our economy on more than one front. Aside from its intense espionage activities, China has “invaded” our economy on two fronts. Its purchase of immense tracks of farmland and its purchase of major food producing companies, among others, in a blatant attempt to control various aspects of our lives, including our domestic food supply. At the outset, it’s important to repeat that every Chinese company must take a loyalty oath to comply to any request by the Communist Party of China. That, in effect, makes all Chinese companies a potential extension of the Communist China government apparatus.

With headquarters in China controlling its policy, there are several iconic “American companies” that sound American and tout themselves as American but are not. Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producing company, along with its more than 500 farms and factories in the United States, is Beijing controlled and operated. AMC Cinemas, along with IBM-Personal Corp and Snapchat and a healthy chunk of Tesla, have their headquarters in China. So does General Electric. Along with these companies, there is a push by Chinese interests to buy immense tracks of farmland — its “One Belt One Road” aiming to control a greater and greater piece of China’s food suppl chain. By 2020, Chinese owners-controlled farmland was worth almost 2 billion dollars including land used for ranching and forestry. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, both Republican and Democratic, have advanced legislation, warning that China’s presence in the American food chain poses a national security risk. A powerful China-based company that specializes in flavor enhances recently obtained a 300-acre farmland near Grand Forks, North Dakota. What made this purchase so unique and important to our national security is that the land is located a mere 20 minutes from our Grand Forks Air Force base that is touted to be the home of our most sophisticated military drone technology. The Chair of the very powerful Senate Intelligence committee has rung the alarm bell that this purchase is a counterintelligence threat posed by the Chinese government.

My thought: after a fruitless 10-year siege, in 1184BC, the Greeks of ancient times constructed a huge wooden horse and hid a select group of soldiers inside…and then seemed to sail away from battle. The besieged Trojans, to what appeared to them as a victory prize, pulled the massive horse into their fortress and went to sleep. The rest, as they say, is history., A trojan horse or an “American” corporation set at the gates of Washington. A real question for today and tomorrow and our national security is who owns Corporate America? And by this, I mean who realistically controls corporate America? This is not an issue of who is “migrating” to our shores. We are a nation of immigrants and hopefully that is where our future has always been. The question, urgently being raised in Washington, is Who, in What corporate office, will determine what or when our food chain remains viable or the movies we see or newspapers we read, and the list goes on. There is a silent stealth enemy in the United States and today it is China.

What Falls After Afghanistan?

The morning after a hurricane hit the East Coast and a flash flood killed 21 people in Tennessee, the headlines in the NYT, Washington Post and the WSJ described the upheaval in Afghanistan — the U.S.  pulled out, expanding the safe zones around the perimeter of Kabul airport, as the US Secretary of Defense announced that: “We cannot afford to either not defend that airfield, or not have an airfield that secure, where we have hundreds or thousands of civilians that can access the airfield at will and put our forces at risk.” And then, terrorists killed American soldiers and civilians, the airlift is over, and some Americans are still stranded, as that country faces a possible new civil war and financial disaster as the opium trade increases.

NATO’s foreign ministers had warned the Taliban that they would not tolerate Afghanistan to once again, as it did twenty years before to become a safe haven and breeding ground for terrorism. The foreign ministers noted that it had denied the terrorists a staging area for terrorists’ attacks, and it was prepared to once again invest in its vital role. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg did not rule out the use of military strikes to support their position. “We have the capabilities to strike terrorist groups…” within Afghanistan. Then the bombings and deaths come at the hands of ISIS. And the killing of civilians moved to a new high rate. Is a civil war brewing?  More than likely that and more, when the Taliban and the tribes that roam the Country come to the inevitable realization that the Taliban do not have the basic “tools” to govern the country, notwithstanding the influx of funds with the increase opium trade. That said, two days after Thanksgiving, the Washington Post affirmed what I had written one week before, that the Taliban attacks against the terrorist group have expanded its “shadowy war” against the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan. The Talban have deployed an additional thousands more fighters to its eastern province in an increasingly violent area. The operation becomes a critical test of the government’s ability to govern after what was a clearly botched U.S. troop withdrawal. And the answer is that it is not. Notwithstanding its perceived success in the ongoing action against ISIS, the government’s ability to feed its population and sustain a working economy is failing. Afghanistan’s economy and social services are further collapsing as I write this sentence, with Afghans throughout the country already suffering acute malnutrition. The fear is that children will die in the coming months as winter sets in, and a call has reached the international community for aid.

Then, as I paused waiting further developments, other areas have become increasingly volatile and a danger both directly and indirectly to our national security. In the midst of this, and not totally unrelated, the Iranian Ayatollah Alireza Ebadi announced that: The Jews Are the Biggest Problem for Islam and Humanity – They Control The World. How will that threat play out with their growing rush toward being an international nuclear weapon player? Turkey, a strategically located country, and as I have written in the past with its President Erdogan’s moving closer to military ties with the Kremlin, saw the country sliding into economic turmoil. The current crises have its population seeking bread and meat subsidies and fleeing for what would be a better life in Europe.

The claims of territorial rights have escalated in intensity and have become dangerous flashpoints: Hong Kong is lost. The small businesses I know there are holding onto their international trade with their fingertips and their voices are becoming dimmer.

Taiwan’s independence and those nation-states that depend upon and claim territorial and navigation rights to the South China Sea and adjacent seaways for international and local commercial transportation, mineral rights exploration and fishing hold our attention. Add India vs China and India vs Pakistan. On October 12th India and China announced that a high level military meeting between the two sides failed to ease the standoff to their boarder dispute that has left 20 Indian and Chinese troops dead.

The United States, notwithstanding strongly claiming that vast areas of the South China sea and adjacent significant maritime areas as international water has, in the past decades, made a series of tactical and strategic – military decisions that have placed us second to China who now possesses the world’s largest navy. And by any measurement – size does matter and raises significant questions of the nature of future hostilities.

Could China invade Taiwan now? As China bangs the drums of war, and although it sent in excess of 56 fighter jets over Taiwan’s beleaguered air defense systems, the answer is clear: at this moment their naval advantage is not sufficient to risk that aggressive move. In any invasion of that magnitude it would severely disrupt China’s present economic growth at home and its dependence on world opinion to support that growth. China and China watchers think in terms of 5-6 years for hostilities (however that word is defined) to commence, but were rattled when it was announced that China tested a nuclear-capable hypersonic missile 3 months ago that circled the earth and landed close to its target, demonstrating an advanced space capability. Parenthetically, Putin had already boasted of achieving hypersonic missile capability, but without the Beijing’s range.

Will there be a hostile “reunification” of the wayward province–Taiwan–or as some believe, a peaceful absorption by Beijing. Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen has confirmed that U.S. military personnel are currently on the island as part of a “military exchange,” as she announced that the country’s 23 million residents would never “bow to pressure” in the face of the growing military threat from China. All the while, China practices amphibious troop landings, and Russian and Chinese warships conducted their first joint naval operations in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. The armada consisted of ten warships that sailed thru the Tsugaru straits that separate Japan’s major islands, rattling that country’s sense of security.

History is important: more than 70 years ago, during a civil war in China between the Nationalists and Communists, the Nationalists, after defeat on the battle field, retreated to Taiwan. It is important to understand on the international diplomatic level, Taiwan is not a nation-state, it has no seat at the United Nations and is recognized by 15 very small nations. At times in the past, life did flourish between the mainland and the democratic island. Today, the relationship is at its lowest level. China’s president announced that before the end of his tenure, he will see the return of the wayward “province” to the embrace of Beijing’s authority. And America’s president announced that we have an obligation to defend a democratic Taiwan.

Pakistan and India have a long feud regarding claims to territory in the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent since the partition of that area in 1947. Until the mid-19th century,  “Kashmir” denoted only a valley between two mountain ranges. Today, the term encompasses a larger area that includes Indian-administered territories, Pakistani-administered territories, and, as I’ve just learned, Chinese-administered territories. Today, India and Pakistan both claim the region in full. The Indian side of the region has been the scene of constant clashes between government forces and armed groups seeking Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. At the same time, India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the frontier, to launch attacks. Naturally, Pakistan rejects the accusation, as it is accused of providing a safety zone for those jihadists who stage attacks in India.

Indian authorities have moved to shut down the internet as a “precautionary measure”, and have placed restrictions in Kashmir Valley. Police had ordered the civilians to refrain from walking on the streets.

India and Pakistan have fought four wars since their partition in 1947, three of them over Kashmir. China has remained silent. What makes this hotspot more volatile is that the United States and India have taken a major step in signing an agreement to develop an air-launched unmanned aerial vehicle, thereby deepening the defense technology between the two nations. India playing both sides of the street will welcome Russia’s Putin for a summit as Moscow begins the delivery of air defense missile systems to India. That could spur U.S. sanctions.

While the tensions run high in the India and Pakistan, they are unlikely to produce any significant, imminent fighting, other than cross-border sniping. Pakistan has long been a sinking pit for the American infusion of tens of billions of dollars in aid, most of it unaccounted for by its corrupt government. Although it has long been thought, in a positive way, as our partner in our “war” against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Without our financial aid, its government must totally rely upon its drug trade, which will undoubtedly be encouraged by the new Taliban chiefs in Afghanistan. One of those Afghan Taliban leaders, it has been frequently been reported in the press, is a protégé of the Pakistan military. All this must be viewed against a background that a corrupt Pakistan government holds the keys to a nuclear arsenal.

It appears that India, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, along with other smaller nation states in the South China Sea are trying to downplay the anxiety each feels (and attempts to shroud) when scrutinizing their individual relationship with the U.S.  Our present standing in the international community, after four years of the Trump Administration and our botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, has put these countries on edge. Are they each safe from any and all types of China incursion?  “The world has witnessed how the US evacuated its diplomats by helicopter while Taliban soldiers crowded into the presidential palace in Kabul,” the official and hawkish Beijing Chinese-English language newspaper wrote shortly after the Afghan Governments collapse. “This has dealt a heavy blow to the credibility and reliability of the U.S.”, the Chinese-English paper’s editorial continued. True or false – is it China propaganda (which they appear to be very good at), or are we in a world racked by an uncontrollable virus, shifting world political alliances and domestic political upheaval, causing confusion as we attempt to refocus our international priorities?

Two very different American Presidents planned to carry out our withdrawal from Afghanistan. Two very different American Presidents view this nation’s already contentious and hostile future with China; where we have no hotline as with Russia. The increasing, dangerous threats and aggressive activities from China necessitate the United States to shift its national security focus from the Mid-East and focus on China and the Indo-Pacific arena. The Chinese will learn that they will have to refocus and consider a more robust, offensive United States to its East, and to the west the Uighurs, whose plight is more and more being examined by the international press. They are a predominantly Muslim group of Turkic ethnicity and who live in China’s North-Western Xinjiang Province. China appears to view them as a national security threat to Beijing’s hard rule, and has subjected them to internationally condemned severe treatment.

Then the day after Thanksgiving, what started as a sunless cold day, the Global financial market plunged on the opening bell following the discovery of a new viral variant in southern Africa that top advisors warned was the “most worrying we’ve seen.”  I thought: is there no place to hide?

The Editor

War Over An Island

War Over An Island?

The experts are placing the odds where WWIII will explode and the consensus is that it is Taiwan. This unsettling prediction comes at a time when the world’s super powers are straining and, in some cases, failing to move politically toward some degree of bipartisanship in their own domestic governing. The United States is torn politically in half, and that affects not only the ability to govern both nationally and locally, but our health is at stake with our inability to confront a killing virus. Fact: Half the country won’t take the vaccine, and that places the rest of us in danger. In France, neither the French president nor his party have strong local support, nor does the right-wing National Rally party. We have cancelled a trip to England. Cruise ships are basically sitting in port. And as I write this, the United States and its allies condemn China for hacking the Microsoft Exchange email server that affected tens of thousands not merely in the United States but around the world. All this as it unveiled the world’s fastest train– a maglev train capable of a top speed of 372mph.

Although Taiwan is the focus of this Commentary, I feel it would be remiss not to pause to consider the state of Hong Kong. China, contrary to its agreement with the UK, has begun to squeeze the last vestiges of a democratic form of governance from the former UK colony. Four federal agencies have warned U.S. companies in mid-July that operating in Hong Kong puts both their employees and businesses at the mercy of an increasingly hostile Chinese government.  The potential impact is huge: U.S. direct investment in Hong Kong totaled $82 billion in just one year. On a personal level, I fear for an Indian Muslim whose family has lived for generations in Hong Kong and who I have known for years. He operates a small, international family custom clothing business in the former colony. He and his family’s business have a bleak future with no guarantee of survival both financially and privately.

In the past, I have written about China’s aggressive stance and its hostile advances in the South China Sea. At lightning speed, Beijing built military installations on artificial islands and small, coral reefs and now aggressively confronts their small neighboring nations in their own territorial waters. China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

More than once, our naval or air force has had dangerously close encounters with the Chinese that have placed the U.S. on high alert, causing serious concerns around the world. India and China keep sending fresh troops to their common border where sporadic, small arms firing have taken place. We are moving far past these types of unsettling, aggressive markers, in the escalation toward a much greater and dangerous conflict with a belligerent and powerful nation.

There is no question that “China poses the greatest long-term challenge to the United States’. Strengthening deterrence against China will require the Department of Defense to work in concert with other instruments of national power,” this by the Pentagon’s 2022 Defense Budget Overview. There has been a marked escalation in the tone and posture of the confrontation between China and United States. And it is palpable.

To emphasize the importance of the Pentagon statement: it requested in excess of 715 billion dollars for its military budget for the year 2022. With an additional 38 billion dollars sought for the design and production of a nuclear arsenal. As one commentator called the move: “The U.S. is preparing for a high-intensity” war to “out run” and overwhelm China. There is a small bipartisan group of lawmakers who seek additional sums in order to provide “billions” in aid to our “Asian allies” looking toward what will inevitably be an ever increasingly hostile technological race with China.

At dinner with my wife, I was discussing my thoughts regarding this Commentary. She was unaware of the history of Taiwan, an island along with some smaller islands, off the coast of mainland China. After the end of WWII, fighting continued to rage in China but now, after the defeat of Japan, a brutal Chinese revolution. The fighting between the Nationalist Party (headed by Chiang Kai-shek also known famously as Generalissimo, who served as head of the Republic of China from 1928 to 1949) and those who allegiance was to the Chinese Communists Party. The Generalissimo, after being defeated on the battle ground and forced from power, he (with his iron fisted wife who was as popular as he) were exiled by the Chinese Communists to Taiwan where 1.2 million Chinese followed, and where he serve as president of the Republic of China on Taiwan. There are over 23 million Chinese presently living in Taiwan. As the decades past, the tensions between China and Taiwan built, as the Taiwanese leaders slowly but steadily moved the “Island” from a dependent political status to claiming to be a fully independent nation. Labeled as a defector nation or, as Beijing considered the island — a renegade province.

The island’s political status posed a serious bone of contention in the United States’ relation with China, which has only continued to escalate over decades. In the late 70s, the two countries entered into an agreement that any move by Beijing to attempt to change Taiwan’s status by force, would be considered by the U.S. a “threat to the peace and security of…and of grave concern, to the United States.” As analyzed, the wording in the agreement neither guarantees our intervention in the event of armed attack against the island, nor does it rule it out. There are those in Congress today who believe, because of the level of increased tension between the two nations, that it is time to change the ambiguity in the U.S. commitment to ”strategic clarity”: that we will come to the defense of Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

In July of this year, the Global Times Editorial page published a striking opinion: The Chinese Ministry of National Defense issued a warning that the U.S. stop playing “with fire in its relationship with Taiwan”.  “The U.S. and the island of Taiwan have felt heavy pressure from the increasing strength of the mainland and its preparation for potential military struggle.” The Taiwan government not only continues to reject the idea of reunification, but holds on to the idea of being internationally accepted as an independent nation before the UN. Also, the Global Times editor notes that the “U.S. also has the intention of containing China’s rise” as an international power.  It is interesting to note that every year China celebrates a victory over the United States. We know it as the Korean War; the Chinese call it the “War to Resist American Aggression and Aid to Korea”. China does not let the world forget America’s loss.

When Mao Zedong’s “People’s Volunteer Army” turned back the U.S. Eighth Army in December 1950, it inflicted what is still known today as the longest retreat in American military history. Clearly, China has unquestioned strategic dominance in the Taiwan Straits. It also has the capacity to deploy overwhelming military forces in the South China Sea. It is building its navy at great-neck speed, but with less fire power than the U.S. navy. The Express.co.uk reported that the Chinese threat—that the U.S. will be defeated in any military confrontation with China, was in response to the largest joint military drills that were being carried out by the U.S. The U.S. joint drills with Japan, Australia and France in “one of the most complex deployments (the U.S.) has ever organized” and was clearly intended as a show of force aimed at Beijing.

China’s leader had described the U.S. led military exercises in southern Japan, involving troops and hardware from the four nations, as” a waste of fuel”, adding that the drill had “no impact” on China and that there will be a reunification with the wayward province.

While China continues to claim authority over virtually the entire South China Sea and, as noted above, it has overlapping territorial claims with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. It also claims full sovereignty over Taiwan, a functioning democracy of 24 million people, despite the fact that the two “nations” have been governed separately in excess of seven decades. It is almost certain that the China-U.S. confrontation will only escalate. The question is: will it plateau without a shot being fired and both sides claiming victory.

Something to think about—we all know what a spy is. We’ve seen enough movies and read enough John Le Carre books. You steal a top secret file, microfilm it, and hide in a hollowed out pen that you place behind a rock in Central Park and walk away. On the other hand, a mole is one who arrives in the United States and disappears and melds seamlessly into a nondescript community and waits, and waits and waits. Months, maybe years, waiting for the order from the mother country to do an act that will severely injure the host nation.
In reading the following, do not make any comparisons to our unconscionable actions toward the Japanese-American population on the West Coast at the beginning of WWII. Unlike with China today, there were not decades upon decades of open hostility between Japan and the United States prior to December 7th. How many “Chinatowns” are there in the United States? There are fifty– located mainly in major cities. New York City has 4 or 5 such major enclaves within its five boroughs. How many “Americantowns” are there in China? First, the Chinese do not allow an immigrant to remain too long within the country, and, two, there are too few Americans in China to form a town. So the answer is: none. If war were to erupt between the two nations think about this.

               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

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

Why Study Madeiran

It is a rainy Saturday afternoon and all my outside chores where put on hold. Time to clean my desk and my computer of saved “stuff”. The mere thought of the process has overwhelmed me.

The mid-East has made the word “nightmare” too mild an adjective. And the headlines take me from the news that there has been the first human head transplant to the announcement that we (our Government) has spent 1 trillion dollars (that’s a lot of zeros) on our homeland security. And as I note to myself that I do not feel any safer by any standard, a family questions pops up. Grandson number 2 is off to college and the question passed around is– should he continue his study of Madeiran as part of his core studies in his first year in college. Most of those polled say: No. Why continue with such a difficult Chinese language. His brother and I say: Yes. I am not sure our reasons are the same.

The Mid-East is a burning inferno with more crossed signals that one could have anticipated. The shifting of allies and the increased intensity of the violence produced by our enemies has created confusion and discouragement simultaneously. Why are we continuing to bother to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people and institutions that are mired in a time-warp in history that cannot be changed by either externally instigated or home inspired civil wars. We cannot impose democracy or regime changes or fight battles with some of those who are motivated by barbaric instinct.

There is yet another layer of conflict, the fight, not merely for control of regional ideologies, but the struggle between the United States and Russia to build powerful buffers for each of its own international self-protection.

With this our sole focus of attention, we miss a greater threat that is blithely and elegantly sailing under the radar and with the tide running in its favor.

Grandson number# 2, I say, continue your studies in Mandarin Chinese because there lies the bomb that is greater than the Mid-East flames. The Mid-East conflict will last another fifty years until all the regional parties will become exhausted and no longer have the ability to pay for the cost of inflicting or being the recipient of violence.

China on the other hand has crumbled its “great wall” of international isolation and seeks to confront the rest of world for what it alone considers its rightful share of this planet. It is not looking for a “hand-out” from the big powers. It ignores them. It has decided unilaterally that it is their prerogative to seize or create (an island out of coral reef) what it believes it is their rightful share of not merely world power and dominance but substantial space on this planet, and has put its military might and its own logic behind that grab.

It all started with the world looking with, and I think I say this accurately, something akin to “what are they trying to do? “ And, parenthetically, there is also a smirk on our faces. If you do not remember the facts, let me refresh your recollection: First if you look at a map of the Philippine islands (there are some 700 that make up the chain) and draw your eye to the West into the lower region of the South China Sea, you will find a slew of small islands and reefs. A reef is a chain of rocks or coral or a ridge of sand at or near the surface of water. In 2014, a rivalry intensified in that area that is best described as a sea of messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing the sovereignty of island chains and reefs in the nearby waters.

Then, a little more than 18 months ago, started China’s startling action in a little more than 18 months ago: it has reclaimed –through massive dredging of more than 2,000 acres at three main reefs (reefs!) in the Spratly Island. It unilaterally announced that it had indisputable sovereignty over the reef/islands and its nearby waters—12 nautical miles. With all this in violation of international maritime law, China built a substantial military base with a major runway. And to move fast forward their leaders in Beijing have angrily called the world’s arbitration court process a “farce” for rejecting the legality of its claim to the South China Sea. On top of this, China has three aircraft carriers in either construction or refurbishing placing them at the forefront of its maritime might.

Last, in this very brief summary of China’s surge, is a long article in 20 August WSJ “ China’s Naval Footprint Grows”. I was startled by a map of China’s strategic military port networks from Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya in Africa, Egypt, Turkey and Greece and moving east to Pakistan and Myanmar (Burma). These ports of call are being built or financed or operated by the Chinese navy for the new Chinese navy, not for tourism. This list does not include those ports visited most frequently by the Chinese navy for rest or refiling, nor those being built in the South China Sea as I described above and are being enhanced.

China has ignored an international court; China has ratcheted its aggressive maritime move to ports far beyond it natural maritime boarders, and most important, China shows no hint of slowing down either its rhetoric or is aggressive military expansion. We fly within what they consider their territorial sovereign boarder in the South China Sea, we send ships pushing the 12 nautical mile claim of control and they warn us and we ignore them. That dance cannot continue.

I dare not think of an Obama line in the sand, especially as he is departing the oval office in 5 months. I dare not think what China may do to exacerbate an already contentious presidential United States election. I dare not think how far China is willing to push the expansion envelope with our main focus not west but east.

I do think my number 2 grandson should continue with his studies in Madeiran for the most obvious of all reasons. China is not our ally, not our partner, not our friend.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

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