China Caucus Blog

Posted by | November 09, 2015

China Tests Anti-Satellite Missile “China recently conducted a flight test of a new missile capable of knocking out U.S. satellites as part of Beijing’s growing space warfare arsenal. The test of a Dong Neng-3 exoatmospheric vehicle was carried out Oct. 30 from China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in western China, said two defense officials familiar with reports of the test. A Chinese press report also provided details of what was said to be a missile defense interceptor flight test carried out Nov. 1. Photos of the missile’s contrails were posted online. However, the defense officials said the DN-3 is primarily a direct-ascent missile designed to ram into satellites and destroy them, even if intelligence assessments hold that the weapon has some missile defense capabilities. The DN-3 flight test was the eighth time China carried out an anti-satellite missile test. An earlier test occurred in July 2014, which China also asserted was a missile defense test. State Department and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the anti-satellite test. A Chinese Embassy spokesman said: “I don’t have detailed information about the missile test you mentioned.” “China advocates for the peaceful use of outer space, and opposes space weaponization or arms race in space,” the spokesman said in an email. A State official referred to a speech from February by Frank Rose, assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance, who commented on the 2014 test. “Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT [anti-satellite] test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” Rose said. “The continued development and testing of destructive ASAT systems is both destabilizing and threatens the long-term security and sustainability of the outer space environment,” he added. China’s most disruptive ASAT test occurred in January 2007 when a direct ascent missile destroyed a Chinese weather satellite, creating tens of thousands of debris pieces that pose a continuing danger to both satellites and manned spacecraft, like the International Space Station. Rose said the secrecy surrounding China’s ASAT program is preventing any U.S. cooperation with Beijing on space. Cooperation will only possible after “China changes its behavior with regard to ASATs,” he said. Documents disclosed by Wikileaks revealed that the United States and Asian allies issued protests to China over a January 2010 flight test of an anti-satellite missile from an SC-19 rocket booster.”

Xi Again Defends China’s Claim to South China Sea Islands “President Xi Jinping of China said in a speech on Saturday morning in Singapore that islands in the South China Sea “have been China’s territory since ancient times,” and that countries from outside the region should respect the need of Asian nations for a “peaceful and stable environment” so the nations could develop rapidly. Mr. Xi’s remark about outside countries, reported by Xinhua news agency, was an obvious reference to the United States, which has loudly criticized China’s efforts to build sand islands atop submerged features in the South China Sea. Late last month, the United States sent a guided missile destroyer, the Lassen, within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, a natural feature submerged at high tide on which China has carried out a land reclamation project using huge piles of sand. The United States was challenging China’s claimed authority over waters around the land feature, and American officials said they would continue to regularly do such operations. Then on Thursday, the American defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, flew to the Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that was sailing through the South China Sea, to emphasize the stabilizing presence of the United States in the region and blame China for activities in the past year that had led to rising tensions. Mr. Xi made his speech on Saturday at the National University of Singapore hours before he had a historic meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel with President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan, a member of the Kuomintang, the party that the Communists militarily defeated in 1949 to seize full control of China. “The most important issue Asian countries currently face is how to achieve sustainable and rapid development, which requires a peaceful and stable environment,” Mr. Xi said at the university. “This is the biggest common ground for the region’s states, and countries from outside the region should understand and respect that, as well as make a constructive contribution.””

Chinese military chief visits Horn of Africa amid reports China may set up base in the region “A senior Chinese military officer is visiting the Horn of Africa country Djibouti where he inspected a Chinese warship participating in anti-piracy patrols, China’s Defence Ministry said, following a report China wants a military base there. Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh told French media in May his government was in talks with China about a base, adding Beijing’s presence would be welcome in the former French colony, which borders Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Chinese government would neither confirm or deny the report. The United States and France already have bases in the country and its port has been used by foreign navies, including China’s, participating in the fight against Somali pirates. People’s Liberation Army Chief of Staff General Fang Fenghui visited the Chinese warship Sanya while it was replenishing supplies in Djibouti, China’s Defence Ministry said. Fang praised the performance of Chinese service personnel involved in the patrols, saying they showed how China was assuming its role as a responsible major country, the ministry said. Fang was accompanied by deputy Chinese air force chief Zhang Jianping, the statement added. It made no mention of any Chinese base plans. In an effort to dampen fears about Chinese plans connected to its increasingly modern and confident military, Beijing has repeatedly said it does not want military bases abroad. Chinese officials distanced themselves from comments by a rear admiral, Wu Shengli in 2009, who urged the nation to set up navy supply bases overseas for the anti-piracy fight. Wu is now China’s naval chief.”

China has passed Canada as the biggest US trading partner—thanks to oil prices “The total value of trade in goods between the US and China reached $441.6 billion in the first nine months of this year, surpassing Canada for the first time in history. But the news says as much about the damaging effect of low oil prices on Canada’s economy as it does about China’s rise. After all, the two countries’ trade volumes crossed paths not because of an exceptionally strong nine months for Chinese trade, but because the value of Canada’s trade fell so dramatically, to $438.1 billion: Should oil prices return to highs then, it is likely Canada’s US trade will rebalance against China’s.”

China Expands Presence With Fighters on Woody Island “China’s deployment of the more advanced J-11BH/BHS fighter aircraft to Woody Island, revealed in photographs released via online Chinese-language media websites in late October, underscores how seriously the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) is taking its claims to the South China Sea. The placement of advanced fighter aircraft on Woody Island, located in the Parcel archipelago, extends China’s fighter aircraft reach an additional 360 kilometers into the South China Sea from the PLAN air base located on Hainan Island. The new location could prove troublesome for US surveillance aircraft, such as the EP-3 Aries and the P-8 Poseidon, that fly through the area on a regular basis. In 2001, a collision between a Chinese fighter and EP-3 resulted in the death of a Chinese fighter pilot and the forced landing of the EP-3 on Hainan Island. In 2014, a Chinese fighter harassed a P-8 in the vicinity of Woody Island, which followed with a strong verbal protest by the Pentagon. Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the Chinese are demonstrating to the US, other claimants to the South China Sea and their domestic audience that they intend to protect their sovereignty. Farther south of Woody Island, China is building air bases and port facilities in the Spratly Islands. These include Subi Reef, Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross. All three have undergone significant land reclamation efforts and expansion over the past two years.”

India May Have Quad Military Exercise with US, Japan, Australia: Ex-Top Diplomat “India may have quadrilateral military exercises with the United States, Japan and Australia in the Indian Ocean in the coming years, a former Indian foreign secretary told an audience in Washington, D.C. Thursday. The quadrilateral security dialogue – or ‘quad’ – was a short-lived initiative in 2007 where the assistant secretary-level diplomats from the United States, Japan, India and Australia met on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum. Though initiative died after one meeting – largely due to fears from China over perceived containment – some have called for its revival amid an even greater convergence among the Asia-Pacific giants, particularly in the wake of growing concerns about China’s rise.  Speaking at The Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, on Tuesday, Kanwal Sibal, who previously served as Indian foreign secretary, expressed optimism at this convergence, suggesting that there may even be military exercises between the four countries in the next few years. “To my mind, this is a step-by-step process, and I won’t be surprised if at some stage we also have the quadrilateral exercises in the Indian Ocean,” Sibal, who now serves as dean of the Center for International Relations and Diplomacy at the Vivekananda International Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, told the audience. The four countries already did exercise together along with Singapore as part of Exercise MALABAR – which initially began as a bilateral naval exercise between the United States and India – back in 2007. While expanded exercises with all four countries have not occurred since then, as Sibal pointed out, there are already some signs that things are slowly moving in that direction. Last month, Japan participated and was made a permanent member of the Malabar exercises, a move which U.S. officials had been pushing for years (See: “US Official Calls for Permanent Expansion of Malabar Exercises with India”).”

China Touts Stealth Fighter Jet, But So Far No Takers “China showcased its first stealth fighter jet here on the opening day of the Dubai Air Show, but so far the fifth-generation aircraft has no customers in sight. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) is "in negotiations" with the Chinese Air Force to buy the multi-role FC-31, AVIC project manager Lin Peng told reporters on Sunday. Peng declined to say when a deal would be finalized. Top company officials briefed the media on the stealth characteristics and attack capabilities of the FC-31, but did not take questions from the audience. This is the first time the Chinese company has showcased the FC-3, also known as the J-31 internationally, although a prototype aircraft flew during the Zhuhai Air Show in China last year. Chinese fighters are designated with a "J" for fighter and "FC" for export. FC-31 would be the first aircraft of its kind available to global customers who face US export restrictions or cannot afford Lockheed Martin's F-35 joint strike fighter. The Chinese company is trying to pitch the FC-31 as a competitor to the JSF, but at this point it is unclear how successful this will be. The customer lineup appears to be Iran and Pakistan. The FC-31, which closely resembles the F-35, is a medium-sized, low-observable aircraft designed for "the demands of future battlefield environments," Peng told reporters during the briefing. Officials touted the aircraft's "outstanding situational awareness" achieved with advanced radar, high maneuvering capabilities, and multi-spectrum low-observability. The plane is equipped with twin engines made in China, officials said — not the Russian RD-93 engines previously on the aircraft. The FC-31 will carry the Small Diameter Bomb, as well as a variety of guided and unguided weapons, officials said. The test aircraft has been flying for more than two years, Peng told reporters after the briefing. AVIC is planning first flight of the production aircraft in 2019, with initial operational capability scheduled for 2022. The FC-31 will be fully operational in 2024. US officials and analysts widely believe the FC-31 design was stolen from the F-35 after reports of a major cyber breach of Lockheed's programs by Chinese hackers in April 2009.”

Taiwan independence risks rocking 'boat of peace', says China newspaper “Those who wish to push for Taiwan’s independence risk overturning the “boat of peace” and must be stopped, said the main newspaper of China’s ruling Communist party, a day after a historic meeting between China and Taiwan’s leaders. Meeting in Singapore on Saturday, China’s president, Xi Jinping, told Taiwan’s president they must not let proponents of Taiwan’s independence split them, at the first get-together of leaders of the two sides since China’s civil war ended in 1949. Ma Ying-jeou, president of self-ruled, democratic Taiwan, where anti-Beijing sentiment has been rising ahead of elections, called for mutual respect for each other’s systems and said Taiwan people were concerned about mainland missiles pointing their way. Taiwan’s opposition Democratic Progressive party (DPP), which has traditionally favoured the island’s independence, is the frontrunner to win the presidential polls, something Beijing is desperate to avoid happening. China views self-ruled and proudly democratic Taiwan as a renegade province, to be bought under its control by force if necessary, and has warned that moves towards formal independence could stoke conflict. In a commentary, the Communist party’s official People’s Daily said the two leaders sitting together showed a desire not to let the “tragedy of history” repeat itself nor to let the fruits of peaceful development be lost. Progress over the past seven years – referring to the rule of the China-friendly Ma – has been possible due to a joint political will to oppose Taiwan independence and accept there is “one China”, albeit it with different interpretations, the paper said.”

Amid Tensions, US, China Assert South China Sea Positions “Nearly two weeks after the first U.S. freedom of navigation operation near a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea, tensions remain high. On Saturday, speaking on opposite ends of the Pacific Ocean, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter delivered parallel remarks on the South China Sea that highlighted the rift between the U.S. and Chinese positions on the issue. Xi, in Singapore for a historic meeting with his counterpart across the Taiwan Strait, Ma Ying-jeou, delivered remarks at the National University of Singapore where he described China’s position that the “islands in the South China Sea have been China’s territory since ancient times.” Xi added that the “Chinese government must take responsibility to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and legitimate maritime interests.” “Some people have been hyping China’s threat,” Xi continued. “This is either due to the ignorance of Chinese history, culture and current policy, or out of some misunderstanding and prejudice, and probably for some ulterior reasons.” Though Xi’s language was in line with statements on the South China Sea by the Chinese foreign and defense ministers, the optics of the Chinese president himself making these declarations in Singapore, a hub for Southeast Asian commercial maritime activity, emphasized the extent to which China is interested in publicly clarifying its position on the South China Sea after the U.S. Navy has started undertaking freedom of navigation patrols. Meanwhile, across the Pacific, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, the U.S. defense secretary spoke at length on the United States’ plans for the South China Sea. The Obama administration has been reluctant to speak publicly on the specifics of the mission carried out in the Spratly Islands by the USS Lassen, the guided-missile destroyer that transited within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef compliant with the international legal requirements for “innocent passage.” While Carter did not offer new details on the operation itself, he emphasized that the United States would continue its freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. “We’ve done them before, all over the world,” Carter said. “And we will do them again.” The defense secretary provided no specific timeline, but earlier reports have suggested that the United States is planning on carrying out two of these missions per quarter.”

Philippine court expected to decide U.S. security deal is constitutional: source “The Philippine Supreme Court is expected to decide that a new U.S.-Philippine security agreement is constitutional and will announce its ruling before President Barack Obama visits Manila next week for an Asia-Pacific summit, a source said. The deal gives U.S. troops wide access to Philippine military bases and approval to build facilities to store fuel and equipment for maritime security, but it was effectively frozen after left-wing politicians and other opponents challenged its constitutionality last year. The expected ruling comes amid growing tension between the United States and China over Beijing's island-building in the disputed South China Sea. "I have seen the draft (ruling). The court will uphold its constitutionality, denying the petition to declare it unconstitutional," said a court source who declined to be identified. The source said the Supreme Court's 15-member panel still needed to discuss the matter on Tuesday. If no decision was announced at that session, it would happen on Nov. 16 when the court next convened, the source added. Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Nov. 18-19. The Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed just days before Obama last visited Manila in April 2014. Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te declined to comment. A senior government official told Reuters the government expected a ruling before the APEC summit. "I am very confident the Supreme Court will favor us," said the official. Last week the court source had said the decision would likely come next year, but one Philippine political expert, Rommel Banlaoi, said the court probably acted to avoid political complications due to Philippine elections next May. "The court is probably worried politicians will use EDCA as an election issue, so it made the decision now," said Banlaoi."

Cross-Strait Hopes? “On the heels of his tour of the western world, Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou for 20 minutes this Saturday in Singapore. Despite the short length, it’s groundbreaking - this will be the first time the leaders of these two governments have met since the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949.  According to Dr. Robert Sutter, a former National Intelligence Officer for East Asia and the Pacific at the US National Intelligence Council, “the meeting comes as a surprise, even though President Ma has said ‘no surprises.’”  Meanwhile, the motivations behind President Xi’s unexpected meeting with his Taiwanese counterpart are not totally clear.  “This comes with a Chinese President more able and willing to seek new approaches as he pursues the ‘China Dream’” said Sutter, now a professor at George Washington University.  “He's harder to predict than earlier Chinese Presidents Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin. His activism comes at various others' expense--notably the U.S.” For his part, Taiwanese leader Ma faces upcoming January elections in which his Kuomintang Party, which traditionally takes a neutral stance towards Beijing, is predicted to lose to the Democratic Progressive Party, whose supporters favor full Taiwanese independence.  According to Sutter, “Taiwan's overall approach is also at a major turning point, as past assumptions and Ma's approach have become much less popular.” The meeting comes at a time when western eyes have been focused on China, particularly in light of last week’s unexpected U.S. naval patrol of the South China Sea.  Presidential candidates from both parties have called for a tougher U.S. stance toward China but Sutter notes that “the Obama government can be expected to work along existing policy lines.”  What does that mean?  “Treating Taiwan favorably, but ever mindful that U.S. moves need to avoid sensitive points with China over Taiwan and a possible escalation of tensions with China over this issue. This approach has been with us since early in the George W. Bush Administration. Pressures for change are not significant yet, but the view that Taiwan should be treated on its own merits, without so much deference to China is growing—especially as the U.S. becomes more acrimonious with China over various other issues.””

Cambodia expands military ties with China “Cambodia and China have agreed to expand ties based on Chinese military assistance and transfers of defence equipment and related military technologies. The agreement was reached in meetings in Phnom Penh on 6 November between Cambodia defence minister Tea Banh and his visiting counterpart Chang Wanquan. The Cambodian Ministry of Defense (MoD) said that China has agreed to provide Cambodia with a military assistance package - the value of which was not disclosed - to boost the capability of the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces (RCAF). Banh added that Chinese defence equipment recently acquired by the RCAF included man-portable surface-to-air missile system (MANPADS) and that additional materiel is required in order to support Cambodia's efforts to secure its territory.”

Weighing Japan’s options in the South China Sea “Saturday’s lead story in The Japan Times, “Japan weighs course of action in disputed South China Sea,” notes that “some senior U.S. military and diplomatic officials have pressed Abe to dispatch the Self-Defense Forces on joint patrols with the United States in the South China Sea.” While the officials are not further identified, the article later states that U.S. Pacific Command chief Admiral Harry Harris has said that “the U.S. would welcome Japanese participation during patrol operations in the South China Sea.” Well, not exactly. What Harris actually said — in an interview with Asahi Shimbun National Security Correspondent Yoichi Kato in June — is “I view the South China Sea as international water, not territorial water of any country, and so Japan is welcome to conduct operations on the high seas as Japan sees fit.” Thus far, Japan has wisely not seen fit to do so. Japanese officials have repeatedly said Japan “currently has no such plan” to send Maritime Self-Defense Force ships to the South China Sea but usually add the caveat that it “may consider doing so” depending on how the situation develops. They also acknowledge that the U.S. has not officially asked Japan to participate in joint patrols in the South China Sea — nor should it. The greatest maritime challenge to Japan’s national security interests is in the East China Sea, not the South China Sea (illegal as Chinese claims to 12-mile limits around man-made islands which would otherwise remain under water at high tide might be), and that is where Tokyo should be (and indeed is) focusing its attention. Actively challenging China’s questionable territorial claims in the South China Sea will likely cause an increase in aggressive Chinese naval activity against the Japan’s Senkaku Islands (called the Diaoyu Islands by China) and would thus prove counterproductive to Japan’s security interests. However, the reverse should also be true. While the situation in the East China Sea appears relatively stable at present, should Beijing once again become more aggressive in asserting its claims to the Senkaku Islands, Tokyo should announce that, as a quid pro quo, Japanese freedom of navigation (FON) patrols may start taking place in the South China Sea. In this case, Japanese actions in the South China Sea would not stimulate an aggressive Chinese response in the East China Sea but themselves be the result of Chinese provocations. Chinese actions would be the cause; Japanese patrols would be the effect, as opposed to the other way around.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | November 06, 2015

Meeting With Taiwan Reflects Limits of China’s Checkbook “For the past eight years, the Chinese government has showered its former enemies in Taiwan with economic gifts: direct flights, commercial deals, even an undersea water pipeline. Trade is up more than 50 percent, and mainland tourists, once barred from traveling to the island, now arrive in droves, nearly four million last year alone. In Taiwan last year, large protests broke out against an agreement to expand trade with the mainland, and the governing Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, which favors closer ties with China, has plummeted in popularity and is widely expected to lose the presidency and possibly the legislature in January elections. Now, the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has agreed to meet the president of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou — the first meeting between the leader of the Republic of China, the government that fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war in 1949, and the leader of the People’s Republic of China, established on the mainland by Mao’s victorious Communists. The historic encounter, scheduled to take place on neutral ground in the city-state of Singapore on Saturday, will be trumpeted by both sides as a milestone in cross-strait relations. But it also seems to be an implicit acknowledgment by Mr. Xi that the Chinese effort to woo Taiwan with economic benefits alone has been unsuccessful — and that Beijing’s dream of unification with the island is as distant as ever, despite a long courtship. “Xi Jinping is at a loss,” said Parris Chang, president of the Taiwan Institute for Political, Economic and Strategic Studies, a think tank in Taipei. “He doesn’t know what to do.” Jonathan Sullivan, an associate professor at the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham, described the decision to meet Mr. Ma as “a Hail Mary pass with time expiring.” “Beijing has finally realized that the partner it has been working with on Taiwan, the K.M.T., is heading for disaster,” Professor Sullivan said, referring to the Kuomintang by its initials.”

New Taiwan Report Considers the China Threat “China’s military expansion is still the biggest headache for Taiwan’s national security, says a new defense report issued Tuesday by Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense. The 204-page defense report, among other things, provides the domestic audience in Taiwan with a snapshot of current security threats. The report, the 13th of its kind, is a good reflection of Taiwan’s national defense focus and concerns. It is often monitored closely by Asian security experts because of its analysis of the latest trends and direction of Chinese military and defense, which is little presented in defense white papers published by China’s own defense ministry. The previous version was issued in 2013. “Due to the increasing uncertainty of the global security environment, the environment Asia Pacific and Taiwan are facing is also becoming more and more complicated and severe, among which China’s military threat is the top challenge,” the latest report says. The report spent a generous portion voicing concerns over the rapid advancement of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), increasing Chinese defense spending, “more than 1,000” short-to-mid-range ballistic and cruise missiles placed across the Taiwan Strait, “continuing targeted military exercises,” as well as Beijing’s persistent stance regarding the use of force on Taiwan. The report added that “the strategic competition in the Asia Pacific between the United States and China, as well as escalating maritime territorial disputes over islands in East and South China Seas, also bring challenges to Taiwan’s national security.” Just this week, the People’s Liberation Army Navy followed and warned a U.S. Navy destroyer that sailed within 12 miles of a Chinese-made artificial island in the South China Sea. Beijing saw the U.S. Navy’s move as provocative and trouble-seeking while the Pentagon insisted its forces are free to operate in open international waters and will continue to do so. It also came just months before Taiwan’s general elections, where perceived Chinese threats are certain to be a top concern for voters.”

Vietnam talks trust with China, invites Japanese warship “Vietnam agreed to build a "truly trustworthy" relationship with China on Friday during a visit to Hanoi by its President Xi Jinping, but at the same time invited Beijing's old rival Japan for joint military exercises and a visit to a sought-after port. The diplomatic flurry highlights the fragility of China's testy ties with its communist neighbor, and Vietnam's efforts to diversity its relations through new alliances with states locked in bitter disputes with Beijing over its maritime expansionism. Vietnam and China's competing territorial claims mushroomed into a major dispute last year, which Xi aimed to settle on a timely visit close to a scheduled shakeup of a Vietnamese Communist Party leadership increasingly being courted by the United States. Xi was given the red carpet treatment during meetings since Thursday with the top leaders of Vietnam and he told its National Assembly their joint revolutionary friendship could dispel and survive an "disruptions". "Our two parties, countries and peoples should be staunch in their faith, help each other and proceed hand in hand, not allowing anyone to disrupt our pace," he said. Both sides agreed on Friday to maintain peace at sea and trust each other, but as Xi prepared to leave, Japan's defense ministry announced Vietnam had invited it to take part in humanitarian exercises and to bring a warship to its strategic Cam Ranh Bay once construction of a new dock was complete. Japan and China have their own territorial dispute in the East China Sea, complicating a relationship colored by Japan's occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.”

Aboard U.S. Ship in South China Sea, Defense Secretary Invokes ‘Big Stick’ “U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter sent a blunt message to China on Thursday by joining the American aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt on patrol in the sensitive South China Sea: that the U.S. won’t accept Chinese domination of the contested region. Mr. Carter appeared on the Theodore Roosevelt as it navigated some 200 miles from the southern tip of the disputed Spratly Islands. He sought to balance the American desire to maintain an open dialogue with the Chinese with the projection of American power in the region. “The American approach to the security structure for Asia is an inclusive one, we’re not trying to make divisions,” Mr. Carter said, standing beside an F-18 fighter jet in the hangar of the carrier. “We want China to be part of the security system of Asia and not to stand apart from it.” The carrier patrol caps a critical phase in South China Sea relations, security analysts believe, during which the dispute has evolved into a direct contest between China and the U.S., relegating the Southeast Asian countries that ring the waters to the status of nervous bystanders. “Great powers’ actions can only be restrained by the balancing efforts of other great powers,” said Zhang Baohui, a political scientist at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, arguing that China’s growing naval assertiveness has now drawn the inevitable U.S. military response.”

'Just a normal day’: USS Lassen CO discusses South China Sea transit “A few days before the USS Lassen challenged China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea, the bridge was chatting by radio with their shadowing Chinese destroyer, talking about pizza. The Chinese Luyang 1-class ship, similar in size and makeup to the Lassen, had approached a few days earlier and tagged along as the Navy ship approached a string of disputed islands that China has expanded and developed with runways and other facilities. The Lassen was on a mission to show that the 12 miles of water extending from those islands are — and will remain — international territory. As it approached and entered what China claims as its maritime exclusion zone around Subi Reef, repeated queries came from the Chinese ship about its intentions. It was a transit that made headlines and escalated the disagreement over China’s increasing aggression in the South China Sea, where an estimated 30 percent of global trade transits. Diplomacy has since failed to ease the tensions, with the U.S. vowing to continue such freedom of navigation cruises and the Chinese warning there are limits to what it will accept. But in the days leading up to that sail and after, the two Chinese and American ships were just operating as they do every day in this vast sea — two crews maintaining cordially professional relations, which when you are this far from home, often means talking about what’s for dinner. “Every day a U.S. ship is down here, we interact with the Chinese,” said Cmdr. Robert Christopher Francis, who took command of the Lassen in May and immediately went on patrol. From June to August, the ship spent most of its time around the Spratly Islands but not inside the contested 12-mile radius of any of the disputed islands that China claims. They had regular interactions with Chinese military craft, fishing vessels and merchant ships.”

China-Taiwan: What Ma Should Say to Xi “Mr. President (I hope you will respect my correct title as well): On behalf of the people of Taiwan, I am pleased to meet with you to further the cause of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. This is a historic meeting and I hope we will both be part of a dialogue that will see an end to tensions between our two peoples. I appreciate that you were willing to meet even though no formal agreements will be possible without the knowledge and consent of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan and the Taiwanese people in accordance with our democratic system of government. Still, there are some things we could agree on that I am certain the people of Taiwan would welcome and approve. The first would be your commitment on behalf of the People’s Republic of China never to use force or the threat of force or any other form of coercion against the Taiwanese people. That would mean that your government would repeal the Anti-Secession Law of 2005. As you know, that measure officially threatens force against Taiwan not only if it formally declares its independence but even if we take too long to accept unification (which you call re-unification even though the PRC has never governed Taiwan even for a day). You have been quoted as saying that the Taiwan question cannot be passed from one generation to the next. But I say on behalf of the people of Taiwan, Mr. President, that peace and stability must be passed from one generation to another. We each have a moral obligation to our children and grandchildren to ensure that there will never be a conflict bringing death and destruction on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and to others in the region. You know that I have long wished to see closer political ties between Taiwan and China (what I and many call the Mainland) to match the deepening economic relations we enjoy. But I have never envisioned Taiwan simply being incorporated into the People’s Republic as it is presently constituted, even under the “one country, two systems” formula. On the contrary, the kind of political union I have envisioned would consist of a fully democratic Taiwan and a clearly democratizing China. I thought that if China followed the gradual political reform progression that former Presidents Chiang Ching-kuo and Lee Teng-hui implemented in Taiwan, there would be a genuine opportunity for a path to unification/reunification. But the people of Taiwan have made clear their own very different vision for their future. As they see it, Taiwan lived for fifty years under Japanese occupation, then for almost another fifty under my own Kuomintang Party’s dictatorship before we reformed it. After great suffering and sacrifice, we Taiwanese finally achieved complete self-rule in the 1990s and we have no intention of taking a disastrous step backward in our historic political development.”

Experts Gather in Seoul for Second Annual MCM Symposium “Representatives from eight United Nations Command (UNC) Sending States (SS) joined mine warfare experts from the U.S. and Republic of Korea (ROK), for a week-long mine countermeasures symposium, Nov. 2-6. The second annual UNC SS Naval Component Commander MCM symposium, hosted by Commander, Naval Forces Korea (CNFK), was designed to exchange expertise and enhance coordination and training in critical mine countermeasures capabilities. "This symposium was very important," said ROK Rear Adm. Park, Ki-khung, the commander of Flotilla Five. "It allowed us to share mine warfare information and tactics among our sending state partners who share our commitment to defend and support the Korean peninsula." The symposium featured presentations by representatives from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Thailand as well as ROK and U.S., and provided a valuable opportunity to increase readiness in mine countermeasure proficiency at sea. "Every nation represented here today shares a proud history of service and sacrifice in protecting and defending the Republic of Korea and ensuring a stable environment that has enabled South Korea to emerge as one of the economic and cultural leaders of the world," said Rear Adm. Bill Byrne, commander of CNFK. The week-long staff talks also included cultural education visits to the ROK Second Fleet to see the ROK ship Cheonan and a visit to the De-Militarized Zone. "The enduring threat of mines at sea is what brought all of us here this week," said Byrne. "It is my hope that that each nation represented here used this venue to share their expertise and offer their ideas about how we can enhance our mine warfare partnership among the United Nations Command Sending States." CNFK is the United Nations Naval Component Commander during Armistice and the U.S. and UNC Sending States navies routinely plan, exchange information, train and operate together to strengthen coordination and improve combined capabilities.”

China supplies Cambodia with anti-aircraft hardware in new military aid “China have provided Cambodia with shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, Cambodia's defense minister said on Friday, as the two countries agreed on new military aid to boost close ties. Cambodia is one of China's most stalwart allies in Asia, routinely backing China's position at international forums in a region where China and United States vie for influence. "The visit of the defense minister of the People's Republic of China has achieved good results," Defense Minister Tea Banh told reporters after a signing ceremony with his visiting Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan. Tea Banh attended a meeting of defense ministers from the region this week where they scrapped plans for a joint statement because they failed to agree on whether to include a reference to the disputed South China Sea, which China had objected to. Tea Banh made no mention of those negotiations but said China had recently delivered shoulder-fired missiles. "We don't need warplanes because in the current situation, we have already set up anti-aircraft system to defend our airspace," he said. He gave no details about the type of missiles but said Cambodia was seeking longer-range hardware. "We need to be additionally equipped to fire long range or even fast planes can't escape," he said. He said China would also help with training and would build military academies.”

Are American Tech Companies Helping China's Military Boom? “With China rolling out awfully familiar weapons designs as part of a recent military buildup, U.S. Defense officials have been speculating whether they’re attempting to clone hacked American designs. But in the newest twist to this story, China’s armed forces boom could be benefitting from something as old fashioned as a business relationship. Military analysts are keeping an eye on the growing trend of military-connected Chinese firms partnering with U.S. companies. IBM especially has dealings with Chinese companies like Tsinghua Holdings, Inspur Group, China Electronics Technology Group Corporation, and Beijing Teamsun Technology — all of which supply tech to China’s growing military and police divisions. To a lesser extent, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, and Western Digital all have similar relationships with one of those same firms. Whether those relationships have helped China clone the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a matter of debate, and one domestic firms would likely downplay, with no actual tech support to foreign militaries yet recorded. None of these business relationships have been determined in violation of any laws, though in May the U.S. Navy replaced a computer server after finding out IBM had sold the same computing unit to a Chinese company. In February, Intel announced it has stopped selling chips to Chinese supercomputer sites after the Commerce Department found the company’s work being acquired through its Chinese partner Inspur. Still, a report from security firm the Defense Group Inc. released last week warned that such relationships were hurting American interests. “IBM is endangering the national and economic security of the United States, risking the cybersecurity of their customers globally, and undermining decades of US nonproliferation policies regarding high-performance,” the report stated.”

Why South Korea Will Stay Out of the South China Sea “Several countries have been courting an increasingly active Japan to support them in asserting their maritime rights in the South China Sea against China's expanding presence. But South Korea may be slow to follow Japan's example. Though the waters off the southeast Chinese coast are a vital trade route for South Korea, as they are for other surrounding countries, committing military force there would risk hurting the country's close trade relationship with China. That is a risk South Korea may not be ready to take, especially since it would mean throwing its lot in with its historical colonizer, Japan. So far, Japan has led efforts to counter Chinese influence in the South China Sea. Its own military engagement in the region has taken the form of joint naval and coast guard exercises and the delivery of patrol ships to regional coast guards — such as that of Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia — to assist them in competing with the Chinese coast guard. Eventually Japan may even start periodically sending its own ships or planes to patrol the area as part of its drive to take a more active role in regional security. Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe recently attempted to draw South Korea to the cause. At a meeting on Nov. 2, Abe invited his South Korean counterpart, President Park Geun Hye, to join Japan in maintaining an "open and peaceful South China Sea" — a thinly-veiled euphemism that could refer to any number of joint efforts in the contested waters, such as joint exercises, joint patrols, arms sales and technical assistance.  South Korea certainly has resources it could commit. It has a robust navy and is one of the world's largest shipbuilders. The claimant countries around the South China Sea have been clamoring for more naval vessels and patrol craft, along with the technical expertise to operate and maintain them. South Korea is well equipped to meet that need. And as a U.S. ally, it would make sense for South Korea to participate in what the United States considers a strategic priority in the region — maintaining freedom of navigation in the waters off China's coast.”


The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | November 05, 2015

Taiwan leader says meeting with China's Xi unrelated to elections “Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said on Thursday his upcoming meeting with President Xi Jinping was about further normalizing ties with China and had nothing to do with trying to revive his party's fortunes ahead of the island's elections in January. The talks in Singapore on Saturday, the first such meeting between the two political rivals since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949, would be transparent, with no private promises made, Ma told a lengthy news conference in Taipei. His discussions with Xi could help reduce hostilities in the short term, Ma said, adding he hoped future leaders of Taiwan would be able to hold such meetings. "This meeting is for the Republic of China's (Taiwan's)future, the future of cross-strait ties," Ma said in his first public remarks since the surprise announcement of the meeting at midnight on Tuesday. "We will explain the actual situation to Mr Xi, particularly tell them about Taiwan's status so they can better understand and take in full consideration when they formulate Taiwan, cross-strait policies. "This is not about an election, but is based on the consideration of the happiness of the next generation." Communist China deems Taiwan a breakaway province to be taken back, by force if necessary, particularly if it makes moves toward formal independence. The meeting coincides with rising anti-China sentiment in Taiwan ahead of the presidential and parliamentary polls in January that Ma's pro-China Kuomintang (KMT) is likely to lose to the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which traditionally favors independence from China. Ma, who steps down next year due to term limits, has made improving economic links with China a key policy since he took office in 2008. He has signed landmark business and tourism deals, though there has been no progress in resolving their political differences. "If the DPP returns to power next year, ties across the Taiwan Strait will likely deteriorate," Eric Chu, the KMT's presidential candidate, who started his own campaigning only three weeks ago, told reporters.”

Carter Sends Message To China With USS Roosevelt Visit “After spending much of this week trying diplomacy with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, Defense Secretary Ash Carter took a different tack Thursday by flying out to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is sailing near those disputed waters. The aircraft carrier, nicknamed “The Big Stick,” transited the South China Sea accompanied by the USS Lassen — a Navy destroyer that angered China last month when it cruised within six or seven miles of disputed Subi Reef in the Spratly Island chain, which China has built up. This time, the Roosevelt and Lassen kept their distance, patrolling about 150-200 miles south of the Spratlys, but the symbolism of being aboard “The Big Stick” was clear after diplomacy — speaking softly — hasn’t worked. Carter spent the last few days in Malaysia at the Association of South East Asian Nations defense ministers’ summit, where he also met with Chinese officials. After much behind-the-scenes arm-twisting from both the U.S. and China, the defense chiefs failed to reach a consensus on the territorial claims of each nation, deciding to scrap a joint statement that traditionally ends their annual meeting. Noting how the ASEAN countries could not reach consensus possibly because of “the great tension out here over the issue of the South China Sea,” Carter said Thursday that he would continue to try to reach an understanding with China. The U.S. and China do not belong to ASEAN but are invited to participate, given their influence in the region. Their dispute over the contested waters hijacked the meeting’s agenda. While the two sides avoided blaming each other directly – though it wasn’t hard to read between the lines — the U.S. decided to send a clearer message to the Chinese by flying the defense secretary out to the massive carrier. Prior to visiting the Roosevelt, Carter said the U.S. position is that its military would continue to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations and that the U.S. would “fly, sail and operate” in the South China Sea to guarantee international waters remain open for all.”

Beware Asia’s Unchecked Military Power: Report “Asia’s military buildup is occurring largely unchecked by institutions and unknown to publics, raising serious governance concerns, a leading anti-corruption watchdog found in a report released November 4. Of the 17 states that London-based Transparency International assessed in the Asia-Pacific region in its “Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index,” eleven are considered to be at least at “high risk” of defense corruption, including China, India, Pakistan and six of the seven Southeast Asian states (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar). “The intention underlying the rapid growth of military capabilities of countries is not always clear to their own people, never mind their neighbors and the outside world,” the report finds. Only 6 out of the 17 countries studied were found to publish their defense budgets with enough detail to enable public oversight, and not a single country was assessed to have adequate legislative oversight of defense spending. The two-year study also looked at the involvement of defense institutions in economic activities, concluding that seven countries had significant ownership of commercial businesses with zero or limited transparency in relation to operations and financing. None of these countries were judged to have had adequate independent audit (or equivalent mechanisms) for scrutiny in place. The report singled out China in a separate section, noting not only “major gaps” in transparency and institutionalized structures for oversight but also the lack of transparent checks and balances on power which creates unpredictability and mistrust amongst other regional actors. “When there is low trust, transparency over new capabilities can be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate. So it is vital for regional stability that there are substantive mechanisms through which Chinese decision-making on defense and security policy could be meaningfully debated and challenged,” the report said. With respect to ASEAN, the report found evidence of “a firm foundation” for realizing its vision as a community in accordance with its political security blueprint but also significant challenges. On the one hand, Singapore was unsurprisingly labeled the ASEAN leader, while other countries like the Philippines and Indonesia were also hailed for legislative oversight and debate. But concerns were noted across most countries in the region such as the lack of public disclosure or legislative scrutiny, with Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia said to be “examples of a direct contradiction to ASEAN values” outlined in the blueprint.”

Economic ties won't ensure peace between China and Japan “Will increasing economic interdependence between Japan and China increase or reduce the risk of conflict? The conventional liberal wisdom is that economic interdependence between states enhances peaceful relations — as in the saying attributed to the early 19th century French economist Frederic Bastiat: ‘if goods don’t cross borders, armies will’. But critics have pointed out that on the eve of World War II Germany and the United Kingdom were each other’s major trading partners. The specific patterns of Sino–Japanese relations also pose a possible challenge to this theory. For a very long period, from the 17th century to the mid-19th century, trade between China and Japan was limited to occasional visits by Chinese merchants to the port of Nagasaki. And there were no wars. Then, not long after both China and Japan were ‘opened’ — China with the First Opium War in 1839 and Japan with gunboat diplomacy in the 1850s — the Sino–Japanese War of 1894–95 broke out. From the late-19th to the mid-20th century Japanese aggression towards China was virtually uninterrupted: the Sino–Japanese War, military invasion over the Boxer Uprising (1900), fighting on Chinese soil during the Russo–Japanese War (1904–05), annexing the erstwhile Chinese tributary state of Korea (1910), the Twenty-One Demands (1915), the occupation of Manchuria (1931), the Rape of Nanking (1937) and the outbreak of Pacific War (1937–45). In the process Japan established a substantial economic presence in China, especially in the northeast. Then for three decades — from the Communist Revolution in 1949 to the launch of the reform program in 1979 — China closed itself off from the rest of the world economy and there was very limited trade between China and Japan; nor was there any armed conflict. Then, following Nixon’s surprise visit to Beijing in 1972, Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka hurried to Beijing, diplomatic relations were renewed, trade was resumed and Japanese aid flowed to China. As noises began to spread in the 1980s that China’s new economic program heralded potential major transformations and opportunities, Japanese investors seemed unwilling to take a chance on China. The Japanese did not see the rise of China coming and are still reeling from the shock. To go forward, we first need to retrace our steps. As Rana Mitter recently documented in China’s War with Japan, 1937–1945: The Struggle for Survival, historians have grossly misrepresented, if not obliterated, China’s role in aiding the defeat of Japan I World War II. This is reflected, among other things, in the prevalent view among Japanese that defeat was at the hands of the Americans, not the Chinese! American occupation policy underwent a dramatic 180-degree change after the Communist Party took control in China and the Cold War settled on the world. Japan metamorphosed from defeated enemy to pampered protégé. In a large part thanks to all the American support — massive transfers of technology, setting the value of the yen at a low, highly competitive exchange rate (360 yen to the US dollar), opening of the US market to Japanese goods — the Japanese economy rose rapidly, engendering the ‘economic miracle’ of the 1960s. Within a dozen years after the war it became the world’s second biggest economy. During this time the Chinese continued to be dirt-poor.”

Chinese firm DJI leads new 'drone age'  “Time and time again we hear that distinctive buzz. It seems these days, anyone -- with a few hundred dollars to spare -- can be a proud owner of a small, recreational unmanned aircraft. And when you hear that telltale hum, it's more than likely from a camera drone made by China's DJI. The company behind the sleek Phantom is the leader in consumer drones with well over 70% of the global market. "We innovated with our Phantoms, with our drone line and with our professional line of cinema equipment," DJI product manager Paul Pan tells me at company headquarters in Shenzhen. "It comes down to us being seen not as a Chinese company but as an international player." Though DJI underplays its Chinese origins with its Western-friendly corporate branding, the company admits that being based in Shenzhen has been a big factor behind its success. "We base our technology, manufacturing and our R&D here in China because everything is much more accessible, making it quicker to develop products," says Pan. Based in China's so-called "maker capital," DJI can essentially design a part in the morning and then drive to a nearby factory to see it manufactured that afternoon. Less restrictive regulations also makes it easier for DJI to get their drones in the air in China. "It's easier to go out and just test and fly here," says Pan. "If you're in the U.S., you have to get licensing to be able to do things commercially." That said, China recently announced a curb on exports of advanced drones, a move to tighten control over technologies that are key to national security. DJI has insisted the export restrictions will not impact any of its core products, which are geared more for consumer use.”

The newest robot from China’s space agency looks a lot like Iron Man “Have you ever imagined Iron Man landing on the Red Planet? Well of course you have. And it’s likely that many visitors to this week’s China International Industry Fair in Shanghai will too.On Nov. 3 China’s space agency unveiled a model of its home grown Mars probe, which includes an orbiter and a landing rover and is scheduled to launch in 2020. Also unveiled at the fair was a brand-new space robot that looks strikingly similar to Iron Man, the Marvel superhero played by Robert Downey, Jr., in the internationally successful movie series. According to the state news agency Xinhua (link in Chinese), the robot is called Xiaotian, which translates into “little sky.” Developed by state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the nation’s main space contractor, Xiaotian is described as a new type of robot that can “cope with the harsh space environment and complex manipulation tasks.” It can work in wide variety of environments, apparently, from space stations to lunar landings to unmanned space probes. The news site Guancha gives more details (link in Chinese). It reports the robot has flexible arms and hands that enable it to do anything human hands can do, from picking up a pen to replacing an electrical connector. And unlike typical industrial robots, it adds, Xiaotian can work in outer space. Xiaotian won’t be joining the Mars mission—and it’s difficult to ascertain how effective it might actually be as a space robot—but its presence accompanied by the probe replica surely lit up imaginations at the fair.”

PACOM’s Role in Sustaining Indo-Asia-Pacific Security  (Report) “Paul Lushenko, Major in the US Army, and Jon Lushenko, Lieutenant Commander (sel) in the US Navy, explain that "PACOM needs to better resolve the tension between maintaining a credible deterrent and resolving human security challenges to sustain Indo-Asia-Pacific security."’s-role-in-sustaining-indo-asia-pacific-security

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | November 04, 2015

Closest Encounter Since 2006: Chinese Submarine Tailed US Aircraft Carrier “Over at The Washington Free Beacon Bill Gertz has the scoop that a Chinese submarine shadowed a U.S. nuclear super-carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in what Pentagon officials called the closest encounter between a People’s Liberation Army Navy boat and an American aircraft carrier since 2006. According to Gertz, the incident occurred on October 24 as the USS Ronald Reagan was on its way from Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture, sailing around the southern end of Japan to the Sea of Japan. The USS Ronald Reagan is currently the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific. Other vessels present during the incident were the guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the guided-missile destroyers USS Mustin, USS Fitzgerald, and USS Curtis Wilbur. “Pacific Fleet and Pacific Command spokesmen declined to comment on the submarine encounter but did not deny that the incident occurred,” Gertz reports. The Pentagon also refused to reveal the exact nature of the encounter and what type of submarine was involved. In October 2009, a Song-class (Type 039) diesel-electric attack submarine unexpectedly surfaced within torpedo range of the American aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, calling into question the anti-submarine warfare capability of the carrier strike group. Similar questions will now be asked. As I reported before (See: “Why China’s Submarine Force Still Lags Behind”), the bulk of China’s conventional sub fleet consists of 13 Song-class (Type 039) diesel-electric attack boats and 13 more advanced Yuan-class (Type 039A) submarined equipped with  air-independent propulsion (AIP).”

China accounts for 30% of the world’s secretive military spending “China is responsible for 30% of the world’s secretive defense spending, reports Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based anti-corruption NGO. Secretive spending, defined by TI as “military expenditure where no meaningful details are released either to the public or parliament,” is leading to corruption at home and mistrust in the Asia-Pacific region that could destabilize the area, the organization says. “No information is available on acquisition planning, and only broad details are disclosed on actual and planned purchases,” TI wrote about China’s defense spending in its Asia-Pacific Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index, adding: “The Chinese public would gain more knowledge about their nation’s defense capabilities through reading foreign press reporting.” Furthermore, “additional, off-the-books spending” could be as high as 50% of China’s official defense expenditure—or $65 billion, based on China’s declared defense budget last year (paywall)—making it extremely difficult to form an accurate assessment of what China’s military is spending its money on. China is one of 11 countries in Asia that TI says has a “high,” “very high,” or “critical” risk of corruption in its ranking of defense “establishments.” Myanmar and Cambodia score the worst. China’s military expenditure now accounts for 12% of the world’s total, according to the TI report. As China’s GDP has grown, so has its spending on weapons and military, though it is far outpaced by the US.”

China, Taiwan and a Meeting After 66 Years “President Xi Jinping of China, and the leader of Taiwan, Ma Ying-jeou, will meet on Saturday in Singapore, the first such meeting since before the Chinese Communist revolution of 1949 and the retreat of the Chinese Nationalists across the Taiwan Strait. The office in charge of Taiwan relations in Beijing said in a brief statement that the two leaders would exchange views on promoting development during a long scheduled two-day visit of Mr. Xi to Singapore, a country that has good relations with both sides. The director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, Zhang Zhijun, said the meeting had been arranged “given the situation of the irresolution of cross-strait political differences.” Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party is the front-runner in the presidential campaign underway in Taiwan. The 228 Memorial Park in Taipei, which includes memorials to victims of the 228 Incident of 1947, in which as many as 28,000 people were killed by troops sent by the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. A spokesman for Mr. Ma, whose Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, is floundering at the polls before elections early next year, announced the meeting late Tuesday night. Mr. Ma’s spokesman, Charles Chen, said that no agreements were envisioned. The meeting with Mr. Ma fits with the bold style of Mr. Xi, who has shown that he likes to take more risks in foreign policy than his predecessors. He has sought strong connections with Britain and the Continent as a counterweight to the United States, and met with Myanmar’s opposition leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, even though China has traditionally supported the military in Myanmar. Mr. Xi will be arriving in Singapore from a visit to Vietnam, a country ruled by a Communist Party but that has had testy relations with China. The encounter with Mr. Ma comes after Mr. Xi has pushed China’s regional aspirations to the fore by building artificial islands in the South China Sea and, soon after becoming president, taking a strong anti-Japan stance. The gesture toward Mr. Ma shows a more conciliatory side, one that may not help to pull off a victory for the Kuomintang, which favors closer ties to China, but nonetheless, could be interpreted as not particularly threatening. The gesture could also produce a backlash, prompting more Taiwanese voters to support the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which has held a commanding lead in the polls over the past year. Yet even if the Kuomintang does not win the January elections, the meeting could set the groundwork for changes that suit China in the long run, according to Wang Yangjin, a professor of political science at Renmin University of China in Beijing, who specializes in Taiwan-China relations.”

Dispute Over South China Sea Prompts Asian Officials to Cancel Joint Statement “Differences over the South China Sea forced countries from Southeast Asia, along with China and the United States, to cancel a joint statement at a meeting of defense ministers in Malaysia on Wednesday. The Chinese Ministry of Defense confirmed that the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, had failed to conclude a joint declaration, and it blamed “the individual country (countries) out of the region.” In a statement on its website, the ministry implied, but did not name, the United States as the main reason for the breakdown in the discussions. The ministry did not mention the South China Sea or China’s insistence that the statement not include any mention of the strategic waterway. Diplomats from countries in the region said that China had pushed for even a factual statement of the South China Sea to be absent from the joint declaration scheduled for the end of the gathering Wednesday afternoon. The meeting was split between countries that agreed with China and those that strongly disagreed, including Australia, Japan and the United States, two senior diplomats involved in the talks said."

China's Xi to visit Vietnam; repairing ties after rig row “Although Chinese President Xi Jinping won't get a gilded carriage or a beer in the prime minister's local pub on his Vietnam visit, a warm welcome awaits as both sides seek to repair ties after a fierce row last year. Xi will receive the red-carpet treatment - a big banquet and a chance to address the National Assembly - when he arrives in Hanoi on Friday. But it will be short of the feting he received in Britain last month where he rode with Queen Elizabeth in her carriage and shared a pint with Prime Minister David Cameron. Xi's visit to Vietnam has also been overshadowed by the announcement that he will meet his counterpart from Taiwan in Singapore on Saturday, the first meeting of leaders from the two rivals since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. Nevertheless, geopolitical stakes are high for China as Vietnam's relationship with the United States warms rapidly, owing to Washington's opportunistic courting in the wake of the communist neighbors' bitter dispute over Beijing's provocative parking of an oil rig in disputed South China Sea waters. Anti-Chinese riots broke out in Vietnam after Hanoi accused Chinese vessels of deliberately ramming its ships in the disputed waters. Dozens of navy and coastguard vessels from both countries were in the area at the time. With mistrust still lingering, experts say Xi's visit is timely, two months out from Vietnam's five-yearly leadership shakeup, offering him a chance to heal wounds and remind its party kingmakers that Beijing has plenty to offer. "Xi arrives in the middle of this ongoing (leadership) debate," said Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  "He may well want to try to tip the balance away from leaders who are strongly opposed to close ties with Beijing and most open to pursuing closer relations with Washington." Much has changed since their bitter South China Sea row 18 months ago.  Vietnam's ties beyond China are diversifying quickly, helped by a series of new trade deals, including with the European Union and the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, providing favorable access to economies worth $46 trillion combined.”

Could tensions in South China Sea lead to armed confrontation?  “China will likely ramp up its efforts to expand and militarize disputed islands in the South China Sea — an area critical to the global economy — as a result of the U.S. Navy’s more assertive patrols in the region, China experts say. And while many analysts applaud the Navy’s more robust approach with so-called “freedom of navigation” operations, there’s little agreement about whether such patrols will lead to armed confrontation in the South China Sea, where more than $1.2 trillion in U.S. trade passes annually. Some believe the relationship between the two nations, whose economies are deeply entwined, has matured to the point that dialogue will defuse tensions and potential conflict. “I think the most likely thing is that the two countries will look ahead and see that their interests and good relationship and other things are important and positive, which will keep it from reaching a crisis,” said Eric McVadon, a retired Navy admiral and senior adviser at the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, a nonpartisan think tank. After a flurry of statements by Chinese officials condemning the USS Lassen's patrol near the Spatly Islands on Oct. 27, China’s military posted photos on its navy’s website of fighter jets training from an unidentified airstrip in the South China Sea. Experts believe the jets took off from Woody Island in the Paracel Islands, near the coast of Vietnam, according to the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong-based newspaper. The fighter flights served as a warning that U.S. allies, such as Japan and Australia, should not conduct similar freedom of navigation operations — known as FONOPs — military expert Ni Lexiong told the Post. Australia is reportedly considering such patrols in the Spratly Islands, another South China Sea chain claimed by China and disputed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia. Brunei and Indonesia have had conflict over sea boundaries as well.”

Big Science Faces Big Problems in China “As in so many other things, China's seeking to play a leading role in 21st century science. And it's using a familiar weapon: money. Last week, Chinese physicists announced that they’d completed the initial design for a massive high-energy particle collider, which could become operational around 2025. The project -- which may cost $3 billion and stretch for more than 60 miles -- is just the latest in a string of Chinese “big science” initiatives designed to boost national prestige and produce lucrative spinoff technologies. At a time when money for basic research is increasingly difficult to obtain in the U.S. and Europe, China sees an opportunity to seize the global scientific vanguard. The regime isn't wrong to try, and the cause of human knowledge will benefit from any breakthroughs that result. But if China's truly going to reap a return on its eye-popping investments, the government needs to do something harder than build a giant particle smasher: It needs to rethink its central role in Chinese research. State sponsorship of science has its pluses, of course, including speedy decisionmaking on complex, expensive projects. But the costs often outweigh the benefits. Under the regime's heavy hand, the Chinese scientific establishment has long suffered from cronyism, corruption, and pervasive fraud. These blemishes damage the country’s research reputation. More importantly, they help drive an ongoing brain drain that no amount of government largesse has been able to stem. While the relationship between science and the state is politicized and complex in every country (including the U.S.), China’s top-down system exacerbates the worst problems. With scientists expected to serve the state, those who show their loyalty to the regime have typically progressed as fast if not faster than those who make new discoveries. This less-than-meritocratic culture has become ingrained in the influential Chinese Academy of Sciences -- a 60,000-employee bureaucratic behemoth that controls 104 of China’s top research institutions and most of its non-military research spending. Securing funding remains an ugly business. Yi Rao, a Chinese academic lured from Northwestern University to run the Department of Life Sciences at Peking University, described it memorably in a 2010 paper co-written for Science: “To obtain major grants in China, it is an open secret that doing good research is not as important as schmoozing with powerful bureaucrats and their favorite experts.” Meanwhile, those researchers lucky enough to receive funds are commonly subjected to bureaucratic interference and unrealistic demands for quick results.”

New study reveals dramatic shift in US-China military balance “The so-called 'Taiwan Scenario', in which the US and China would come to blows over the democratic island-state that China still views as sovereign territory, is making a bit of a comeback among analysts. This is mostly due to Taiwan's national elections in January next year, where it looks highly likely that the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party will win the office of president. In dueling op-eds last week in The Age, Hugh White and Michael J Cole clashed over the strategic consequences for China and the US (and Australia) of such a result. One aspect of the argument rests on whether the US would be willing to eventually risk nuclear war with China over Taiwan. As Hugh says:

For most Americans, their commitment to defend Taiwan is close to sacrosanct, especially as Taiwan is now a vibrant democracy whose people clearly do not want to live under Beijing. And failing to stand up to China over Taiwan would do huge damage to US strategic leadership in Asia and beyond, while immensely strengthening China's regional sway . . . But the harsh reality is that supporting Taiwan against Chinese pressure over coming years might cost the US more than it is willing or able to pay. US leaders might have to ask themselves whether they are willing to risk a nuclear attack on the continental US in order to defend Taiwan from China. If the answer is no, then Taiwan's status quo might become harder and harder to sustain.

Cole makes the point that China is more likely to use economic coercion before relying on the use of force. And even if economic coercion didn't work, China knows that on the nuclear front, it is inferior to the US:

The belief that there is a 'real risk' that China would fire nuclear weapons at the US over Taiwan is predicated on the view that decision makers in Beijing are nihilists or irrational. China knows it could never survive nuclear war with the US, and important though Taiwan might be, it is unlikely that Beijing would be willing to sacrifice everything it has accomplished since 1949 for the sake of an island of 23 million people. For all its ills, the CCP is not bent on self-destruction; in fact, its primary objective is self-preservation.

However, a recent RAND study, which White refers to in his piece, supports the assertion that things have changed since the last Taiwan Strait crisis in 1996. The military balance has shifted in favour of China, particularly if a conflict is short. As the report states, this may shift decision-making in Beijing:

Over the next five to 15 years, if U.S. and PLA forces remain on roughly current trajectories, Asia will witness a progressively receding frontier of U.S. dominance. The United States would probably still prevail in a protracted war centered in virtually any area, and Beijing should not infer from the above generalization that it stands to gain from conflict. U.S. and Chinese forces would likely face losses on a scale that neither has suffered in recent decades. But PLA forces will become more capable of establishing temporary local air and naval superiority at the outset of a conflict. In certain regional contingencies, this temporal or local superiority might enable the PLA to achieve limited objectives without 'defeating' U.S. forces. Perhaps even more worrisome from a military-political perspective, the ability to contest dominance might lead Chinese leaders to believe that they could deter U.S. intervention in a conflict between it and one or more of its neighbors. This, in turn, would undermine U.S. deterrence and could, in a crisis, tip the balance of debate in Beijing as to the advisability of using force.

The report also records the advances the PLA has made since 1996, most of which are impressive:

·         Satellites: China has 'been accelerating its space efforts. Its average rate of satellite launches in 2009–2014 was more than double that of 2003–2008, and more than triple that in 1997–2002.'

·         PLA Navy surface fleet: 'As late as 2003, only about 14 percent of its destroyers and 24 percent of its frigates might have been considered modern—capable of defensive and offensive operations against a capable enemy. By 2015, those figures had risen to 65 percent and 69 percent, respectively.'

·         PLA Navy submarine fleet: 'Between 1996 and 2015, the number of modern diesel submarines in China's inventory rose from two to 37, and all but four of theses boats are armed with cruise missiles (as well as torpedoes). RAND modeling suggests that the effectiveness of the Chinese submarine fleet (as measured by the number of attack opportunities it might achieve against carriers) rose by roughly an order of magnitude between 1996 and 2010, and that it will continue to improve through 2017.'

Whatever the outcome of Taiwan's elections, it's clear that the PLA's technological and material advances are significant, and are set to grow.


The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | November 03, 2015

Establishing new dialogue between the Chinese and US Congresses  “In recent years, China and the United States have developed various dialogues to address concerns about the nuclear policies of the other side and to strengthen cooperation on nuclear stability and nuclear nonproliferation. The efforts are in the national interests of both countries and are beneficial for regional security and stability. The dialogues involve different departments and experts in the executive branches and militaries of the two countries and nongovernmental scholars. The congresses of the two countries are not yet part of the dialogue process, however. This oversight is important as both legislatures play key roles in making strategic nuclear policy. Their opinions have direct influence on the formality and legality of other nuclear dialogues. The Chinese and US legislatures should develop a nuclear dialogue. Their participation in China-US nuclear dialogues can help reduce suspicions of the other side by providing a full spectrum of views. The Chinese Congress includes the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). They are the supreme legislative and supervisory institutions in China. There are 2,987 NPC deputies and 2,227 CPPCC members in the 12th Session of NPC and CPPCC. Many of the NPC deputies and CPPCC members are current or retired government and military officials, scientists, entrepreneurs, scholars, artists, and professionals in other areas. Most are not full-time at their NPC and CPPCC offices in Beijing (meaning that they have other jobs). The NPC has eight special congressional committees responsible for various issues and one is on foreign affairs. CPPCC has nine special congressional committees; one of these is on foreign affairs too. The Foreign Affairs Committees of NPC and CPPCC have significant influences on China’s foreign policy, including bilateral diplomacy issues and multilateral negotiations. The US Congress has 535 congressional representatives in the House and Senate. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, US senators and representatives work full-time in Congress. There are 16 special committees in the Senate responsible for appropriations, armed services, foreign relations, budget, homeland security and governmental affairs, and so on. The House of Representatives has 21 professional congressional committees responsible for appropriations, armed services, foreign affairs, science, space and technology, and so on. In the US Congress, eight committees are closely relevant to strategic nuclear policy. They are the US Senate Committees on (1) Appropriations, (2) Armed Services, (3) Foreign Relations and (4) Energy and Natural Resources; and the US House Committees on (5) Appropriations, (6) Armed Services, (7) Foreign Affairs and (8) Science, Space and Technology. However, none save the committees on foreign affairs have Chinese counterparts. The failure to include legislatures in China-US nuclear dialogue makes it difficult to address some important issues, for example, how the two countries can develop and stabilize their nuclear dialogues. China and the United States had good cooperation in negotiations for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in the early 1990s. Although the two countries signed the treaty in 1996, neither congress ratified it. The reasons why the congresses have not yet ratified CTBT may be different, but the results are the same: the treaty cannot enter into force, thus nullifying the two governments’ efforts to create an effective international institution. In the 2011 federal budget, Rep. Frank Wolf inserted a clause prohibiting the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and NASA from any joint scientific activity with China. According to regulations, outer space experts from the two countries cannot communicate with each other and cannot participate in purely scientific meetings organized by each other. The direct consequence is that China and the US cannot hold a professional dialogue on outer space issues.

U.S. Navy plans two or more patrols in South China Sea per quarter “The U.S. Navy plans to conduct patrols within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands in the South China Sea about twice a quarter to remind China and other countries about U.S. rights under international law, a U.S. defense official said on Monday. "We're going to come down to about twice a quarter or a little more than that," said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about Navy operational plans. "That's the right amount to make it regular but not a constant poke in the eye. It meets the intent to regularly exercise our rights under international law and remind the Chinese and others about our view," the official said. U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on Monday said there would be more demonstrations of the U.S. military's commitment to the right to freely navigate in the region. "That's our interest there ... It's to demonstrate that we will uphold the principle of freedom of navigation," Rhodes told an event hosted by the Defense One media outlet. Rhodes' comments came a week after a U.S. guided-missile destroyer sailed close to one of Beijing's man-made islands in the South China Sea last week. China's naval commander last week told his U.S. counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in the disputed waterway. The USS Lassen's patrol was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit China claims around artificial islands it has built in the Spratly Islands archipelago. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade transits every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan all have rival claims. Rhodes said the goal in the dispute was to come to a diplomatic framework to resolve these issues. U.S. Vice Admiral John Aquilino, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategies, declined to comment about when the next patrols would take place. "We do operations like that all the time around the world. That will continue for us," he told Reuters after his remarks at the same conference. "We'll just keep going." Defense Secretary Ash Carter may visit a U.S. Navy ship during his upcoming visit to Asia, but is not expected to be on board during any Navy freedom of navigation operations, the U.S. defense official said.”

China's ruling Communist Party says to accelerate military reform “China's ruling Communist Party will seek to build the capability to win an "informationized war" by 2020 as part of accelerated reform of the armed forces, state media reported on Tuesday. China will make significant progress toward realising "mechanization and informatization" by 2020, and build a system capable of "winning an informationized war and effectively fulfilling the mandated mission of building modern military strength with Chinese characteristics", the Xinhua news agency reported. The reform pledge was contained in a communique issued nearly a week after the Party's Central Committee held a high-level policy meeting to set a 13th Five-Year Plan. Xinhua released parts of the document via its microblog. China will advance "rule of law" over the armed forces, Xinhua said, and reach reform goals by 2020. The leadership is expanding a sprawling anti-graft campaign that has ensnared high-ranking military officers. Fueled by double-digit annual spending on defence, China's growing military strength and increasingly assertive stance on territorial disputes have rattled the United States and its allies in Asia.”

In Beijing, U.S. Admiral Defends Sea Conduct “The head of U.S. Pacific Command called for stronger military-to-military ties with Beijing while also defending Washington’s role in the South China Sea, amid signs that both sides were trying to contain tensions over China’s territorial claims. Adm. Harry Harris spoke on Tuesday at the Stanford Center at Peking University in Beijing as the U.S. and Chinese governments square off over artificial islands China has built in a disputed area of the South China Sea. Last week, a U.S. Navy destroyer conducted a patrol of the Spratly Islands, sailing within 12 nautical miles of one Chinese-built island, on Subi Reef, to demonstrate that Washington regarded the area as international waters. China claims sovereignty over all South China Sea islands and adjacent waters and described the patrol as a dangerous violation of its sovereign rights, warning it would take “all necessary measures” if the U.S. conducted more. However, Beijing has been unusually restrained in that it hasn’t suspended military exchanges with the U.S., as it did frequently during previous periods of tension, analysts and diplomats said. “In my opinion, this is when military-to-military dialogue is needed most,” Adm. Harris said. “Sustained people-to-people contact is one of the best ways we can avoid misunderstanding and military miscalculation.” He said that Chinese navy ships were currently visiting Florida and California and that a U.S. Navy ship would visit Shanghai later this month, along with U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Scott Swift. China’s navy chief, Wu Shengli, also held a teleconference with the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, on Thursday.”

China’s 'Little Blue Men' Take Navy’s Place in Disputes “When the US destroyer Lassen passed near a newly-built artificial island on Subi Reef in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands Oct. 27, it was already being escorted by several Chinese Navy warships. The US ship represented a challenge to China’s attempt to create land and declare it and the surrounding areas sovereign territory. The Chinese naval ships, reported a US Navy source, behaved professionally during the Lassen’s transit. “They shadowed the Lassen but stayed at a safe distance.” But several smaller vessels, described by the source as merchant ships or fishing vessels, were more provocative, crossing the Lassen’s bow and maneuvering around the destroyer even as they kept their distance. “There were Chinese merchant vessels present that were not as demure as the Chinese Navy,” the US Navy source said Oct. 30. “One came out of its anchorage in the island and crossed the destroyer’s bow but at a safe distance, and the Lassen did not alter course as the merchant ship circled around.” Fishing vessels in the area added to shipping traffic in the immediate area, the source said. But the extra craft seem to have been present, the source noted, “because they anticipated the Lassen’s transit.” China has been known to use civilian ships as government proxies, often to harass foreign vessels, and several analysts have been scrutinizing current and recent incidents to determine who’s on board those mysterious vessels. Andrew Erickson, an associate professor at the US Naval War College and well-known authority on Chinese naval and maritime affairs, is pretty sure he knows. He suspects the Chinese naval militia, forces he’s dubbed “little blue men” — a reference to the “little green men” employed by Russia in Crimea and the Ukraine to insinuate military forces into a region without clear identification. One clue, Erickson noted, is that there usually aren’t that many fishing vessels around Subi Reef.”

PLAN holds snap drills in South China Sea “China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has carried out air and naval exercises in the South China Sea: a move that may be in response to the US Navy's (USN) 27 October freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the Spratly Islands. Chinese state media reported that on 28 October, after the USS Lassen sailed within 12 n miles of Subi Reef, the PLAN sortied 10 warships from the South Sea Fleet based in Zhanjiang, Guangdong Province, at short notice for a series of exercises that included gun and missile live firings. Subi Reef is one of the disputed Spratly Islands on which China has carried out extensive island-building and construction activities. Recent imagery shows that a 3,000 m-long airstrip is under construction. Lassen 's mission was described by the USN as a FONOP and was the first time a USN ship had gone within 12 n miles of the newly created islands. China Military Online , a military news website sponsored by the PLA Daily , also reported that fighter jets belonging to the South Sea Fleet carried out what it called a combat training exercise in "unfamiliar environments" on 30 October. Photos published in China Military Online showed PLAN Air Force Shenyang J-11B/BSH 'Flankers' landing on an airfield that other Chinese media sources said was the military airport located on Woody Island, the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea that are also claimed by Vietnam. The J-11BH/BSH is a navalised version of the J-11B/BS, which is itself based on the Sukhoi Su-27 fighter but fitted with Chinese avionics, weapon systems and the Shenyang-Liming WS-10 turbofan engine. The J-11Bs involved in the exercise carried PL-8 and PL-12 air-to-air missiles and their aircraft serial numbers indicate that they are assigned to the PLAN's 8th Air Division, most possibly the 25th Fighter Regiment at Lingshui on Hainan Island.”

U.S., Japan push for inclusion of South China Sea in defense forum statement “The United States and Japan are pushing to get concerns about the South China Sea included in a statement to be issued after regional defense talks in Malaysia despite Chinese objections to any mention of the disputed waterway, officials said. A senior U.S. defense official said Beijing had made clear as early as February that it didn't want the South China Sea discussed at the meeting between Southeast Asian defense ministers and their counterparts from across the Asia-Pacific in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. "We've been very clear along with many other like minded countries that South China Sea language should be included but there are members who feel differently," said the U.S. defense official, adding China was the main obstacle. A draft of the concluding statement being prepared by host Malaysia makes no mention of the South China Sea, said a separate source familiar with the discussions, focusing instead on terrorism and regional security cooperation. Wednesday's gathering brings together the 10 defense ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) along with ministers from countries such as the United States, Japan, China, India and Australia. The meeting, first held in 2006, is a platform to promote regional peace and stability. It is taking place a week after a U.S. warship challenged territorial limits around one of Beijing's man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago with a so-called freedom-of-navigation patrol. That prompted China's naval chief to warn his U.S. counterpart in a video teleconference that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts". The source familiar with the talks in Kuala Lumpur said Japan had requested Malaysia "improve" the draft and make note of the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.”

China Holds Bilateral Talks With South Korea, Japan “China, Japan, and South Korea held a long-awaited trilateral summit this weekend, their first in three years. Premier Li Keqiang attended on behalf of China; he also took the opportunity of attending the summit in Seoul to pay his first official visit to South Korea from October 31 to November 2. In addition to South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Li met with Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Speaker of the National Assembly Chung Ui-hwa. After the trilateral summit, Li held a separate bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Despite the close relationship enjoyed by China and South Korea under Presidents Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye, this weekend marked Li’s first trip to South Korea. As expected given Li’s portfolio, the talks mainly focused on economic issues – what Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin called “the ‘ballast’ and ‘propeller’ in the development of China-ROK relations.” Even when emphasizing the cultural and social ties between China and South Korea, Li managed to bring up economics. He praised South Korea’s traditional dishes of kimchi and ginseng chicken soup, and promised to make it easier for Seoul to export such food items to China. The two sides also agreed to work toward ratifying their bilateral free trade agreement, which was signed earlier this year. Moving forward, China has grand plans to link three Chinese development strategies with their South Korean analogues: China’s “One Belt, One Road” with South Korea’s “Eurasia Initiative;” China’s “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” with South Korea’s “Creative Economy;” and “Made in China 2025″ with Seoul’s “Manufacturing Innovation 3.0.” During talks with Park, Li focused most on how the two governments can cooperate to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in both China and South Korea. Innovation is a key part of China’s long-term economic plan, and Beijing is seeking help from every possible source in trying to transition from the “world’s factory” to being a globally-recognized source of innovation and creativity. According to Xinhua, Li called the decision to cooperate on national innovation strategies an “important achievement” of his visit to South Korea. The two sides plan to set up a joint “innovation park” in the Chinese city of Chengdu and will encourage innovation cooperation between Chinese and Korean companies. South Korea and China also agreed to speed up industrial development in central and western China, a key part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” vision. The two countries will discuss cooperation on investing in third-party countries as well, which could potentially see South Korea play a joint role in some of the investments being made along the planned “belt and road,” whether in Southeast or Central Asia. In addition to economic cooperation, the two sides also discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula, including a reaffirmed commitment to denuclearization. “We will work in concert with all relevant parties to ensure that there won’t be a U-turn in the process of lowering tensions on the Peninsula, and press ahead with denuclearization,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday. In addition to his bilateral meetings with South Korean officials, Li held talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the trilateral summit. Xinhua made sure to specify that the Li-Abe talks were “held at the request of the Japanese side.””

Philippine court unlikely to rule on U.S. security deal before Obama visit “The Philippine Supreme Court is unlikely to rule on a constitutional challenge to a new U.S.-Philippine security agreement before President Barack Obama visits Manila later this month, with a decision expected next year, a court source said. The deal gives U.S. troops wide access to Philippine military bases and approval to build facilities to store fuel and equipment for maritime security, but it was effectively frozen after left-wing politicians and other opponents challenged its constitutionality last year. With tension growing over China's island-building in the disputed South China Sea, Philippine political experts had expected the Supreme Court to issue a ruling before Obama attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Nov. 18-19. The Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed just days before Obama last visited Manila in April 2014. A court source, who declined to be identified, said domestic political issues were likely to take priority. "I expect the court to decide on the military deal next year, before the elections in May," the source said, referring to national elections scheduled for May 2016. Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said it was unclear when the court would issue a ruling. Experts had already said any further delays to the agreement might raise eyebrows in Washington given Manila has been the most vocal critic of Beijing among the claimants to the South China Sea and has urged the United States to push back against China's territorial ambitions.”

Chinese naval ships to visit Florida port “Three Chinese naval ships are scheduled to visit Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, Tuesday as part of a routine goodwill port visit. The ships are expected to arrive following visits to ports in Europe.Sailors from both navies are expected to participate in sporting events and ship tours during the Mayport visit. "Goodwill visits by ships from foreign navies help build trust and foster shared understanding," according to a statement from the U.S. Navy. "Foreign navy ships routinely conduct port visits to Mayport, as ships from Peru and Canada have stopped here in the last few months," U.S. Navy spokesman Cmdr. William Marks said. "Engagements like this and the July 2015 port visit to China by USS Stethem demonstrate a continuous navy-to-navy bilateral relationship between our two countries." This is the first visit by Chinese naval ships to Florida but not the first to a U.S. port. Last month, Chinese navy ship Zheng He visited Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. While the visit is aimed at building goodwill, it comes in the midst of tensions between the U.S. and China over disagreements around man-made islands that Beijing is constructing in the South China Sea. Beijing claims that the waters surrounding the artificial islands are under its control, but the U.S. disputes that claim and last week sailed U.S. warship within 12 miles of one of the islands. Following the U.S. patrol, Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the U.S. operation is "a very serious provocation, politically and militarily," and the country's foreign ministry summoned Max Baucus, the U.S. ambassador to China, to express its "strong discontent" over the patrol. But the visit of the Chinese navy this week is part of a broader U.S.-China effort to improve military-to-military contact and communication. These types of exchanges are often cited as a rare sign of positive progress in the relationship.”

About Time the U.S. Made a Stand in South China Sea “If unilateralist interventionism was the earned criticism of the George W. Bush administration, President Obama's foreign policy legacy will be one of multilateralist vacillation and retreat. The stark contrast between rhetoric and results has been manifest in administration policies on Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Ukraine - and, until now, in the South China Sea as well. For more than two years the United States failed to act to enforce universal rights to freedom of navigation and overflight in the face of China's assertion of sovereignty over virtually the entirety of that international waterway. Beijing has demonstrated that its territorial claim is not empty rhetoric. China has built artificial islands on rocks and reefs and has claimed maritime sovereignty over the international waters surrounding those features. It has also erected structures and built runways that provide enhanced military capabilities, further threatening countries in the region and the international commerce that flows through those waters. The president, the secretaries of state and defense, and other administration officials have repeatedly asserted America's core interest in navigational and overflight freedoms. Earlier this month, defense officials made explicit Washington's intention to challenge China's territorial claims by sending U.S. Navy warships within 12 nautical miles of China's claimed territory.  A destroyer has now sailed through the disputed waters, but it is not known what discussions may have taken place between American and Chinese officials to prevent what should be a routine Freedom of Navigation (FON) exercise from being seen as an act of provocation justifying a militant Chinese response and threatening unwanted escalation. Curiously, despite widespread media reports of the FON patrol, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter the next day refused to confirm to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the transit had occurred. It took repeated questioning by several senators, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to finally extract grudging acknowledgement of the operation. Inadvertently, the secretary conveyed the sense that the United States had something to hide in plying international waters.”


The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | November 02, 2015

China Sends Armed Jets Over Disputed Waters In Response to U.S. Naval Presence “Chinese naval jets armed with missiles have executed training drills over disputed waters near Vietnam in the South China Sea in an apparent response to what Beijing sees as provocation by the U.S. in the region. Photos released by the Chinese navy on Saturday show armed fighter jets that military experts say operated out of an airstrip on Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago, the South China Morning Post reports. The Paracels, along with the larger Spratly Islands to the southeast, are the subject of an increasingly tense territorial dispute between China and several of its smaller regional neighbors, notably Vietnam and the Philippines. Ignoring the maritime boundaries of nearby states, China has occupied and artificially expanded some islets, putatively for military purposes. Last week, the U.S. Navy sent a guided-missile destroyer within the 12-nautical-mile radius zone surrounding reefs in the Spratly archipelago, saying the ship was merely “exercising the right of freedom of navigation in international waters” — a tacit rejection of Beijing’s territorial claims. The gesture infuriated Chinese officials, including Chinese Navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli, who told Admiral John Richardson, his American counterpart, that a similar “dangerous [and] provocative act” could in the future lead to war between the two superpowers. The U.S. has not yet publicly responded to the Chinese naval exercises. “It’s a signal China sent to the US that it is serious about its claims,” Xu Guangyu, a retired Chinese general, told the Post. “This is the minimum level of response China should have, or it will fail the expectation of its people.””

China eyes greater cooperation with Iran's air force “China wants to step up cooperation with Iran's air force, the head of the Chinese air force told his Iranian counterpart on Monday, the latest in a series of high-level military contacts. Ma Xiaotian told Hassan Shah Safi that relations between the two air forces had developed smoothly. "(We) hope that cooperation can go up another level," Ma said, according to a statement issued by China's Defence Ministry, which did not elaborate. A senior Chinese admiral visited Tehran last month and last year, for the first time ever, two Chinese warships docked at Iran's Bandar Abbas port to take part in a joint naval exercise in the Gulf and an Iranian admiral was given tours of a Chinese submarine and warships. China and Iran have close diplomatic, economic, trade and energy ties, and China has been active in pushing both the United States and Iran to reach agreement on Iran's controversial nuclear program. Under a multilateral deal, agreed in July, sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations will be lifted in return for Iran agreeing to long-term curbs on a nuclear program that the West has suspected was aimed at creating a nuclear bomb.”

A First: Japanese and US Navies Hold Exercise in South China Sea “The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) and the U.S. Navy are holding a joint naval exercise in the South China Sea, the Yomiuri Shimbun reports. The exercise marks the first bilateral U.S.-Japan exercise in the area. The drill comes days after the United States staged its first freedom of navigation operation within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island in the Spratly Islands. The Japanese Defense Ministry has told the Yomiuri that the ongoing South China Sea drill between the two allied navies is “an ordinary drill and unrelated to the U.S. Navy’s patrolling activities there.” The exercise is reportedly not taking place near the Spratly Islands. Per the Yomiuri, the JS Fuyuzuki, an Akizuki-class destroyer, is currently conducting drills of an unspecified nature in the South China Sea with the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class super-carrier. Both the Fuyuzuki and the Theodore Roosevelt participated in the recently concluded Malabar 2015 exercise – a trilateral naval exercise with India. Malabar 2015 concluded on October 19, 2015. The Theodore Roosevelt docked in Singapore on October 24, three days before the scheduled U.S. freedom of navigation operation. The drills in the South China Sea between the U.S. Navy and the MSDF began on Wednesday and will “continue for several days” according to the Yomiuri. The report adds that the exercise will focus on the transportation of crew members and communication training exercises. According to the Mainichi, the Fuyuzuki and the USS Theodore Roosevelt will sail “to waters just north of Borneo in the South China Sea.” The MSDF ship is expected to head back to Japan on November 10, meaning that this U.S.-Japan exercise will effectively last for nearly two weeks.”

Navy Chiefs Talk, New Details On Destroyer's Passage “The heads of the US and Chinese navies spoke for just over an hour Oct. 29 in a conversation prompted by the Oct. 27 passage of a US destroyer through waters claimed by China. Few details were released following the call, other than to confirm the admirals spoke about freedom of navigation operations, the relationship between the two navies, pending port visits, senior leader engagement and the importance of maintaining an ongoing dialogue. It was the first one-to-one discussion between Adm. John Richardson, US chief of naval operations, and Adm. Wu Shengli, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, since Richardson took office in mid-September, succeeding Adm. Jon Greenert. Wu and Greenert spoke in a video teleconference (VTC) in April, and Greenert, Richardson and Wu held another VTC in August. The VTC held Oct. 29, reportedly at the request of the Chinese Navy, was a direct result of the US decision to send the destroyer Lassen within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China on a reef in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands. The artificial island is one of at least seven construction projects intended to cement Chinese sovereignty claims in waters where several nations have territorial disputes. The Lassen, the US Navy pointed out, also sailed through waters claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. A line 12 nautical miles from a country’s land is widely viewed as marking its territorial boundaries. In a statement released after Richardson and Wu spoke, the US Navy noted that “US freedom of navigation operations are global in scope and executed across a wide range of maritime claims. The operations serve to protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law. Freedom of navigation operations are not a challenge to the sovereignty of land features. The United States takes no position on competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea.” Both admirals, the US Navy said, agreed to speak again via VTC later this year. In the US, there were calls for more such demonstrations. Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Virginia and chairman of the House Seapower subcommittee, issued a statement declaring that, “the United States has a clear national security interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.” Forbes called for allied navies to join in more cruises challenging China’s moves to stake out territorial claims. “Now is the time for the United States to make clear that the Lassen’s transit was not simply a one-off event, or a goal in and of itself,” Forbes said.”

China, Japan, South Korea Skirt Sensitive Subjects “The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea held their first three-way summit since 2012 on Sunday, but glossed over some of the contentious issues that have chilled relations between the East Asian economic powers. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye agreed to accelerate talks for a trilateral free-trade agreement and to bolster cultural exchanges between the countries. They said they would push to resume stalled talks with the U.S., Russia and North Korea on the latter’s nuclear program annually between 2008 and 2012, but has been suspended in recent years as historical and territorial disputes strained ties between the three countries. Yet neither Mr. Li nor Ms. Park discussed the issues in detail, a spokesman for Mr. Abe said, and none of the three leaders mentioned tensions in the South China Sea, where China has been building islets to reinforce its disputed territorial claims. fter the meeting, China’s Mr. Li said that the three countries had broadly agreed to act with goodwill in resolving their disputes. Mr. Abe stressed in the news conference that “the three countries share major responsibility for regional peace and prosperity, and stability of the international community.” Japanese officials say the remark was intended to remind China of its responsibility to promote rule of law, and not to undermine the rule of law by changing the status quo with force.”

China Conducted Military Drills in Past Week  “China’s military conducted aerial and maritime drills this past week, its official news portal said, just days after a U.S. warship sailed through disputed waters in the South China Sea in a direct challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims. Reports on the exercises, which included live firing, didn’t specify where they took place but said they involved aircraft and warships from China’s southern Guangzhou Military Region and the South Sea Fleet, whose primary area of responsibility is the South China Sea. They featured simulations of actual wartime conditions and were aimed at improving combat readiness, according to the reports published on, the People’s Liberation Army’s official web portal. The reports didn’t refer to the Oct. 27 patrol conducted by a U.S. Navy destroyer close to Chinese-built islets in the South China Sea to assert freedom of navigation in the area, the subject of competing territorial claims between China and several Southeast Asian countries. Beijing responded angrily to the patrol, accusing Washington of acting provocatively and threatening Chinese sovereignty in the region. Pentagon officials have said they expect to conduct as many as two so-called freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea each quarter, including one inside the Spratly island chain. The Defense Department also is encouraging other nations to conduct similar operations on their own. A day after the U.S. patrol, a squadron of Chinese destroyers left port in the southern Chinese city of Zhanjiang and sailed to a “certain” sea to conduct a series of live-fire exercises, while aircraft from Guangzhou Military Region practiced attacking seaborne targets, the PLA Daily said in reports published Friday. The destroyer squadron held day and nighttime exercises spanning air-defense, anti-submarine and antisurface-warfare drills, the PLA Daily said. During one of the drills, the Chinese warships successfully shot down a target that simulated an “incoming missile,” the newspaper added. Meanwhile, jet fighters from the South Sea Fleet on Friday conducted drills at a “certain” airfield in the South China Sea, according to the PLA Daily’s navy news portal. The portal published photos of J-11 fighters—Chinese variants of the Russian-made Su-27 jet—that appeared armed with missiles, both in midflight and landing at an airfield.”

Should the U.S. Military Fear China's Underwater Atomic Arsenal? “By the end of this year, China’s nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs, or “boomers”) may take their first deterrent patrols.  How does this change the balance of power in the Pacific? China completed its first SSBN, the Type 092 “Xia” boat, in 1981.  The sub did not enter service until 1987, however, and has reportedly never conducted a deterrence patrol. The sub (various rumors over the years have asserted that a sister ship was built, and lost) represented a triumph of China’s limited submarine building industry, but did not constitute a meaningful deterrent. China’s second effort, the Type 094 class, has resulted in a much more effective group of boats.  The Type 094s displace about 11,000 tons submerged, and carry 12 JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), capable of launching a nuclear warhead some 7,500 kilometers. Reports vary on whether the missiles can carry MIRVs, but given Chinese advances in this area it is likely that these and future boats will carry them in the future. Thus far China has constructed around four Type 094 class subs, the minimum necessary for conducting continuous deterrent patrols.  The next step is the Type 096 “Tang” SSBN. Reports vary widely on the design parameters and expected deployment dates, but it will undoubtedly be larger, quieter, and carry more missiles with more warheads. The Type 096 is expected to carry up to 24 JL-3 SLBMs, with a range of 10,000 kilometers. Deployed appropriately, any of the more modern submarines can strike the United States with nuclear missiles. The Type 096 can strike the U.S. from secure areas near China’s coast.  The Pentagon currently believes that China will build around eight SSBNs in total, giving the PLAN the capacity to maintain multiple boats on continuous patrol.  Much depends, however, on whether China shifts its overall nuclear posture from minimal deterrence to active pursuit of secure second strike capability.”

China to take on Boeing, Airbus with homegrown C919 passenger jet “Amid much fanfare on live national television, China on Monday rolled its first homegrown large passenger jet off the production line in Shanghai, vowing to challenge the dominance of Airbus and Boeing in the global commercial aviation market. At the ceremony, a shiny C919 -- sporting a largely white fuselage with a blue wavy stripe and a green tail -- was towed beneath a banner with the phrase "a dream takes off" and past a huge Chinese national flag. The C919 -- a twin-engine, narrow-body aircraft seating up to 174 people -- is similar in size to the Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 series of jets, long the workhorses for airlines around the world. With a flying range of up to 5,555 kilometers (3,451 miles), it is designed to compete head-to-head with its Airbus and Boeing rivals, and said to easily cover popular business and leisure routes from China such as Shanghai to Singapore and Beijing to Bangkok. Launched in 2008, the C919 project marks China's return to the business of making large passenger jetliners, after a failed attempt in the 1980s. Although the C919's maiden flight is at least a year away, its manufacturer, the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac), has already made no secret of its future plans to make another, wide-body airliner. The Communist government also wants to use the C919 as a springboard to develop a nationwide aviation industry, boasting the involvement of more than 200 companies, 36 universities and hundreds of thousands of personnel in the plane's development. State media are touting the "advanced technologies" used throughout the plane, from new avionics to an airframe partially made of light composite materials, as Boeing has done on its 787 Dreamliner. However, some aviation enthusiasts in China are not so sure about the state media's claim that the C919 is a product of "complete Chinese intellectual property." Compiling published information, CNN was able to verify a widely shared graphic that indicates that many key components of the C919 are made overseas -- including the engines (by U.S.-French joint venture CFM International), power system and landing gears (both by U.S.-based Honeywell).”

Japan Seeks Closer Financial Ties With China “Japanese asset managers are hoping Beijing’s bid to internationalize the yuan will trump political tensions and prompt it to grant them greater access to China’s financial markets. Japan is seeking inclusion in the Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor program, or RQFII, which allows foreign investors to invest directly in Chinese bond and stock markets using yuan raised offshore. Asset managers in more than a dozen countries—including Australia, the U.K. and Hungary—use the program. Japanese fund managers say access to RQFII would prompt them to create more investment products and help funnel more of Japan’s trillions of yen in household savings into Chinese markets. They say institutional investors especially want to invest in Chinese bonds, which offer higher yields than debt in developed markets. On Saturday, China raised South Korea’s RQFII quota by half to 120 billion yuan ($19.00 billion) from 80 billion yuan. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang held a one-on-one meeting during a trilateral summit between the three countries on Sunday, but it isn’t known whether the two discussed RQFII.”


The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | October 30, 2015

The U.S. Navy Has Sailed Past China’s Artificial Islands—And Must Do So Again. “On Tuesday, the destroyer USS Lassen sailed within twelve nautical miles of China’s man-made “islands” in the South China Sea. The transit, referred to by the U.S. Navy as a “freedom of navigation operation,” had been rumored for months and, according to press reports, resisted by senior officials at the White House for fear of antagonizing China. As predicted, China vigorously protested the operation and summoned the U.S. ambassador to China for a particularly angry harangue. For an operation that prompted such hand-wringing in the Obama White House and angry protestations in Beijing, the Lassen’s transit should have been anything but controversial. Until 2012, when the Obama administration stopped sending vessels near the roughly 3,000 acres of land China has reclaimed in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy and numerous others regularly transited this territory for decades. It is a critical principle of international law that any nation is entitled to pass freely and unobstructed near these man-made features, and the Lassen’s passage was a step in the right direction. China’s widespread reclamation activities, which far exceed any similar activity by neighboring states, is but one part of a pattern of behavior that has marked Beijing as the principal factor contributing to the growing instability in the Asia-Pacific region. Whether it is the unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea, and the persistent threat to follow suit in the South China Sea, or China’s reckless encounters with U.S. and Japanese ships and aircraft, Beijing is systemically destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region. Make no mistake, the steady deterioration in regional security over the last several years is directly attributable to a series of actions carried out by China and its military. The United States has a clear national security interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, through which about 30 percent of global maritime traffic flows. China’s grandiose claims to all the waters and islands within its “nine-dash line,” as well as its attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by reclaiming land and declaring extralegal restrictions on passage near these features, directly threaten that traffic. As important is the broader principle of freedom of navigation, which the United States has vigorously upheld for over two centuries and which forms an essential component of the rules-based international order that has prevailed in Asia since 1945. Should China prevail in its specious claims, the rules and norms that the U.S. has supported for decades will be effectively nullified, both in the Asia-Pacific and around the world. Now is the time for the United States to make clear that the Lassen’s transit was not simply a one-off event, or a goal in and of itself. By not challenging China’s excessive claims since 2012, the administration erroneously signaled a shift in the American belief in the unencumbered passage of all nations’ navies in international waters. These operations should never have ceased, and now they must continue on a regular basis to reinforce U.S. commitment to what must remain an unshakeable principle of international law and U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. Navy—in concert, where appropriate, with the navies of our regional allies and partners—should leave no doubt as to the illegitimacy of China’s assertions. The administration’s stated desire to “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific has so far consisted more of rhetoric than substance. By undertaking freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea as a regular operation in pursuance of long-standing U.S. principles, the administration has the opportunity to show Beijing, and the rest of the region, that America can do more than just give speeches to uphold stability in the world’s most dynamic region.”

China's Supersonic Ship Killer Is Making U.S. Navy's Job Harder “Increased interactions between the the Chinese and U.S. navy in the contested South China Sea risk becoming more complicated by the increasingly sophisticated missiles being carried by submarines. A new report to the U.S. Congress assessing a Chinese submarine-launched missile known as the YJ-18 highlights the danger, noting the missile accelerates to supersonic speed just before hitting its target, making it harder for a crew to defend their ship. Defense chiefs from several countries in Southeast Asia have warned in recent months of the danger of undersea “clutter” as countries build up submarine fleets and the U.S. challenges China over its claim to a large swath of the South China Sea. This week’s U.S. patrol inside the 12-nautical mile zone that China claims around its man-made islands in the waters saw the USS Lassen shadowed by two Chinese naval vessels. The YJ-18 missile can cruise at about 600 miles an hour, or just under the speed of sound, only a few meters above the surface of the sea and then, about 20 nautical miles from its target, accelerate to as much as three times the speed of sound, according to an Oct. 28 report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. “The supersonic speed makes it harder to hit with on-board guns,” according to commission Chairman Larry Wortzel. “It also makes it a faster target for radars.” The YJ-18’s speed and long range, as well as its wide deployment “could have serious implications for the ability of U.S. Navy surface ships to operate freely in the Western Pacific” in the event of a conflict, the commission found. Its report came just days after the U.S. warship entered the 12-mile zone around the reefs that China’s turned into man-made islands, one of which may soon be equipped with an airstrip capable of handling the military’s largest aircraft. By passing so close, the U.S. was showing it doesn’t recognize that the feature qualifies for a territorial zone under international law. Provocative actions by the U.S. may bring serious tensions between the two militaries and may even result in skirmishes, China’s navy commander Wu Shengli told U.S. Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson on a conference call Thursday, according to the Chinese navy’s microblog. The waters are a vital thoroughfare for the global economy, hosting $5 trillion of international shipping a year. China claims more than 80 percent of the sea, vying with five rival claimants, including Vietnam and Philippines. The Office of Naval Intelligence said in its April report on the People’s Liberation Army Navy that China had started to deploy its newest missile, but didn’t give precise details on its range. The Commission said the YJ-18 can travel about 290 nautical miles, more than 14 times as much as its predecessor, the YJ-82. It cited media reports and other unclassified sources.”

U.S., Chinese navies agree to maintain dialogue to avoid clashes “The U.S. and Chinese navies held high-level talks on Thursday after a U.S. warship challenged China's territorial assertions in the South China Sea, and a U.S. official said they agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols to avoid clashes. After the talks between U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart, Admiral Wu Shengli, scheduled port visits by U.S. and Chinese ships and planned visits to China by senior U.S. Navy officers remained on track, the official said. "None of that is in jeopardy. Nothing has been canceled," said the official. Both officers also agreed on the need to stick to protocols established under the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea. "They agreed that it's very important that both sides continue to use the protocols under the CUES agreement when they're operating close to keep the chances for misunderstanding and any kind of provocation from occurring," said the official. The talks, by video conference, were held to calm tensions after Beijing rebuked Washington for sending a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of one of China's man-made islands in the South China Sea's Spratly archipelago on Tuesday. A U.S. Navy spokesman stressed Washington's position that U.S. freedom of navigation operations were meant to "protect the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law." There was no immediate comment from China on the talks. A spokesman for China's Ministry of Defense said earlier that Wu would present Beijing's "solemn position on the U.S. vessel's entry without permission" into waters in the South China Sea. "We would urge the U.S. side not to continue down the wrong path," Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said. "But if they do, we will take all necessary measures in accordance with the need." China suffered a setback on Thursday in its broad territorial claims in the South China Sea when an arbitration court in The Hague said it had jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines filed against China.”

China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea “China's naval commander told his U.S. counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in the disputed waterway, the Chinese navy said on Friday. Admiral Wu Shengli made the comments to U.S. chief of naval operations Admiral John Richardson during a video teleconference on Thursday, according to a Chinese naval statement. The two officers held talks after a U.S. warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of one of Beijing's man-made islands in the contested Spratly archipelago on Tuesday. China has rebuked Washington over the patrol, the most significant U.S. challenge yet to territorial limits China effectively claims around its seven artificial islands in one of the world's busiest sea lanes. "If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war," the statement paraphrased Wu as saying. "(I) hope the U.S. side cherishes the good situation between the Chinese and U.S. navies that has not come easily and avoids these kinds of incidents from happening again," Wu said. Speaking earlier, a U.S. official said the naval chiefs agreed to maintain dialogue and follow protocols to avoid clashes. Scheduled port visits by U.S. and Chinese ships and planned visits to China by senior U.S. Navy officers remained on track, the official said. "None of that is in jeopardy. Nothing has been canceled," said the official.”

Beijing, Washington Seek Support In Sea Standoff “A U.S. Navy patrol around Chinese-built islands in the South China Sea has set the stage for a flurry of diplomacy in Asia in the next month as Beijing and Washington seek support in their maritime standoff at a series of high-level meetings. The U.S. is urging allies and partners to conduct their own “freedom-of-navigation” patrols in the South China Sea, possibly including some like the U.S.’s on Tuesday, which was within 12 nautical miles of the artificial island on Subi Reef, according to U.S. officials. “We are encouraging other nations to exercise their rights under international law, similar to the way we exercised our rights,” said one senior U.S. military official. China, meanwhile, is urging other nations to rebuff the U.S. efforts, while warning Washington of unspecified consequences if it follows through on a pledge to conduct more patrols around the artificial islands.  “We urge the U.S. not to go further and further on the wrong road,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular news conference Thursday. “But if the U.S. insists, we will take all necessary measures as required. He said China would express its “solemn position” on the U.S. patrol in a teleconference on Thursday evening between its navy chief, Wu Shengli, and the U.S. chief of naval operations, Adm. John Richardson. A person familiar with the conversation between the two men said the talk was “professional and productive,” and in a statement issued by Adm. Richardson’s office, the two vowed to talk again. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment. The public posturing and diplomatic maneuvering reflects a broader contest playing out in the region as China seeks to challenge the U.S. as the dominant economic and military power in Asia. Washington is using Tuesday’s patrol to try to reassure allies and partners who have grown worried that it isn’t doing enough to respond to China’s military activities, analysts said.”

In Defeat For Beijing, Hague Court To Hear South China Sea Dispute “In a legal setback for Beijing, an arbitration court in the Netherlands ruled on Thursday that it has jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines has filed against China over disputed areas in the South China Sea. Manila filed the case in 2013 to seek a ruling on its right to exploit the South China Sea waters in its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as allowed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected Beijing's claim that the disputes were about territorial sovereignty and said additional hearings would be held to decide the merits of the Philippines' arguments. China has boycotted the proceedings and rejects the court's authority in the case. Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea, dismissing claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. The tribunal found it had authority to hear seven of Manila's submissions under UNCLOS and China's decision not to participate did "not deprive the tribunal of jurisdiction". The Chinese government, facing international legal scrutiny for the first time over its assertiveness in the South China Sea, would neither participate in nor accept the case, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters. "The result of this arbitration will not impact China's sovereignty, rights or jurisdiction over the South China Sea under historical facts and international law," Liu said. "From this ruling you can see the Philippines' aim in presenting the case is not to resolve the dispute. Its aim is to deny China's rights in the South China Sea and confirm its own rights in the South China Sea." The Philippine government welcomed the decision. Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Manila's chief lawyer in the case, said the ruling represented a "significant step forward in the Philippines' quest for a peaceful, impartial resolution of the disputes between the parties and the clarification of their rights under UNCLOS".”

Secretary Carter Heads to Asia Amid South China Sea Tensions “US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is set to embark on a swing through Asia, days after the newest wave of tensions between US and Chinese naval forces began to rise. Carter's trip, which has been planned for some time, will take him through South Korea and Malaysia before returning to the US. The visits coincide with a number of major conferences, including the 47th Security Consultative Meeting between the US and Republic of Korea held in Seoul and the ASEAN Conference in Kuala Lampur. His trip will loop back through California in time for the Reagan National Defense Forum on Nov. 7 near Los Angeles, where he will be the keynote speaker. The trip also comes amid another round of exchanges by the US and China in the South China Sea. On Monday, the US sent the destroyer Lassen within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China on a reef in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands. The artificial island is one of at least seven construction projects intended to cement Chinese sovereignty claims in waters where several nations have territorial disputes. The US contends that its ships merely continue to navigate international waters. The incident set off Chinese officials, who have held the incident up as proof of American aggression in the region. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said Thursday the US is not challenging the sovereignty of any land claim, but instead simply operating what it calls "freedom of navigation operations." "The operations that we conduct anywhere where we do freedom of navigation operations are consistent with the way we do them around the world," Davis said. "They are conducted on a regular basis. They are not a challenge of sovereignty features." The issue of the Spratly Islands is one that has dogged Carter's time as defense secretary, and one that does not appear likely to cool anytime soon.”

Grounded: Taiwan’s US-Made Attack Helicopter Fleet is Rusting Away “The Republic of China Army is currently investigating the grounding of the majority of its AH-64E Apache “Guardian” attack helicopters purchased from the United States, Taipei Times reports. The aircraft’s manufacturer Boeing has also dispatched a special task force to help identify the cause of the technical difficulties, which could be due to Taiwan’s “wet and high humidity climate, seasonal monsoon rains blowing salt-laden ocean water inland, or improper maintenance and handling by ground service crew,” according to the media report. Major General Huang Kuo-ming, commander of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, stated that nine helicopters had to be grounded due to serious oxidation on metal components, which was discovered in the helicopters’ tail rotor gearboxes- made of a new aluminum-magnesium alloy. “We noticed rust corrosion developing in the tail rotor gearbox in March, and notified the US side of the problem at that time. They were quite concerned, and have advised our side to apply several remedial measures to counteract the corrosion,” Huang said at a news briefing this week. However, the recommended anti-rust measures were unsuccessful and the Taiwanese military began a comprehensive safety check of every single helicopter in September. “The procedure is still ongoing,” said Huang, adding that the safety checks should be completed by the end of November. Huang also stated that the current technical problems will neither  interrupt the training schedule of pilots, nor delay the induction date of the attack helicopters. “We will formally commission the Apaches into service on schedule in early 2017,” he emphasized. In addition, to the nine helicopters grounded due to corrosion, twelve Apaches are also not operational due to missing spare parts, leaving only eight AH-64E Apache gunships operational. (One AH-64E was lost when it crashed into a three-story building during a training flight in bad weather conditions in April 2014.)”

Why Australia must send its navy to assert the freedom to operate in the South China Sea “After much internal debate and soul searching, the US has conducted its first 'Freedom of Navigation' operation in the South China Sea for several years. It will not be the last and we are fast approaching the point at which Australia needs to decide whether it will assert, with more than ministerial statements, its 'legitimate interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded trade and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea'. We can only do this in the current situation by dispatching a naval force to operate — for however brief a period — in the vicinity of one or more of the Chinese artificial islands in the South China Sea. The term 'Freedom of Navigation' spans a wide range of ship activities and it would be more accurate to describe the rights that would be asserted by our naval forces in this context as 'Freedom of Naval Operations'. There are legitimate fears that the sweeping, indeed perhaps absolute, 'blue land' claims by China to the South China Sea could, in the worst case, have long-term implications for the free passage of merchant shipping through this area. But this dispute is now much more a matter relating to the rights of warships to operate freely on the high seas. In view of the sweeping nature of some of China's claims over the South China Sea, it may be enough just to enter the general area to send the necessary message. Much of the debate over the South China Sea has been confused by previous clashes between the US and China. But these have occurred in waters customarily recognised as China's legitimate Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) generated by its mainland and principal offshore islands (although China has yet to formally declare its EEZ). China takes the view that military operations, especially surveillance operations, should not be conducted in other countries' EEZs without authorisation. The US views an EEZ as conferring economic rights, not creating operational restrictions; Australia shares this view. However, no presently Chinese-held facility or feature in the Spratlys has the capacity to generate an EEZ, something notably confirmed by a recent Global Times editorial. Isolated natural features that are clear of the water at high tide and cannot sustain economic life create only a territorial sea of twelve miles. Isolated features which are not clear at high tide create no sovereignty, and nor do artificial installations, however large. The latter simply have a 500m safety zone, for safety, not sovereignty.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | October 29, 2015

China warns Australia over naval standoff “A senior officer and military expert in the People's Liberation Army has warned Australia not to escalate tensions in the South China Sea by following the lead of the United States and beginning naval operations close to reefs claimed by Beijing. Senior Colonel Li Jie, a military expert at the PLA, said Australia's involvement would "only bring trouble," and Canberra should not become involved. His comments follow a US mission earlier this week, in which guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly archipelago, where China has been constructing islands with ports, fuel storage depots and airstrips. The area, which is a vital trade corridor and rich in oil, gas and fisheries, is subject to a complicated web of territorial disputes involving the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The US, concerned about China's aggressive moves to enforce its territorial claims, had been indicating for weeks it would conduct the sail-through. The so-called "freedom of navigation" operation was aimed at asserting the right of ships to pass through international waters. Two PLA warships tracked, monitored and warned the USS Lassen but the sail-through was completed without incident. Colonel Li said if the US continued to conduct sail-throughs close to the islands, the possibility of a skirmish "could not be excluded". "They infringed on China's sovereignty and went against China's maritime interests," he said. "We will take strong measures to resolve this." "It is not in Australia's interest to become involved," he said. Australian defence planners have reportedly drawn up contingency plans for a possible sail-through of the contested waters in support of the US, but the government has no immediate intention to carry them out. Rather, it is taking part in some joint exercises with Chinese warships over the next week. Two Australian naval frigates will visit Zhanjiang in Guangdong province, this weekend, as part of a confidence-building exercise.”

As Obama Weighed Patrol To Counter China, Pentagon Urged Faster Action “The U.S. naval challenge to China's territorial assertiveness in the South China Sea this week came after months of frustration within the Pentagon at what some defense officials saw as unnecessary delays by the White House and State Department in approving the mission. As early as mid-May, the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert the principle of freedom of navigation around China's artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago after Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options to respond to their rapid construction. That patrol eventually took place on Tuesday when the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, triggering an angry rebuke from China and threatening to ratchet up tensions between the world's two biggest economies. An intense, prolonged internal U.S. debate over the patrol revealed by Reuters' reporting appears to contradict Washington's insistence that it was simply another routine freedom-of-navigation operation. The months leading up to the patrol allowed Beijing to harden its stance and, according to some U.S. officials and security experts, blew the operation out of proportion. Washington's caution also caused disquiet among some military officials in Japan and the Philippines, both U.S. security allies, feeding concerns that China's ambitions in the South China Sea would go unchecked. The Pentagon and U.S. military officials had been ready for months to carry out patrols, but ran into "repeated stalling" from the White House and State Department, said one U.S. defense official, who requested anonymity. Both wanted to avoid giving the appearance that any operation was in response to other events, the official said, such as the breach of 21 million U.S. personnel records that has been linked to hackers in China. China has denied involvement in the attack. "The concern was that, if we looked like we were responding to something the Chinese had done, it would undermine our assertion that this is a matter of international law, and our rights to navigate the seas," said the official. The State Department did not respond officially to queries on why the mission took so long. The White House declined official comment on the criticism. Pressure for action was growing at a sensitive time in U.S.-China relations, as major powers moved closer to agreeing a nuclear deal with Iran and as Washington prepared for a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September. By late September, a consensus had been reached to go ahead with the patrol, despite Xi’s assertion in Washington that China had “no intention” to militarize the islands.”

China to end one-child policy “All couples will now be allowed to have two children, the state-run news agency said, citing a statement from the Communist Party. The controversial policy was introduced nationally in 1979, to reduce the country's birth rate and slow the population growth rate. However, concerns at China's ageing population led to pressure for change. The one-child policy is estimated to have prevented about 400m births since it began. Couples who violated the policy faced a variety of punishments, from fines and the loss of employment to forced abortions. Over time, the policy was relaxed in some provinces, as demographers and sociologists raised concerns about rising social costs and falling worker numbers. The Communist Party began formally relaxing national rules two years ago, allowing couples in which at least one of the pair is an only child to have a second child. Currently about 30% of China's population is over the age of 50. Correspondents say that despite the relaxation of the rules, many couples may still opt to only have one child, as one-child families have become the social norm. The announcement comes on the final day of a summit of the Chinese Communist Party's policy-making Central Committee, known as the fifth plenum. The party is also set to announce growth targets and its next five year plan.”

US, Chinese Naval Chiefs To Talk “Adm. John Richardson, the US Navy’s chief of naval operations (CNO), and Chinese Navy chief Adm. Wu Shengli will speak tomorrow via video teleconference (VTC) — a conversation likely to be concentrated on issues in the wake of the transit Monday of a US destroyer through disputed territorial waters in the South China Sea. A US official confirmed the discussion will take place. “This call was not scheduled, but agreed upon between the two naval staffs in light of current events,” the official said Wednesday. Tensions have risen between the two countries after the passage Monday of the US destroyer Lassen through waters in the South China Sea claimed by China. The Lassen passed within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island newly built by China on Mischief Reef near the Spratly Islands. The region is known to the Chinese as the Nansha Islands. While the move was signaled by US officials ahead of the transit, Chinese reaction has been vehement, with numerous media stories speaking of unwarranted US aggression. China filed a formal protest with the US, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency, and US ambassador to Beijing Max Baucus was summoned to a meeting with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui. While the political pot has certainly been stirred, relations between the two navies in recent months have been relatively cordial. Former CNO Adm. Jon Greenert in April began what he called the first of a regular series of VTCs with Wu, and Greenert and Richardson spoke via VTC with Wu on Aug. 25, three weeks before Richardson succeeded Greenert in the US Navy’s top job.”

Inside Innoway, China’s $36 million government-backed startup village “In just two years, Beijing city planners transformed a no-frills walkway in the city’s northwest into a symbol of China’s internet ambitions, trading paperbacks for MacBooks and creating a thriving hub of startups and incubators. Innoway is a 200-meter strip that houses over 300 startups in a mixture of investor offices, cafes, and “incubators”—dedicated work spaces that provide internet, electricity, and desks. It’s located in Beijing’s tech-heavy Zhongguancun neighborhood, itself known for housing Baidu, Tencent, and other Chinese internet companies since the early 2000s. The street was once known as Haidian Book City, where a handful of modest bookstores ran modest businesses. But in 2011 local entrepreneur Su Di and other Chinese investors, attracted by the cheap rent, opened Cheku Cafe, a coffee shop specifically for internet companies to mingle inside. More investors followed suit, opening startup-themed cafes and branch offices. In 2013, the street underwent an official renovation thanks to a government-backed investment (link in Chinese) of over 200 million yuan (about $36 million). It’s now home to some of China’s top-tier investors and internet companies, like job-hunting site Lagou and Uber competitor Yongche. Chinese premier Li Keqiang has also visited Innoway personally, a symbolic nod of approval from the nation’s highest authorities. Startup fervor has swept China, thanks in part to the success of the country’s internet giants, including Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, behemoths in e-commerce, search, and social respectively. Each of these giants employ tens of thousands of people, a situation that has created networks of alumni who go on to start their own companies (paywall). Venture capital funding for Chinese startups nearly tripled between 2013 and 2014 to over $15.5 billion. Of the 125 startups around the world currently valued at over $1 billion, 18 hail from China (paywall)—more than any other country besides the United States. But these giants once started small, just as new hopefuls are forming now in Innoway’s workspaces. Incubators, the companies that nurture startups, are the heart of Innoway—there are about 40 here, depending on your definition. Most make money through some combination of rent, consulting services, or taking equity stakes. They vary in style. Ranking among the more serious is 36Kr, borne out of a popular Chinese tech blog. It’s space is open only to companies it has vetted, and sometimes funded. Coders and product managers work in near-silence, encased in a cement chill.”

How the Rest of Asia Reacted to US Navy Patrol Near China's Man-Made Island “After months of hand-wringing, on October 27 the U.S. Navy finally began to assert its right to patrol within 12 nautical miles of at least some of China’s reclaimed features in the Spratly Islands. Observers are rightly zeroing in on Beijing’s response. Every detail of the at-sea intercept and Chinese official statements will scrutinized for clues as to how it may react to what will likely be a continuous campaign of freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) in the coming weeks or months. But it is important to not lose sight of the rest of the region. A secondary objective of the mission is to prove Washington’s credibility as an effective (as well as responsible) security provider. American diplomats and military officials worked hard behind closed doors to garner support before playing a card many consider risky and provocative. On the other hand, the United States is also reportedly taking this opportunity to challenge what it views as excessive maritime claims by some of its own allies and partners.The following is a breakdown of initial reactions by American treaty allies in the Asia-Pacific by order of public endorsement. Beyond the sphere of U.S. treaty allies, senior Taiwanese and Indonesian officials also voiced little public endorsement in the immediate aftermath of the FONOP, instead calling for the peaceful resolution of disputes and exercise of restraint by all parties. There was no immediate reaction from Vietnam, Malaysia, or India.”

China's Next Super Weapon: Is Beijing Developing Its Own Su-34 Fullback? “China appears to have started testing a new “indigenous” combat aircraft derived from the Russian Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker family. The aircraft would be the latest in a series of Chinese fighters that are unlicensed copies of Russian jets. If a photo—posted on the Chinese internet site Weibo yesterday—is genuine, the new Chinese aircraft appears to be similar in concept to the Sukhoi Su-34 Fullback. It appears to have a similar duckbill radome and side-by-side cockpit seating. However, the Chinese jet has much larger, broader canards that blend in with the aircraft’s wings. It also has a large sting that looks similar to the Su-34’s. Russia is not thought to have sold the Fullback bomber variant of the Flanker to any other nation. Nor does the Chinese version of the aircraft appear to be a direct copy of the Su-34 or its earlier Su-32 predecessor. Rather, the new aircraft—while it is clearly a Su-27 derivative—appears to be a parallel development inspired by the Fullback. It is possible that the Chinese modified the Su-27 independently based on what they knew about the Su-34. But it is also possible that the Chinese either gleaned the technology through espionage or via a third party. In previous years, the Chinese acquired a prototype of the Su-33 carrier-based version of the Flanker from which they derived the J-15 naval strike fighter that flies off the carrier Liaoning.”

China Pushes Back Against U.S. Influence in the Seas of East Asia “Much more is at stake in the American decision to challenge China by sending a destroyer near islands it built in the South China Sea than a handful of rocks, even if they sit on major shipping lines and deposits of natural resources. What that means — whether it represents a crisis, or a natural and inevitable shift given China’s economic strength — depends on whom you ask. But there is little doubt that China is thinking big about how these islands could limit America’s military options, about how control over these waters could give it leverage over key trade routes and about how making the United States look hapless could strengthen its diplomatic clout in the region. A satellite image from March showed work on an emerging artificial island at Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has been turning submerged reefs into islands to bolster its territorial claims.Challenging Chinese Claims, U.S. Sends Warship Near Artificial Island ChainOCT. 26, 2015 “They have a game plan; it is very clear what it is,” said Christopher K. Johnson, senior adviser on China at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington at a recent seminar. “Sometimes, I think it is easy to get lost in the weeds on what has been built on which island.” On late Monday, the United States sent a guided missile destroyer into waters near one of the artificial islands, Subi Reef, that China considers its territory. China promptly called the naval patrol a “deliberate provocation.” The construction of the islands, which has also involved building military installations and runways, shows how China is determined to push back the United States’ post-World War II alliance system, some experts say. The United States sent ships and planes to the Taiwan Strait with impunity during a crisis 20 years ago in what was considered a strategic backyard for American forces. It would be much more difficult today for the United States to act in the same manner, Mr. Johnson said. To achieve its goals, China is spending heavily on its navy, including on nuclear-powered submarines. The construction of a second aircraft carrier is underway to supplement the first carrier, launched in 2012. Its Coast Guard is growing rapidly and now has the world’s largest cutter, a 10,000-metric-ton vessel built at the Jiangnan Shipyard, where its builders nicknamed it the “monster.””

Quiet Air Zone Shows China's Struggle to Control Contested Seas “As the battle for control of the South China Sea heats up, Beijing’s struggle to assert its authority over another disputed waterway may prove instructive.  China has been warning planes away from reefs it reclaimed in the South China Sea, and has said it reserves the right to announce an air defense identification zone over the area. It’s expected to boost its military presence after the U.S. this week sailed a warship into the 12-nautical mile zone around China’s man-made islands. But controlling the seas may prove easier for China than controlling the air, according to observers, even after the U.S. incursion and with further patrols expected. The U.S. warship did not venture far inside the 12-mile zone, where China’s coast guard is practiced in providing a ring of deterrence. China has already faced difficulty enforcing an air defense identification zone it set up two years back covering islands disputed with Japan in the East China Sea, which is closer to the Chinese mainland. Setting up and maintaining a zone over the much larger South China Sea -- which stretches along the coast of Vietnam, across to the Philippines and down to Singapore and Indonesia -- would be even harder. “The South China Sea is a completely different beast,” said Li Jie, a senior researcher at the Chinese Naval Research Institute in Beijing. “The territorial disputes there involve many more countries, and if you take out a map, the topographic features are much more complex. It’d be more provocative in the eyes of the Americans.” ince setting up the East China Sea air zone -- through which the U.S. swiftly flew B-52 bombers -- China has quietly stopped seeking to actively enforce it, according to military officials and policy advisers who have followed the issue. That’s despite initial warnings the military might use force against planes that failed to follow rules including the requirement to file flight plans. The air zone is technically in operation in the sense China’s air force patrols it, but it has never taken “defensive emergency measures” set out in the initial announcement, which could include interceptions of planes. The People’s Liberation Army lacks the ground-based air surveillance and a detailed joint operational plan between the air force and navy to “fully and effectively” administer the entire zone, according to a former senior PLA officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.”

On Cyberdefense, China and North Korea Are Said to Be Poorly Prepared “China and North Korea are ill equipped to defend themselves against cyberthreats despite what the Pentagon deems their strong offensive capabilities in cybercrime, advisers to the Australian government said. An assessment of cyber competence among 20 Asia-Pacific countries ranging from the U.S. to Fiji found China has improved its oversight and abilities in the digital realm but it has “failed to translate this into tangible policy or program.” North Korea, meanwhile, ranked last regionally in terms of its cyber development and policy frameworks. “North Korea takes a highly structured and regulated approach to cyberspace,” according to a report released Monday night from the Australian Security Policy Institute, which provides independent security advice to Australia’s government and military. “However, it suffers from a paucity of policy and cybercrime agencies.” China has denied U.S. allegations that it was responsible for massive cyberattacks on American companies and has pledged to fight cybercrime. North Korea has denied it U.S. allegations of launching cyberattacks. The Interpol-supported report aims to assess cyber abilities and frameworks in Asia, the scene of intense economic and political rivalry between the U.S. and China. Some of that rivalry is playing out in the cyber realm, leading the U.S. and Chinese militaries to increase their recruiting, training and strategic planning, the report said. The Pentagon in April named China as one of the worst offenders of cybertheft, as it released a strategy paper calling for the U.S. to also boost its defenses against theft of commercial secrets and intellectual property held by American businesses. The American defense agency also suspects North Korea of having a sophisticated army of cyberwarriors to disrupt commercial, military and government targets in the U.S., South Korea and elsewhere.”

Top Chinese military officer to visit India, Pakistan “One of China's most senior military officers will visit Pakistan and India next month, China's defence ministry said on Thursday, making trips to neighbouring rivals which have very different relations with Beijing. China and Pakistan describe each other as "all weather friends" and have tight links, and while Chinese and Indian relations have improved considerably since a brief border war in 1962, the two remain locked in a messy territorial dispute and deep suspicions persist. Fan Changlong, one of the vice chairmen of the Central Military Commission which controls the Chinese armed forces and is headed by President Xi Jinping, will visit in the middle of November, ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular news briefing. The trip is to boost friendly exchanges and help "jointly maintain regional peace and security", Yang said, without elaborating.”

China calls on Japan to stop 'hampering' military flights “China on Thursday called on Japan to stop "hampering" flights by Chinese military aircraft, after Japan said its scrambled fighter jets to prevent possible incursions by Chinese planes a record high number of times in the summer. Japan jets scrambled 117 times from July to September, up from 103 in the same period of last year, although it was lower than the all-time high of 164 times recorded in the final quarter of 2014. "These figures from Japan make me think of Japan's close following of, surveillance and interference with Chinese ships and aircraft that have been happening for a long time, threatening the safety of China's ships and aircraft," Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular news briefing. This could easily cause a safety issue in the air between China and Japan, he added. "Chinese aircraft have the freedom to fly in the relevant airspace in accordance with the law. We urge the Japanese side to stop behavior that hampers Chinese freedom of flight." He was speaking hours before the Chinese and U.S. navies were set to hold high-level talks over tension in the South China Sea after a U.S. warship challenged China's territorial assertions in the disputed waters this week. Japan has long been mired in a territorial dispute with China over a group of tiny, uninhabited East China Sea islands, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Patrol ships and fighter jets from Asia's two biggest economies have been shadowing each other on and off near the islets, raising fears that a confrontation could result in a clash. Sino-Japanese ties, also plagued by the two countries' wartime past, concerns over Tokyo's bolder security stance and Beijing's increasing military assertiveness, have thawed a little in the last year. Leaders from China, Japan and South Korea will hold a summit this weekend in Seoul, the first in three years.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | October 28, 2015

Australia Prepares Option of Sail-Through to Test China “Australian defense planners are looking at the possibility of a naval sail-through close to China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea, in case the government decides to follow its close ally the U.S. in testing Beijing’s territorial claims. “Australia has been looking at options,” said one official in Australia’s military familiar with operational planning. The official spoke after the American guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed early Tuesday within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of seven sand and rock outcrops in the Spratly chain on which China has built artificial islands. The U.S. considers the area international waters, and fears China is trying to enforce territorial claims and gain greater control over major shipping lanes. Another defense official, who has been involved in a military blueprint about the South China Sea for Australia’s Defense Minister Marise Payne, confirmed that plans for possible naval operations or flights by maritime patrol aircraft had been prepared, though said there is no immediate intent to put them into play. “At this stage, it’s only been looking at what we could do,” the second official said. The military had been looking at options including a sail-through for months, the person said, as tensions in the South China Sea intensified.”

U.S. South China Sea Freedom of Navigation Missions Included Passage Near Vietnamese, Philippine Claims “A recent U.S. Navy freedom of navigation mission in South China Sea was not limited to China’s artificial islands. In addition to a Monday patrol within 12 nautical miles of Chinese installation on reclaimed land on Subi Reef, guided missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG-82) also conducted similar freedom of navigation patrols of contested South China Sea holdings of the Philippines and Vietnam, according to a Tuesday report in Reuters. Several sources confirmed the patrols to USNI News late Tuesday but it’s yet unclear which Vietnamese or Philippine features Lassen passed near as part of its mission. What is clear is the reluctance of U.S. officials to acknowledge the missions publically. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter confirmed Lassen’s mission after a persistent line of questioning during a Tuesday Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Middle East security from SASC chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “The news reports — all day — are about a U.S. destroyer, naming the destroyer, going within the 12 [nautical] mile zone around these islands. Why would you not confirm or deny that that happened. Since all the details… and the action happened?” asked McCain to Carter after the Secretary of Defense declined to confirm Tuesday press reports on the mission to Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Carter eventually responded, “I won’t be coy with you, I don’t like in general the idea of commenting on our military operations but I can say but what you read in the newspaper is accurate but I don’t want to say more than that,” he said. Likewise, a Pentagon spokesman would still not officially confirm the freedom of navigation operation occurred to USNI News as of Tuesday afternoon. According to a late Tuesday report in The New York Times, instructions were issued by the White House to keep quiet about Lassen’s mission, quoting unnamed administration officials.”

White House Moves to Reassure Allies With South China Sea Patrol, but Quietly “For months, lawmakers and national security hawks have urged President Obama to stand up to China’s land reclamation of disputed islands in the South China Sea. But now that the Obama administration finally has, the White House does not want to talk about it. In sending a guided missile destroyer late Monday into waters China considers its territory, the Obama administration sought to exercise what officials called the right to freedom of navigation in international waters. The move was meant to reassure allies in Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines that the United States would stand up to China’s efforts to unilaterally change facts on the ground by building up artificial islands in the Spratly Islands chain. But even as it was authorizing the naval patrol, which China promptly called a “deliberate provocation,” the White House tried to play down the episode, anxious to avoid escalating a conflict between the nations, a pair of adversarial Pacific behemoths. A satellite image from March showed work on an emerging artificial island at Mischief Reef, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China has been turning submerged reefs into islands to bolster its territorial claims. The White House directed Department of Defense officials not to say anything publicly about the episode. No formal announcements or news releases alerting the media to the passage of the destroyer, the Lassen, were to go out, White House officials ordered. And if asked, officials were instructed not to speak on the record about the maneuver, administration officials said. As a result, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter was left flailing during a scheduled appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, just hours after the Lassen left territorial waters near Subi Reef, one of several artificial islands that China has built in the disputed Spratly Islands chain. Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, told Mr. Carter he had initially planned to “express concern” about American “inaction” in combating Beijing in the South China Sea, but changed his mind after hearing that the Navy warship had entered the 12-nautical-mile zone claimed by China. “Is that true? Did we do that?” Mr. Sullivan asked. Mr. Carter demurred. “We have said and we are acting on the basis of saying that we will fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits — — ” Mr. Sullivan interrupted him. “Did we send a destroyer yesterday inside the 12-mile zone?” Again, Mr. Carter sidestepped the question, and the two men went back and forth a few more times. The exchange prompted Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, to express exasperation. “Why would you not confirm or deny that that happened?” Finally Mr. Carter acknowledged the episode. “I don’t like in general the idea of talking about our military operations,” he said. “But what you read in the newspaper is accurate.””

China Slams US for Sending Warship Near Disputed Islands “China lashed out at the United States for sending a warship near disputed South China Sea islets and reefs claimed by Beijing, while Washington promised to conduct more such patrol missions. Beijing's foreign ministry said Wednesday it summoned U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus to deliver a formal protest over the Tuesday incident, which represents the U.S.' boldest challenge yet to China's controversial territorial claims. "This action by the United States threatens China's sovereignty and security interests and endangers the safety of personnel and facilities on the reef, which is a serious provocation" Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui said. An editorial in the Communist Party-run Global Times said the U.S. patrol mission amounted to "harassment," and urged the Chinese government to take steps to show the U.S. it is "not frightened to fight a war with the U.S." "We should first track the U.S. warships. If they, instead of passing by, stop for further actions, it is necessary for us to launch electronic interventions, and even sound out warships, lock them by fire-control radar and fly over the U.S. vessels," said the paper, whose opinions generally reflect the views of the government. A U.S. Defense official said Tuesday it is likely the U.S. Navy will make more patrols in the area. Speaking with VOA, the official, who did not want to be identified, said, "This is not going to be the last one." He added there were several Chinese vessels operating in the vicinity of the USS Lassen, with one of the vessels clearly "shadowing it" as it passed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of a small reef that China has been expanding into a larger island through large-scale dredging operations. "All maneuvers by Chinese vessels and aircraft were safe and professional," according to the official. He added it is "quite typical" for a Chinese vessel to shadow a U.S. vessel when its operating in the South China Sea. "It is not out of the ordinary," the official said.”

Did China Just Hack the International Court Adjudicating Its South China Sea Territorial Claims? “Attribution for cyberattacks is said to be notoriously difficult, but sometimes context and timing are damning evidence. In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague conducted a hearing on the territorial dispute in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China. On the third day of the hearing, the Court’s website was suddenly knocked offline. The attack, made public by Bloomberg last week, reportedly originated from China and infected the page with malware, leaving anyone interested in the landmark legal case at risk of data theft. The two countries are in the midst of a decades-long dispute over the Scarborough Shoal and other territories in the South China Sea, which should come as no surprise to readers of The Diplomat. Just in case, here’s the backstory: In a precedent-setting turn this summer, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration began hearing a case brought by the Philippines that argues that China’s territorial claims violate international law under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In an attempt to deter the Chinese expansion, “the Philippines is asking the court to rule on the validity of China’s nine-dash line as a maritime claim; the status of individual features that China occupies; and Beijing’s interference in Philippine activities in the South China Sea.” If successful, the Philippines’ legal challenge might set a precedent for other Southeast Asian countries to non-militarily wrestle China over the disputed waters. China has continuously dismissed the court case simply as “a blatant grab for territory,” stating that it “would not accept and would not engage” in the case. The country subsequently released a position paper rejecting the court’s jurisdiction over the dispute. Despite China’s strong reluctance to participate in the court hearings, the July hack demonstrates that Beijing’s attention is focused on the hearing and its aftermath. By infecting the computers of journalists, diplomats, lawyers, and others who are involved or interested in the case, Chinese cyber units may be able to find out the names of people who are following the case and anticipate what their response might be if the court rules against China. For example, if Vietnamese or Japanese diplomats visited the website and their computers were infected, China could have access to internal documents and understand that country’s next moves over the disputed islands. Based on past Chinese form, the courts in The Hague should also check their internal systems, not just the external facing webserver, for signs of Chinese intrusions. Seven years ago, in the run-up to another important international event critical to China – the 2008 Olympic Games to showcase the new China to the world – Chinese spies intruded into Asian and Western national Olympic Committees, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Anti-Doping Agency.”

Seoul, Tokyo Bickering Days Before 3-Way Summit With China “Leave it to perpetually squabbling Northeast Asia to spice up that most vanilla of diplomatic activities: the meet-and-greet, photo-op-ridden international summit. South Korea and Japan finally announced Wednesday what has long been rumored — a three-way leaders' meeting with China this weekend in Seoul — but details are still scarce with just days to go. And the Seoul-Tokyo bilateral meeting, their first formal talks at this level in 3½ years? A brief Monday morning talk, breaking before lunch. It wasn't even on the initial schedule released by Tokyo, though a spokesman later confirmed the meeting. The lead-up to the summit has seen the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministries publicly dodging questions even as diplomats leaked barbed tidbits to reporters behind the scenes. The bickering confounds some observers because even though these summits are often devoid of substance, there is high symbolic importance in leaders from these powerful neighbors setting aside their many differences and putting on a good show. China and Japan have the world's No. 2 and 3 biggest economies, respectively. South Korea and Japan are strong U.S. allies and Washington's military and diplomatic bulwark in an unsteady region. All three have a keen interest in containing North Korea's nuclear bomb ambitions. The problem this week, as is often the case in Northeast Asia, appears to be history, and specifically the inability of Seoul and Tokyo to settle disputes stemming from Japan's brutal colonial rule of Korea in the early 20th century. Newspapers in Japan reported that the spat centered on Tokyo balking at Seoul's pressure for Japan to make some sort of concession on the issue of Korean women forced into sex slavery by Japan's military leading up to and during World War II. Many in South Korea feel that past Japanese apologies and attempts at recompense have fallen well short. This feeling has been compounded by a widespread view that conservative Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is whitewashing Japan's wartime atrocities. South Korea announced that President Park Geun-hye and Abe will meet Monday, a day after they both meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Seoul has provided few other details but emphasized that the sex slave issue would be on the agenda. Japanese media have reported that Seoul suggested a meeting of just 30 minutes because Tokyo wouldn't cave on the sex slave issue. South Korean Ambassador to Japan Yoo Heung-soo, in a speech in Tokyo on Monday, urged Abe to make concessions on the issue when he meets with Park.”

South China Sea Statement “President Obama made the right call Tuesday when he ordered the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, to sail within 12 nautical miles of two artificial islands China has constructed in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago. The move gives teeth to the Administration’s insistence that Beijing has no sovereign claims to the waters or airspace around these strategic islands, but many more such patrols will be needed to make the point stick. Until recently, Subi and Mischief Reefs were specks of land submerged at high tide, which means that under international law no state can claim their surrounding waters. But in the past two years China has created some 3,000 acres of artificial land atop these and other land features, part of a broader effort to claim almost all of the South China Sea as its “historical waters,” in which foreign military vessels aren’t welcome. The U.S. historically has taken no sides in these territorial disputes, but the U.S. does have a vital interest in upholding freedom of navigation. That goes double in waters through which $5 trillion worth of commerce—about half the world’s ship-borne trade—traverses every year. The U.S. Navy routinely challenges excessive maritime claims, including on 19 occasions last year against friends in the Pacific such as Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The surprise is how long the Administration took to take on China’s claims. Senior Navy commanders have been sounding alarms for months about what they call Beijing’s “great wall of sand,” and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has repeatedly stressed that the U.S. “will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.” But the White House hesitated, apparently out of fear of spoiling the mood music for Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington in September. That delay proved costly, since it allowed China to speed the pace of its island-building while stepping up threats of military escalation. Chinese Admiral Wang Yi recently promised a “head-on blow” to any military “violating” China’s supposed sovereignty. The Chinese Foreign Ministry called Tuesday’s U.S. action “illegal,” and Chinese naval vessels shadowed the Lassen through the Spratlys.”

US-China Cyber: What Now? “The U.S.-China summit has concluded and the announced results provided little good news on the cyber front, at least for us. Beijing certainly got what it wanted: no executive order sanctions against its officials and companies for benefitting from its planetary-scale cyber espionage campaign.  The Obama Administration apparently got what it wanted as well: a Chinese statement that state-sponsored or abetted industrial espionage is illegitimate. But now we are already hearing early reports from cyber security firms of strong evidence that the Chinese government hacking of U.S. firms has continued even after President Xi’s promises. Pressure for real progress on U.S.-China cyber relations has been building for months, if not years. Chinese military strategists have been writing since the mid-1990s about how computer network attacks could be the key factor in deterring or degrading an American military response to a Taiwan scenario.  The first decade of their intrusions against U.S. government and military networks was intelligence preparation of that battlefield. In the mid-2000s, China’s cyber espionage capability was redirected against the heart of the U.S. innovation economy, targeting commercial firms and exfiltrating billions of dollars of intellectual property and data for the benefit of Chinese companies. The Chinese government has even been complicit in computer network attacks, beginning in 1999 with hacks against servers belonging to dissident groups in the United States and culminating with the “Great Cannon” attack against the servers of a popular open source software community in early 2015. Finally, recent revelations of suspected Chinese intrusions against major health care providers and the Office of Personnel Management’s highly sensitive clearance databases gave American officials a very personal incentive to confront Beijing’s seemingly unconstrained behavior. When presented with overwhelming evidence of official complicity, such as when respected cyber intelligence firm Mandiant exposed Unit 61398 as a Chinese military hacking organization, Beijing borrowed from Kafka and denied that the unit even existed. The Chinese government made promises about progress on cyber issues prior to and during Obama and Xi’s summit at Sunnylands in 2013, but those commitments evaporated after the meetings ended.”

Taiwan military says China preparing for possible attack “China is actively building up its armed forces and they would be strong enough by 2020 to launch an invasion of Taiwan, a military report said Tuesday. Despite closer political ties, China is “continuing to accumulate large-scale war capabilities, with the threat of a cross-strait military conflict continuing to exist”, according to the island’s 2015 National Defence Report. The mainland’s annual military spending has grown on average by double-digit rates over the past decade, second only to the United States, it said. The biennial report published by the defence ministry said China was strengthening its naval and air forces in the region to deter foreign forces from intervening in any invasion.  “China believes foreign interference would be its biggest concern if it attacks Taiwan,” it said. China and Taiwan split at the end of a civil war in 1949. Relations have warmed since current Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008. But China still sees Taiwan as a breakaway territory and refuses to renounce the use of force should it declare formal independence. The defence ministry said there was a risk of Taiwan letting its guard down because of increased economic and cultural exchanges in recent years. “Overall [China] is diversifying its Taiwan strategy, forging positive developments in the cross-strait situation, giving them an advantage for any future attacks on Taiwan,” its report said. Taiwan will elect a new president in January, with the candidate of the pro-independence opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Tsai Ing-wen, tipped to win. She has pledged to maintain the status quo if she wins but some analysts have questioned whether cross-strait peace could be maintained. The defence ministry report also questioned China’s reported military spending, which it said was significantly understated. The actual budget is estimated to be two to three times the reported figure, putting it on par with the US and Russia, it said.”

China deploys supersonic trainer aircraft for pilot training “Modernising its airforce at a rapid pace, China has introduced a third-generation supersonic trainer aircraft to its military flight schools to shorten pilots' training time and prepare them for advanced fighter jets.  People's Liberation Army Air Force Aviation University deployed an undisclosed number of JL-9 Mountain Eagle two-seater trainer jets this month and has started to use them to train students, PLA Air Force's Daily, the official organ of the Chinese military, reported. The aircraft has been developed and manufactured by Guizhou Aviation Industry Group, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China.  It has a maximum speed of 1,837 kilometres per hour, a maximum range of 2,400 km and maximum takeoff weight of 9.8 metric tons.  PLA Daily quoted Liu Yuequan, a senior instructor at the university, as saying that the JL-9 can train pilots for both second-and third-generation fighter aircraft. It can also perform some combat operations, Liu said.  The PLA airforce is rapidly modernising with variety of aircraft including the stealth fighter even though China still depended mostly on Russia for the aircraft engines. Fu Qianshao, an aviation equipment expert with the PLA Air Force, told state-run China Daily yesterday, "In the past, the PLA Air Force lacked an advanced trainer aircraft, soit had to adopt the second-generation JJ-7 trainer jet to conduct advanced training for students."  The JJ-7 was developed based on the five-decade-old J-7 fighter jet, so it is suitable for training second-generation aircraft pilots, Fu said.”


The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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Posted by | October 27, 2015

Editor’s Note: On Monday, Congressman Forbes issued a statement on the importance of conducting Freedom of Navigation Operations near China’s artificial formations in the South China Sea. Earlier, the Congressman led a bipartisan group of 29 Members of Congress in requesting that President Obama order such operations.

U.S. Destroyer Comes Within 12 Nautical Miles of Chinese South China Sea Artificial Island, Beijing Threatens Response “After months of deliberation, the U.S. has sent a guided missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea in a move that practically rejects Chinese claims to the reclaimed reefs and has inflamed Beijing. Late Monday USS Lassen (DDG-82) came within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef — off the western coast of the Philippines — on which the Chinese have built a weather monitoring station and other facilities, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry via a report in The Associated Press. The Pentagon spokesman would not confirm the account to USNI News but said in a late Monday statement, “the United States is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law. U.S. forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea.” For its part the Chinese Foreign Ministry has said the move by the U.S. was provocative and threatened a commensurate response to the mission. “China will resolutely respond to any country’s deliberate provocations,” the Ministry said in a statement. “The actions of the U.S. warship have threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability.” While China has confirmed Lassen came within 12 nautical miles— the distance of a country’s internationally recognized maritime boundary — and was contacted via radio it’s unclear what the ship did while in proximity to the island. There is a stipulation in international maritime law known as “innocent passage” in which a warship can transit within a country’s 12 nautical mile boundary legally but it must do so expeditiously and without conducting any military actions such as transmitting propaganda or radiating targeting radars.”

Angry China says shadowed U.S. warship near man-made islands in disputed sea “A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer sailed close to China's man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea on Tuesday, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing, which said it warned and followed the American vessel. The patrol by the USS Lassen was the most significant U.S. challenge yet to the 12-nautical-mile territorial limits China asserts around the islands in the Spratly archipelago and could ratchet up tension in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. One U.S. defense official said the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef. A second defense official said the mission, which lasted a few hours, included Mischief Reef and would be the first in a series of freedom-of-navigation exercises aimed at testing China's territorial claims. China's Foreign Ministry said the "relevant authorities" monitored, followed and warned the USS Lassen as it "illegally" entered waters near islands and reefs in the Spratlys without the Chinese government's permission. "China will resolutely respond to any country's deliberate provocations," the ministry said in a statement that gave no details on precisely where the U.S. ship sailed. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang later told a daily briefing that if the United States continued to "create tensions in the region," China might conclude it had to "increase and strengthen the building up of our relevant abilities". Lu did not elaborate, except to say he hoped it did not come to that, but his comments suggested China could further boost its military presence in the South China Sea. "China hopes to use peaceful means to resolve all the disputes, but if China has to make a response then the timing, method and tempo of the response will be made in accordance with China's wishes and needs." The second U.S. defense official said additional patrols would follow in coming weeks and could be conducted around features that Vietnam and the Philippines have built up in the Spratlys. "This is something that will be a regular occurrence, not a one-off event," said the official. "It's not something that's unique to China." White House spokesman Josh Earnest referred questions on any specific operations to the Pentagon but said the United States had made clear to China the importance of free flow of commerce in the South China Sea. The U.S. Navy last went within 12 miles of Chinese-claimed territory in the Spratlys in 2012. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims. The Philippines, a vocal critic of China's activities in the South China Sea, welcomed the U.S. action.”

No Guns as China's Coast Guard Chases Boats in South China Sea “Armed with little more than flashing lights, loud hailers and water cannons, China’s coast guard is becoming the vanguard for the country’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The ostensibly civilian “white-hulled” fleet is a frequent presence in the disputed waters, confronting fishing and coast guard vessels from other claimant nations. By not deploying its gray-hulled navy too visibly, China is seeking to avert international condemnation that might result if it tried to impose its territorial assertions with warships. That distinction is important as the U.S. has now authorized a Navy warship to sail into the 12-nautical mile zone that China claims around some man-made islands in the South China Sea, according to a U.S. defense official. The question is whether China would use a patrol -- which the U.S. official said could happen soon -- as a reason to bring in its navy, a move that would significantly raise tensions in the area. “Initially it would be the coast guard, but I worry about escalation control,” said Susan Shirk, a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia. “I think we have to anticipate that the PLA navy would respond in some manner.” Shirk is now chair of the 21st Century China Program at the University of California. China has utilized its coast guard in the area in an effort to underline the political message that it considers at least 80 percent of the South China Sea to be its sovereign territory, subject to its domestic laws. The claim is based on a nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map that doesn’t give precise coordinates. The vessels often operate in waters around the reefs on which it has been building airstrips, buildings and light houses. “China is employing its coast guard as aggressive instruments of state policy to assert territorial claims,” said Lyle Morris, a project associate at Rand Corp who has traveled this year to Vietnam, the Philippines, China and Japan to study their coast guards.  “And they are adopting more assertive tactics.”

China eyes force that can attack Taiwan by 2020: MND report “China has in recent years continued to upgrade several major weapon systems to complete preparations for a reliable fighting force that can attack Taiwan by 2020, the Ministry of National Defense has said in an annual report on Taiwan's security. Though China has said repeatedly that it hopes to solve disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait through peaceful means, it continues to ramp up combat readiness, and its desire to take Taiwan by force has not changed despite the warming of cross-strait ties. An advanced copy of the report, which is scheduled to be published Tuesday, said China has dramatically upgraded its early warning, command and control, battleground reconnaissance, airplane and vessel navigation, communications encryption and precise striking capability. This has been done through a combination of early warning airplanes, unmanned reconnaissance vehicles and digitization of its data link system, the report said. China is now capable of round-the-clock monitoring west of waters of the First Island Chain, which refers to the first major archipelagos lying off the East Asian continental mainland and includes the Japanese archipelago, the Ryukyu islands, Taiwan and the northern Philippines, according the report. The report also said China has sped up the mechanization of its Army, upgraded its information technology and live fire drills, strengthened airborne transportation and strategic research and development and used joint landing exercise to familiar itself with tactics. China now has an "triphibious" landing combat capability that can "seize the outlying islands" of Taiwan, the report said. The report also said that China has in recent years deployed amphibious assault vehicles, long-distance multiple rockets, long range anti-ship missiles, third-generation fighter jets and anti-air missiles.

Uncertainty Clouds Trilateral Asian Summit “Days before the leaders of China, Japan and South Korea are set to gather in Seoul, uncertainty over the details of their meetings hint at persistent diplomatic strains between the countries. All three nations agree that some events will take place, but exactly between whom and about what still wasn’t settled on Monday. China’s government said on Monday that its premier, Li Keqiang, will travel to Seoul on Saturday to take part in a three-way meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. But the South Korean presidential spokeswoman said a trilateral meeting wasn’t yet confirmed and said had no explanation of why there wasn’t a fixed schedule just days before the talks, which were announced nearly two months ago. Also unclear is the status of a planned bilateral meeting between Ms. Park and Mr. Abe. Seoul invited the Japanese leader to such an encounter on Nov. 2—which would be their first formal meeting since each took power almost three years ago—but hasn’t had a reply from Tokyo yet, the South Korean spokeswoman said. She declined to say when the offer was made. What she did confirm was a bilateral meeting between the South Korean and Chinese leaders. Meanwhile, China and Japan are in discussions about a possible bilateral leaders’ meeting in Seoul but it too hasn’t yet been set, a Chinese spokeswoman said. A Japanese government spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment. Tokyo confirmed earlier this month that Mr. Abe would attend the summit.”

In the race for Africa, India and China aren’t all that different “As state leaders and delegates descend on New Delhi this week for the third India-Africa Summit, Indian officials are working hard to differentiate their country from China, the African continent’s leading Asian partner. “Our partnership is not focused on an exploitative or extraction point of view, but is one that focuses on Africa’s needs and India’s strengths,” said Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, alluding to criticisms that China exploits the region’s resources. India’s minister of commerce and industry described Africa and India as “old friends and old family,” drawing a distinct line between China’s relatively recent entry into the continent and the 2.16 million members of the Indian diaspora that have been living in Africa for generations. Last week, prime minister Narendra Modi claimed that India has emerged as a major investor in Africa, “surpassing even China.” It’s an attempt to catch up to China, one of the Africa’s largest trading partners, now that India needs more energy and commodities to fuel its industries, as well as diplomatic support for strategic moves like India’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. Another summit focusing on India-Africa economic ties will be held in Nairobi next month. Then in a little over a month, South Africa will host the 6th Forum on China-Africa cooperation. But it’s not clear that India is that much of an alternative to China. The kind of relationship that Delhi is pitching—one focused on mutual need, helping Africa grow, and south-to-south cooperation among two formerly colonized, now fast-developing regions—sounds a lot like what Beijing has pushed for years.”

China army says West trying to 'falsify' Communist Party history “Enemy forces in the West are trying to "falsify" the history of China's ruling Communist Party and its military and force a "color revolution" on troops who are too susceptible to outside influences, the military's official newspaper said on Tuesday. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly reminded the military to be loyal to the party, as he also steps up efforts to fight graft in the army and modernize forces that are projecting power across the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas, though it has not fought a war in decades. In a front page commentary, the official People's Liberation Army Daily said that unnamed enemies in the West were trying to undermine the military. "Hostile Western forces are sparing no effort to belittle our fine traditions, denigrating our heroes and falsifying our party's and military's history," it said, without giving details. They are "trying in vain to push a 'color revolution' to get us to change our stripes", the newspaper added, referring to popular uprisings that occurred in former Soviet states like Ukraine that swept away often long-established rulers. The party does not look kindly upon any challenges to its official narrative of history over issues like World War Two, which lauds the role of the party in fighting the Japanese, a view often challenged by Western academics and others who say it was Nationalist forces who did most of the fighting. The paper said that as China continued to modernize, its soldiers, who were mostly born in the 1980s and 1900s, were more and more susceptible to "multiple, diverse values and points of view", a huge challenge to their ability to distinguish right from wrong. "Their understanding and appreciation of our fine traditions is not deep, and their knowledge is insufficient," it added, again without elaborating. The Chinese military, the world's largest, has made similar warnings in the past. China's forces have been shaken by Xi's war against deep-seated corruption, which has toppled some of the military's most senior officers.”

Russia’s 'Asian Pivot' Seen in Kuril Military Expansion “Russia’s plan to build a military base on the disputed Kuril Islands, that were seized from Japan at the end of World War II, is a small part of Moscow’s own “Asia pivot” to increase and protect trade with the vibrant economies in the Pacific region. “If Russia really wants to be a player militarily in Northeast Asia, the military presence in the Kurils is very helpful,” said security analyst Grant Newsham, with the Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo. The United States has used the term “Asia pivot” to describe President Barack Obama’s efforts to place greater strategic importance on this region to counter China’s growing military presence and economic strength. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s announcement to build a base on the Kuril Islands along with four Arctic bases is part of President Vladimir Putin’s plan to build up his country’s military presence in the region. Russia has reportedly increased spending by over $600 billion in the last decade to modernize its military that includes deploying new nuclear submarines, jets and helicopters. Russia’s Pacific Fleet currently consists of 73 vessels, including 23 submarines and 50 warships. Moscow is also developing closer ties to Beijing. The two militaries recently conducted a joint naval exercise that the Russian state news agency TASS described as the largest “in the modern history of cooperation” between Russia and China. While locating a military base on the Kuril chain of islands near key shipping lanes connecting Russia to the Pacific has some strategic value, Newsham said other factors like national pride and the political projection of power also play a part.”

The Caucus Brief is a daily publication for Members of Congress and Hill Staffers on China news and information compiled by the office of Congressman Randy Forbes, Founder of the Congressional China Caucus.  Email with tips, comments, or to subscribe/unsubscribe.

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