China Caucus Blog

Posted by Alex Gray | April 14, 2016

Carter To Visit Philippine Base In South China Sea. Carla Babb, Voice of America. “U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is in Manila amid tensions between the Philippines and China over Chinese militarization of features in the South China Sea. Carter’s arrival Wednesday follows approval by the Philippines’ Supreme Court of a new agreement between Washington and Manila to allow U.S. rotational military forces on Filipino bases spread across the archipelago. “I wanted to come here as soon as possible after that to signify the importance of that to us and the alliance,” Carter told reporters en route to Manila Wednesday. Carter will visit Antonio Batista Air Base during his visit, one of at least five bases where U.S. troops will be stationed. The base is located just 160 kilometers from the disputed Spratly Islands, a group of islands, reefs and cays claimed by China, the Philippines, Malaysia and others. In the last two years, China has created some 1,200 hectares of artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratlys. A Chinese civilian airplane made a test landing on a runway on the Spratly Island’s Fiery Cross Reef in January. Satellite imagery by ImageSat International (ISI) has showed Chinese Shenyang J-11 fighter jets on Woody Island in the Paracel island group, causing concern that China might send military jets to the Spratly islands next. A senior U.S. defense official said the new U.S.-Philippines agreement will enhance the military’s ability to “operate in the region over the South China Sea” and “will strengthen our deterrent message as well.” “We think that a peaceful and lawful approach to competing maritime claims is the way to go," Carter said. One approach welcomed by Washington has been a Philippine case filed with an international court questioning the legality of what it calls China’s “excessive claims” in the sea. China rejects arbitration and is not participating in the case. A decision is expected in the next few months. The U.S. opposes any change to the status quo in the South China Sea, and Carter said China was “by far” the country that has most aggressively reclaimed land and militarized features there. James Clad, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and a senior advisor for the Center for Naval Analysis, told VOA the U.S. needs to accept that China’s actions are “a frontal challenge” to the U.S. position in the western Pacific. “We want to engage with the Chinese, but on the other hand we have to prepare for bad behavior,” Clad said. “The bad behavior has arrived, right?” Carter will also speak with Filipino leaders about the first installment of U.S. funding that was approved under a Maritime Security Initiative announced last year. The five-year, $425 million program is aimed at assisting Southeast Asian nations in improving their naval and coast guard capabilities. “Most of that money in the first initial year of it is going to the Philippines, and it will help them to do their part in our joint activities in the area of maritime security,” Carter said. About 80 percent of the $50 million allotted for 2016 is going to the Philippines, according to a senior defense official. “This will be an important boost for Philippine maritime domain awareness and their ability to see what’s happening out there past their coasts,” the defense official said. Carter’s visit to the Philippines comes as about 8,500 U.S. and Filipino troops, along with a small contingent of Australians, are staging military drills called Balikatan, or “shoulder to shoulder.” However, officials have said the annual exercises are not aimed at any one country. The defense secretary is expected to attend the closing ceremonies this week.”

Use Of 5 Bases Just Beginning Of Increased US Presence In The Philippines, Carter Says. Tara Copp, Stars and Stripes. “U.S. plans to rotate troops to five bases in the Philippines are just the beginning of an increased American presence in the country as part of an effort to protect wider interests in the region, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday. The Philippines bases that will host U.S. rotational forces — Antonio Bautista Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, Basa Air Base and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base — were announced earlier this year after a Philippines court approved the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement the two sides had signed in 2014. But Carter, who spoke to reporters aboard a U.S. aircraft before arriving in Manila for three days of meetings, said he expects the number of bases to be used by U.S. troops to increase. He did not provide an exact number. “That’s the beginning,” he said. “The agreement provides for more sites in the future — so there [will]  be more but these are just the five initial sites.” The five bases will allow for a “rotational presence for U.S. forces to operate with and out of the Philippines in support of  …  friends and allies in the region in defense, not only of our own interests but in our wider interests,” he said. Antonio Bautista Air Base is located on Palawan Island. The location is about 100 miles away from the Spratly Islands, where China has reclaimed more than 2,000 acres of sea bottom in the South China Sea. The U.S. and neighboring countries say China’s actions are provoking tensions in the region. China has used its perceived rights over the territory in recent years to attempt to order U.S. military vessels and aircraft to change course; however, the U.S. considers the water and airspace to be part of the global commons under existing international law. The U.S. has twice conducted freedom-of-navigation sails within the 12-mile waters off the coasts of two of the man-made islands to show its disagreement with China’s claims. China maintains an ambiguous claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea. Those claims are disputed to some extent by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines. “The significance of … Palawan is its significance to the defense of the Philippines,” Carter said. The Philippines, a former U.S. colony, is one of America’s oldest allies in Asia, and servicemembers from the two countries fought side-by-side against the Japanese in some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific Theater in World War II. In a wave of nationalism, the Philippines ejected the U.S. military from its extensive air and naval facilities in the country in 1991. But the threat of Islamist extremism in the south and Philippine concern over China’s claims in the South China Sea have led to a warming of military-to-military relations. Last week, he announced that the U.S. was also providing the Philippines about $40 million this year to upgrade its secure communications networks to enable the country to more quickly communicate with U.S. Pacific Command in case of a natural disaster or security threat. The funding will “help them do their part of our joint activities in the area of maritime security,” Carter said, “and the broader interests everybody here has in freedom of navigation.” During his three-day stop, Carter is scheduled to attend the closing ceremonies of Balikatan, a massive U.S.-Philippines bilateral exercise. The exercise began last week and involves about 5,000 U.S. servicemembers and 3,500 members of the Philippines armed forces, said Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis.”

China May Be The Big Winner In The Pentagon’s Newest Spying Scandal. Dan De Luce, Elias Groll and Paul McLeary, Foreign Policy. “The U.S. naval officer at the center of a burgeoning spy scandal may not have simply betrayed his country: He may have also helped China compromise Washington’s most-sophisticated tool for tracking Beijing’s submarines, ships, and planes. The surveillance aircraft potentially exposed in the espionage case are America’s high-tech “eyes in the sky” in the western Pacific, the EP-3E Aries II and P-8A Poseidon, which are equipped with sensors and radar that allow them to scoop up the electronic communications of Chinese forces and monitor their movements. The Aries, which has undergone significant upgrades in recent years, delivers “near real-time” signals intelligence and full motion video, according to the Navy. The aircraft’s sensors and dish antennas — their range is classified — can pick up distant electronic communications, allowing the U.S. military to pick up on any possible threats and eavesdrop on foreign militaries. The Poseidon, meanwhile, is equipped with the Advanced Airborne Sensor, a sophisticated radar system capable of generating high-resolution imagery at what the military calls “standoff” distances. Coupled with a powerful data link system, the Poseidon can serve as a targeting platform for other weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Its radar can reportedly track a single car at extreme distances, lock onto it, and stream the targeting data to a nearby fighter jet, which can fire a long-range missile at the target. An earlier version of that radar system has also been deployed on some of the Aries planes. Both aircraft play a pivotal role in tracking China’s growing naval might in potential flashpoints like the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Taiwan Strait. Beijing and Washington have been at loggerheads over China’s construction of an extensive network of runways and harbors that can accommodate military aircraft and ships on atolls and man-made islands in the disputed waters of the South China Sea. If the two countries were to ever engage in open conflict there, the surveillance craft would also be used to relay targeting information to American warplanes. Determining the planes’ exact capabilities and vulnerabilities is of critical importance to Beijing, and now an alleged American spy may have unlocked those secrets. It’s not clear if the naval flight officer at the center of the scandal, Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, meant to help Beijing when he allegedly began slipping secrets to Taiwan.  U.S. authorities haven’t yet made public — and may not themselves know — whether they believe Lin was knowingly providing intelligence to China, or whether the information he allegedly gave Taiwan was stolen by Chinese spies inside Taiwan’s security services. Either way, Lin is a source of potentially enormous importance to the Chinese. Lin had worked for the Navy’s Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 for a year before he was arrested in September. The Hawaii-based unit is one of two elite squadrons that fly the Aries and Poseidon planes, which means that Lin has an unusually deep and granular understanding of the two planes.”

Taiwan Forced To Rethink Its Air Defense Strategy. Michael J. Lostumbo, Defense News. “Air defense planners in Taiwan face a daunting challenge. They need to have enough capacity to deter China, which not only has a large military but, more importantly, for the past 25 years has spent heavily on modernizing that force. In modern warfare, air dominance is important in its own right, but it also enables other types of military operations by land and sea forces. Thus an important capability for Taiwan is to be able to contest China’s People's Liberation Army (PLA) air dominance. In the past, Taiwan’s fighter aircraft have been the mainstay of their air defenses, and in the future these aircraft will command most of the air defense budget. But China has found ways to put those aircraft in check, making them an expensive luxury in Taiwan’s defense budget. Taiwan should begin to think beyond an air defense that relies so heavily on its fighter aircraft. Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) would offer greater defensive capabilities and are a better investment moving forward. China’s investments pose a three-pronged threat to fighter aircraft, making Taiwan’s aircraft vulnerable on the ground and outnumbered and outclassed in the air. On the ground they are vulnerable to a variety of attacks from ballistic, cruise missiles and other fixed-wing aircraft. China has invested in missiles that are accurate enough to target aircraft on the ground as well as in the runways they rely upon to sustain operations. Although Taiwan may have some mountain hideaways to store the aircraft safely, those aircraft cannot be used to conduct sustained operations from mountain bunkers. Operating the aircraft from other nontraditional locations, like a highway strip, would not solve the problem because the PLA will have a number of ways to keep continuous track of aircraft in flight, note their landing location and quickly target those areas with a variety of weapons. Taiwan’s fighter aircraft are not only exposed on the ground, but once in the air they face a numerically superior adversary that has begun to field aircraft with capabilities that surpass all of Taiwan’s fighters, which began operating in the 1990s. Taiwan is refurbishing its F-16 fleet with new radar and other upgrades, but even when the upgrades are complete they will still lag behind PLA aircraft. Taiwan’s fighters are too vulnerable to be able to play a decisive role if the PLA conducts large-scale attacks. Without other options for air defense, the PLA could easily gain air superiority. Starting with the 1991 Gulf War in Iraq, the United States showed how difficult it is for a ground force, in that case the Iraqi Army, to survive in the face of persistent precision air attacks while facing a competent ground force. For Taiwan, the inability to contest PLA air dominance has ripple effects. PLA air superiority could prevent most of Taiwan’s defense forces from operating effectively. Taiwan needs localized relief from air attack for successful defensive operations. PLA capabilities are forcing Taiwan to substantially restructure and rethink its air defenses. In the coming years, Taiwan’s force of over 300 fighter aircraft will command a large fraction of its air defense budget, but because of the threats to fighter aircraft, whether on the ground or in the air, they can no longer be the mainstay of Taiwan’s air defenses. The question is: Could Taiwan make productive air defense investments to deter future attacks? SAMs are not a perfect solution, because they are not invulnerable either, but on balance they are more survivable than fighter aircraft on Taiwan and could provide a viable way to contest PLA air superiority, particularly if Taiwan uses its SAMs in a different way. SAMs cannot defend fixed targets in the face of a large missile inventory; all they can do is raise the price to attack. A more effective use of SAMs would be to help protect Taiwan’s other defense forces from PLA air threats. If Taiwan’s SAMs were used to support such operations, they could both cut losses and improve the effectiveness of these defense forces. Taiwan’s defense problem is challenging, but Taiwan will spend a considerable sum on air defense capabilities in the coming years, and those investments could be made much more effective. SAMs offer a way to maximize those investments and Taiwan should consider shifting a greater share of air defense spending to SAMs and away from fighter aircraft.”

Sources: Vietnam, Philippines Eye Joint South China Sea Patrols. Reuters. “Defense officials from the Philippines and Vietnam will meet this week to explore possible joint exercises and navy patrols, military sources said, shoring up a new alliance between states locked in maritime rows with China. Ties have strengthened between the two Southeast Asian countries as China's assertiveness intensifies with a rapid buildup of man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago, to which Vietnam and the Philippines lay claim. Both states are also on the receiving end of a renewed charm offensive by the United States, which is holding joint military exercises in the Philippines to be attended this week by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Vietnam and the Philippines would discuss patrols and exercises, but a deal this week was unlikely, a senior military official said. "These are initial discussions," he said. "These may take time but we would like to move to the next level." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The information was confirmed by another defense ministry source in Manila. Naval patrols between the Philippines and United States were proposed by Manila in January. They could happen within a year, a foreign ministry official said. "The two sides are still talking about this," the official said. The exploratory talks between Vietnam and the Philippines come as ships from the United States and Japan, which has its own maritime wrangles with China, have visiting ships currently docked at Subic Bay in the Philippines, which hosted Washington's main naval base during the Vietnam War. The regional dynamic has shifted substantially since then, with the United States now engaging Vietnam's military having eased a lethal arms embargo in 2014. Japan is also working closely in defense issues with Manila and Hanoi, and two of its guided-missile destroyers are currently on a rare visit to Vietnam's strategic base at Cam Ranh Bay. Vietnam and the Philippines agreed on a strategic partnership in November to boost security relations as China expands its presence in the strategic waterway and deploys military equipment in the Spratly and Paracel islands. Their closer ties mark a bold step in a region where China's economic influence has made some countries reluctant to take a joint stand against its maritime manoeuvring. Joint exercises would be one of the biggest steps taken by the two countries' militaries since signing a defense agreement six years ago. The meeting between Vietnam's vice defense minister, Nguyen Chi Vinh, and Honorio Azcueta, the Philippine undersecretary of defense, is scheduled for Thursday and comes as a court in The Hague nears a decision in an arbitration case lodged by Manila. The ruling in the case, which seeks to clarify parts of a United Nations maritime law, could dent China's claim to 90 percent of the South China Sea, parts of which Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim. The South China Sea will figure in the talks between the two countries, as will bilateral exchanges, information-sharing, military logistics and defense technology, the sources said. Vinh would tour Philippine bases, including a major naval facility. Vietnam's state media has not reported the visit. Two Vietnamese frigates made port calls to Manila in 2014 and a Philippine warship may do the same in Vietnam this June. Troops from both sides have played sports together twice since 2014 on disputed islands they occupy. On Monday, Philippine Foreign Minister Jose Rene Almendras was the first foreign dignitary to meet Vietnam's new prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc.”

Australian Leader Balances Trade Against Territory In China Trip. Jason Scott, Bloomberg. “Malcolm Turnbull’s first trip to China as prime minister is bringing into sharp relief the challenge of navigating ties with Australia’s biggest trading partner against a backdrop of regional tensions over maritime territory. Leading a delegation of 1,000 business leaders, the prime minister is using the two-day talks starting Thursday to sign several memorandums of understanding that have the potential to reassure China that Turnbull’s government sees it as a country Australia can work with, and not just sell things to. "The important thing is to be very honest, very open, very consistent” when dealing with Chinese leaders, Turnbull told a business audience in Perth on Wednesday. "That’s how you’re respected. We stand up for our position, the Chinese understand that and respect that.” While resources made up nearly half the A$150 billion ($115 billion) in Australian exports to China in 2014-2015, Turnbull will be keen to build on the completion of a free-trade pact with China last year. Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said on Wednesday that Australia is ready to diversify economic ties to focus more on expertise and innovation, particularly in areas including premium food and beverage products, as well as China’s services sector. Leader of one of the most China-dependent nations in the developed world, Turnbull’s past comments on China’s territorial ambitions are bound to come under the Communist Party’s microscope during his visit, including when he meets President Xi Jinping. China’s claim to a large swath of the South China Sea is disputed by Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam, countries that have nevertheless enjoyed strong trade and business ties with Beijing. Australia, as a major U.S. ally in the Pacific and a critic of China’s land reclamation in the waters, also faces a balancing act between economic and security matters. “If Turnbull strongly articulates Australia’s concerns, it will set a prominent example for Southeast Asian countries to follow,” said Oh Ei Sun, an analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. Shortly after seizing power from Tony Abbott in a September ballot of ruling party lawmakers, Turnbull said tensions in the South China Sea were the greatest threat to global security. In a speech last month he said that ensuring China’s rise doesn’t cause destabilization “requires careful diplomacy, it requires balancing." Since Xi told the Australian parliament in November 2014 that it shouldn’t be concerned about China, he has overseen a restructure of the Chinese military, boosted the capacity of its air force and bolstered its naval presence in the Asia-Pacific. According to Peter Cai, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Turnbull will probably only raise the issue behind closed doors. “Publicly he may barely touch on that while he’s there, because the visit’s primary focus is to promote Australia’s business interests.” Shen Shishun, a senior researcher at the China Institute of International Studies, said China would expect Turnbull to raise the maritime tensions but added the leaders would understand his motives.”

How A South China Sea Air Defence Zone Could Be A Bargaining Chip For Sino-US Negotiations. Mark Valencia, South China Morning Post. “On March 30, US deputy defence secretary Robert Work publicly declared that the US had told China it would not recognise “an exclusion zone in the South China Sea” and would view such a move as “destabilising”. The Asia Times said the Pentagon was “trying to stop China” from declaring an air defence zone in disputed seas. These seem almost fighting words. In response, Yang Yujun, the spokesperson for China’s defence ministry, said there was no need for such “gesticulation”. The US and China are competing for dominance in the region amid conflicting sovereignty and maritime claims by China and some Southeast Asian countries. The two powers hold different perspectives on “freedom of navigation” and China’s November 2013 declaration of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea. Some journalists and US pundits have been hyping a “what if” situation, as if to prepare for a clarion call for US military action if China declares an air defence identification zone in the South China Sea. China has yet to declare such a zone in the South China Sea and may not do so – especially one that includes the disputed Spratly features. The US “survived” China’s declaration of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea with apparently little effect on either country. The US said it would ignore that zone and disregard any Chinese orders, although the Obama administration advised US commercial airlines to comply with China’s demands out of concern for possible “misunderstandings”. Non-recognition of such zones is always an option. For example, China and Russia do not recognise Japan’s. The establishment and implementation of air defence identification zones have always been unilateral and controversial. There is no international legal basis for them or their “rules” – except perhaps the general principles of self-defence and freedom of overflight, and the former will always take precedence, for any country. The US established the precedent of an air defence identification zone and its rules – for itself and Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – after the second world war. It apparently thinks all other nations’ zones should be based on its model. But being first does not justify dictating the rules for all, especially in the absence of an international agreement. The US seems to have two objections to a hypothetical Chinese zone in the South China Sea. If it is modelled on China’s East China Sea zone, then it would include both military and civilian aircraft, and its rules would apply to aircraft that are only transiting the zone. According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, “the US does not support efforts by any state to apply procedures of an air defence identification zone to foreign aircraft not intending to enter its national airspace. We urge China not to implement its threat to take action against aircraft that do not identify themselves or obey orders from Beijing.” Japan has a similar requirement for Taiwanese aircraft entering its zone, as do Australia, Myanmar and Taiwan for foreign aircraft. To back up this position, two unarmed but nuclear-capable US B-52 bombers flew into China’s new zone without identifying themselves, clearly testing China’s reaction. The US claims that it only applies its rules of prior notification to enter its zones – or “recommendations” to do so – to civilian aircraft, and that they only apply to aircraft destined for US territorial airspace. In practice, however, the US monitors and often intercepts with fighter jets both civilian and military aircraft that do not follow the “recommendations” of identifying themselves and their destinations, particularly Russian Bear bombers in the zones off Alaska.”

A Primer On The Complicated Battle For The South China Sea. Rami Ayyub, NPR. “The dispute over the South China Sea, one of the most complicated geopolitical issues of the 21st century, keeps heating up. China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other regional governments are all part of the dispute – along with the United States. Here are four key things to know about the dispute. 1. What's At Stake: The South China Sea holds immense resources, from the oil and gas located underneath the seabed to the lucrative fishing it has afforded for generations. "It's a race to build and bolster presence," says Andrew Scobell, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. "Control over the sea means greater access to fisheries and more leverage over its shipping lanes." More than $5 trillion worth of trade passes through these waters every year, from Middle East oil bound for Asian markets to plastic lawn furniture on its way from China to your local Home Depot. But the dispute is not just about economic assets. The sea's strategic location near half a dozen East and Southeast Asian countries provides incentives for governments to seek control of the military and civil activity around the waters. Hence the overlapping claims. 2. Whose Waters?: Seven different states claim parts of the South China Sea – China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Many of these claims overlap, spurring the race for control over the sea's islands, reefs, and rocks. Taiwan's government in March flew journalists to Taiping Island, an all-but-invisible patch of sand in the Spratly Island formation. Taipei wants to prove the formation is "not just a rock," but an island capable of sustaining human life. The distinction between island and rock is important. Owners of islands are entitled to an "exclusive economic zone" out to 200 nautical miles. Rocks do not receive the same designation. With this in mind, Vietnam and the Philippines have raced to set up shop on contested rocks, coral reefs, and sandbars, turning them into islands through dredging and military fortification. But no country has built as feverishly as China. And to U.S. Pacific Command Chief Adm. Harry Harris, the reason for China's push is clear. "China seeks hegemony in East Asia," he said. "Simple as that." 3. China's Strategy: "In essence, China sees the sea as a big Chinese lake," said RAND's Scobell. "The precise contours of its claims are vague, but it is clear China claims the majority of the islands, reefs, and territorial waters within the infamous 'nine-dash line.'" The nine-dash line marks a claim of sovereignty that scoops into the South China Sea from the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines, south to Malaysia, and northeast into the waters of Vietnam. It dates from a 1947 claim by the then-Republic of China, now Taiwan. Beijing has avoided making a formal claim of sovereignty, possibly to give itself more room to maneuver in international negotiations. "There are dubious grounds in international law for claiming the nine-dash line," Scobell said. If China formalizes its claims, it risks undermining a status quo that allows it to build with relative impunity and establish sovereignty over the sea's economic assets. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has called for the enforcement of a 13-year-old Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Beijing, however, is unlikely to get behind a multi-party deal where its influence is diminished. "China would much rather negotiate with Southeast Asian nations on a bilateral basis than with ASEAN as a whole," says Victor Cha, director of Asia Studies at Georgetown University. "Beijing very much took a page from the U.S. playbook in this case – you're better off cutting smaller deals where you wield a lot more influence." Focusing on smaller deals plays well with China's piecemeal approach to the South China Sea. Slow and steady construction can eventually turn a few airstrips and outposts into a vast military complex able to dominate the sea and airspace alike.”

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 Alex Gray | April 13, 2016

Eye On China, U.S. And Philippines Ramp Up Military Alliance. Floyd Whaley, New York Times. “After a rocky patch of 25 years, the United States and the Philippines will solidify a new, increasingly complex military relationship this week, driven partly by China’s assertive actions in the South China Sea. An agreement that allows the United States to build facilities at five Philippine military bases will spread more American troops, planes and ships across the island nation than have been here in decades. Joint military exercises this week and the arrival of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter on Wednesday will allow the two countries to show off their cozy relations and will include events rich in military symbolism. Mr. Carter is scheduled to observe the firing of a long-range missile system, one that could cover all the Philippines’ maritime claims in the South China Sea if needed, though the United States has not confirmed that the missiles will be deployed here. Analysts say the resurrected American presence here could tilt the balance of power in this part of the South China Sea. The Philippines currently defends its claims in the sea with two nearly 50-year-old former United States Coast Guard cutters, which sometimes break down, and two fighter jets. This allows China to control territory, build artificial islands and chase off Filipino fishermen with little risk. The new agreement could change that. “The Chinese goal is not to pick a fight,” said Gregory B. Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Just the ability to impose any kind of cost, to get any kind of vessel out there on site, forces the Chinese to make a decision about how much they really want to engage in a certain activity.” China has responded to the agreement by assailing the United States for “militarizing” the South China Sea, borrowing a term the United States has used to describe China’s actions there. China, which claims most of the South China Sea, has also insisted that any conflicts there should be resolved by countries in the region, not outside powers. The Philippines has been a strategic partner with the United States since World War II, and it is one of the oldest American allies in Asia. For decades, it hosted major American military bases at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base. But in a wave of nationalist sentiment, Philippine lawmakers ejected the American military from the country in 1991. Years of strained military relations followed, though the two countries have come together in recent years over concerns about China’s claims in the South China Sea, which encompass more than 80 percent of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in waters that Filipinos call the West Philippine Sea. Mr. Carter said last week that the United States would also provide about $40 million in military aid to the Philippines to be used in part to improve the country’s patrol vessels, as well as to operate unmanned surveillance blimps that can watch over the islands controlled by the Philippines in the South China Sea. China says it is entitled to shoals and islets also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as much of what the Philippines says is its exclusive economic zone. Beijing has asserted its right to these areas in part by reclaiming land and building fortified artificial islands with military facilities. The Philippines has sought international arbitration in the dispute, which could yield a decision soon. But China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the territory, and rejects arbitration as “a political provocation in the guise of law,” Lu Kang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday. The agreement with the United States, which the Philippine Supreme Court approved in January, will allow the United States to build and operate facilities at five Philippine military bases for at least 10 years. The deal includes the country’s largest army base and four air bases, including one on the western island of Palawan, which runs for 270 miles along one side of the South China Sea.”

MND Says It Has No Information About Alleged Espionage Case. Lu Hsin-hui and Elaine Hou, Focus Taiwan. “The United States has not contacted Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense (MND) about a reported case of a Taiwan-born U.S. Navy officer who has been accused of spying for both Taiwan and China, an MND spokesman said Tuesday. "The ministry knows nothing about anything concerning the case," MND spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he (羅紹和) said in response to media questions about the reported espionage charges brought against Lt. Cmdr. Edward Chieh-Liang Lin in the U.S. Luo said the U.S. has not asked for the MND's help with the investigation, which, according to U.S. media, is being carried out by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI. Lin, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was assigned to a Naval reconnaissance unit, was arrested eight months ago and is being held in a Navy brig in Virginia on charges of espionage, attempted espionage and prostitution, according to U.S. media reports. The case did not become public until last Friday, when a pre-trial hearing was held in the U.S. to determine whether Lin will face a court martial. The charge sheets did not state the period of his alleged espionage or the foreign power to which he was allegedly providing secret information, according to an ABC News report. However, the report cited a U.S. official as saying that Lin had been providing secret information to both China and Taiwan. The squadron in which Lin served as a Naval Flight Officer deploys the EP-3 Orion variant that is used specifically for electronic signals intercepts, the report said. Asked about other U.S. media reports that the investigation found Lin had been interacting with Taiwanese colonel surnamed Kao, Luo said he did not know of any "Colonel Kao" who had ever been posted in the U.S. There was a "Lt. Colonel Kao," but he is now retired, Luo said, adding that the MND has never asked any active or retired U.S. military personnel to collect intelligence on the U.S. military. Contrary to (local/international) news reports, Luo said, there is no evidence Lin ever visited the MND. Lin's personal story was highlighted by the Navy in 2008, after his naturalization ceremony in Honolulu. At the time, he said he and his family went to the U.S. when he was 14 and had struggled with the language barrier. "I always dreamt about coming to America, the 'promised land,'" he said at the ceremony. "I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland." Commenting on his motives for going through the naturalization process, he said "I do know that by becoming a citizen of the United States of America, you did it to better your life and the life of your family." Lin joined the U.S. military in 1999. He was enrolled as a student in the Navy's Officer Candidate School in 2002 and commissioned that same year, according to USNI News.”

China Outlines Plan For Military Buildup On Disputed Island. Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon. “China’s plan for a new military buildup on a disputed island near the Philippines shows the future deployment of Chinese warships close to where U.S. naval forces will be stationed in the future. Details of the militarization plan for Scarborough Shoal in the Spratly Islands were obtained by U.S. intelligence agencies over the last several months, according to defense officials. The plans were confirmed last month when a website for Chinese military enthusiasts posted a detailed dredging plan for Scarborough Shoal, including a runway, power systems, residences, and harbor capable of supporting Chinese navy warships. The shoal is located about 150 miles from the Philippines’ coast. It is claimed by Manila but has been under Beijing’s control since 2012. Disclosure of the buildup plan for the shoal is the latest element of a dispute that has pitted the United States and regional states against China. China is engaged in what U.S. government officials have said is a gradual attempt to take over the entire South China Sea. The Pentagon has said the takeover threatens $5.3 trillion annually in international trade that passes through what are legally international waters but that China asserts are its sovereign territory. Earlier Chinese militarization was detected last month on Woody Island in the Paracels, located in the northern part of the sea, when Chinese air defense and anti-ship missiles were spotted. Satellite photographs taken recently of Woody Island reveal deployment of two Chinese J-11 fighters jet, Fox News reported Tuesday. The plan to develop and militarize Scarborough Shoal, however, has set off alarm bells in both the Pentagon and State Department because of the area’s proximity to the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally that recently agreed to enhance defense cooperation in the face of Chinese aggression. Secretary of State John Kerry in February raised the issue of Chinese activities on Scarborough Shoal during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington. According to a source familiar with the meeting, Wang told Kerry that Chinese expansion of Scarborough Shoal would take place. In public remarks after the meeting Kerry urged China not to take unilateral actions in the sea. Last month, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson voiced concerns about expanded Chinese activities on Scarborough Shoal. “I think we see some surface ship activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity, going on,” Richardson told Reuters. “That’s an area of concern … a next possible area of reclamation.” President Obama also raised China’s aggressive South China Sea activities during a meeting last week with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. A White House spokesman would not say if Scarborough Shoal was discussed. A statement on the meeting said only that Obama urged Xi to address regional differences peacefully and that the United States would uphold freedom of navigation and overflight. Defense officials said the disclosure of the development plan that appeared on a Chinese military enthusiast website in March are bolstering worries. China is calling the construction project for Scarborough Shoal its plan for Huangyan—“Yellow Rock”—Island, where a settlement will be set up. The shoal is located about 168 miles from Subic Bay in the Philippines, where U.S. warships will be regularly deployed in the future as part of the enhanced defense agreement recently concluded between Washington and Manila.”

How China’s Fishermen Are Fighting A Covert War In The South China Sea. Simon Denyer, The Washington Post. “In the disputed waters of the South China Sea, fishermen are the wild card. China is using its vast fishing fleet as the advance guard to press its expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea, experts say. That is not only putting Beijing on a collision course with its Asian neighbors, but also introducing a degree of unpredictability that raises the risks of periodic crises. In the past few weeks, tensions have flared with Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam as Chinese fishermen, often backed up by coast guard vessels, have ventured far from their homeland and close to other nations’ coasts. They are just the latest conflicts in China’s long-running battle to expand its fishing grounds and simultaneously exert its maritime dominance. “The Chinese authorities consider fishermen and fishing vessels important tools in expanding China’s presence and the country’s claims in the disputed waters,” said Zhang Hongzhou, an expert at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University. “Fishermen are increasingly at the front line of the South China Sea disputes,” Zhang said, “and fishing incidents could trigger even bigger diplomatic and security tensions between China and regional countries.” Here, in the fishing port of Tanmen in the southern island of Hainan, 50-year-old captain Chen Yuguo was in the wheelhouse of his trawler last week, carrying out minor repairs after a six-week fishing trip to the disputed Spratly Islands. A portrait of “Comrade” Mao Zedong hung in a place of honor behind him, alongside an expensive satellite navigation system supplied by the Chinese government. Chen said catches are much better in the Spratlys than in China’s depleted inshore waters, but the captain said he is also fulfilling his patriotic duty. “It is our water,” he said, “but if we don’t fish there, how can we claim it is our territory?” Experts say the battle for fisheries resources, an often overlooked destabilizing influence in the South China Sea, is a source of unpredictability, volatility and risk. At the end of March, Malaysia’s maritime authorities spotted about 100 Chinese fishing boats, accompanied by a Chinese coast guard vessel, in its waters. They were close to Luconia Shoals, less than 100 nautical miles from Malaysian Borneo but 800 nautical miles from China’s southern island of Hainan. Early this month, Vietnam seized a Chinese ship that it said was supplying fuel to Chinese fishing boats in its waters. The biggest flare-up came on March 20, when Indonesian officials boarded a Chinese fishing vessel close to Indonesia’s Natuna Islands . As an Indonesian vessel began towing the boat to shore, a Chinese coast guard ship intervened to ram the fishing boat, pushing it back into the South China Sea — until the Indonesians released the tow line. Indonesia sets great store in its friendly relations with China, but its government responded angrily, saying it felt that its efforts to maintain peace in the disputed waters had been “sabotaged.” Defense officials vowed to send bigger naval vessels to defend its patrol boats in the region, to consider introducing military conscription to remote islands in the archipelago, and even to deploy U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to the Natunas to ward off “thieves.” China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, drawing a “nine-dash line” around its claims that passes close to the shores of the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam — and the Natunas. The fishing vessel, Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said, was operating in China’s “traditional fishing grounds,” though the incident occurred just a few nautical miles from the Natunas and around 900 nautical miles from Hainan. China’s claim to the South China Sea is based partly on the idea that its fishermen have worked there for centuries. But China is also trying to create facts on the ground by expanding its fishing industry’s zone of operations, experts say.”

America Needs More Than Symbolic Gestures In The South China Sea. John McCain, The Financial Times (UK). “Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command, was recently asked in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about China’s strategic goals. “China seeks hegemony in East Asia. Simple as that,” he responded. Admiral Harris concluded: “China is clearly militarising the South China Sea and you’d have to believe in the flat Earth to think otherwise.” But despite the Obama administration’s “three no’s” – no reclamation of land, no militarisation and no use of coercion – Beijing has pressed ahead with all three. The administration’s aversion to risk has resulted in a policy that has failed to deter China’s pursuit of maritime hegemony, while confusing and alarming America’s regional allies and partners. It is time to change course as we enter a critical two-month period for U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific region. The Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to rule by early June in a case brought by the Philippines concerning China’s claims in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Confronted with the possibility of an unfavourable ruling, China may use the coming months to secure its existing gains or pursue new forms of coercion to expand them. This could include further reclamation and militarisation at strategic locations such as Scarborough Shoal, attempts to expel another country from a disputed territory or the declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone in all or part of the South China Sea. In response, the U.S. will need to consider fresh policy options. As part of the annual Balikatan military exercise with the Philippines this month, the administration should consider having a carrier strike group patrol the waters near Scarborough Shoal in a visible display of U.S. combat power. Ashton Carter, U.S. defence secretary, should emphasise on his trip to the Philippines that Manila is a treaty ally of the U.S. And the administration should urgently work with the Philippines and other regional allies and partners to develop strategies to counter Chinese behaviour that is in violation of international law. If China declares a South China Sea ADIZ, the U.S. must be prepared to challenge this claim immediately by flying military aircraft inside the area affected under normal procedures, including not filing a flight plan, radioing ahead or registering frequencies. It is also time for the U.S. to move beyond symbolic gestures and launch a robust “freedom of the seas campaign.” It should increase the pace and scope of the Freedom of Navigation programme to challenge China’s maritime claims, as well as the number of sailing days that U.S. warships spend in the South China Sea. Joint patrols and exercises should be expanded and ocean surveillance patrols to gather intelligence throughout the western Pacific continued. Finally, given the shifting military balance, the U.S. needs to focus on enhancing its military posture across the region. Consistent with a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies report to Congress, it should deploy additional air, naval and ground forces forward to the region to reassure our allies. Over the past several years, China has acted less like a “responsible stakeholder” in the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region and more like a bully. Up to now, American policy has failed to adapt to the scale and velocity of the challenge we face. The potential threats China will pose in the South China Sea in the coming months demand a change of course that can reassure the region of America’s commitment and demonstrate to Beijing that its pursuit of maritime hegemony will be met with a determined response.”

Why China’s Djibouti Presence Matters. Johannes Feige, The Diplomat. “China’s foreign policy is evolving, and Africa may be both its proving ground and litmus test. As Beijing is seeking to expand its global role, its national interests, citizens, and assets need to be protected abroad, and nowhere else is this need as acute as it is in Africa. Consequently, China seems to have embarked on a bid to move away from its traditional “hands-off” approach – characterized by non-intervention in another state’s domestic affairs – to one where influencing, or even utilizing military force, is no longer taboo. However, striking the right balance between protecting its interests without succumbing to imperial temptations will prove to be a difficult test for China’s leadership. For a few years already, China has been seeking a greater role as a regional security provider in Africa. China has actively participated in anti-piracy efforts off the Somali coast since 2008, stepping up its contribution significantly in 2010. Chinese President Xi Jinping also raised eyebrows in September last year when he announced that his country would be providing $100 million in military aid to the African Union (AU) to enhance the AU’s combat readiness by helping to create an African standby force, as well as an emergency response and quick-response force. Furthermore, in 2014, China deployed an infantry battalion to the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, marking the first time China sent combat troops abroad. Most recently, Beijing has begun building a brick-and-mortar naval base in Djibouti, two years after the two countries signed a Security and Defense Agreement in 2014. According to Lyle Morris of RAND Corporation, “Such initiatives are a clear departure from Beijing’s aversion to military or security intervention in Africa,” while “the announcement [of providing $100 million to the AU] suggests a rethinking of Chinese priorities on the continent, and marks a recognition that China’s participation in conflict resolution will be an unavoidable byproduct of increased Chinese engagement.” However, the coming evolution of China’s policy in Africa is likely to set it on a collision course with the United States. The construction of the Chinese naval base in close proximity to the United States’ Camp Lemonnier has been observed with suspicion in Washington, because of Djibouti’s vital role in the fight against terrorism. U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti Tom Kelly stated in a Financial Times interview that Djibouti is “the biggest active military construction project in the entire world . . . It’s number one of everything we’re doing,” putting the country “at the forefront of our national security policy right now.” With the Chinese military close by, fears abound that American intelligence gathering may be disrupted by allowing Beijing to establish a strategic foothold in close proximity to the oil trade routes from the Middle East and to the Indian Ocean. Thus, as the United States and China are vying for regional (and global) dominance, Kelly warned that cohabitation “will be a challenge for all involved.” Such concerns are exacerbated by Beijing’s ongoing ambiguity regarding the purpose of the naval base. The construction project is merely referred to as ”military supporting facilities” intended to “provide better logistics and safeguard Chinese peacekeeping forces in the Gulf of Aden, offshore Somalia and other humanitarian assistance tasks of the UN.” Apart from making concerned efforts to dispel America’s worries or even outright dismissing them, China is downplaying the base’s role in strategic military expansion. Instead, Beijing has sought to justify the installations in terms of its increasing responsibilities within the UN framework.”

Is Australia The Key To U.S. Containment Of China? Robert O. Freedman, The Diplomat. “While the attention of the United States continues to be focused on the Middle East and the battle against ISIS – despite President Obama’s hope to “pivot to Asia” – China has been behaving in an increasingly aggressive way in the Eastern Pacific, claiming large swaths of ocean as its territorial waters. It has built artificial islands on reefs in the ocean that are under dispute with other Southeast Asia countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam. China has also deployed fighter jets and anti-aircraft missiles on another disputed island in the South China Sea. China’s actions have threatened freedom of navigation through the South Pacific, potentially jeopardizing the $5 trillion of seaborne trade which traverses the region annually. In response to the Chinese actions, which have been denounced not only by the United States, but also throughout Asia, the U.S. has endeavored to organize greater military cooperation among the nations of Asia, including Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Australia. In addition, India, a long-time foe of China, has recently stepped up its cooperation with the emerging anti-China alignment and even Indonesia, which has recently clashed with China over the activities of Chinese fishing boats in territorial waters claimed by Indonesia, may be attracted to the grouping. Yet, in many ways, the key to containing China may lie in Australia, a country of 24 million people with decidedly mixed feelings about China. On the one hand, as an island nation, Australia is heavily dependent on maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, through which much of its trade passes. On the other hand, China is Australia’s main trading partner, and a major consumer of Australian raw materials such as iron ore. These conflicting pressures have generated a rather schizophrenic Australian policy toward China. Thus, while Australia has an agreement with the United States to rotate 2,500 U.S. troops through its northern port of Darwin, it has also signed an agreement to lease the port to Landbridge, a Chinese company linked to the Chinese military. In addition, the recently released Australian Defense White Paper called for the acquisition of 12 advanced submarines along with other naval craft, which could be used against China. The white paper clearly states that Australia opposes any coercive or unilateral actions to change the status quo in the South China Sea. Reinforcing this articulated position, in a recent visit to Japan Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reiterated Australia’s “unshakable” commitment to freedom of navigation through the South China Sea. Nonetheless, Australia has yet to send one of its navy ships through the disputed waterways, despite the urging of U.S. Admiral Joseph Aucoin, who visited Australia at the end of February. So far, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who replaced Tony Abbott in an Australian Liberal Party palace coup in September 2015, has remained reticent about Australia’s willingness to directly challenge China by sending Australian naval vessels through the Chinese-claimed waters. During Turnbull’s forthcoming visit to China, the Chinese leadership may be expected to pressure him not to do so. But this could change, for two reasons. First, Turnbull is likely to call for an early election, most probably in July, and this would open him up to increased criticism of his defense policy from the opposition Australian Labor Party, which has been rising in the polls. Labor’s defense spokesman, Stephen Conroy, has already blasted Turnbull for his lack of action and “vague” language” on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. In addition, Tony Abbott, a strong proponent of more muscular action against China and of closer Australian-Japanese defense cooperation, may snipe at Turnbull during the campaign for the lack of toughness in his defense policy. Second, by mid-year, a decision will be made on whether Australia will buy its submarines from Japan, France, or Germany. Japan reportedly has already promised Turnbull that some of the components for the submarines would be built in Australia – a needed shot in the arm for Australia’s defense industry, especially in cities like Adelaide where jobs have been lost because of a declining automotive industry. If the decision favors Japan, this would strengthen Australian-Japanese ties at a time of rising Sino-Japanese tension. While such a decision would not guarantee that Australia would send its naval vessels through the disputed waters of the South China Sea, it would make Australia, de facto, a more prominent member of the growing anti-China alignment in Asia. This is the reason that the Chinese have condemned the proposed submarine sale so strongly. In any case, the coming Australian election and the submarine procurement decision may provide important clues as to the future direction of Australian policy toward China.”

Team Obama At Sea. The Wall Street Journal (Opinion). “As U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter begins a tour of the Philippines Wednesday, China is threatening to build an artificial island within missile range of Manila. Mr. Carter’s challenge is to deliver a more credible message of deterrence than the Obama Administration has so far. In a Friday speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, the Pentagon chief touted several valuable initiatives, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, new weapon systems and deeper ties with India and other regional powers. He also promised an “ironclad” commitment to the Philippines. But he refused to say that China has broken its pledge not to “militarize” the Spratly Islands. “China is one of many claimants to various features throughout the region, many of which have taken steps that we oppose, namely militarization,” he said before noting that China has “outstripped” the rest. China’s behavior “disquiets the region” but “won’t affect our operations,” he said. Yet U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris warned last year that Beijing could take “de facto control of the South China Sea in any scenario short of war.” Mr. Carter also said nothing about Scarborough Shoal, which has dominated regional concern since Chinese survey ships were seen there last month possibly preparing to build another artificial island. A base at Scarborough, 120 miles off the Philippine island of Luzon, would help Beijing threaten Manila, monitor Philippine and U.S. forces at Subic Bay and control the South China Sea’s central shipping lanes. Beijing seized Scarborough from Philippine control four years ago, violating a mutual-withdrawal agreement brokered by the U.S. Mr. Carter’s muted rhetoric is consistent with the Navy Times account last week of White House efforts to limit comment on the South China Sea, reportedly including a “gag order” to military commanders before Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Washington for the recent nuclear summit. Officials have denied the reports, but last year the Administration delayed sending a “freedom of navigation” patrol by China’s artificial islands until after a state visit by Mr. Xi. The Administration has touted its freedom of navigation patrols in waters claimed by Beijing, though two patrols in six months isn’t enough. The U.S. has treated both as “innocent passage,” meaning the patrolling ships turned off their radar and grounded their aircraft, moves that typically signal recognition of another country’s territorial waters—exactly the wrong message to send concerning China’s illegal island outposts. Asked about this at Friday’s speech, Mr. Carter mostly ducked. More urgent than the next Navy patrol is noting publicly that the U.S. is treaty-bound to respond to an attack on Philippine “armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the Pacific.” U.S. leaders have avoided this language, likely out of fear that Philippine forces could draw the U.S. into a hot conflict, but the defense treaty has been in force for decades. The U.S. is obligated to respond to any unprovoked attack on its ally around Scarborough Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal or elsewhere. The value of saying so is to clarify to China that the U.S. isn’t ducking its responsibility. On a 2014 trip to Asia, President Obama clarified that the U.S.-Japan defense treaty covers the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. Beijing eased its presence in the area. But on the same trip Mr. Obama signaled that the Spratly Islands aren’t covered by the U.S.-Philippine treaty. China has since built and militarized artificial islands across the Spratlys. If the U.S. wants to prevent the same from happening to Scarborough Shoal, vague promises of “ironclad” commitment aren’t enough.”


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 Alex Gray | April 12, 2016

U.S. Navy Joins China, Other Nations For Komodo Sea Exercise In Indonesia. Erik Slavin, Stars and Stripes. “The U.S. and China are among 35 world navies gathered in Indonesia for sea exercises and talks aimed at promoting stability amid regional tensions over territory and freedom of navigation. Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo continues with a second gathering after its launch in 2014. The port and sea training coincide with the 15th Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a dialog that produced the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, or CUES, between the U.S. and Chinese navies two years ago. CUES has been praised by both navies as instrumental in preventing conflict between U.S. ships navigating through what the majority of nations consider waters open to innocent passage and navigation under international law. China maintains an ambiguous claim to about 90 percent of the South China Sea and has often shadowed U.S. ships in those waters. Beijing maintains it has the authority to regulate overflight and navigation over much of the area, which includes territory claimed by several other nations. Some U.S. officials have advocated extending a similar protocol to “white-hulled ships,” the catch-all for coast guard, paramilitary and armed vessels that aren’t painted navy gray. “We’ve done a lot with CUES to address combatant-to-combatant [encounters] so there’s no miscalculation,” 7th Fleet commander Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin told Defense News during a press conference in Singapore in February. “But I have a greater fear that some of these others, Coast Guard – what we refer to as “white shipping” – cabbage ships [local cargo ships], I’m not sure about their professionalism. I think that having a code of conduct to cover that would be a good thing. That definitely is a concern of mine.” China’s coast guard and ships from Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, and others have engaged in repeated standoffs over territorial disputes in the South and East China seas. Both the exercise and the symposium are headquartered in Padang, capital of West Sumatra. U.S. participants include the USS Stockdale, Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, Patrol Squadron 8, Destroyer Squadron 7 and Staff from the Navy’s Singapore-based Task Force 73. The sea phase features 48 ships and aircraft working on divisional tactics, small-boat operations, flight operations with helicopters and maritime patrol aircraft, and communication drills, a Navy statement said.”

Japan Sends Helicopter Destroyer To South China Sea. Franz-Stefan Gady, The Diplomat. “Last week, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) has dispatched the JS Ise, a 1 3,950-ton Hyūga-class helicopter destroyer, through the South China Sea to participate in the Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo (MNEK) 2016 hosted by the Indonesian Navy on April 12-16, according to Japanese media reports. MNEK will take place in the waters off the western Indonesian city of Padang, the capital of the province of West Sumatra, and focus on maritime peacekeeping operations, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief scenarios. The last (and first) MNEK was held in 2014 near Batam, Indonesia. The chief of staff of the JMSDF, Admiral Tomohisa Takei, told reporters that he hopes Japan’s participation in MNEK will help sharpen the JMSDF’s tactical skills, build trust, and deepen cooperation among participating countries. According to JMSDF officials interviewed by The Japan Times, the passage of the JS Ise through the South China Sea has nothing to do with the U.S. Navy’s freedom of navigation operations near Chinese-occupied artificial islands in the area. However, an unnamed Japanese official told Sankei Shimbun that the presence of the JS Ise in the South China Sea is sending a “strong message” to China and its building activities there. The Japanese warship also made a port call in Subic Bay in the Philippines last week. Another unnamed Japanese defense official speaking to Yomiuri Shimbun said that the JS Ise’s visit to the Philippines was “aimed at promoting friendly relations, but it also includes a strong message to keep China in check.” A small flotilla of JMSDF warships was also slated to pay a port visit to Vietnam this month, but until now no news has emerged whether this port call took place just yet. During a March 2016 press conference, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei commented on Japanese warships transiting the South China Sea: “Japan once illegally occupied China’s islands in the South China Sea during WWII. We are on high alert against Japan’s attempt to return to the South China Sea through military means.” The JS Ise ‘helicopter destroyer’ is an aircraft carrier in disguise and one of the most advanced anti-submarine warfare platforms of the JMSDF. It can carry up to 11 SH-60J/K Seahawk anti-submarine helicopters, but could also be modified to accommodate F-35B Joint Strike Fighters or MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. JS Ise also was the flagship of a flotilla that participated in an annual JMSDF-U.S. Navy war game, codenamed Guam Exercise (Guamex), near the U.S.-owned island of Guam in the northwestern Pacific Ocean in January  2016 (See: ”US and Japan Hold Naval Drills off Guam”).”

Navy May Charge Officer With Giving China And Taiwan Secrets, Officials Say. Matthew Rosenberg and Helene Cooper, The New York Times. “The Navy is weighing charges of espionage against an officer who is a naturalized American citizen and has been under investigation since last year on suspicion of providing secret information to China and Taiwan, United States officials said. The allegations against the officer, Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin, 39, who was born in Taiwan, are part of a secretive espionage case in which Commander Lin is also accused of visiting a prostitute. United States officials, who were not authorized to speak publicly because the investigation into the officer is continuing, said Navy investigators believed that Commander Lin provided secret information to a Chinese girlfriend. The officials could not say how the information was then passed on to Taiwanese or Chinese officials, but Commander Lin, a flight officer who worked on Navy spy planes, is accused of communicating secret information knowing that it would be used by a foreign government. The other charges being considered against Commander Lin include hiring a prostitute, committing adultery – a crime in the military – and not disclosing foreign travel to the United States government, and then lying about it. For Commander Lin, who moved to the United States as a teenager, the allegations represent a huge reversal. The Navy had held him up as an example of what immigrants can achieve in the United States and in the military. The Navy featured his personal story in December 2008 in a public affairs report on his naturalization ceremony, which took place in the United States District Court in Honolulu. “Lin was 14 years old when he and his family left Taiwan,” the report said. “They had to travel halfway around the world, stopping in different countries along the way where they had to quickly adapt to new cultures and to find inventive ways to communicate while learning new languages.” The report quoted Commander Lin as saying, “I always dreamt about coming to America, the ‘promised land.’” “I grew up believing that all the roads in America lead to Disneyland,” he added, according to the report. It went on to say that “upon arriving, he quickly found out that it was not about where the roads lead, but where his future in America would take him.” Until his arrest in September, Commander Lin’s path did appear to be that of an American success story. He enlisted in 1999, and three years later he attended Officer Candidate School, receiving his commission in May 2002, according to his Navy biography. He went on to serve in a variety of roles as a flight officer, and attended the United States Naval War College in Newport, R.I., from December 2010 to February 2012. From there he went to a job on the Navy staff at the Pentagon, and then was assigned to the Special Projects Patrol Squadron 2 in Hawaii, the last assignment before his arrest. An Article 32 hearing, the military equivalent of a grand jury, was held for Commander Lin on Friday, and a decision about whether to formally bring his case before a full court-martial is expected by next week, the officials said. The charge sheet that was considered at the Article 32 hearing, two officials said, included only allegations of spying for Taiwan; the possibility that he also spied for China is still the subject of the investigation, which is being conducted jointly by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI, they said. Commander Lin has been in pretrial confinement at the Navy Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Va., since his arrest, the officials said. The Navy has not formally identified Commander Lin in connection with the case, but it was first reported by USNI News and later confirmed by United States officials.”

India, U.S. Reach Preliminary Agreement On Sharing Military Logistics Amid China Challenge. Yeganeh Torbati and Tommy Wilkes, Reuters. “ndia and the United States have agreed in principle to share military logistics, the countries' defense ministers said on Tuesday, as both sides seek to counter the growing maritime assertiveness of China. Washington has for years urged New Delhi to sign a Logistics Support Agreement that allows the two militaries to use each other's land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest. India has had concerns that a logistics agreement would commit it to hosting U.S. troops at its bases, or draw it into a military alliance with the United States and undermine its traditional autonomy. But after years of delays, the two sides said an agreement was in hand, although not yet ready for signing. "We have agreed in principle that all the issues are resolved," U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters in New Delhi after talks with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar. The two sides would finalize the text of an agreement in coming weeks, Carter said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration, faced with an assertive China expanding its influence in the South China Sea and into the Indian Ocean, has signaled its desire to draw closer to the United States. China is also a close ally of India's arch rival, Pakistan. Modi is also keen to access U.S. technology for his "Make in India" plans to build a domestic industrial base and cut expensive arms imports. The U.S. military has made clear it wants to do more with India, especially in countering China. Carter is on his second visit to India in less than a year, aimed at cementing defense cooperation in the final months of Barack Obama's presidency. Washington's desire for deeper security cooperation with India has been tricky without the signing of the logistics agreement, as well as two other pacts that would allow for secure communications and the exchange of nautical and other data. The agreements are considered routine between the United States and its other defense partners. Reaching the logistics agreement would make it easier to conclude the other two pacts, a senior U.S. defense official said. "There's increasing recognition on the Indian side that there's real mutual benefits to doing them, so I do think that the prospects are good," the official said, on condition of anonymity. Carter said the two countries would also soon conclude an agreement on exchanging information on commercial shipping. He said the two countries were also advancing collaboration in aircraft carrier design and technology, potentially the biggest joint project since they launched a Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) in 2012. India, which operates a re-tooled Russian-built carrier, plans to build its biggest indigenous carrier, for which is it looking at U.S. technology to launch heavier aircraft. "We have decided to take forward discussions under DTTI more aggressively on key areas such as jet engine technology. We will also continue our very useful and productive discussions on cooperation ... on aircraft carriers," Parrikar said. India is concerned about China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean, traditionally New Delhi's backyard, and it said on Tuesday that it had agreed with the United States to launch discussions between the countries' two navies on anti-submarine warfare and submarine safety.”

Air Defense Options For Taiwan: An Assessment Of Relative Costs And Operational Benefits. Michael Lostumbo, David Frelinger, James Williams, Bary Wilson; RAND Corporation. “Taiwan faces one of the most difficult air defense problems in the world. Because of that, it cannot easily look to how other nations have invested in air defenses to guide its force structure decisions. What makes Taiwan's air defense problem so difficult is the combination of its proximity to China and the massive investments that the People's Republic of China has made in a range of systems that threaten Taiwan's aircraft. China's fighter aircraft capabilities have surpassed those of Taiwan in the air. Furthermore, China now has the capability to destroy all of Taiwan's aircraft at their bases. Thus, Taiwan needs to rethink how it can accomplish its air defense goals. Fighter aircraft are not the only element of Taiwan's air defense; surface-to-air missiles are the other major element. This report analyzes how Taiwan might approach air defense, by downsizing and shifting its fighter aircraft force to focus on coercive scenarios, increasing its investment in surface-to-air missiles, and dedicating its surface-based air defense to becoming an enduring warfighting capability able to contribute throughout the duration of a sustained and effective defense of Taiwan. It describes the essential air defense problem posed by the People's Liberation Army, characterizes the current capabilities and level of funding that Taiwan invests in air defense, and then develops several alternative investment strategies. The authors then test those investment strategies in three vignettes that span the range of conflict, from quite limited coercive uses of force to a full invasion.”

South China Sea: 3 Ways To Win The Money War. Eddie Linczer, The National Interest. “China’s domination of the South China Sea is not yet a fait accompli, but the United States must implement a countercoercion strategy more urgently in order to maintain a favorable balance of power. Since the beginning of this year, China has deployed surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles, as well as fighter aircraft, to Woody Island, a part of the Paracel Island chain in the South China Sea. These actions are stepping stones for China to dispatch missile batteries and jets to the more geopolitically significant Spratly Island chain. Now, there is growing concern that Beijing may declare an air-defense identification zone in the South China Sea. Left unchallenged, the Chinese are on track to create “mini denial zones” and bring greater coercive force to bear against neighboring Southeast Asian states. If current trends continue, the South China Sea will be a “Chinese lake” before 2030. Rollback of Chinese gains in the South China Sea is not a viable policy option—the island building is a reality and, short of force, there is little Washington can do to make China withdraw from features it occupies. Thus, Washington must focus its efforts on preventing Beijing from expelling another claimant from a contested territory. One component of U.S. strategy should be the expansion of military assistance programs for Southeast Asian partners. Littoral Southeast Asian states badly need maritime domain awareness capabilities, coast guard and naval vessels, and coastal defenses, as well as additional training to fend off Chinese maritime coercion—all of which the United States can provide. Since the announcement of the pivot to Asia in 2011, the United States has launched several initiatives to build partner capacity in Southeast Asia, including loosening arms export restrictions on Vietnam and negotiating an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines. The U.S. military also maintains relatively small ongoing programs to provide maritime domain awareness and increase patrol capacity for Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. However, despite the current administration’s strategic prioritization of the Asia-Pacific, the United States still only devotes 1 percent of its foreign military financing (FMF) to Asia, a number not commensurate with our interests in the region. The next administration will need to ramp up its military assistance efforts if it hopes to provide American partners with a minimum credible deterrent. There are three main policy considerations that ought to guide capacity building for American partners. First, the United States needs to supply additional arms and training to boost partners’ maritime operational capabilities. In fiscal year 2014, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam collectively only received $74 million in FMF funding. By comparison, Egypt receives $1.3 billion in FMF every year. The administration also spent $500 million on a Syrian rebel train-and-equip program (not an FMF program) that was ultimately scrapped as a failure. Admittedly, these are imperfect comparisons, but the point remains that the United States continues to spend “budget dust,” relatively speaking, to assist our Southeast Asian partners in resisting Chinese maritime coercion. For the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee, led by Senator John McCain, rolled out a five-year, $425 million, Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) to provide further training, infrastructure construction and vessels for Southeast Asian partners. However, Congress ultimately only authorized $50 million for FY 2016, rather than the entire five-year program, which makes it difficult to plan out multiyear projects. In its FY 2017 request, the Pentagon asked for $60 million for the MSI and reiterated its plans for the full $425 million, five-year effort. In the coming budget battle, whether Congress decides to fund the program in its entirety will be a key barometer of America’s commitment to maintaining the peace in Asia. Both China and American partners will be watching. A new administration could lead the way by expanding the Maritime Security Initiative, which is directed by the Department of Defense and is not an FMF program, as well as proposing a robust Foreign Military Sales package to the Philippines within the first one hundred days in office. In April 2001, President Bush announced a substantial military assistance package for Taiwan as a signal of his administration’s priorities. The next president should consider a similar move with Manila, albeit one that suits the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ needs and capabilities. U.S. assistance to the Philippines, as with any partner, should balance funding for logistics, maintenance and workforce systems with that for the actual defense hardware.”

How To Turn The Heat Down In The South China Sea. Michael H. Fuchs, DefenseOne. “On April 5, Indonesia blew up 23 Malaysian and Vietnamese fishing vessels in a public display to deter others from illegally fishing in its waters. That was one day after Vietnamese state media announced that Vietnamese authorities detained a Chinese vessel accused of illegally entering Vietnamese waters. And that same week, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel forcefully freed a Chinese fishing vessel from Indonesian authorities that had detained the vessel. This is the new normal in the South China Sea. While this strategic patch of ocean has long seen international maritime incidents – even deadly ones – the pace has climbed rapidly in recent years. Tensions have risen as China has taken more frequent and provocative steps to assert its authority over claimed waters, and its regional neighbors have begun to push back. In 2014, China deployed a massive oil rig in disputed waters with Vietnam, leading to clashes between vessels. Between 2013 and 2015, China dredged enough sand from the bottom of the South China Sea to build more than 2,900 acres of new land, on which it appears to be constructing bases. And ships from China and the Philippines have squared off near Scarborough Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, and elsewhere. The incidents between claimant countries are occurring alongside an emerging U.S.-China confrontation in the South China Sea, with vessels from both countries increasingly challenging one another, as illustrated by journalist Helene Cooper on her recent voyage. As the pace of incidents climbs, so too does the possibility of unintended escalation. With long-term solutions to sovereignty claims and resource disputes nowhere on the horizon, the countries of the region need to find a way to lower tensions now. To do so, the United States must push China and the other claimant countries—Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam—to create an incident prevention system in the South China Sea. First, the countries should build a communal maritime domain awareness system to provide transparency of ship movements. Information sharing among various countries and non-governmental entities could provide the necessary data, and the system could be monitored at a physical center attended by representatives from all claimant countries. The new information hub might even be built on an existing mechanism such as Singapore’s Information Fusion Centre or the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance. Second, countries must take the very difficult step of living up to their commitments not to respond to incursions into perceived sovereign waters with force, but instead only with diplomacy. While the parties have already signed up to this in principle in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the new hub would help make this work by providing an opportunity for the relevant countries to monitor and respond to each incident in real time and to immediately negotiate de-escalation. Third, the countries must agree to apply the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea to all vessels. The CUES, a 2014 agreement whose 21 signatories include all the relevant South China Sea parties, establishes guidelines for preventing incidents between navies and avoiding escalation when incidents occur. It’s a step forward that would go much further if applied to the more incident-prone Coast Guard and fishing vessels.”

How China Upstaged U.S. With A ‘Great Wall Of Sand.’ Andrew Browne, The Wall Street Journal. “Armed only with a set of revolving teeth, the Tian Jing Hao, Asia’s largest dredger, has pulled off a stunning naval upset. Under the noses of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, this Chinese vessel led a civilian armada that built almost 3,000 acres of land atop submerged reefs in the Spratly Islands, altering a strategic balance that has held since the great naval battles of World War II established U.S. primacy in the Western Pacific. The construction began shortly after the Philippines challenged China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea by filing a case at a U.N.-backed tribunal in The Hague in January 2014. Now, on the eve of a legal verdict, China has achieved its objective: a new geography in the world’s busiest commercial waterway where China’s claims overlap with those of five neighbors, also including Vietnam and Malaysia. However the five judges decide the case, China has permanently altered facts on the ground in its favor. The seven Spratly outcrops on which it has built runways, docks, radar and other facilities give China the ability to project new military force in its contest with America for regional mastery. Possession, after all, is nine-tenths of the law. And China’s island-building may not have ended. The Pentagon fears that Chinese dredgers might be planning a fresh round of construction on Scarborough Shoal that it effectively seized from the Philippines in 2012, which would give the People’s Liberation Army a jumping-off point just 140 miles from Manila. It’s bracing, too, for China to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone over the entire South China Sea, which China could enforce from its artificial islands. China has pledged to ignore the tribunal’s findings. China’s land reclamation won’t change the legal case in The Hague; semisubmerged reefs don’t become islands even if you build on them. Nevertheless, slow-moving Chinese dredgers have outmaneuvered the world’s most powerful navy. China’s political leaders calculated, correctly, that America wouldn’t risk war over a bunch of uninhabited rocks and reefs to stop them. Yet what the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., has termed China’s “Great Wall of Sand” has raised the risk of future conflicts. A regional arms race is under way. China’s smaller neighbors feel bullied and threatened by what’s become the sharp end of Beijing’s diplomacy: powerful cutters attached to the dredgers that have unleashed environmental devastation, hacking to bits pristine coral and threatening marine life such as the migratory yellowfin and skipjack tuna. Their resentments are only partially soothed by the softer side of China’s regional engagement – hundreds of billions of dollars it has earmarked for infrastructure investment. Moreover, China’s moves to balloon specks of coral into military-capable platforms have helped spawn new regional networks aimed at blunting Chinese advances. This week, in the latest sign of how Chinese assertiveness is bringing together old wartime adversaries, two Japanese warships and a submarine are visiting the Philippines naval base of Subic Bay, which looks out toward the Spratlys, as thousands of American, Australian and Philippine forces conduct drills to prepare for potential crises. The so-called “cutter suction dredgers” – the debris they create is vacuumed up underwater and showered onto the reefs through long pipes – have created a dilemma for U.S. President Barack Obama.”

China Expects The U.S. To Roll Over. Joseph Bosco, The National Interest. “Former Pacific Commander and former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has rendered yet another valuable public service, this time as head of Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (SPF). The organization has produced a comprehensive report assessing China’s evolving strategic posture and presenting alternative scenarios for the U.S.-Japan alliance response to the ensuing threats and opportunities. While the paper is dispassionate and clear-eyed about the risks and openings presented by China's rise, the implications are ominous. The paper posits four possible outcomes for a future China: a powerful and benevolent state; a powerful and aggressive state; a weak and inward-looking state, or a weak and aggressive state. The study offers a caveat, however: “It is dangerous to base an Alliance strategy on a single future for the China of 2030 . . . [It] . . . will not fall neatly into any of the four alternatives . . . The most likely scenario is elements of different futures. Theoretical neatness aside, the report also states that "current trends project a somewhat more powerful and aggressive China than the United States and Japan have dealt with in the past." Indeed, on its own terms the report already identifies China's present course as increasingly threatening. We don't need another ten to fifteen years to know from the preponderance of evidence that we already face the worst-case scenario: a powerful and aggressive China that is on course to become even more powerful and more aggressive. The even more powerful nature of this "future" China, the report prognosticates, would consist of a predominantly market-based economy with growth of five to seven percent; increased restrictions on foreign businesses in China; strongly mercantilist policies overseas; and high defense spending approaching that of the United States. Most of these characteristics are already true of today's China or are rapidly becoming the status quo. As for the aggressive part of the picture, this "future China" would use its "economic and military advantage . . . to support its current core interests—primacy of the CCP, reunification with Taiwan, secure administration of Tibet and Xinjiang, and success in pursuing its claims in the East and South China Seas"—again, all of which China is now doing. (An additional area would be expansionist claims vis a vis India and the Indian Ocean which China is not yet pursuing vigorously.) Support for the near-certainty of an increasingly powerful and aggressive China can also be found in other sections of the text. For example, Xi Jinping is said to see his “new model of great power relations” as the key to a stable U.S.-China relationship. The report offers two alternatives to understand “Beijing’s calculus for achieving this stability”. In a best-case scenario, the Chinese seek to ensure that competitive elements in the U.S.-China relationship remain firmly under control— roughly analogous to the period of U.S.-Soviet détente during the Cold War. During that earlier period of détente, the Soviet Union cracked down on internal dissent, conducted an increasingly interventionist foreign policy in Latin America and Africa, and invaded Afghanistan—hardly a posture the West would want China to emulate. Additionally, there is the report's “less benign assessment” of China's new model. China is using the framework of great power relations to seek U.S. acquiescence to China’s definition of “core interests,” which include maintaining China’s political system, territorial claims, and way of shaping and applying international rules and regimes. In other words, the United States would accept China’s regional, and quite possibly global hegemony. Under both the “best case” and “less benign” scenarios, the U.S. response must be either capitulation or confrontation.”

Introducing ‘Shamefare’: How To Push Back Against China In The South China Sea. Harry Kazianis, Asia Times. “The rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) — when the history books have enough perspective to quantify and objectively examine its sheer spectacle — will certainly declare it the speediest accumulation of national power in all of human history. Whatever you think of its brutal authoritarian nature, Beijing has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty, secured most of its land borders and built a mighty navy and anti-access capability that would give its greatest competitor, the United States, major challenges in any open, kinetic conflict. But Beijing’s rise comes at a steep cost, a cost that might be bared collectively by the Asia-Pacific region in the form of an increasingly open and aggressive challenge of the collective regional status-quo. Open any history book and the problem is quite clear after a few pages: There is no more challenging dilemma in the long, tortured tale that is geopolitics than when a rising power challenges the status-quo — and its neighbors are usually the ones that suffer, and suffer mightily. History is littered with example after example of borders being cast aside, millions upon millions dead, countries leveled to near ash with one nation standing tall above all others. Resentment towards the new hegemon, superpower or great power — whatever your choice of words — grows from generation to generation. A cycle of anger becomes ingrained and spread throughout history that proves near impossible to move past until enough blood is spilt — and a tragic pattern of war and chaos seems to take over a region. Today, in the Asia-Pacific, we see the tragedy that is known as great power politics playing out again once more — especially in the South China Sea. Smaller nations around the region, especially Vietnam and other claimants of rocks and reefs throughout these rocky waters have been placed in the toughest of binds: how to push back against a much larger and rising power that seems bent on changing the status-quo. Hanoi and fellow ASEAN nations must be cautious — pushing too hard could sow the seeds of a crisis that could turn kinetic, however, doing too little only invites Beijing to slowly change the facts on the ground, or, in the case of the South China Sea, simply create new ones that are near impossible to counter in kind. So what is to be done? Nations under constant pressure by the PRC must look for non-kinetic, asymmetric means to counter China’s growing ability to change the status-quo. Last week, in these very digital pages, I offered a multi-part plan that Washington could utilize to put Beijing on the defensive in the South China Sea. One part of that strategy, what I have named “shamefare,” could also be used by claimant states, especially by Vietnam, to fully expose China’s methods of near constant coercion. The goal is simple: put China on the defensive and shame the PRC in the media — especially social media — time and time again. It might not be as sexy as building islands, but it does stand the chance, when combined with other methods, to make Beijing pay a heavy and near constant price for its actions, with the hope that they would reconsider them.”

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 Alex Gray | April 06, 2016

US Military Cyber Head Questions Beijing’s Spying Activities. Agence France-Press, SpaceDaily. “Six months after Washington and Beijing agreed not to conduct cyber attacks on each other's private sector for commercial gain, a top US spy questioned Tuesday whether China has cut such activities. In September 2015, President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping announced an accord under which neither the United States nor the Chinese government would conduct cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property. But Admiral Michael Rogers, who heads the US military's Cyber Command, told lawmakers it was unclear if the Chinese government was holding up its end of the deal. "We continue to see them engaged in activity directed against US companies. The question I think we still need to ask is, is that activity then in turn shared with the Chinese private industry?" Rogers told the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington. He acknowledged nations -- including the United States -- routinely use cyber to "gain access or knowledge" but suggested American spy agencies don't share insights with the private sector. "The ... issue we've always had with the Chinese is while we understand we do that for nations to generate insight, using that then to generate economic advantage is not something that is acceptable to the US," he said, later adding the "jury is still out" on whether China indeed passes intel to the business world. The US Cyber Command is charged with protecting America's military and some of its major civilian networks from attacks, as well as deploying its own offensive cyber strategies if needed. By 2018, it will have more than 6,000 military and civilian technical experts working across 133 teams, Rogers said. One such team, comprising about 65 people, today works in the Middle East and carries out cyber operations against the Islamic State group's networks. "USCYBERCOM is executing orders to make it more difficult for ISIL to plan or conduct attacks against the US or our allies from their bases in Iraq and Syria to keep our service men and women safer as they conduct kinetic operations to degrade, dismantle, and ultimately destroy ISIL," Rogers told lawmakers, using an IS acronym. The Pentagon pans to spend a total of $6.7 billion in the 2017 budget -- up 15.5 percent from the previous year. In all, the Pentagon is projected to spend $34.6 billion over the coming five years.”

First Microgravity Satellite Sent Into Orbit From Gansu. Cheng Yingqi, China Daily. “China successfully launched its first microgravity satellite, the SJ-10, at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province today at 1:38 am. Designed in the shape of a bullet, the SJ-10 carries 19 experimental loads for 28 scientific research projects in microgravity, a very low gravity that mimics weightlessness, including research into fluid physics, fire safety on manned space flights, coal combustion and materials processing. Microgravity experiments have previously been carried out on space facilities, including space stations, space shuttles and research rockets. The SJ-10 will stay in the orbit for a few days and an orbital module will stay in orbit another few days for additional experiments.  "The recoverable satellite is a useful and efficient tool for microgravity experiments, compared to space stations and research rockets," said physicist Hu Wenrui, chief scientist of SJ-10 and a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The SJ-10 project is being carried out in a partnership with 11 institutes of the CAS and six Chinese universities in cooperation with the European Space Agency and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Started in 2011, the Strategic Priority Program on Space Science plans to launch four satellites by the end of the year. The first satellite of this program, a dark-matter satellite, was launched in December and already is collecting data. The program also plans to launch a satellite for quantum science experiments and a hard X-ray telescope for black hole and neutron star studies.”

China Begins Operation Of Lighthouse On Artificial Island In South China Sea. Ben Blanchard, Reuters. “China has begun operating a lighthouse on one of its artificial islands in the South China Sea near which a U.S. warship sailed last year to challenge China's territorial claims. China claims most of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. But neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims. China's transport ministry held a "completion ceremony,” marking the start of operations at the 55-metre (180-ft) high lighthouse on Subi Reef, where construction began in October, state news agency Xinhua said late on Tuesday. The U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in late October, drawing an angry rebuke from China, which called it "extremely irresponsible.” Subi Reef is an artificial island built up by China over the past year or so. Before Chinese dredging turned it into an island, Subi was submerged at high tide. Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, 12-nautical-mile limits cannot be set around man-made islands built on previously submerged reefs. China says much of its construction in the South China Sea is designed to fulfil its international obligations in terms of maritime safety, search and rescue and scientific research. Xinhua said the lighthouse, which emits a white light at night, "can provide efficient navigation services such as positioning reference, route guidance and navigation safety information to ships, which can improve navigation management and emergency response.” The South China Sea is an important maritime area and major fishing ground, it added. "However, high traffic density, complex navigation condition, severe shortage in aids and response forces have combined to threaten navigation safety and hindered economic and social development in the region." China has lighthouse projects on two other reefs in the area – Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef.”

Pentagon Trying To Stop Chinese Air Defense Zone In Disputed Sea. Bill Gertz, The Asia Times. “Amid signs China will soon impose an air exclusion zone over the South China Sea, the Pentagon is trying to head off another destabilizing action by Beijing in the increasingly tense region. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work last week made clear the United States would not recognize China’s imposition of an air defense identification zone over the sea. “We will not recognize the ADIZ in the South China Sea,” Work told the Washington Post. The deputy defense secretary noted that a similar Chinese strategic move in the nearby East China Sea also remains unrecognized by the United States. Of plans for the creation of a new ADIZ in the South China Sea, Work said such a declaration “does not have a basis in international law and we’ve said over and over we will fly, sail and go wherever international law allows.” Pentagon officials said there are troubling indicators the Chinese are planning to impose a new ADIZ in a region where Beijing’s military has reclaimed some 3,200 acres of disputed islands and has begin adding missiles – both air defense and recently anti-ship missiles – to Woody Island, in the Paracels chain. China has not denied it is considering the new air zone. Government spokesmen have said whether an ADIZ is declared will be based on threats – a not so subtle insinuation that recent US Navy freedom of navigation operations within 12 miles of disputed islands is a rationale behind the air zone. Asked if China will impose an ADIZ, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Sr. Col. Yang Yujun, signaled the declaration could be made in the future. “For the ADIZ in the South China Sea, we have repeated our position on many occasions,” he said Thursday. “What I need to underscore here is that to set up an ADIZ is the right of a sovereign state and we don’t need other countries to make suggestions.” According to Pentagon officials, if China declares an ADIZ, not only will regional tensions sharply increase but the chance of a military confrontation between US forces – both air and sea – could be become more likely. The language used by the officials is that once imposed, China would demand that all aircraft that transit over the South China Sea would be required to notify Chinese authorities in advance of any flights. Thus, the an ADIZ declaration could signal the next stage of creeping Chinese hegemony in the region, something US Pacific Command commander Adm. Harry Harris has said is part of China’s goal to “change the operational landscape” of the region. US intelligence agencies are closely monitoring Chinese actions and statements and concluded last month that Beijing is incrementally moving to impose the air zone. One key indicator, according to US officials, will be whether China perceives its air security over the sea to be impacted negatively by U.S. warplanes and reconnaissance aircraft that regularly patrol what the Pentagon considers unrestricted, international airspace. Last November two B-52 bombers flew close to the disputed Spratlys islands, despite warnings from Chinese ground controllers to leave the area in what appeared to be a show of force. Days after the bomber overflight, however, the Pentagon apologized for the aircraft incursion, claiming the bombers went off course by mistake. The mixed message of asserting freedom to fly anywhere but then claiming the saber-rattling bomber mission was unintended sent a sign that some analysts say shows the United States is not really serious when it asserts that its ships and aircraft will fly or sail anywhere in the sea. State-run Chinese media, always a clear a reflection of Beijing’s strategic influence programs, since October have begun steadily stepping up calls for imposing a Chinese ADIZ over South China Sea ADIZ. The uptick in rhetoric coincided with the Navy’s first destroyer exercise of a freedom of navigation operation in the sea after a halt of several years. Officials said that if the same pattern used in 2013 to impose the East China Sea ADIZ declaration is followed this year, China likely will announce that its air security in the South China Sea is threatened, and then announced ADIZ shortly after.”

South China Sea: Australia Involved In Balikatan War Games Amid Warnings. Lindsay Murdoch, The Sydney Morning Herald. “Australian military personnel, including special force commandos, are taking part in three-nation war games near the flashpoint waters of the South China Sea that have riled China. China's state newsagency Xinhua warned "outsiders" against interfering in South China Sea territorial disputes as the 12-day exercises got underway in the Philippines. Xinhua warned that tensions in the region have risen to a "tipping point" and "some specific nations take delight in sowing seeds of discord between China and rival claimants, and boosting their military presences and patrols to thwart China in the name of safeguarding the freedom of navigation." "However, a provocation so fear-mongering and untimely as such is likely to boomerang on the initiators," Xinhua said. Australia has sent 86 military personnel, including 30 commandos from the 2nd Commando Regiment, to the annual war games called Balikatan that are hosted by the United States and the Philippines. An RAAF AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and crew will also participate. In a show of force amid concern about China's growing assertiveness in the region three Japanese war ships also docked at Subic Bay, the Philippines' strategic port, the first to include a Japanese submarine in 15 years. Japanese defence officials will attend the exercises only as observers but the U.S. Defence Department announced last week that Washington is in talks with Tokyo about Japan participating in future joint drills. Wing Commander Bill Talbot, commander of the Australian contingent, said Australia's involvement confirms Canberra's "friendship with and support to the Philippines while maintaining good interoperability with U.S. forces assigned to U.S. Pacific Command." Australia last year donated two heavy landing aircraft to the Philippine Navy which has one of the weakest militaries in the region. Australian personnel will be involved in a mock amphibious landing exercise as well as doing humanitarian work. U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter is to fly to the Philippines next week, reinforcing a newly signed defence pact with Manila that will see U.S. troops regularly deployed to five Philippine bases. Mr. Carter will observe live-firing from a U.S. war ship of high mobility rockets that the U.S. deployed for Balikatan, which means "shoulder to shoulder" in the Philippine language. The rockets are designed to shoot down aircraft. China, which lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, has been building airstrips and structures, including radar systems, on reefs and islands in the waterways through which U.S. $5 trillion of trade passes each year, sparking international concern. The U.S. has responded by conducting what it calls "freedom of navigation" patrols, sailing ships near disputed islands to underscore the right to freely navigate the seas. Adding to tensions, a decision is expected soon from a UN-backed tribunal on a legal challenge by the Philippines to China's territorial claims. Balikatan has evolved from past counter-terrorism manoeuvers against Islamic extremist groups in the southern Philippines to simulations of retaking and protecting territory as disputes with China have escalated in recent years. This is the third time Australian forces have participated in the exercises. Lieutenant-General John Toolan, commander of U.S. Marine Corps forces in the Pacific, told reporters in Manila that Balikatan would help U.S. allies improve maritime security and maintain regional stability. "Our alliance is strong. The United States is committed to this relationship and these are not empty words ... peace in south-east Asia depends on our cooperation," he said. Almost 10,000 military personnel will be taking part in the exercises which are centred around air bases just 230 kilometres from disputed waters. Other claimants to parts of the South China Seas are the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.”

Japan Shifting Amphibious, Costal Defense Units Closer To China; Australia Boosts Its Own Capability. Megan Eckstein, USNI. “Japan is boosting its amphibious and coastal defense capabilities, shifting security personnel to outer islands and converting ground forces into amphibious units capable of defending those islands from attack. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) is increasing its amphibious capability with an eye on its southwestern-most islands – past Okinawa, all the way to its farthest inhabited island of Yonaguni, which sits closer to mainland China than it does to Okinawa. With only two Japan Air Self-Defense Force radar sites between Okinawa and Yonaguni, the Japanese ground force has taken a renewed interest in protecting these islands, Col. Masashi Yamamoto, military attaché at the Embassy of Japan in Washington, said last week at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event. Yamamoto said that four weeks ago the JGSDF activated a coast observation unit on Yonaguni for the first time since World War II. He told USNI News after the event that future coastal security units would be set up in the southwestern islands, pulling troops from other parts of the country to focus on about 200 islands as far as 680 miles from mainland Japan. Additionally, an infantry regiment in the Western Army is being converted to an amphibious regiment – one of two that will create the first amphibious brigade by March 2018. Whereas the infantry regiment is designed to deploy to an island and protect it from foreign invasion, the amphibious regiment would have the capability to move from island to island, landing in contested environments if an enemy – specifically China, though Yamamoto did not single the country out – were to take Japanese territory. The amphibious force will be housed in the JGSDF rather than the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) – whereas the U.S. Marine Corps resides within the Navy instead of the Army – and the two Japanese forces are in the beginning stages of learning how to operate together. Yamamoto, an armor officer by trade, said the Ministry of Defense will procure 17 MV-22 Ospreys and 52 AAV-7 amphibious assault vehicles, also called amtracks, between fiscal years 2014 and 2018. However, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s three amphibious dock landing ships (LSDs) are designed for Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) operations. The JMSDF has money in the budget to strengthen the ships’ stern gates and make other modifications to prepare for amtracks instead of LCACs, Yamamoto said. “We finished the aligning of the amphibious brigade, and we have the budget for the acquisition of amtracks and Ospreys, but that is not enough,” he said. “We need well-trained and educated Self Defense Force members because amtracks and Ospreys are quite new equipment for us and we need to build this ability from scratch ... However, we have a good friend who is very familiar with amphibious operations. That is the Marine.” Japanese officers and non-commissioned officers are attending the Marine Corps University and the Expeditionary Warfare School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., he said. Japanese forces also teamed up with Marines at Camp Pendleton in California earlier this year for Iron First 2016, going to sea on an amphibious transport dock and learning to plan ship-to-shore operations. The infantry regiment being converted has experience only with small reconnaissance boats, so the unit’s leaders will need the Marine Corps’ help with everything from mastering AAV operations from the sea to the shore, to planning operations, to coordinating with the JMSDF and international navies. Yamamoto said at the event that the JGSDF has been trying to participate in both amphibious and non-amphibious exercises in the Pacific recently to help boost interoperability with potential partners beyond just the United States as it grows its amphibious force – and special attention has been paid to Australia, which is also in the process of growing an amphibious capability of its own.”

How China Fights: The PLA’s Strategic Doctrine. Ben Lowsen, The Diplomat. “As a wave of reform sweeps through China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), you might expect the PLA’s fighting doctrine to change as well. But you might be wrong. It appears that doctrine has predicted important reforms, namely the division of labor between the services and theater commands. But what else is the PLA working on? Its most authoritative doctrinal work is The Science of Military Strategy, last published in 2013 by the Academy of Military Science. The key elements of doctrine according to Strategy are described below. China’s national goal is to build a moderately prosperous society and achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese people by 2050. The PLA must ensure that neither internal nor external forces sabotage China’s economic engine or embarrass its national honor. The military’s key organizing principles to achieve these goals are active defense and local wars under “informationized” conditions. These describe the PLA’s expected manner of conflict and are watchwords for its training. “Active defense” means that China is willing to counter threats preemptively, even outside China’s sovereign territory. “Local wars” means that China will avoid becoming entangled in major conflicts, particularly those far away from China. Following the U.S. lead in the First Gulf War, the PLA has given pride of place to comprehensive digitization and networking, which it calls “informatization.” It hopes informatization will allow the PLA to operate seamlessly as a joint force and gain the initiative in conflict. Military deterrence operations use the threat of force to prevent potential opponents from engaging in hostilities. China defines deterrence in terms of the nuclear domain and conventional forces, with conventional deterrence being the normal means to achieve goals while nuclear deterrence is a “backstop,” a pillar of national power and final proof against outside dismantling of the Party-led state. China is investing heavily in military operations other than war (MOOTW), appearing more frequently abroad in counter-piracy, peacekeeping, civilian evacuation, humanitarian assistance, and other roles. MOOTW is not only good for China’s reputation but is also the best way for a peacetime military to gain practical experience while demonstrating its capability to mobilize military and civilian assets in support of national interests. China is also developing military applications within the space and cyber domains. Although conflict in these areas carries the potential for economic disaster, they receive significantly less international attention than the nuclear arena. The service and theater command strategies mentioned in Strategy came to fruition in the recent reforms as the services took on the role of fielding forces while leaving the theater commands to employ those forces. China’s military planning is encapsulated in the terms strategic space and disposition. Strategic space refers to an estimation of the overall situation, which China sees as increasing multi-polarity and expanding Chinese interests, specifically in space, cyberspace, and the Indian Ocean. Disposition is the best possible deployment China’s forces to achieve these aims. Finally, building a modern system of military forces with Chinese characteristics refers to China’s military modernization effort. Ironically, as China follows other great powers into the “moderately prosperous” phase of more difficult economic growth, its goal of great power rejuvenation becomes more difficult. The PLA will continue to leverage professionalization and technological progress to reduce its size while improving effectiveness. If the current economic trend becomes a new normal, however, the military will be forced to scale back its modernization, putting China in a less advantageous position internationally. That would be a propitious time to find face-saving settlements for the disputes now churning across every domain.”

Andrew Shearer: One Way Forward In The South China Sea. Andrew Shearer, Nikkei Asian Review. “With tensions rising daily in the South China Sea, Russia modernizing its Pacific naval fleet, an increasingly unpredictable nuclear-armed North Korea next door, and Chinese planes and ships intruding frequently into airspace and waters it claims, no country has a greater stake than Japan in maintaining stability in the Western Pacific. For more than 70 years, Japan and the rest of Asia -- including China -- have benefitted enormously from the region's remarkable economic integration underpinned by the rules-based international order. In the Asia-Pacific region, that order has rested squarely on a commitment to open economies, inclusive regional institutions, and freedom of navigation -- buttressed by U.S. alliances and the forward American military presence, including in Japan. Today this order is coming under serious strain, with potentially damaging consequences for Japan and the wider region. In the U.S., election-season rhetoric that seems to cast doubt over Washington's commitment to its allies can only stoke their anxiety. Yet Japan does not have to resign itself to an uncertain future. Unlike China or Russia, Japan has serious, capable friends and allies who share both its commitment to democracy, the rule of law and the liberal world order and its strategic priorities in Asia. In particular, stronger Japanese maritime cooperation with Australia and the U.S. would help to sustain a balance of power in Asia Pacific that supports these principles and interests, deters potential adversaries, and reinforces Japan's efforts under the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to make a greater contribution to international security. The U.S. remains the most powerful military force in the Asia-Pacific region, and an anchor for deep cooperative maritime relationships both with the Japanese and Australian navies. Tokyo and Canberra have also been developing a strong strategic partnership since their troops worked together in Iraq and Abe's first administration signed a joint declaration on security cooperation with the John Howard government in 2007. Both countries are strengthening their own maritime forces and have placed maritime strategy at the core of their defense policies. The Malcolm Turnbull and Abe governments have committed to strengthening their strategic ties, including in maritime security.  If the three countries work even more closely together, the sum can be much greater than the parts. Japan, the U.S. and Australia each bring different strengths to the table. Australia and Japan are maritime powers with real capabilities and strategic geography that can be leveraged to complement increasingly stretched U.S. naval resources. For its part, America can help Japan and Australia develop their own military capabilities. For example, the U.S. Marine Corps is supporting Japanese and Australian efforts to establish their own amphibious forces; last year Japanese Self-Defense Forces personnel participated for the first time alongside their American and Australian counterparts in amphibious warfare drills during Exercise Talisman Saber, a major biennial training exercise held in northern Australia. This should be a model for further trilateral maritime cooperation.”

Lost In Nicaragua, A Chinese Tycoon’s Canal Project. Suzanne Daley, The New York Times. “A Spanish explorer conducted the first survey to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans here in the 16th century. Napoleon III of France dreamed about it. The railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt briefly had rights to do it. Nicaragua’s history is littered with dozens of failed canal schemes. But when a Chinese billionaire, Wang Jing, officially broke ground in a field outside this sleepy Pacific Coast village about a year ago, many Nicaraguans believed that this time, finally, they would get their canal. And not a small one, either. Three times as long and twice as deep as the Panama Canal, it would slice 170 miles across the southern part of the country — bulldozing through fragile ecosystems, virgin forests and scenes of incredible beauty. It would allow for the passage of the world’s largest ships, vessels the length of skyscrapers that are too big for the Panama Canal. Yet 16 months later, Mr. Wang’s project — it would be the largest movement of earth in the planet’s history — is shrouded in mystery and producing angry protests here. President Daniel Ortega has not talked about the canal in public for months. And there are no visible signs of progress. Cows graze in the field where Mr. Wang officially began the project. Experts say they are baffled by Mr. Wang’s canal. It may be backed by the Chinese government, part of its growing interest in Latin America, or may simply be a private investment cast adrift by the convulsions of China’s stock markets and its slowing economy. At the time of the groundbreaking in December 2014, the Chinese government said it was not involved with the project. This and Mr. Wang’s recent setbacks — he has reportedly lost about 80 percent of his $10 billion fortune — make some experts say the deal is probably dead. Others, however, say Chinese business practices are so opaque that it is hard to tell. Facilitating the movement of goods from the Pacific to the Atlantic aligns with Chinese interests, and the cost of the project is hardly an obstacle if the Chinese government wants to go forward — if it is involved. Officials of Mr. Wang’s company say they are simply taking more time to do preconstruction studies. “It’s a project that has been notoriously nontransparent,” said Margaret Myers, the director of the China and Latin America program at Inter-American Dialogue, a policy institute in Washington. She says she believes the project is probably dead for lack of funds, but like most experts is not sure. What does seem clear is that the project’s critics — environmentalists, human rights advocates and economists — have grown more outspoken and organized. In this part of the country, many homeowners have stenciled “Go Away Chinese” on the sides of their houses, and virtually all the re-election posters for Mr. Ortega have been hit with black paint balls. When he announced the deal in 2013, Mr. Ortega, a left-wing guerrilla turned pro-business politician, promised that the canal would transform Nicaragua and create hundreds of thousands of jobs, eventually doubling the country’s gross domestic product. Many Nicaraguans, eager for a better future, embraced the idea, and many still do. But a growing number say the benefits of the deal are not so clear. Some question whether the canal would even be commercially viable. Few supertankers and massive container ships now afloat will not be able to pass through the expanded Panama Canal set to open soon. And few ports are big enough to welcome those megaships. In the short term, some experts say, the combination of the Panama and Nicaragua canals would lead to overcapacity and price wars. There are also concerns about the seismic activity in the area, or the many volcanos. Some analysts point to China’s poor record on environmental matters and Mr. Wang’s inexperience in building anything, let alone a $50 billion (some say $80 billion) canal carving through miles of protected areas that are home to many endangered species, including the jaguar, and legally recognized indigenous lands. The little-known Mr. Wang made his fortune in telecommunications, not in construction.”

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 Alex Gray | April 05, 2016

China Restricts North Korea Trade Over Nuclear Tests. BBC. “China has said is restricting trade with North Korea, announcing bans on gold and some coal imports and jet fuel exports, in line with UN sanctions. The commerce ministry is also banning the importation of so-called "rare earth metals" used in high-tech goods. The UN Security Council voted in March to increase the sanctions. The unanimous decision came after North Korea carried out a fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket the following month. The BBC's Robin Brant in Shanghai says this is a step closer to fully implementing the UN sanctions which China backed. Some doubt Beijing has been fully adhering to them. The Chinese ban on exports is linked to any fuel or oil products that could be associated with North Korea's nuclear programme. Our correspondent says these restrictions are likely to hurt as China accounts for the vast majority of trade with North Korea and mining is a key source of currency for the North. According to AFP news agency, quoting Chinese customs figures, the coal trade between the neighbours was worth $1bn (£704m) last year. But China's commerce ministry said the trade in coal would still be permitted as long as the revenue was intended for "people's well-being", Reuters news agency reports. Critics have described this as a de facto loophole as it gives China wiggle room to maintain trade, our correspondent says. North Korea is China's third biggest supplier of coal, delivering 20m tonnes last year, Reuter reports. Previous UN sanctions imposed after North Korean tests in 2006, 2009 and 2013 did little to dispel its nuclear ambitions. The nuclear test on 6 January and a satellite launch on 7 February were violations of existing UN sanctions. Last week, the US and Chinese leaders met on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in Washington about the situation in North Korea. President Barack Obama said that he and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping had agreed to work together to try to prevent further missile tests by North Korea. Much of the burden of making sure the sanctions are implemented falls on China. Under the new measures, any North Korean ships arriving in China must be inspected for contraband and imports halted if there is proof profits from those exchanges go towards the North's nuclear programme. Washington has long pushed for Beijing to put more pressure on North Korea, saying in February that China's "unique influence over the North Korean regime" gave it the chance to do so.”

China Moves To Sidestep Panama Papers Story. Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post. “China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, has an American division tasked with bringing Chinese news to the world. And yet, in a clip tweeted Tuesday by CCTV America, two anchors deliver a 2.5-minute segment on a major story, the Panama Papers, without addressing the China-specific news related to the apparent disclosures of financial dealings and other activities linked to a Panamanian law firm. The segment titled “Data leak reveals off-shore account for rich and powerful,” played up the global scope of the leak but fell short of naming any of the Chinese figures identified in initial reports. It’s an omission that says much about how the story is playing here — that is, selectively or not all. And it hints at how sensitive Beijing is when it comes to news coverage, even overseas. The Panama Papers are awkward for Beijing. The findings — the result of a year-long collaboration between a German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and more than 100 media outlets — claim to expose “a cast of characters who use offshore companies to facilitate bribery, arms deals, tax evasion and drug trafficking.” The report does not make specific allegations of wrongdoing, but it raises questions about the need for hard-to-trace offshore accounts. Yet even that riles Chinese authorities. The ICIJ’s initial report mentioned Deng Jiagui, the brother-in-law of China’s current president, Xi Jinping, and Li Xiaolin, the tycoon daughter of China’s former premier, Li Peng. On Tuesday, the BBC went public with two more names: Zhang Gaoli and Liu Yunshan, both members of China’s elite standing committee. Reporting on the 11.5 million leaked documents, which include emails, spreadsheets and corporate records from law firm Mossack Fonseca, is being published in batches. A full account may be days or weeks away. The Washington Post has not seen all of the source material and cannot independently verify what the documents are said to reveal. The Post has not seen evidence of illegal activity by the Chinese nationals named. And, as the ICIJ reporting rightly points out, there are legal uses for shell companies. The Communist Party does not like to discuss the business dealings of its leaders. In 2012, investigations into the family wealth of former premier Wen Jiabao and Xi by the New York Times and Bloomberg News, respectively, resulted in some journalists from both outlets being denied visas. A 2014 report on the offshore holdings of some 22,000 people in Hong Kong and China was dismissed by a government spokesman — then scrubbed from China's Web. News of the ICIJ’s reporting landed in China on a national holiday. As such, the country’s censors initially seemed slow to pounce. On Monday, stories about the Chinese figures named in the report briefly circulated on WeChat, a wildly popular messaging app, and popped up on other social media platforms. Several Chinese websites went with the story, reporting on disclosures related to Russian President Vladimir Putin and soccer star Lionel Messi without touching on any of the documents linked to powerful Chinese.”

CSIS Report: ‘Deteriorating’ Security Situation In Western Pacific. Otto Kreisher, Seapower. “The proliferation of “some very sophisticated weapon systems” in the Western Pacific, primarily by China and Russia, “is starting to change the balance of power” and could make it harder for the U.S. military to exercise its power, a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report warned April 4. The best way to respond to that “deteriorating” security situation is for the United States, Australia and Japan “to integrate our efforts better” and promote greater regional military interoperability, particularly in maritime operations, based on “the shared interests of our countries,” the author of the report said. Andrew Shearer, a former national security advisor to Australian prime ministers, said he narrowed his study to Australia and Japan “because they are the U.S.’s two most capable maritime partners in the region” for operations in the higher range of military missions. “As we’re looking at reassuring [other] allies and partners, we really do need high-end partners.” Shearer, currently a CSIS fellow, noted that Australia and Japan have been changing their national security policies and putting “more emphasis on maritime capability. They are already highly capable partners and will become even more capable partners in the future.” He cited Australia’s recent purchase of two 30,000-ton amphibious warships able to carry troops and helicopters, similar to the U.S. LHD amphibious assault ships, and its current initiative to buy a new fleet of attack submarines to replace the aged Collins-class subs. At a CSIS presentation last week, Shearer had noted that Australia does not have a well-developed amphibious capability and would take advantage of the growing U.S. Marine Corps rotation to Darwin “to learn from the best.” He also suggested an early Australian contribution could be to allow the Marines to operate from the new ships, to help off-set the current shortage of U.S. amphibs. At that CSIS session last week, Col. Masashi Yamamoto, the Japan Self Defense Force (SDF) military attaché, similarly referred to the dramatic change in Japan’s post-World War II laws to allow a more expansion use of the SDF and praised the U.S. Marines for their important role in helping Japan build an amphibious capability. But at the April 4 briefing, Shearer also emphasized the need to improve the partners’ anti-submarine and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and interoperability to offset the growing naval presence of China and Russia. And, noting the potential risk of interference at the critical maritime “choke points” in Southwest Asia and the anti-access, area-denial threat from China, Shearer said the allies would improve their ability to fight in such conditions “if we integrate our logistics, stockpiles and the sustainment of our systems.” Without endorsing all elements of Shearer’s report, Robert Scher, assistant defense secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, said increasing multilateral cooperation with our closest allies “on its face makes sense ... If we have shared interests, why wouldn’t we seek to increase our cooperation.” Scher also echoed the report’s recommendations that the three allies should extend their quest for interoperability to other friendly regional nations, such as India, Malaysia and Singapore, and the need to continue efforts to draw China into more cooperation in the maritime arena.”

Japan: Chinese Ship Captain Lied About North Korea Stopover. Elizabeth Shim, UPI News. “The Chinese captain of a ship that docked in Japan is in custody for not declaring a previous visit to North Korea, according to local officials. The vessel sailing under the flag of Palau had stopped over in North Korea, but the captain had said the previous port-of-call was China, Kyodo News reported. The Lucky Star-8 had entered a North Korean port between Jan. 29 and Feb. 1. Upon entering Rumoi, Hokkaido, the captain had falsely reported a "call to China," according to Japan press. Rumoi's maritime security said it uncovered this fact on March 28, as Japanese authorities conducted an on-site inspection of the ship and its cargo. The ship was manned by 15 crewmembers, all of Chinese and Vietnamese nationality. There was no cargo on board, according to local authorities. In response to Pyongyang's provocations, Japan is enforcing a strict ban against all ships that have made stopovers in North Korea. Japan also took steps to extend sanctions against North Korea in February. The policies include a ban on money transfers and denial of entry to North Korean passport holders. All North Korean vessels are to be banned from docking at Japanese ports, and third-country ships that previously visited North Korea are banned from Japan. The sanctions undo several Tokyo initiatives that began in 2014 when the Japanese government began easing anti-Pyongyang regulations in a bid to resolve the North Korean abduction issue. Talks over the repatriation of remaining Japanese abductees collapsed in 2015 after North Korea denied it was holding the missing persons in custody.”

South China Sea FONOP No. 3: Coming Soon? Ankit Panda, The Diplomat. “Keeping in line with its policy to conduct operations regularly in the South China Sea, the U.S. Navy is preparing to conduct a third freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) in the South China Sea in early April, Reuters reported on Saturday. The United States Navy engages in FONOPs across the world’s oceans to highlight maritime claims by other states that it considers excessive. Despite the regularization of FONOPs in the South China Sea, the United States maintains its policy of taking no position on the sovereignty of disputed features. FONOPs primarily challenge attempts to restrict lawful navigational freedoms provided for by international law. Given China’s extensive island construction activities in the Spratly Islands and militarization activities in the Paracel Islands, the U.S. FONOP program has received more attention than usual in the context of the South China Sea. In early 2015, the United States first began testing the nature of China’s claims in the Spratlys with surveillance flights, leading to warnings from Chinese military authorities in the Spratlys that the U.S. Navy had entered a “military alert zone.” Since then, U.S. activities have intensified in the South China Sea, drawing protest from China, which has on multiple occasions charged the United States with militarizing the South China Sea. To date, the United States Navy has carried out two highly publicized freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea since China began constructing artificial islands there. In both instances, U.S. Navy vessels sailed within 12 nautical miles to assert innocent passage rights without prior notification, but did not explicitly engage in activities that would assert high seas freedoms. In October 2015, the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of disputed features in the Spratly Islands, including Subi Reef, where China has carried out extensive land reclamation work. In January 2015, the USS Curtis Wilbur, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands. The choice of location for the next FONOP will be telling of U.S. intentions. As I’ve discussed here in The Diplomat before, Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands offers probably the most intriguing opportunity for the U.S. Navy. What sets Mischief Reef apart from the features that the U.S. Navy has sailed near during previous FONOPs and most other South China Sea features is that it is an isolated feature, within 12 nautical miles of no other island, reef, or low-tide elevation. Moreover, Mischief Reef, before China’s land reclamation and construction activities, was fully submerged at high tide, giving it no entitlement to a territorial sea under international law. A FONOP within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef would this necessitate activities explicitly asserting high seas freedoms. The United States has to date been reluctant to engage in a FONOP of this nature, probably to avoid a sharp negative reaction from China. To assert high seas freedom, a U.S. Navy vessel would have to engage in activities that violate innocent passage, including launching ship-based helicopters, sailing with fire control radars on, and even gathering intelligence. The U.S. Navy conducts freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea under a long-standing program, which upholds the United States’ Oceans Policy of 1983 which notes that the United States “will exercise and assert its rights, freedoms, and uses of the sea on a worldwide basis in a manner that is consistent with the balance of interests” reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China has signed and ratified UNCLOS; the United States is not party to UNCLOS.”

Calming Tensions In South China Sea. Editorial, Defense News. “President Obama met with his counterpart from China last week as leaders from 51 nations gathered for a nuclear security summit in a world rattled by terrorist attacks and the specter that a nuclear device really could end up in the hands of extremists who will stop at nothing to achieve their insane agendas. Obama’s private meeting with Xi Jinping was held against a backdrop of increasingly tense relations in the Pacific, with China’s leadership seemingly intent on provoking conflict with its neighbors, including the Philippines, Japan and South Korea, while daring the U.S. to act. Simmering tensions between the U.S. and China are encapsulated in the showdown over China’s military buildup of territory in the South China Sea, areas well outside its authority and in fact the legal claim of other countries. The U.S., to project its support for open seas and to show the flag for its allies, has sent warships and aircraft to conduct “freedom of navigation” patrols through areas being claimed by China. The question is, what more can be done should China continue to defy calls to cease the buildup and adhere to international law? American resolve will be tested in May, when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague will rule on a lawsuit brought by the Philippines that contests China’s claims to vast areas of the South China Sea and, in particular, to the seizure of the Scarborough Shoals, long claimed by the Philippines. Experts predict the court will invalidate China’s so-called “nine-dash-line” that is the basis for its territorial claims and rule that China’s man-made islands in the area are illegal. Few, if any, expect China to accept any adverse ruling. The U.S. and its allies may respond with tough new sanctions and trade rules to address continued aggressions. Handled carefully, that could ultimately prompt China to ease off, which it would do in a manner aimed at saving face. But any long-term solution will require a strategy worked with regional leaders, who together will assert control through robust joint capabilities and economic and legal means to convince China that continuing on its current course in the South China Sea is not in the nation’s long-term best interest.”

China’s Front-Line Fishermen. Teo Cheng Wee, The Straits Times. “Chinese fisherman Lin Guanyong knows he has a perilous job working in the South China Sea, and it is not just the weather. He was detained once by the Vietnamese authorities in 2001, after he and his 20 crewmates were arrested and charged with illegal fishing in Vietnam's waters. Their boat was towed to a port in Vietnam, where they stayed on board, while another boat was sent back to China to get the US$2,500 (S$3,400) needed to pay their fine. They were released after two weeks. "We get harassed all the time by the Vietnamese coast guard," Mr Lin, 40, told The Straits Times. "If they didn't arrest us, they would have boarded our boat, taken all our fish and whatever else they fancied." And in a rare move last week, Vietnam reportedly seized a Chinese ship that its captain said was carrying fuel for fishing boats. Clashes between coast guards and fishermen from different countries increasingly make the news. While Mr Lin admitted that he had crossed into foreign waters, he said fishermen from other countries often entered Chinese waters as well. Soon after their detention, he and his crew were back fishing in the same areas. So he is glad that China's coast guard is building up its fleet to better protect its fishermen, who are often caught up in territorial disputes in the South China Sea as they venture further out with the thinning of stocks nearer to shore. "My heart aches whenever I hear news that a Chinese fisherman has been arrested or hurt," said fishermen Mo Taifu, 60, who, like Mr Lin, is based in the fishing town of Tanmen, on the east coast of Hainan island, China's southernmost province. While China's fishermen hail from many coastal provinces, including Zhejiang, Guangdong and Guangxi, those from Tanmen are among the most politically important for the country because they have been fishing for generations near the Spratlys. "Their fishing activities and records are one of the main pieces of evidence for China's historical claims in the South China Sea," noted associate research fellow Zhang Hongzhou from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), an expert on China's fishing industry and maritime security. Some of Tanmen's fishermen are actively involved in territorial tussles. In a stand-off two years ago with Vietnam over China's positioning of an oil rig near the disputed Paracel Islands, both countries encouraged their fishing fleets to enter the area to disrupt each other's plans. Many Chinese boats which did were from Tanmen. Tanmen's political importance was further underscored by a historic visit in 2013 from President Xi Jinping, who urged fishermen to support the government's island constructions in the South China Sea, adding that the authorities would protect them. For years, the fishermen have already been helping to deliver supplies and maintain their presence in China's Spratly outposts. Mr Lin joined one such effort in 2012. "The government paid the boat owner 180,000 yuan (S$37,500) to go to the Spratlys," he said. "We were there for two weeks. They didn't care whether we fished or not, they just wanted us there." But the fishermen say they also need to venture further now because stocks nearer shore are being depleted to satisfy demand from the world's biggest seafood consumer. China's fishery production has risen dramatically - from five million tonnes in 1978 to 64.6 million tonnes in 2014. Fishermen interviewed by The Straits Times said they head out to the South China Sea for increasingly rare fish like the golden threadfin bream, whose wholesale prices have doubled from 30 to 60 yuan per kg in the past five years. As such, retired fisherman Li Huabo, 70, feels it is "ridiculous" that other countries want to deny them their fishing rights. He began fishing when he was a teenager, and both his father and grandfather fished in the Spratlys. "We fished in these seas way before others," he said. "How can they stop us?"

April Fools’ Day Is ‘Inconsistent With Core Socialist Values,’ Chinese News Agency Says. “Top-down Communist regimes are not known for their rollicking sense of humor. Building a perfect society is hardly a laughing matter, especially when hostile foreign forces are trying to undermine your efforts with lightness and frivolity. In that spirit, China’s official Xinhua News Agency has issued a warning on its viewpoint commentary microblog that April Fools’ Day antics are “inconsistent with core socialist values” and at odds with Chinese cultural tradition. “Please don’t believe, spread or create rumors,” the Xinhua post added. Somewhat predictably, this sparked a hail of interest and commentary by China’s vibrant online community, much of which does appear to have a sense of humor. Xinhua’s message was reposted more than 11,000 times as of early Friday evening. As reaction mounted, Xinhua disabled the story’s comments function. But other state media outlets published screenshots of the original posting on their websites, where they continued to accept feedback. “News released every day makes a fool of ordinary people, so what’s wrong with celebrating April Fool’s Day?” wrote one online commenter named “WuGang” on the website Huanqiu, an online news portal run by the official People’s Daily and its affiliate the Global Times. “This must be Xinhua’s April Fool’s Day joke,” added another user identified as “Xie Xingsheng_Big Dipper Academy of Finance Research.” This was countered by supporters of the warning, including a netizen identified as “Wilderness” who wrote: “I strongly agree with Xinhua. Chinese people should have our own cultural confidence.” Despite efforts to discourage humorous pranks, China’s straight-laced official media has repeatedly found itself caught out on the humor front. In June 2002, the Beijing Evening News picked up a story from The Onion, the satirical U.S. media group, claiming that the U.S. Congress was considering moving out of the Capitol building to newer digs with a retractable roof, better refreshments and more luxury sky boxes. A decade later, The Onion struck again when the People’s Daily fell victim to another of its spoof stories declaring that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un had been voted the “sexiest man alive for 2012.” The Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece even included a 55-photo slideshow and an Onion quote that “this Pyongyang-bred heartthrob is every woman’s dream come true.” Nor have China’s official TV stations been exempt. In 2013, state broadcaster China Central Television took an April Fool’s Day story from the British tabloid the Daily Mirror at face value, according to the South China Morning Post. The Daily Mirror story claimed that Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. had unveiled a new aircraft featuring a glass floor so passengers could watch the scenery pass by underfoot. The origin of April Fools’ Day – literally the “festival to fool people” in Chinese — is unclear, with the first recorded link between foolishness and the first day of April found in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” published in 1392. China was exposed to the tradition after its reform and opening up policy starting in the late 1970s. While China’s people are as quick to enjoy a good laugh as any, the country’s leadership culture tends to favor the stiff and formal, making it rather unusual for state media to walk on the lighter side. This is particularly the case lately as President Xi Jinping has championed core Communist Party orthodoxy, said Barry Naughton, a professor at the University of California, San Diego. In a recent widely publicized tour of state-run media outlets, Mr. Xi urged reporters to pledge strict loyalty to the party under his leadership. “Everyone’s supposed to fall in line,” Mr. Naughton said. Xinhua’s admonition against rumormongering — whether amusing or not — echoes a tradition going back centuries, political historians say. Emperors often feared gossip, particularly in times of disaster, which could signal that the leadership no longer enjoyed a “mandate from heaven” to rule, they say. “In the past, many rumors were about plagues, natural disasters or government affairs,” said Renmin University professor Zhang Ming. “In fact, many rumors in China are not rumors, but words the government doesn’t want to hear or information the government doesn’t want released.” Late last year, China amended its criminal law in an effort to quash rumors, especially those leading to “serious disruption of social order.” This followed a crackdown on people accused of spreading unauthorized information regarding a deadly chemical fire in the northeastern city of Tianjin and state intervention in a slumping stock market. “Rumors weaken the official message,” Mr. Naughton said. “You suddenly notice that the official narrative isn’t the whole story.”

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 Alex Gray | April 04, 2016

U.S. Plans Third Patrol Near Disputed South China Sea Islands: Source. Reuters. “The U.S. Navy plans to conduct another passage near disputed islands in the South China Sea in early April, a source familiar with the plan said on Friday, the third in a series of challenges that have drawn sharps rebukes from China. Other U.S. officials, speaking after Reuters reported the plan, disputed that such an exercise was imminent. But they made clear Washington will continue to challenge what it considers Beijing's unfounded maritime claims. The United States has conducted what it calls "freedom of navigation" exercises in recent months, sailing near disputed islands to underscore its right to navigate the seas. U.S. Navy officials have said they plan to conduct more and increasingly complex exercises in the future. "Our long-standing position is unchanged - we do not take a position on competing sovereignty claims to naturally formed land features in the South China Sea," a senior Obama administration official said on Saturday. "We routinely conduct such operations throughout the world to challenge maritime claims that would unlawfully restrict rights and freedoms provided in international law. This applies to the South China Sea as well," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. The USS Stennis carrier strike group is currently operating in the South China Sea. The next freedom of navigation exercise is unlikely to be conducted by a carrier like the Stennis, but rather by a smaller ship, the source said. Experts predict the next U.S. challenge to the various claims in the South China Sea could occur near Mischief Reef, a feature claimed by the Philippines and which was submerged at high tide before China began a dredging project to turn it into an island in 2014. Mischief Reef is now the site of one of three military-length airfields China has built on man-made islands in the Spratly Islands archipelago. U.S. Navy ships regularly patrol the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade travels every year. China claims most of the area, and Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims. In recent months, with tensions rising around China's reclamation activities, U.S. ships have been frequently and routinely shadowed by Chinese ships and regular communications with Chinese vessels have often been tense. News of the planned exercise came a day after U.S. President Barack Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a nuclear summit in Washington. During the meetings, Xi told Obama that China would not accept any behavior in the disguise of freedom of navigation that violates its sovereignty, in a clear warning to the United States. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told Reuters on Saturday that China opposed any such exercise. "China consistently respects and supports the freedom of navigation and fly over that all countries' enjoy in the South China Sea under international law, but resolutely opposes any country using so-called 'freedom of navigation' as an excuse to damage China's sovereignty, security and maritime rights," Hong said.”

Vietnam Seizes Chinese Vessel For Intruding Its Waters. Associated Press. “Vietnam's coast guard in a rare move has seized a Chinese vessel for allegedly intruding in its waters, state media reported Monday. The Thanh Nien newspaper said that the vessel has been towed to the northern port city of Hai Phong, and that the ship, its captain and two sailors, all Chinese, are under the supervision of Vietnamese authorities. The vessel, disguised as a fishing boat, was carrying 100,000 liters of diesel oil and was intercepted by Vietnamese coast guard near Bach Long Vi island in the Gulf of Tonkin on Thursday, it said. The captain told authorities the fuel was to be sold to Chinese fishing boats operating in the area, it said. Hai Phong coast guard officails declined to comment Monday. The newspaper said that in the last two weeks of March the coast guard had chased 110 Chinese fishing boats out of Vietnamese waters. Vietnam's coast guard often warns and chases Chinese fishing boats out of its waters but rarely seizes them. Vietnamese fishermen complain they are harassed, attacked and have had their catches confiscated by Chinese authorities while they fishing in the South China Sea. Vietnam is locked in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, which is rich in resources and occupies one of the world busiest sea lanes. Vietnam, China and Taiwan have competing claims over the Paracel islands which are occupied by China, while the three along with the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei have claimed parts or all of the Spratly islands. Chinese growing territorial assertiveness in the region including recent massive land reclamation of reefs and atolls in the Spratlys and its increased military actions in the two island chains have raised concerns among neighbors and the United States.”

US, Philippines Hold War Games As China Flexes Muscles. Agence France-Press, Defense News. “Thousands of US and Filipino troops will on Monday launch annual war games that this year are being seen as a show of strength in the face of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region. The 11-day Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises are expected to show how the Philippines, though severely outgunned, can counter China with the help of the United States, its longest-standing ally. China has in recent months built massive structures including radar systems and an airstrip over reefs and outcrops in the contested South China Sea, sparking international concern. Beijing lays claim to almost all of the waters, which are important for international shipping and believed to hold valuable mineral and energy deposits, and neighboring countries fear China could impose military controls over the entire sea. The joint maneuvers come ahead of a decision this year by a United Nations-backed tribunal on a legal challenge by Manila to China’s territorial claims. Adding to the tensions, the Philippines is preparing to host US troops in five bases under a defense pact born out of US President Barack Obama’s plan to reassert American influence in the Pacific. Balikatan has evolved from counter-terrorism maneuvers against Islamic extremists like the Philippines’ Abu Sayyaf, to simulations of retaking and protecting territory as disputes with Beijing have escalated. However, Filipino and US officials insist the exercises are not explicitly aimed at China. Balikatan spokesman Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson said 55 US aircraft would take part in the drills, while the Philippines will deploy fighter jets it has recently acquired. While no specific staging areas have been disclosed, the two allies have in recent years held war games at air bases just 230 kilometers (140 miles) from the disputed areas in the South China Sea. Rene de Castro, an international studies professor at the De La Salle University in Manila, told AFP the drills appeared to have China’s expansion in the South China Sea in mind. “Looking at the features of Balikatan — the mobile missile-launchers, the fighter planes — that is an indication that the alliance is being geared for territorial defense,” he said. Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science professor at the De La Salle University in Manila, added that the exercises “aim to enhance interoperability among allies nations and signal their preparedness to confront China if necessary." The Philippine military said the US High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), designed to shoot down aircraft, will be sent to Palawan, the Philippines’ westernmost island on the South China Sea, during the war games. The Philippines operates one airstrip in the South China Sea, on Thitu island, where there are around 350 civilian residents. It also keeps small military contingents in smaller outcrops, including Second Thomas Shoal, where Marines are stationed on a decaying World War II ship. The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, has sought to counter China’s overwhelming military advantage by improving ties with the United States and Japan. While it has acquired new fighter jets and surplus US naval ships, the Southeast Asian nation still has far to go, De Castro warned.”

Indonesia Will Defend South China Sea Territory With F-16 Fighter Jets. Chris Brummitt and Rieka Rahadiana, Bloomberg News. “Indonesia will deploy U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets to the Natuna islands to ward off “thieves”, the defense minister said less than two weeks after Chinese coast guard vessels clashed with an Indonesian boat in the area. The move is part of a military buildup on islands overlooking the South China Sea that will see a refurbished runway and a new port constructed, Ryamizard Ryacudu said in an interview on Thursday with Bloomberg News. It also involves the deployment of marines, air force special force units, an army battalion, three frigates, a new radar system and drones, he said. The planned stationing of five F-16s reflects a new level of Indonesian concern about territorial disputes in the South China Sea that are pitting Beijing against several of its Southeast Asian neighbors. Indonesia is not a claimant, but the clash with the Chinese coast guard last month over the detention of a Chinese fishing boat showed the potential for it to be drawn into conflict. “Natuna is a door, if the door is not guarded then thieves will come inside,” said Ryacudu, a former army chief of staff. “There has been all this fuss because until now it has not been guarded. This is about the respect of the country.” The minister also said he was considering introducing military conscription in Natuna and other remote areas of the 17,000-island archipelago, “so if something happens people won’t be afraid and know what to do.” China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea, bringing it into dispute with Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. Beijing’s claims, which it has been pressing more assertively in recent years, are based on a so-called nine-dash line for which it won’t give precise coordinates. In passports issued in 2012, China’s line encroached on the exclusive economic zone that Indonesia derives from the Natuna islands. The increased proximity of Chinese fishing boats and coast guard vessels to the ships of other countries has also caused unease in Malaysia. The country’s foreign affairs ministry summoned Chinese ambassador Huang Huikang to register concern over the alleged encroachment of Chinese-flagged boats in the South China Sea, it said late Thursday. Aaron Connelly, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, questioned if stationing F-16s in the Natuna area would act as much of a deterrent or be of use combating illegal fishing. “It looks like a show of force, but it’s a meaningless one,” he said. “Indonesia has diplomatic cards to play but it doesn’t have military ones. It’s not going to scare away the Chinese military by putting a few F-16s on Natuna. These are items that can’t be reasonably used to survey maritime activities.” Ryacudu also said he hoped to finalize a deal to buy between 8 and 10 Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets in a trip to Russia in early April. The government had been considering purchasing Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-16V, BAE Systems Plc’s Eurofighter Typhoon or Saab AB’s Gripen. Asked if Indonesia intended to by any F-16Vs in addition to the Su-35 jets, Ryacudu said “no, we have enough already.” Still, he said Indonesia would continue looking to various countries for procurement. “We will buy from Europe and America, from Russia also,” he said. “We don’t prioritize. The important thing is if we need them, and the research backs it up, we will buy. We are replacing old planes, not adding new ones.”

Japanese Submarine, Destroyers Arrive In Philippines For Port Call Near Disputed South China Sea Waters. Jesse Johnson, The Japan Times. “A Maritime Self-Defense Force flotilla of three ships arrived in the Philippines early Sunday on a goodwill visit — the first to include a Japanese submarine in 15 years — amid China’s growing assertiveness in the region. The training submarine Oyashio, accompanied by the destroyers Ariake and Setogiri, made a port call at Subic Bay, home of a former U.S. naval base, ahead of planned open sea drills. Some 500 Japanese personnel, including 55 officer candidates, are taking part in the confidence-building exercise. Philippine Navy public affairs officer Capt. Lued Lincuna said the three MSDF vessels would be staying in Subic Bay until Wednesday. The two destroyers are then scheduled to continue on to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay for a similar visit. The trip to Cam Ranh Bay will take the two vessels through the South China Sea, where the Philippines, Vietnam and three other nations are involved in simmering territorial disputes with China. The visit to the Philippines comes ahead of a much-anticipated arbitration case concerning the legality of China’s “nine-dash line” claim over the South China Sea. Manila expects the court to hand down a ruling before May. But despite the growing ties between Tokyo and Manila, Lincuna said the visit was “not directed at any other countries.” “It has nothing to do with China,” Lincuna said. Beijing lays claim to most of the South China Sea, through which $5 billion in global trade passes each year. It has recently constructed artificial islands in the waters — some home to military-grade airfields, radar systems and weapons — riling neighboring claimants. For its part, the United States has conducted what it calls “freedom of navigation” exercises in recent months, sailing ships near disputed islands to underscore the right to freely navigate the seas. Reuters cited an unidentified U.S. official Saturday as saying that a third such exercise was set for early this month. While not a claimant in the South China Sea, Tokyo has been embroiled in a fight with Beijing over the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands, which China calls Diaoyu, in the East China Sea. The Japanese decision to send the three vessels to the Philippines, one of the most vocal critics of China’s massive land-reclamation projects in the region, has drawn fire from Beijing. Top Chinese officials have slammed Japan’s push to shore up smaller regional claimants to the waters, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei saying last month that Beijing was keeping a watchful eye on Tokyo’s moves in the area. “Japan once illegally occupied China’s islands in the South China Sea during WWII,” Hong said. “We are on high alert against Japan’s attempt to return to the South China Sea through military means.” The visit to Vietnam is also likely to spur an angry reaction from China. The arrival of the Japanese vessels coincides with the Balikatan joint exercises between the U.S. and Philippine militaries, which are set to kick off Monday. MSDF personnel will also be in attendance as observers. Amy Searight, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, said last week that Japan is in talks with the Philippines about participating in the joint drills on a regular basis.”

China Swooping In On Military Drone Market. Sarah Kreps, CNN. “The United States has often been criticized for its use of armed drones. But in recent months, a new country has begun drawing attention. And while it has not used armed drones in combat, its increasing willingness to export the technology to other countries has serious implications for combat in the future. Earlier this year, Nigeria confirmed using a Chinese-made CH-3 in its fight against Boko Haram, while Iraq appears to have used a CH-4 starting late 2015. In addition, Pakistan is now using a platform suspiciously resembling the CH-3, despite official reports that the drone is indigenously produced. (At the least, this probably would have required considerable collaboration from the Chinese and may have been assembled in Pakistan from Chinese-made components). Meanwhile, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are thought to have bought similar drones from China. Why has China sought to increase its prominence in the drone export market? The answer is not primarily economic. At about $1 million per Wing Loong drone (compared with $30 million for the Reaper, the U.S. counterpart), it would take a lot of drone sales to make a compelling financial case for China. Instead, the sale of arms is more likely one element in its diplomatic toolkit, giving it an additional way to extend its reach into the Middle East, Latin America and Africa as it builds these security relationships. In addition, a large arms market can be seen as a symbol of prestige. Much like its space program, which signals China's status as an advanced industrialized country, a global network of drone exports based on its own indigenous military capabilities suggests that China is a force to be reckoned with. This dynamic becomes a positive feedback loop that helps cultivate its defense base -- the more weapons China sells, the more resources it has to invest in research and development, and the more attractive its defense innovations become to potential importers. Whatever the motivation, the drone sales raise the question of how much of an effect this will have on the international security environment. In the short term, despite the relatively widespread sale of Chinese drones, the exports are unlikely to be a game changer. Each of the countries that has used some version of Chinese-made drones has used them in a counterinsurgency context, not to start new wars with neighbors. These drones are lower-cost, less capable versions of U.S. drones; they fly low and slow, and are unlikely to be especially valuable against any adversary other than an insurgency that lacks robust air defenses. But looking ahead -- if the technology improves, and these countries start acquiring next-generation stealth drones -- the calculus could change. Such technology could change these states' war-making calculus and lower the threshold for using force across borders. If this happens, the consequences would be destabilizing, especially in regions where border disputes already mean frosty ties. Where the increased drone sales are more worrisome, though, is how they contribute to a "cheap but good enough" trend, with China as a major supplier. What that means in practice is some countries that might not have been able to afford certain technologies from Europe, the United States, or Russia -- or that would not have been allowed to purchase them from the Europeans or the United States -- now have access to weapons. The infusion of drones into some of these countries and their disputes could be like throwing gasoline on a fire. However, China's exports don't affect only its customers -- there are also implications for the United States' own export policies. As a founding member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, which regulates the international transfer of drones, the United States has tended to have relatively strict export policies when it comes to drones. For example, it has exported armed Reapers only to its close ally, the United Kingdom, and more recently announced that it would arm Italy's Reapers. China, in contrast, is not a member of the MTCR, and recent export patterns suggest that it is willing to flout the types of restrictions that the United States not only helped establish, but has tended to reinforce.”

Kicking Down The Door: Ohio-Class Subs Vs. China’s A2/AD. Ben Ho Wan Beng, The National Interest. “How best could the United States metaphorically “kick down” the anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) “door” of a near-peer adversary during a conflict? This has been an idée fixe for American defense planners during recent years, in view of the rising A2/AD capabilities of strategic competitors such as China. There seem to be no clear answers to this question. What is quite unanimous, however, in the defense community is that the relatively short striking reach of America’s naval crown jewels – its large-deck aircraft carriers – means that they would have to operate well within the enemy’s A2/AD envelope, rendering the flattops vulnerable to attack. As such, they are unlikely to partake significantly in “first day(s) of war” operations, that is, to be involved in the opening kicks on the adversarial A2/AD door when enemy defenses are at their strongest. That said, the U.S. possesses two deep-strike capabilities that stand a much better chance of circumventing the access-denial barrier: Air Force stealth bombers, and the navy’s Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (TLAMs), which is deployed on cruisers, destroyers and submarines. And with regard to the Tomahawk-armed naval platforms, the Ohio-class nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine (SSGN) is undoubtedly the most potent in terms of TLAM capacity, as well as being the most survivable, owing to its extremely low observability. Hence with its stealth and firepower, the Ohio SSGN is arguably the ideal counter – A2/AD naval platform in the U.S. arsenal. The Ohio SSGNs began life as ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) before they were refitted as underwater Arsenal Ships during the early-to-mid-2000s. During the conversion, twenty-two of the boat’s twenty-four ballistic-missile tubes were modified to receive a special canister that enables the storage and launch of seven TLAMs each, with the other two missile silos being adapted to support special operations for at least sixty-six Navy SEALs. Following the conversion, the Ohio SSGN can carry 154 TLAMs, which is slightly more than half the total number of missiles expended during Operation Desert Storm. Moreover, the sub can launch its entire arsenal of Tomahawks in as little time as six minutes, making it an ideal platform to deliver a large “pulse” of firepower that would be crucial during the opening stages of a counter-A2/AD campaign. This pulse could be unleashed on air defense, command-and-control, and other key installations that enable the access-denial door to be knocked down. When that happens, carrier planes and the Air Force’s non-stealthy aircraft would then find it easier to “enter” the door in follow-up operations. It is worth noting that during the deployment of USS Florida to Operation Odyssey Dawn – the first time the Ohio SSGN was in combat – some fifty of the 112 TLAMs that were used to cripple Libya’s air-defense network came from the Florida. Acknowledging the contributions of the TLAM-armed American submarines (the Florida and two smaller attack boats) in softening defenses during the Libyan campaign, then Rear Admiral Rick Breckenridge of the U.S. Navy noted that: “This [using subs to fire TLAMs] gets back [to the] principle (that if) we don’t have superiority in the air to have our way at the onset of a crisis, we’re going to need somebody who can penetrate the defenses and soften up the adversary so then we can flow those other forces in to establish air dominance ... So in the onset of that campaign ... the undersea forces ... were called upon to attack land targets in Libya.” Tellingly, the Florida fired ninety-three of the 199 TLAMs used during the two-week-long Operation Odyssey Dawn. In addition, the American SSGN’s large TLAM payload makes it unrivalled in terms of land attack compared to other similarly-armed U.S. Navy assets. To illustrate, the two most numerous nuclear-powered hunter-killer boats (SSNs) in Navy service – the Virginia- and Improved Los Angeles – class – carries only twelve Tomahawks. Similarly, the slated replacement for the Ohio SSGN, the Virginia-class SSN fitted with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) is armed with a relatively meager forty TLAMs. While the VPM-equipped platforms are essentially SSGNs in all but designation, given that they carry forty missiles, this inventory could be depleted quickly during high-tempo operations against an opponent employing A2/AD measures. The Ohio SSGN also overshadows its surface brethren in terms of TLAM capacity. While the Ticonderoga-class cruiser has a 122-cell VLS, one must bear in mind that a significant number – definitely more than half – of these cells will be taken up by surface-to-air missiles for fleet air defense. Ditto the Navy’s workhouse: the Arleigh Burke – class destroyer, with its either ninety- or ninety-six-cell VLS.”

Panama Papers Leak Exposes How Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping’s Friends Hide Money. Kevin G. Hall and Marisa Taylor, The Sydney Morning Herald. “A massive leak of documents has blown open a window on the vast, murky world of shell companies, providing an extraordinary look at how the wealthy and powerful conceal their money. Twelve current and former world leaders maintain offshore shell companies. Close friends of Russian leader Vladimir Putin have funneled as much as $US2 billion through banks and offshore companies. Those exposed in the leak include the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan, an alleged bagman for Syrian President Bashar Assad, a close friend of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and companies linked to the family of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Add to those the monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Morocco; Middle Eastern royalty; leaders of FIFA, the international body that controls international soccer; and 29 billionaires included in Forbes Magazine's list of the world's 500 richest people. Also mentioned are 61 relatives and associates of current country leaders, and 128 current or former politicians and public officials. The leak exposes a trail of dark money flowing through the global financial system, stripping national treasuries of tax revenue. The data breach occurred at a little-known but powerful Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca & Co., which has an office in Las Vegas, a representative in Miami and presence in more than 35 other places around the world. The firm is one of the world's top five creators of shell companies, which can have legitimate business uses but can also be used to dodge taxes and launder money. More than 11.5 million emails, financial spreadsheets, client records, passports and corporate registries were obtained in the leak, which was delivered to the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper in Munich, Germany. In turn, the newspaper shared the data with the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Several McClatchy journalists joined more than 370 journalists from 78 countries in the largest media collaboration ever undertaken after a leak. The document archive contains 2.6 terabytes of data. As a registered agent, the Mossack Fonseca law firm incorporates companies in tax havens worldwide for a fee. It has avoided close scrutiny from US law enforcement officials. Mossack Fonseca denied all accusations of illegal activity. "We have not once in nearly 40 years of operation been charged with criminal wrongdoing," spokesman Carlos Sousa said. "We're proud of the work we do, notwithstanding recent and willful attempts by some to mischaracterize it." The law firm's co-founder, Ramon Fonseca, in an interview last month on Panamanian television, said blaming Mossack Fonseca for what people do with their companies would be like blaming an automaker "for an accident or if the car was used in a robbery." Yet plenty of criminals are named in the documents, like drug traffickers and convicted fraudsters. "The offshore world is the parallel universe of the ultrarich and ultrapowerful," said Jack Blum, a white-collar crime attorney and an architect of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The archive, which dates to the late 1970s and extends through December 2015, reveals that 14,000 intermediaries and middlemen bring business to Mossack Fonseca. The most extraordinary allegations in the archive revolve around Putin's closest associates, including Sergey Roldugin, a close friend since the late 1970s when Putin was a young KGB agent.”

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 Alex Gray | April 01, 2016

China Set To Deploy Longest-Range Nuclear Missile. Charles Clover, Financial Times. “A new generation of Chinese intercontinental ballistic missiles may come into service as early as this year and will herald a period of rapid nuclear build-up by China, according to experts. With a 14,500km estimated range, the DF-41 is the first Chinese missile capable of carrying multiple warheads that can strike any part of the US from anywhere in China. Previous missiles have been more limited. The first version of the DF-5, which went into service in 1980, could only hit the northwestern corner of the US from the north-east of China. “Given the number of real reported tests, it is reasonable to speculate the DF-41 will be deployed to PLA Strategic Rocket Force bases in 2016,” said Richard Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Washington. The news comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to meet China’s President Xi Jinping at a nuclear security summit in Washington on Thursday. The new missile is the latest in Chinese efforts to challenge US global primacy on a number of fronts. Beijing has been beefing up artificial islands in the South China Sea, while a new generation of weapons, including a stealth fighter, the DF-21D “carrier killer” missile and the 052D class destroyer, are underlining the transformation of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army from a peasant-based land army to a mobile modern fighting force capable of challenging the US in the western Pacific. While it will be a long time before China achieves nuclear parity with the US and Russia, the world leaders in stockpiled warheads, China clearly sees this as a gap that must be addressed. Until roughly 2008, according to Mr Fisher, the US believed China had a maximum of 20 nuclear missile warheads. Now, with the advent of a redesigned DF-5 and the new DF-41, both capable of carrying multiple warheads, Mr Fisher says current western estimates for total Chinese warheads are between 200 and 400, with the potential to increase very rapidly. The US has a stockpile of 4,760 nuclear warheads, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. With the ongoing deployment of the DF-5B multiple warhead equipped ICBM, and the new DF-41, “we will see a period of rapid increases in the numbers of China’s nuclear warheads that can reach the United States”, said Mr Fisher. Tong Zhao, a nuclear security expert at the Carnegie Tsinghua centre in Beijing, said the DF-41 did a number of things that old missiles could not. While the DF-5 is silo-based, the DF-41 has a mobile launcher. The longer range also means it can be deployed anywhere in China, whereas previously China’s nuclear deterrent had to be based in the north-east of the country. News of the DF-41’s imminent deployment was first reported by Canada-based military journal Kanwa Asian Defence.”

As Obama Hosts Talks, The Focus Is On China. Mark Landler, The New York Times. “President Obama gathered more than 50 world leaders here on Thursday to discuss one of his favorite topics: locking down nuclear weapons. But it was Mr. Obama’s meeting with one of the less friendly of those leaders, President Xi Jinping of China, that captured most of the attention. The leaders announced that the United States and China would sign a climate change accord later in April, a show of unity on an issue that has become a bright spot in the tangled relationship between the two countries. But they quickly moved on to more contentious issues, with Mr. Obama pressing Mr. Xi on China’s construction of military facilities in the South China Sea, actions that a White House official said belied a pledge the Chinese president had made last fall not to militarize those waters. “Like China and other countries, the United States has significant interests in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr. Obama said to Mr. Xi before the meeting, his only extended encounter with a visiting leader at the Nuclear Security Summit, which will conclude on Friday. “Our two countries have some disputes and disagreements,” Mr. Xi replied. He called for both sides to “avoid misunderstanding and misperceptions,” and to respect each other’s core interests – a polite warning not to meddle in the South China Sea, which Beijing regards as a core interest. China’s neighbors dispute its claims to reefs and shoals, and fear that it is colonizing one of the world’s most strategic waterways. The United States has dispatched Navy ships to guarantee that the sea lanes remain unobstructed, but that has raised the risk of a confrontation with Chinese warships. During a visit to Washington in September, Mr. Xi declared that China would not “pursue militarization” of the South China Sea. But since then, it has installed surface-to-air missile batteries and military radar on reefs and newly reclaimed islands hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland. “We have seen developments and reports that are not consistent with the commitment not to militarize the South China Sea,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser. Mr. Xi and Mr. Obama found more common ground on confronting the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. China supported a new round of United Nations sanctions against the Pyongyang government after it tested a nuclear device and fired ballistic missiles. To reassure America’s allies in the face of their rogue neighbor, Mr. Obama also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye. Those countries were thrust into the American political campaign in recent days after the Republican front-runner, Donald J. Trump, proposed they acquire nuclear weapons to deter the threat from North Korea. A senior Japanese official quickly reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to remain nuclear-free. Mr. Trump’s comments did not come up in the three-way meeting with Mr. Obama, according to American officials. But Mr. Rhodes issued a withering response to the proposal, saying it would undercut decades of nonproliferation policy. “It would be catastrophic were the United States to shift its position and indicate that we somehow support the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he said. “The entire premise of American foreign policy as it relates to nuclear weapons for the last 70 years has been focused on preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons,” he continued. “That has been the position of bipartisan administrations, of everybody who has occupied the Oval Office.” Domestic politics and regional concerns both seemed to crowd out any discussion of global efforts to secure nuclear materials. And for all the hubbub – the intense security; the motorcades snarling traffic in downtown Washington – the meeting opened on a subdued note. Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, was a no-show, which made breakthroughs on security unlikely, given his country’s vast nuclear stockpile. The terrorist attack in Belgium last week also cast a shadow over the gathering, particularly after reports that fighters for the Islamic State were seeking to penetrate a nuclear facility to obtain material for a so-called radioactive dirty bomb.”

Obama, Xi Put Positive Spin On U.S.-China Relations. Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat. “Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently in the United States to attend the Nuclear Security Summit, along with a host of global figures (including top leaders from India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand). While the theme of the summit is focused on securing nuclear materials and nuclear non-proliferation, Xi’s presence in the U.S. capital recalled the growing list of friction points between Washington and Beijing, from the South China Sea to cyber issues. On Thursday, Obama and Xi had their first bilateral meeting this year, the latest face-to-face since talks on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris four months ago. Obama began his remarks with Xi by repeating the long-standing position that “the United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful, stable, and prosperous China.” Xi, meanwhile, reiterated that “it is a priority for China’s foreign policy to work with the United States to build a new model of major country relations, and to realize no conflicts or confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation.” Both those oft-repeated statements have worn rather thin, thanks in part to increasingly assertive moves in the disputed waters of the South China Sea from Beijing, and increasingly barbed verbal responses from U.S. military officials. Still, the two sides could – and did – point to some positive progress on nuclear security. In a joint statement on nuclear security cooperation, the U.S. and China pledged to deepen cooperation and coordination to prevent nuclear smuggling and increase the security of nuclear materials. At a press briefing, Laura Holgate, added that Washington was “really quite encouraged by the leadership that China is beginning to show in the nuclear security realm.” In another positive step, a new nuclear security Center of Excellence opened in China earlier this month, at a ceremony attended by U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. Moniz described the new center, the result of close U.S.-China collaboration, as “a world-class facility for Chinese, regional, and international nuclear security training and technical exchanges.” Meanwhile, White House officials were also quick to note China’s cooperation over the North Korean nuclear issue. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes pointed out that the recent UN Security Council sanctions – “the toughest sanctions that have ever been imposed on North Korea” – would not have been possible “without China’s cooperation and support.” “So we’ve seen China step up in many ways in terms of applying pressure,” Rhodes told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday. “The fact is, it has to over time affect the calculus of the North Korean leadership.” Despite the upbeat tone, questions remain about just how coordinated China and the United States are in their approach toward North Korea. Beijing strongly favors negotiations – including peace treaty negotiations on a separate track from denuclearization talks – over sanctions, while the United States continues to emphasize the use of pressure to eventually bring North Korea to the table. Daniel Kritenbrink, the senior director for Asia on the National Security Council, called the North Korea question “one of the most important issues that President Obama and President Xi [will] discuss.” During his remarks with Xi, Obama noted that “President Xi and I are both committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the full implementation of UN sanctions.” He said the bilateral meeting would include discussions on how to discourage provocations like missile tests. In another symbol of U.S.-China cooperation on global issues, Obama and Xi will also gather together Thursday, along with the other leaders of the P5+1, to review progress on implementing the nuclear deal reached with Iran last year.”

Senior Diplomat From Singapore Offers A Critical Take On China’s Hardball Diplomacy. Jane Perlez, The New York Times. “Chinese diplomats are known to be tough, but it is rare to hear descriptions of how tough. A senior Singaporean diplomat has pulled back the veil and has talked about China’s efforts to put smaller Asian countries in their place. In a speech on Wednesday, the diplomat, Bilahari Kausikan, ambassador at large and policy adviser in Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who is known around Asia and in Washington for his candor, said that Chinese diplomats “perversely” often go out of their way to “accentuate rather than assuage anxieties.” While his address, delivered at the Institute of Policy Studies at the National University of Singapore, dealt mainly with the complex power relationships among China, the United States and Southeast Asian nations, and particularly with the contentious issue of the South China Sea, Mr. Kausikan could not resist citing some examples of China’s heavy hand. If a negotiation in Southeast Asia does not suit China, he said, its diplomats blame the other party. “It is our fault, and ours alone,” he said, explaining China’s usual attitude toward members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional group that includes Singapore and nine other countries. He presented some examples. After Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore spoke about the disputed waters of the South China Sea at a 2012 summit meeting of Southeast Asian countries, a senior Chinese diplomat turned to a younger Singaporean counterpart, and said, “Silence is golden.” “If he meant to suggest that we were not entitled to a view on an important issue that affects our interests,” Mr. Kausikan said, “he only undermined the credibility of China’s claim to ‘peaceful development.’ ” Chinese diplomats get agitated when it comes to protocol involving their leaders, he said. For example, the Chinese ambassador to an Asian country demanded that Wen Jiabao, China’s premier at the time, be allowed to stay at a hotel during a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations even though that hotel was reserved by another delegation. “The ambassador insisted on this, although the hotel allocated to Premier Wen was of equal quality,” Mr. Kausikan recounted. “Did Premier Wen know where he was staying? Would he have cared if he had known? But the episode certainly left a deep impression on my counterpart, and no doubt on the Asean delegation that was forced to move as well.” Chinese diplomats often express bewilderment that China’s generosity toward Southeast Asia – in trade and investment – does not engender gratitude, or at the least, diminish mistrust, Mr. Kausikan said. Chinese behavior, he suggested, is best understood as “passive-aggressive” and an effort to “force acceptance of China’s inherent superiority” as the natural order of Southeast Asian regional affairs. The current dispute over the artificial islands China has constructed in the South China Sea is a case in point, he said. The islands are “inconsequential in military terms,” because, if necessary, they could easily be attacked and destroyed by the United States. But, he added, they are a potent reminder to Southeast Asia that “China is a geographic fact whereas the U.S. presence in the South China Sea is the consequence of a geopolitical calculation.” This is a point, Mr. Kausikan said, that China’s diplomats never tire of “seeding, in ways subtle or direct.”

Indonesian Navy Plans For Submarine Base In South China Sea. IHS Jane’s 360. “The Indonesian Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL) plans to locate the service's third submarine base on Pulau Natuna Besar, the largest of the Natuna Islands cluster in the South China Sea. The location was revealed in a transcript of a meeting between Indonesian National Armed Forces commander General Gatot Nurmantyo and the Indonesian House of Representatives commission on defence, intelligence, and foreign affairs (Komisi I) that took place in February 2016. According to the transcript, Pulau Natuna Besar has been selected due to its proximity to the South China Sea, a region that has received increasing attention from the TNI-AL recently given Beijing's growingly assertive stance in enforcing its territorial claims in the area. To fund the construction of the proposed submarine base, the TNI-AL has requested for a sum of IDR533 trillion (USD40 million) from Komisi I and the Indonesian Ministry of Defense. Part of the funds requested will also be allocated towards the upgrade of a TNI-AL pier at Sabang Mawang, which is on the same island, so that it can accommodate the deployment of larger naval vessels such as the SIGMA 10514 Perusak Kawal Rudal (PKR) guided-missile frigate. The TNI-AL currently operates a class of two German-built Cakra Type 209/1300-class diesel-electric submarines (SSKs), which are based in Surabaya. The service is expecting the delivery of three Type 209/1400 SSKs from South Korea and has said that it will base the incoming boats in Palu, Central Sulawesi, where the service's second submarine base is currently under construction. Building a third submarine base on Pulau Natuna Besar is likely being proposed in preparation for the acquisition of additional boats.”

China’s Intelligence Shake-Up Mirrors Its Political Tumult (Opinion). David Ignatius, The Washington Post. “China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security, offers a snapshot of the political intrigue taking place within the regime of President Xi Jinping. The MSS has replaced two vice ministers within the past four years, after reports of political infighting and scandal. The current minister is said to be a figurehead, with the real power held by a hard-line Xi loyalist who was drafted last year from the party’s discipline commission. This shake-up within the intelligence service mirrors China’s broader political turmoil, stemming largely from Xi’s anti-corruption campaign. This effort, which began soon after Xi became Communist Party chief in 2012, has targeted prominent military, security and political figures — and created what many China-watchers say is a backlash against Xi. Recent newspaper headlines convey the unrest that’s swirling in China: “Grumbling mounts in China, even in the party. Is President Xi losing his grip?” asked a Post news article this week. “Anonymous Call for Xi to Quit Rattles Party Leaders in China,” the New York Times reported. But experts caution that despite such talk, Xi’s hold on power probably remains firm. The signs of internal discord come against the background of Xi’s attempts over the past four years to purge corrupt or disloyal officials. His instrument has been the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, headed by Wang Qishan, a member of the Politburo’s standing committee who is said to be Xi’s closest adviser. Several independent China analysts offered an account of the upheaval within the MSS, based largely on Chinese and foreign media reports. A CIA official, asked to comment, declined. The security ministry’s recent troubles came to light with the removal of a vice minister, Lu Zhongwei, in 2012. Analysts believe he was purged after the reported arrest that year of his executive assistant, who was accused of spying for the CIA. China-watchers say that more than 350 people were investigated after the incident. The next top MSS official to fall was Vice Minister Ma Jian. He was a solid operations officer who had been in charge of counterespionage since 2006. But Ma had close ties to Chinese business executives, such as real estate tycoon Guo Wengui, who were said to be under investigation by the discipline commission. Ma was arrested in January 2015. When investigators swept his apartments, they are said to have found transcripts of wiretaps made secretly of Xi and other party leaders. Guo left China and may now be living in the United States, China-watchers say. In an interview last year with the South China Morning Post, Guo denied connection to any allegation involving Ma. With Ma’s fall, the dominant figure remaining at the security ministry was Minister Geng Huichang, who had held the top post since August 2007. Though he remains minister, he lost the more important title of MSS party secretary last year, and he is expected to retire at 65 later this year. The new strongman at the MSS is Chen Wenqing, who was appointed MSS party secretary last year. He’s an ex-police chief and a party disciplinarian. Experts say his new role in intelligence illustrates Xi’s attempt to control power.”

Don’t Let China Steal The U.S. Military’s Logistical Edge. John Adams, Defense One. “Our defense industrial base depends on supply chains freely moving into and through the U.S. But while adequate cybersecurity safeguards are in place to protect our most advanced defense systems, the movement of cargo in and out of U.S. ports and the technology that powers our broader defense industrial base is less vigorously defended. This constitutes a critical vulnerability that our adversaries routinely exploit. As China develops a modern, indigenous defense industrial base, it endeavors to better understand our own. Studies by the RAND Corporation have found that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is studying the logistical patterns of the U.S. military, as their Army, Navy, and Air Force face persistent challenges in logistics and maintenance as they seek to expand operations beyond their territorial waters. The Chinese intend to close this capabilities gap by any means necessary. Today, subcontractors in the logistics and cargo distribution industry are top targets for network intrusions. A 2014 probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee revealed that the Chinese government had hacked more than 20 transportation companies that serve U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). Even more disturbing, the Defense Department was aware of only two of these attacks. China is also looking to acquire U.S. companies that possess valuable logistical data and access to sensitive government facilities and ports. In the first two months of this year, Chinese companies have pledged more than $102 billion for acquisitions in the U.S. While many of these create stronger and mutually beneficial economic linkages, other proposed or pending takeovers of U.S. companies by Chinese state-owned companies are far less benign. For example, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co. – picture a Chinese version of Caterpillar, the U.S. construction equipment manufacturer – has put forward an unsolicited takeover offer for Connecticut’s Terex Corporation. The state-owned Zoomlion has extensive ties to and contracts with various branches of China’s military. It established the Industrialization Base of the PLA’s National Emergency Transportation Equipment Engineering Research Center. And it claims to be “devoted to China’s military industry.” On its face, the acquisition of a company best known for manufacturing cranes and forklifts might not be a cause for concern. But Terex manufactures specialized military equipment, such as MAC-50 all-terrain cranes customized for use by the U.S. Marine Corps. Its employees have access to ports and military bases – they service and maintenance MAC-50s in Afghanistan and Iraq – and to the computer networks of several branches of the Armed Services, the Defense Logistics Agency, and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, among others. If espionage and malicious hacking are a means toward getting the camel’s nose in the tent, acquisitions like Zoomlion’s allow the camel in the front flap. Given these facts, why would Terex consider such an offer? In a word, profit. Generous financing from the Chinese government allows corporations like Zoomlion to outbid other suitors that might be more reliable from a national security perspective. And when shareholders see a higher bid, they are prone to tune out the national security implications. Thankfully, Congress and policymakers have different priorities. When a pending takeover could place national security at risk, lawmakers have a responsibility to ask tough questions. Reuters recently reported that Terex has 97 priority-rated contracts – that is, contracts that are part of supply chains that the U.S. government must be able to access during a national emergency. Should Terex accept Zoomlion’s bid, policymakers must consider the probability that a crisis involving the U.S. and China could restrict access to those vital supply chains. Furthermore, policymakers must vet existing Terex contracts to ensure that none involve technical data controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which restrict exports of military items to a number of countries, China included. Beijing’s track record of espionage and cyberwarfare demands such vigilance. The forthcoming implementation of President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity strategy provides an opportunity to apply high standards for private sector partners that manage logistics and transportation on behalf of government agencies. The Defense Department’s new Cybersecurity Discipline Implementation Plan, which seeks to reduce the points of vulnerability where adversaries can attack, is a step in the right direction. But beyond targeting our cyber vulnerabilities, deals like Zoomlion’s bid for Terex demonstrates how our strategic competitors also attempt to acquire the infrastructure itself. Therefore, Congress must work with the Administration to ensure that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.(CFIUS) – which is charged with reviewing and, if necessary, blocking foreign acquisitions of U.S. companies – has the necessary capacity and funding to adequately vet the current influx of foreign investment. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio underscored this concern in a recent letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who chairs CFIUS. And given China’s continued attention to the movement of goods in and out of U.S. ports, as well as more immediate threats to critical infrastructure by foreign hackers, CFIUS’ leadership should be expanded to include the Secretary of Transportation. Policymakers must take a holistic view when safeguarding the broader array of vulnerabilities of the U.S. defense industrial base – from planes to cranes and everything in between.”

Strategic Standoff: The U.S.-China Rivalry And Taiwan (Report). Ian Easton, Project 2049 Institute. “The United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) are firmly entrenched in what will be a long and intense strategic competition for dominance over the Pacific Rim. American strategists Andrew Marshall, Robert Kaplan, and Aaron Friedberg each began foretelling of this great power struggle over a decade ago. They were quick to recognize that there are strong forces underpinning the U.S.-PRC rivalry. Recent events have proven their foresight. In February 2016, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, announced that great power competition has reemerged as the Pentagon's top priority, and he expects it will define the next 25 years. Later in the month, the Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China seeks hegemony in East Asia.3 Their assessments should not come as a surprise. The political systems and national interests of America and China stand in fundamental opposition to each other. The United States, while an imperfect democracy, is an inspiration to people everywhere who yearn for the freedom and dignity that come from having a representative government, independent legal system, and market economy. In contrast, all power in the PRC is monopolized by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), a political organization whose legitimacy is called into question by its troubled history. Read the State Department's annual report on human rights and it quickly becomes apparent that this is a deeply authoritarian regime, and one that continues to oppress the Chinese people. The CCP compounds its governance failures by forgoing moves toward a genuine market economy and stifling innovation. For all its much ballyhooed reforms, the PRC's economy is still largely controlled by massive state-owned enterprises, making it a mercantilist country, not a capitalist one. China treats the American-led international economic order with contempt, bending all the rules when it comes to trade and finance, and stealing what it cannot create. According to authoritative studies, much of Beijing's economic power stems from its ability to lure foreign business elites with promises of access to an immense market. Once the hook is set, Chinese state industries routinely pocket American companies' investments, siphon-off their intellectual property, and undercut their market competitiveness. Yet it is not China's disquieting political or economic practices that will ensure sustained U.S.- PRC competition over the coming decades―future American presidents, like Barack Obama and his predecessors, will undoubtedly be tempted to paper over ideological differences for expedience sake. It is Beijing's aggressive nature that is at the root of the problem. 8 In recent years China has stoked maritime tensions with Japan and the Philippines, both treaty allies of the United States; provoked border clashes with India, a democracy and security partner; and enabled nuclear missile proliferation amongst North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran. Track records tell a compelling story. That is why credit scores (remarkably accurate predictions of future financial behavior) rely entirely upon historical data points. The PRC's track record indicates that a growing number of geostrategic issues could result in a clash between America and China. Washington's attempts to cooperate with Beijing and "shape" China into a responsible stakeholder have foundered and will continue to achieve little with the CCP. Communist party elites in Beijing view the U.S. as hostile to their revanchist interests, and they will continue to compete regardless of American gestures of goodwill.”

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 Alex Gray | March 31, 2016

U.S. Says It Will Not Recognize South China Sea Exclusion Zone. Andrea Shalal, Reuters. “The United States has told China it will not recognize an exclusion zone in the South China Sea and would view such a move as "destabilizing," U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work said on Wednesday. U.S. officials have expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in the coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its South China Sea claims could prompt Beijing to declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, in the region, as it did in the East China Sea in 2013. Work told an event hosted by the Washington Post that the United States would not recognize such an exclusion zone in the South China Sea, just as it did not recognize the one China established in the East China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. "We don't believe they have a basis in international law, and we've said over and over (that) we will fly, sail and go wherever international law allows," Work said. "We have spoken quite plainly to our Chinese counterparts and said that we think an ADIZ would be destabilizing. We would prefer that all of the claims in the South China Sea be handled through mediation and not force or coercion," he said. Work spoke as Chinese President Xi Jinping prepared to visit Washington for a nuclear security summit this week. The United States has accused China of raising tensions in the South China Sea by its apparent deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, a move China has neither confirmed nor denied. China, for its part, has repeatedly accused the United States of militarizing the South China Sea through its freedom of navigation patrols in the region and the expansion of military alliances with countries such as the Philippines. In February, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said his country's South China Sea military deployments were no different from U.S. deployments on Hawaii. Tensions between China and its neighbors Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan over sovereignty in the South China Sea have risen after Beijing embarked on significant reclamations on disputed islands and reefs in the area.”

China Committed To Being A Major Presence In The SCS. Kurashige Nanae, The Asahi Shimbun. “In a rare interview with a foreign media organization, a high-ranking officer in the Chinese military indicated that Beijing will continue its efforts to bolster defense facilities in disputed areas of the South China Sea. Speaking to The Asahi Shimbun, Qian Lihua also provided some insight into Chinese defense spending, an issue of considerable international concern as it is so opaque. Qian, who holds the rank of major general and once served as director of the Foreign Affairs Office of the National Defense Ministry, is now vice chairman of the China committee within the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP), an informal mechanism established in 1994 to promote dialogue on security issues in the region. Member nations of CSCAP have separate committees made up of government and military officials, as well as scholars. CSCAP members meet on a regular basis to discuss security issues and submit recommendations to the governments. Beijing has courted strong international criticism over its moves to construct artificial islands in the South China Sea for military installations. But Qian said, "These moves will continue in the future." He also criticized the U.S. Navy's "freedom-of-navigation operations" in the South China Sea, whereby its warships operate within a 12-nautical-mile radius of the artificial islands being built in waters claimed by Beijing. Such actions "have only made the situation more complicated," he said. If Japan's Self-Defense Forces joined those operations, Qian said, "That would have a grave effect on China-Japan relations." At the same time, he said the actions by the U.S. Navy did not represent a pressing military threat and added that establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone by China in the South China Sea had not yet been placed on Beijing's agenda for discussions. Since late 2015, Chinese naval frigates and destroyers equipped with anti-aircraft guns have operated in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands, which are claimed by Japan. Qian intimated that the vessels, which were deployed after being repainted, are old stock. "As a means of reducing costs, we are reusing naval ships that are no longer suited for tactical purposes," he said. "The radar and other equipment have been removed so those vessels are not equipped like naval ships." Qian called for heightened communications between officials of Japan and China so as to prevent a maritime military encounter. He also addressed the lower growth rate in China's defense budget. For the first time in six years, the increase this year is expected to be under 10 percent. "We are fundamentally satisfied because we will be able to maintain a growth rate that exceeds that for the gross domestic product of last year," Qian said. He went on to cite an increase in patrols around the Gulf of Aden off the coast of Somalia as a reason for the greater defense spending. "The Chinese military is actively engaged in humanitarian support and anti-piracy measures in international waters and will further expand its range of activities," Qian said. Those activities will likely be helped by the construction of a military base in Djibouti in eastern Africa that will serve as a supply depot for the Chinese military's patrol activities. With regard to criticism that China's defense spending is not transparent, Qian said, "In general, it is divided into about three equal parts made up of personnel expenses, activity expenses to pay for training and military exercises and expenses to purchase and repair weapons and other military equipment." He said expenses to purchase weapons and military equipment had taken up a greater share of defense spending in recent years. Offering an insight into the lack of transparency in Chinese defense spending, Qian said that part of the research and development of weapons is not included in the national defense budget but covered by the state-run companies that are in charge of such matters.”  

China Defends Deployment Of Anti-Ship Missiles To South China Sea Island. Sam LaGrone, USNI. “Beijing is defending the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles to Woody Island in the South China Sea, according to a Wednesday statement from the Chinese foreign ministry. “China’s deployment of national defense facilities on its own territory is reasonable and justified,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday. “It has nothing to do with the so-called militarization.” Last week, several international news outlets reported the Chinese fired an YJ-62 cruise missile from Woody Island based on images that emerged on the Chinese language Internet. Woody Island is part of China’s disputed holdings in the Paracel Island off the coast of Vietnam. In the last few months, China has moved more offensive military hardware to the chain Beijing has controlled since the early 1970s. Last month, news broke that China had deployed several HQ-9 anti-air missiles batteries to Woody Island after the U.S. conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FON op) near Chinese holdings at nearby Triton Island. Then as now, the foreign ministry said moving military kit to Xisha Islands – the Chinese name for the Paracels – were well within their rights and the missiles were for defensive purposes. News of the new missiles on Woody comes as little surprise to experts who have monitored the military developments in the region over the last several months. “While the HQ-9 deployment was a big deal because it was the first observation of a major weapon system on Woody Island, the YJ-62 is really the second act that provides an anti-surface capability to complement the HQ-9’s anti-air,” Chris Carlson, a retired U.S. Navy captain and naval analyst told USNI News on Thursday. “In my view, China is making it clear that any attempted intrusion, be it by air or on the ocean surface, will be met by their defenses.” While in open conflict, the fixed position of the islands would make the missiles easy targets but the weapons could have a coercive effect to China’s neighbors and U.S. operations in peacetime, Bryan Clark, naval analyst Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) and former special assistant to past Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, told USNI News on Wednesday. “In a conflict, the islands will be hard to defend, but their value is in curtailing U.S. peacetime operations and in the opening moves of a conflict when they can threaten U.S. forces with a surprise attack,” he said. “If the U.S. deployed similar forces to Palawan [in the Philippines], it could similarly impact [People‘s Liberation Army] operations.” There is a concern now that China could use the same rationale for deploying offensive weapons on its disputed artificial islands in the Spratly Island chain – closer to the Philippines. “Chinese activities in the Paracels will likely at least partially presage activities in the Spratlys. Beijing may act as if it is using Paracels-based actions to signal – with the implication that they will deploy infrastructure and systems robustly in the Spratlys only if ‘forced’ to do so because Washington ignored Beijing’s message,” Andrew Erickson, a professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the U.S. Naval War College, told USNI News on Wednesday. In the last year-and-a half China has stepped up land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys, building facilities that could easily host military equipment.”

China Sets Up Unit To Coordinate Overseas Military Moves. Ben Blanchard, Reuters. “China's Defence Ministry said on Thursday it has set up a dedicated unit to coordinate its "non-war" activities overseas like evacuations from conflict zones, as it seeks to play a greater role in the world. China, the world's second-largest economy, has sent its navy to take part in anti-piracy patrols in the waters off Somalia and helped evacuate its citizens and other foreigners from Yemen. The new Overseas Action Department has been established as part of broader military reforms, ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular monthly news briefing. "In recent years, as our national and military strength have increase, the Chinese military has many times participated in overseas military actions, proactively fulfilling our international responsibilities and obligations," Yang said. The department's main mission is to plan, coordinate and enact "non-war" overseas action, such as peacekeeping missions, evacuations and joint drills, he added. But any of these missions will always respect the United Nations charter and international norms, to help preserve peace and stability, Yang said. China last year passed a counter-terrorism law that allows the military to venture overseas on anti-terror missions, though experts have said it would face big practical and diplomatic problems if it ever wanted to do this.”

Philippines Mulls Submarines As China Row Simmers. Defense News. “The Philippines may invest in its first-ever submarine fleet to help protect its territory in the disputed South China Sea, President Benigno Aquino said Wednesday. The impoverished nation, which has never before operated submarines and until now relied largely on US surplus ships, has been ramping up defense spending in response to China’s military expansion in the region. China claims almost all of the South China Sea despite conflicting claims from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei. Aquino said the Philippines could lose control of its entire west coast should China succeed in enforcing its claims. “We’ve had to accelerate the modernization of our armed forces for self-defense needs,” he told reporters. “We are a natural transit point into the Pacific and we are now studying whether or not we do need a submarine force,” he said. Beijing has reclaimed more than 2,900 acres (1,174 hectares) from the South China Sea in less than two years in an intensive island-building campaign, and has deployed surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island there, according to Taipei and Washington. China’s military dwarfs that of the Philippines, despite Aquino’s efforts to raise defense spending to record levels and the acquisition of new warships and fighter jets. This year China’s proposed defense spending of 954 billion yuan ($147 billion) is about 59 times that of the Philippines. The Philippines has turned to its long time ally the United States and former wartime foe Japan to bolster its military hardware. It has also asked a United Nations-backed arbitration panel to declare China’s sea claims illegal, with a ruling expected later this year. China boycotted the arbitration hearings at The Hague. However, buying submarines would not solve the disputes as the Philippines could not match China’s military might, said Benito Lim, a political science professor at the Ateneo de Manila University. “Aquino should be realistic. He needs force to counter force,” Lim told AFP, adding the Philippines should reopen dialogue with China. “A submarine will be a very expensive investment, and it may not address the problem in the most reasonable way,” he said. Aquino said the South China Sea dispute concerns every country since it could disrupt trade in shipping lanes through which about a third of the world’s oil passes. “The uncertainty breeds instability. Instability does not promote prosperity,” he said. But while the Philippines is fortifying its defenses, Aquino — who will step down in June when his single six-year term ends — said that as an impoverished nation the government would prioritize “butter rather than guns”. “We have no illusions of ever trying to match, trying to engage anybody in an arms race or in a military build-up,” he said. In a separate development a defense department official confirmed that the Philippines had sealed an agreement to acquire two anti-submarine helicopters. The Anglo-Italian AW159 helicopters will be delivered in a little over a year, said defense undersecretary Fernando Manalo, adding they would be the nation’s first. He did not disclose the cost.”

How China Sees THAAD. Sungtae “Jacky” Park, CSIS. “On Feb. 7, the United States and South Korea decided to begin official discussions on deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on the Korean Peninsula. In response, Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Qiu Guohong said that deployment of the system could destroy the Beijing-Seoul relationship “in an instant.”6pThe floor leader of South Korea’s ruling Saenuri party, Won Yoo-cheol, calling Qiu’s remarks “rude,” saying that they “disregarded the sovereignty and the security of the Republic of Korea.” While some analysts see China’s blunt position on this issue as a way to drive a wedge in the U.S.-ROK alliance, Beijing’s motivations are defensive. China’s leadership is concerned about THAAD at the strategic level and sees the system as part of a broader U.S. strategy to contain China. THAAD in South Korea does not pose a direct threat to China. THAAD is an anti-ballistic missile system designed to destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missiles during their terminal phase, meaning that the system cannot intercept missiles during their boost or mid-course phase. THAAD on the Korean Peninsula, therefore, cannot intercept Chinese missiles heading toward the United States. The X-band radar that is part of the system would be positioned and configured in “terminal mode” to intercept missiles originating from North Korea, instead of being used to scan deep into China. Deploying THAAD would not directly affect China’s nuclear second-strike capability vis-à-vis the U.S. Instead, the system would complement the Patriot system already in South Korea by adding an additional layer of protection and bolster deterrence against North Korea by increasing uncertainty of its capabilities and complicating its security calculations. Beijing must be aware of this. Why, then, is it so fiercely opposed to THAAD? One widely-touted explanation is that China seeks to drive a wedge in the U.S.-ROK relationship by attempting to wield a veto over South Korea’s decision-making. As Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, recently put it, it is “preposterous that China would try to wedge itself between South Korea and the United States for a missile defense system designed to defend Americans and Koreans on the peninsula.” This is a plausible, but not complete, explanation. China might see the U.S.-ROK alliance as “a weak link,” but only in a relative sense. There are 28,500 U.S. troops on the Korean Peninsula to act under the U.S.-ROK wartime combined command, and the alliance is stronger than ever. Pressuring South Korea to stand down on THAAD would add friction but not break the alliance. Chinese do not issue unusually blunt statements on the system just to obtain marginal benefits. To understand Chinese concerns about THAAD, first note that China sees the U.S. as determined to maintain its place as the leading global power and unwilling to allow China to take its rightful place within the international order. As Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Fu Ying notes, “China is politically treated as an alien and militarily seen as a potential target [by the United States]. Some of its alliances show the intention to take China as the source of security threat.” The Chinese believe that China is “hemmed in on all sides by the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, ASEAN countries, and Australia, and facing an increasingly unilateral, even imperialist, America” and perceive that Washington is redoubling efforts to contain China by “rebalancing” to Asia. Plainly, Beijing sees a more insidious motive behind the U.S. push to deploy THAAD: containment of China with a regional missile defense network and increased U.S.-Japan-ROK security cooperation. China questions why the U.S. and South Korea want to deploy THAAD, an expensive system that only protects against missiles at altitudes between 40 and 150 kms; a single THAAD battery costs about $827.6 million. The Chinese argue that deploying the system would be an imprudent and exorbitant investment and overkill because Seoul is so close to North Korea. Even a former United States Forces Korea commander, while supporting the deployment of THAAD, noted that “the best way to deliver a nuclear weapon to Seoul today is in the belly of an airplane” or even drones, if the North Koreans are able to improve their unmanned technology. Drones, in particular, could easily reach the South without being detected by air defenses. Three North Korean drones flew over Seoul undetected and took photos of the South Korean presidential residence in 2014; the South Koreans only found out because the drones crashed on their way back to the North. North Korea might not need a missile to drop nuclear bombs on South Korea, although Washington and Seoul have every reason to deploy an array of systems to protect their citizens against different threats from the North.”

How Should Indonesia Manage The China Challenge? Lachlan Wilson, The Strategist (Australia). “Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s strategy for reinforcing state sovereignty and strengthening maritime integrity is being tested with the latest incursion by Chinese fishing boats into Indonesian waters off the Natuna islands. Indonesian Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti’s public criticism of China’s activities is the first step in what’s likely to become a series of reluctantly enacted but necessary responses from Jokowi’s administration – unlike in the past, Indonesia can’t afford to do otherwise. This isn’t the first time Indonesia has had to contend with Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. Over the last four years, Jakarta’s attempts to enforce its fisheries’ laws by arresting Chinese fishermen operating illegally in Indonesia’s EEZ has led to a series of confrontations between the Chinese Fisheries Law Enforcement Command and Indonesian law enforcement vessels. Traditionally, Indonesia’s foreign ministry has tried to dismiss those engagements as minor in order to maintain its relationship with China. While such events aren’t related to sovereignty disputes over the Natuna Islands (which China has stated it doesn’t claim), the EEZ created by the islands overlaps with China’s nine-dash line. Previously, the Indonesian foreign ministry has demanded clarification of the legality of the nine-dash line but has received no response. Pudjiastuti’s summoning of China’s ambassador to Indonesia, Xie Feng, on the 21 March to discuss China’s latest claim that its fisherman were within ‘traditional Chinese fishing grounds’ is also unlikely to clarify the matter. Rather, it’s apparent that the recent incursion by China into Indonesia’s waters is an intentional challenge to Jakarta’s resolve. So far, Jokowi’s administration has been cautious with China. That wariness has been clearly displayed in its hesitancy to sink Chinese-flagged boats as a part of its ‘Sink the Vessels’ policy directed against illegal fishing. The Administration abstained for six months until it eventually destroyed a Chinese vessel on 20 May 2015 that had been in custody since 2009. Indonesia’s soft approach to Chinese illegal fishing vessels – compared to the brazen destruction of those of belonging to its neighbours – has drawn significant derision. Moreover, it’s a sign of Indonesia’s diplomatic inconsistency. Last week’s heightened tensions in the waters surrounding the Natuna islands has the potential to undermine the more positive diplomatic relations that developed between China and Indonesia during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency. In 2013, China and Indonesia signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership that extended cooperation between the two nations, with a particular emphasis on economic investment. Around the same time, the two countries enacted a number of cooperative security initiatives, including agreements on joint counterterrorism training and the shared development of anti-ship missiles. The Jokowi Administration is keen to retain those economic and security ties, which it desperately needs to fulfill its domestic infrastructure development plans and pre-election promise of stemming the tide of growing economic inequity. But Indonesia can no longer downplay China’s excursions into its territorial waters as minor incidents in the hope that they won’t increase in frequency. Moreover, Jokowi’s political ambition of creating a ‘strong state’ and his nationalistic and populist agenda demands that he address those maritime issues with China, lest he appear weak in the eyes of the Indonesian public. Jokowi has only a select number of options to address China’s incursion. The first is to make a calculated and explicit display of Indonesia’s displeasure with China that may range from recalling its ambassador to dragging its feet on various bilateral initiatives, which are detailed in the October 2013 Comprehensive strategic Partnership. While that’ll bolster the perception of Indonesia’s resolve domestically and internationally, it may result in the loss of significant investments from China that Indonesia desperately needs for its faltering economy.”

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 Alex Gray | March 30, 2016

Obama Seeing China Leader As South China Sea Tensions Rise. Matthew Pennington, Associated Press. “President Barack Obama will be meeting with Asian leaders in Washington this week as fears grow that long-smoldering tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea risk flaring into conflict. World leaders, including those from China, Japan and South Korea, will be in town for a summit hosted by Obama on nuclear security – the final round in the U.S. president's drive for international action to stop materials that could be used for an atomic weapon or dirty bomb from getting into terrorist hands. But other pressing security issues will be up for discussion on the sidelines of the two-day gathering that starts Thursday. Obama will on Thursday meet separately with China's President Xi Jinping at a time when frictions between the two world powers over China's island-building in strategic waters are growing and look set to intensify with an upcoming ruling from an international tribunal on Beijing's sweeping territorial claims. The U.S. president is also meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Washington is looking for an elusive unity between its core allies in Asia as threats from North Korea reach fever-pitch after Pyongyang was stung with tough sanctions in response to its recent nuclear test and rocket launch. Obama will be urging China to implement the U.N. sanctions it signed up to for use against North Korea, its traditional ally. For his part, Xi will want the U.S. to restart negotiations with the authoritarian government of Kim Jong Un, which has been touting progress in miniaturizing nuclear devices and missile technology that could directly threaten America. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that if North Korea keeps advancing its weapons programs, the U.S. will be compelled to take defensive measures that China will not like, such as the deployment of a missile defense system being discussed with South Korea. Beijing is concerned the system's radar could cover Chinese territory. "The bottom line remains that as long as North Korea continues in this direction, advancing its nuclear program, advancing its missile program, we are going to have to take these steps to defend ourselves and to defend our partners," Blinken told a Washington think tank. With Obama's presidency in its final year, there's uncertainty among Asian nations on what the next administration will portend. Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is calling for Japan and South Korea to pay more for U.S. military protection, and is advocating a tougher trade policy toward China. During his seven years in office, Obama has deepened engagement with Asia, despite the huge distraction of chaos in the Middle East. The U.S. and China have cooperated on issues like climate change and nuclear security, even as their strategic rivalry has grown. The U.S. is a major player in China's fast-growing nuclear industry, and this month, the U.S. and China opened a center in Beijing to train technicians and scientists from across the Asia-Pacific on nuclear security. But when Obama and Xi meet, the hottest topic will be the most divisive one: China's bold pursuit of its sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea. China has reclaimed more than 3,000 acres of land in the past two years near sea lanes crucial for world trade. On these artificial islands, Beijing has installed airstrips and other military facilities that U.S. intelligence assesses will enable China to project offensive military power in the region by early next year. Despite conflicting territorial claims from five other Asian governments, China contends it has a historic right to most of the South China Sea and maintains the U.S. has no business there. It accuses the U.S. of stoking tensions by sending military ships and planes through the area on freedom of navigation maneuvers. "Washington should know that the more provocative moves it makes against China, the more counter-measures Beijing will take. Such an undesirable cycle may push both sides nearer confrontation and cause both to prepare for the worst-case scenario, potentially making it self-fulfilling," the U.S. edition of the state-supported China Daily said in a recent editorial. The stakes are set to rise by mid-year when an international arbitration body is set to rule on a case brought by the Philippines challenging the legal basis of the nine-dash line – Beijing's rough demarcation of its claims. If the Hague-based tribunal rules in the Philippines' favor, as most experts anticipate, it could undermine China's insistence that its stance is consistent with international law. China has refused to participate in the arbitration and says it will ignore the ruling, but a growing number of countries say both parties should be bound by it. Jeffrey Bader, Obama's former principal advisor on Asia, wrote in a commentary ahead of the summit that there's concern in Washington and the region about how China might react to the ruling, and whether it will militarily challenge Filipino territorial claims. He said that as the Philippines is a U.S. ally, Obama "may warn Xi of the risks of escalation." The last time Xi visited Washington, in September, he publicly said that China did not intend to pursue militarization in the Spratly islands where most of land reclamation has happened – a statement that U.S. officials remind Beijing of at every opportunity. But in recent weeks, China has reportedly positioned more military equipment on disputed islands in the South China Sea.”

Patrolling Disputed Waters, U.S. And China Jockey For Dominance. Helene Cooper, The New York Times. “The Navy cruiser was in disputed waters off the Spratly Islands when the threat warning sounded over the ship’s intercom: “Away the Snoopie team. … Away the Snoopie team.” As the sailors of the “Snoopie team” went on alert and took up positions throughout the ship, a Chinese naval frigate appeared on the horizon, bearing down on the cruiser Chancellorsville last week from the direction of Mischief Reef. More alarming, a Chinese helicopter that had taken off from the frigate was heading straight for the American cruiser. “This is U.S. Navy warship on guard,” Ensign Anthony Giancana said into his radio from the ship’s bridge, trying to contact the helicopter. “Come up on Frequency 121.5 or 243.” Ominously, there was no response. Here in the hot azure waters off the Spratly and Paracel Islands – which encompass reefs, banks and cays – the United States and China are jockeying for dominance in the Pacific. From Mischief Reef, where China is building a military base in defiance of claims by Vietnam and the Philippines, to Scarborough Shoal, where the Chinese are building and equipping outposts on disputed territory far from the mainland, the two naval forces are on an almost continuous state of alert. Although the South China Sea stretches some 500 miles from mainland China, Beijing has claimed most of it. Tensions have risen sharply, and the topic is expected to dominate President Obama’s meeting in Washington this week with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping. America’s goal is to keep the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, open to all maritime traffic. But administration officials are increasingly worried that tensions will only deepen if an arbitration panel in The Hague rules as expected in the coming months on a 2013 case brought by the Philippines, which has accused China of making an “excessive claim” to most of the sea. At the Pentagon two weeks ago, the day before a meeting of Mr. Obama’s national security team on Chinese expansion in the Pacific, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking with Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of the United States Pacific Command, in the reception area of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.  “Would you go to war over Scarborough Shoals?” General Dunford asked Admiral Harris, in a conversation overheard by a reporter. If Admiral Harris responded, it could not be heard. The White House and the Pentagon have made clear that they do not want a war with China over a group of uninhabited islands. But neither does the White House want to cede the South China Sea to China, which is what administration officials fear will happen if Beijing continues on its current course. James R. Clapper, Mr. Obama’s director of national intelligence, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last month that by early next year China would “have significant capacity to quickly project substantial military power to the region.” That could mean that other countries could eventually need Beijing’s permission to traverse the heavily trafficked sea. And so for the moment, the Obama administration is sending Navy patrols through the Spratlys and other disputed island chains in the region, to drive home the message that the sea is free to all. Some 700 American patrols have gone through in the past year, Navy officials say. Three weeks ago the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis and four other American warships sailed into the South China Sea for routine exercises, meant to convey the message, Pentagon officials said, that the United States is the dominant military power in the region.”

Pentagon Concerned By Chinese Anti-Ship Missile Firing. Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon. “China has deployed anti-ship cruise missiles on a disputed South China Sea island and the missiles are raising new concerns in the Pentagon over Beijing’s growing militarization of the vital strategic waterway. Defense officials confirmed that China’s military recently test-fired a YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile from Woody Island, in the Paracels located in the northern part of the South China Sea. At the Pentagon, spokesman Peter Cook declined to confirm the cruise missile deployment but said reports of the test firing has increased worries about Chinese military activities. “I can’t get into intelligence matters from here,” Cook said of the cruise deployments. “But obviously, as we have been talking about for some time, anything, any steps by any of the players in that part of the world, China or otherwise, to militarize those features that are in dispute, those islands in dispute, would be a concern to us,” he told reporters at the Pentagon. President Obama and Southeast Asian leaders during the recent summit meeting in California voiced support for freedom of navigation and overflight and “unimpeded lawful commerce, as well as non- militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities in that part of the world,” Cook said. “This is something that we’ve stressed repeatedly with the Chinese, particularly the question militarization,” he added. “And it is a concern for us, and something clearly at the top of our agenda as we engage with the Chinese.” Cook said militarization is raising tensions and decreasing stability in a waterway the Pentagon has said hosts $5.3 trillion in annual trade, including $1.2 trillion in U.S. trade. Officials identified the offensive missiles as YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missiles. A test-firing of the cruise missile on Woody Island was disclosed March 21 on a Chinese military enthusiasts’ website called Dingsheng. The posting included a photo of a YJ-62 being launched from a missile encampment on Woody Island, which China calls Yongxing Island. The posting stated that the missile was fired by a People’s Liberation Army South Sea Fleet shore-based missile unit. It also included an aerial photo of the island with diagrams showing the launch location. The deployment of Chinese anti-ship missiles on Woody Island follows reports last month that China has deployed advanced air defense missiles on Woody Island and represents a further militarization of disputed islands in the sea. The HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles were photographed in commercial satellite imagery along the beach on Woody Island. Rick Fisher, an expert on the Chinese military, said the YJ-62 is a land-based version of the missile deployed on China’s Type 052C guided missile destroyers, ships that are known to be equipped with advanced electronics similar to U.S. Aegis battle-management equipped warships. “It is likely that the PLA Navy deployed the YJ-62 to Woody Island at about the same time that HQ-9 anti-aircraft missile were seen on the island, perhaps some time in 2015,” Fisher said. The deployment of the anti-ship missiles, with a range of 248.5 miles, “now completes a template for the three new bases in the Spratly Island group,” Fisher said. “They too will soon be equipped with combat aircraft, anti-aircraft missiles, and long range anti-ship missiles,” he said. “These islands will also eventually be linked by underwater, surface and airborne surveillance sensors creating a ‘fence’ to keep out U.S. and allied military forces.” Fisher said that at the current rate of militarization in the sea, China could deploy the equivalent of a new navy fleet by 2020.”

China’s Airfields On Spratlys Meant For Fighter Jets – US. Jaime Laude, The Philippine Star. “A senior US State Department official yesterday disputed China’s claims that the airstrips built on its artificial islands in the South China Sea were meant for flights for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Colin Willet, US deputy assistant secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said what China has been doing in the region was to outstrip all other claimants. “The runways they’ve built are designed to accommodate strategic bombers, not cargo planes for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Willet told a group of journalists in a teleconference from the US embassy in Manila. While it is true that other claimant countries have deployed military personnel and weapons on their outposts, Willet said, these are small compared to what China has been doing for the last two years. There were also reports China has installed an anti-air defense system over its man-made islands at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Zamora (Subi) and Panganiban (Mischief) reefs. The three former obscure maritime outcrops are now home to newly built runways. Beijing also installed missile batteries over its occupied Woody Island in the Paracel island group located north of the Spratlys. “Frankly, what’s going on here is far more than simply catching up. What China is doing vastly outstripped what all other claimants have done over the past several decades,” Willet said. “When countries place weapons on their outposts and transform them into what can only be described as military bases, it sets the stage for others to follow suit and raises the risk of conflict as well as the prospect of a diplomatic solution,” the state department official said. China maintains its land reclamation activities in the region are not aimed at militarizing the area but for civilian purposes. “We simply don’t need these type of facilities to protect civilians, or assist distressed fishermen or monitor the weather,” Willet said. On China’s moves of restricting freedom of navigation and overflight over the disputed region, she said it is also causing a lot of concern, as this is a clear violation of international law. “While China has pledged to protect freedom of navigation, we still see radio operators challenging foreign ships and planes that are operating in the area, warning them to stay away,” she said. Willet pointed out that US ships and planes have been sailing and flying over the region for decades to protect freedom of navigation and overflight. She also pointed out that when the US conducts freedom of navigation, it is not meant at militarizing the region as China had claimed, but for the protection of navigation rights of all seafaring nations in order to ensure that they can all exercise this right, including China.”

Analysts See Path To Better Beijing Ties. Jane Perlez, The New York Times. “When dozens of world leaders gather for a summit meeting in Washington on Thursday, President Obama will meet privately with only one of them: President Xi Jinping of China. The one-on-one session signals the importance of the relationship, as a rising China seems determined to be the dominant player in Asia, and the United States vows to retain its power in the Pacific. But relations between the two countries are at their lowest point in 15 years. China’s military expansion in the South China Sea may be the most prominent point of friction, but it does not help that China is distracted by a slowing economy and that trade with China has become a cudgel in the American presidential campaign. Expectations that anything of substance will be accomplished in the 90-minute meeting between Mr. Obama and Mr. Xi are minimal. So it may be surprising that some analysts here and in the United States say it would be relatively easy for the two leaders to ease tensions. Mr. Xi could pledge not to go any further in militarizing disputed islands, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. In return, he said, the Americans could agree to stop sending warships and aircraft on “freedom of navigation” patrols into territory claimed by China. The United States Navy has conducted two such patrols in the past several months, and there is a push in Congress for more. An American analyst, Douglas H. Paal of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said a show of restraint by both sides would be helpful. “Offers of reassurance that restraint on new actions by China will lead to restraint on new significant or permanent military deployments by the U.S.” would be a start, he said. Beijing, for example, could agree not to use landfill to build up the Scarborough Shoal, part of the contested Spratly Islands, over which the Philippines lost control to China. In China, even though Mr. Xi has orchestrated the South China Sea gambit, some foreign policy experts disagree with his stance. Those who are unhappy with his actions argue that the expansion alienates China’s Asian neighbors, pushing them closer to the United States – the opposite of what Mr. Xi is trying to achieve through trade and diplomacy. Some Chinese scholars privately assert that in a gesture toward recognizing the authority of international maritime law, China could more closely set out its claim to the region by defining the so-called nine-dash line. The nine-dash line is a U-shape line that China has drawn on maps since the late 1940s to mark its claims over most of the South China Sea. The line overlaps territory claimed by countries including the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia. But China has never given the precise coordinates of the line, and the ambiguity gives Beijing room to maneuver. Such a move would probably appeal to the United States, Mr. Paal said. Doing so, and acknowledging the primacy of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, would effectively limit China’s claims of sovereignty to waters within 12 nautical miles from any land within the lines, freeing up the sea within, American and Chinese experts said. The Chinese Foreign Ministry quietly proposed doing just that in 2011, a year before Mr. Xi came to power, and then dropped the idea, said Mr. Paal, who was the director of the American Institute in Taiwan in the administration of George W. Bush. It is unlikely to happen now. According to Professor Shi, “The South China Sea is strategic hardball, and it goes to key national interests.” Last week, at a briefing on Mr. Xi’s trip, Li Baodong, the vice foreign minister, made no attempt to sugarcoat the issue. When it comes to the South China Sea, he said sternly, China “has its own point of view and position.” Under Mr. Xi, China has built artificial islands in disputed parts of the Spratly archipelago, equipping them with runways and ports capable of projecting substantial military power. In the Paracel Islands, which China has controlled since the early 1970s after pushing out Vietnam, the Chinese military has installed surface-to-air missile batteries and powerful radar facilities. Those projects strengthen China’s hand in the strategic waterway, analysts said, in ways that it has never done before. Mr. Xi wants “to force Asian maritime neighbors and the United States to accept the new status quo,” Professor Shi said. Chinese children are taught that much of the South China Sea has belonged to China since ancient times, making any move seen as reducing Beijing’s claim seem a capitulation, scholars say.”

Saving The South China Sea Without Starting World War III. Van Jackson, The National Interest. “Greater operational transparency in the South China Sea has become a strategic imperative, and the United States needs to treat it as such by investing greater resources and political capital toward increasing the shared maritime awareness of Southeast Asian states. It simply will not happen without U.S. leadership. The opaque, low-information nature of the South China Sea creates a permissive environment for many sources of conflict. When national governments lack real-time awareness of who is doing what and where in the maritime domain, opportunistic actors like China have the ability to exploit it – through contentious land reclamation, illegal fishing and the bullying of commercial ships from other nations. But even among states that aren’t tempted to exploit information asymmetries, a lack of situational awareness increases the prospect of misunderstandings, miscalculations and accidents among nations with overlapping Exclusive Economic Zones. This problem isn’t entirely lost on the Pentagon. Last year, it released the Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy, which outlined efforts to build the maritime surveillance capacity of Southeast Asian partners, and followed it up with the Maritime Security Initiative (MSI) – an authorization of more than $400 million to shore up security for nations surrounding the South China Sea. Maritime security is de rigueur in Washington. Yet neither the announced Pentagon strategy nor MSI offers a roadmap for how the United States will go about making the South China Sea more transparent. There also seems to be little recognition that security cooperation in this vein is an immediate strategic issue every bit as crucial to U.S. interests as tracking Russian actions in Crimea or the atrocities within Syria; not all strategic imperatives are headline grabbers. Moreover, many of the timelines for realizing current U.S. maritime capacity-building efforts stretch more than a decade into the future, while the South China Sea’s opacity problem is incentivizing undesirable behavior today. The time for transparency-inducing action is now, and it can’t be limited to U.S. arms transfers to allies or enhanced maritime patrols. These traditional moves are essential, of course, but they’re slow and expensive. That’s why in a new report with my colleagues from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), we outline the strategic case for maritime transparency and a road map for making it happen. Part of the solution is indeed to fill what we describe as Southeast Asia’s “ISR gap” – remedying a shortfall in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities of Southeast Asian partners. But even faster, more innovative and more cost-effective solutions are within reach. In parallel with long-term efforts to increase the independent ISR capacity of Southeast Asian partners, the United States needs to forge collaborative partnerships in three directions: with private Silicon Valley and defense technology firms; with external powers who have a shared stake in South China Sea stability; and with regional institutions in the maritime and information-sharing business. The most promising and most immediate payoffs for South China Sea transparency are likely to be realized through partnerships with the private sector. A number of Silicon Valley start-ups and nonprofits are at the forefront of not only visualizing the locations of ships and aircrafts on maps in near-real time, but in value-added analysis of the publicly available data that it tracks. Companies like Spire and Skybox, and nonprofit projects like the Seas Around Us and Global Fishing Watch, are able to deduce secure maritime routes and identify patterns of illegal fishing. Companies and projects like these respond to the profit motive and to purpose-driven missions; the South China Sea offers both. Until now, though, the private sector’s capabilities have not been focused on the problems of the South China Sea; the U.S. government can help change that. The U.S. defense industry also has a major role to play, by leasing its unmanned ISR capabilities to Southeast Asian states in need of greater maritime awareness – which is virtually all of them. Owning and operating ISR collection assets is expensive and requires significant operator training, whereas contractor-run maritime collection missions on behalf of a local partner deliver immediate payoffs. Even in cases where the United States is willing to transfer UAVs with ISR collection payloads to others, there will inevitably be a multi-year “coverage gap” between the sale of ISR assets and the recipient’s ability to actually operate and maintain what it procures on its own. The win-win solution is for the Pentagon to solicit defense industry plans for ISR fee-for-service programs for the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, and use Maritime Security Initiative funding to subsidize leasing as necessary.”

What India Thinks About The South China Sea. Darshana Barauh, The Lowy Interpreter (Australia). “Developments in the South China Sea are bringing India into a debate it generally maintains a distance from. India's shift in its maritime policies and a relatively vocal stand on the issue may be a signs of a future where India is willing to play a more direct role in the South China Sea. However, the reality on the ground couldn't be further from this scenario. Yes, there has been a shift in India's maritime policies and this is likely to continue, but has India really reached a moment where it will play a more prominent role outside of the Indian Ocean? Although this is being debated by strategists in India and abroad, the incentives for India to engage in such an act are close to nil. More importantly, India may also be on the same page as China as far as freedom of military navigation is concerned. Whether India enforces its view as aggressively as China does is again debatable. Here are some of the reasons why India is unlikely to lend a helping hand in the South China Sea, as exciting as it may sound: As laid out above, India's foreign policy would have to go through a drastic strategic change before it could commit to allocating resources in an area beyond its navy's primary area of interest. India has traditionally been continental in its defence strategy and will remain so, given the obvious troubles along its northern borders. However, there has definitely been a shift where India attempting to cultivate a more maritime outlook and is more willing than it has been in the past to engage and increase its participation in regional matters. Despite this shift, it is important to note that India still considers the Indian Ocean as its primary area of interest and the South China Sea as secondary. Does this mean that India is not affected by developments in the South China Sea and will take no role? No, India is well aware of the implications of the disputes in the South China Sea and is monitoring it as best it can. But, it also means that India considers the issue as outside of its strategic interests and is wise enough to not meddle in the affairs of other countries, which may have repercussions along its land borders. India is not going to stretch its capacity in fighting a cause it knows it won't be able to sustain. At the heart of the U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operations is the issue of the right to military passage through another country's Exclusive Economic Zone. Although the U.S. makes matters worse in this debate by not ratifying UNCLOS, the U.S. Government asserts that it follows and abides by the rules of the treaty. There is a difference in interpretation in the right to military passage. The U.S. claims that every nation has the right to military passage through another country's EEZ, whereas China claims that the coastal state reserves the right to evict a foreign military ship from its EEZ. The reason that the U.S. does not specify freedom of military navigation is because most nations in Asia are on the same page as China, including India. Many nations, including Vietnam, using various language, reserve the right to regulate the activities of foreign military ships within EEZs. India, while signing UNCLOS, made the declaration: 'The Government of the Republic of India understands that the provisions of the Convention do not authorize other States to carry out in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf military exercises or manoeuvres, in particular those involving the use of weapons or explosives without the consent of the coastal State'. While in practice India does not enforce this right as frequently or as aggressively as China, India too has reservations regarding freedom of military navigation through its EEZ. India as a developing nation, with ambitions to be a great power, has left the option open should it ever come to a point where it may need to practice such a right to safeguard its own strategic interests. Joining the U.S. in demonstrating freedom of military navigation could turn controversial at least on paper. Of course in outlining this point, I in no manner disregard India's recognition of the illegal and unilateral actions in the South China Sea with regards to artificial islands. However, the rules of engagement overlap and are blurred to a certain degree and India feels safer in staying away from the issue.”

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 The Congressional China Caucus | March 29, 2016

Amid Sea Dispute, China Calls For Deeper Defense Ties With Vietnam. Ben Blanchard, Reuters. “The militaries of China and Vietnam should deepen their exchanges, communication and friendship, China's defense minister said during a visit to Hanoi, amid a festering territorial dispute in the South China Sea. The two communist-led states' claims in the South China Sea came to a head in 2014, when Beijing parked an oil rig in waters off the Vietnamese coast, leading to anti-China riots. Since then they have exchanged high-level visits, including a trip by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Hanoi last year. Meeting Vietnam Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan said the two sides should strive to maintain the close ties forged in the past by leaders Mao Zedong and Ho Chi Minh. The two militaries should "increase high level exchanges and strategic communication, increase friendly feelings, deepen border defense exchanges and practical cooperation on U.N. peacekeeping, military academic research and the defense industry,” Chang said, in a statement carried late on Monday by China's Defence Ministry. While there was no direct mention of the South China Sea, the ministry said the commander of China's South China Sea fleet, Shen Jinlong, attended the meeting. Last month, tensions heightened between the two nations over territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea after Taiwan and U.S. officials said Beijing had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracel archipelago that China controls. Vietnam called China's actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Its Southeast Asian neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, also claim parts of the sea, as does Taiwan.”

China Security Push Should Match Economic Model, Says Singapore. Rosalind Mathieson and John Fraher, Bloomberg News. “As Xi Jinping heads to Washington this week to meet with some of the world’s biggest powers, one of Asia’s smallest countries is urging him to match China’s economic clout with better leadership on the security front. Singapore views China’s rise in Asia with “sublime acceptance,” Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Thursday in an interview. “It’s a fait accompli,” he said. “You cannot contain China.” Still, he said, “there is a distinct difference if you think about it, if you look at it, between how the Chinese assume leadership and even initiatives in the economic arena versus the security arena.” He highlighted China’s contrasting approaches: While it is looking to make investments in roads, railways and ports in Southeast Asia via a new maritime Silk Road trading route to the Middle East and Europe, and leads a new Asia infrastructure bank, its land reclamation activities and increased military presence have sparked tensions with other claimant states as well as the U.S. in the contested South China Sea. China is one of the biggest trading partners for many Southeast Asian nations. That trade has stayed robust in the face of the South China Sea disputes and political friction between China and the likes of the Philippines and Vietnam. Yet surveys often show how its actions in the maritime sphere undercut that economic goodwill, with China scoring low on trust among citizens in the region. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned last May that smaller countries don’t want to be squeezed by competition between China and the U.S. for influence, or feel they have to pick a side. Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said late last year that while the major powers were welcome in Southeast Asia he hoped they would not create “a situation that will increase tensions.” It’s a dilemma Xi himself has publicly acknowledged: In a speech in Singapore in September he said security cooperation was “out of step” with economic collaboration, and called on nations to “never let animosity” divide them. Under Xi, China has stepped up efforts to assert control of the South China Sea, building islands that offer possible military bases. While its coast guard has been accused of harassing boats from other countries and it has warned planes by radio to stay away from reclaimed reefs, China has also promoted the construction of facilities as potentially assisting in navigation for ships and providing quick disaster relief. Xi touts the South China Sea actions as part of a broader return by China to great power status, a stance that has seen tensions increase with the U.S., a country that has dominated the postwar security order in Asia. Xi will join leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama this week for a nuclear summit in Washington, where a bilateral meeting with Obama is scheduled. China claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea based on a nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map for which it gives no precise coordinates. The waters host more than $5 trillion of shipping each year and are home to about a 10th of the world’s annual fishing catch. Some of the sea is also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan. “Whatever their foreign policy is, it’s clear their position has hardened positions on countries around Asia and ASEAN,” Ng said, referring to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian nations. He cited several examples, including Vietnam allowing a Japanese submarine to call at its port and the Philippines permitting a greater U.S. military presence. "Would that have happened without the Chinese position?" The dilemma for some Southeast Asian nations has been highlighted by recent scuffles involving fishing vessels and coast guards. Indonesia, which like Singapore is not a claimant in the South China Sea and has sought to stay neutral in the disputes, was forced to publicly chastise China this month after an incident involving a fishing vessel it said was detained in its waters. In the ensuing melee, a Chinese coast guard ship rammed the fishing boat that was under tow by Indonesia in a bid to free it. At the same time, China is Indonesia’s largest two-way trading partner and President Joko Widodo is relying on it to fund much of his country’s infrastructure needs. China is building a high-speed rail link between Jakarta and Bandung. There need to be rules for countries of all sizes to buy into for a stable overall system, and the South China Sea is a test case of that, said Ng. He urged countries to extend an agreement for unplanned encounters at sea from the navy to the coast guard. Referring to China, he said “we accept that your position as a leader will have to be recognized and that there will be new rules, but China has to decide what these new rules are.” “We’re realistic enough to recognize that you will never have a situation where there are no disputes, we’re not in Utopia,” Ng said. “Disputes should be settled peacefully and you need mechanisms for that. We’re in the phase where we are trying to build mechanisms that prevent such escalation.”

Indonesia Plays Up New South China Sea ‘Base’ After China Spat. Prashanth Parameswaran, The Diplomat. “Last week, a Chinese coast guard ship once again attempted to intercept an Indonesian crackdown on a Chinese boat for illegal fishing near the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, sparking unprecedented outrage from Jakarta. Though Indonesia is technically not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes, it is an interested party since China’s nine-dash line overlaps with the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the resource-rich Natuna Islands, a point that has long miffed Jakarta. The latest incident has predictably led to speculation about the extent to which Indonesia might reexamine its approach to the South China Sea and its overall policy towards China under its president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. As I noted in a previous piece, my own sense is that we will see a recalibration of Indonesia’s South China Sea policy – which I’ve termed a “delicate equilibrium” – rather than a radical departure from it. This would include a faster buildup of Indonesian capabilities near the Natunas. Sure enough, since the incident, Indonesian lawmakers have begun reiterating the importance of the construction of a military base in the Natunas. Mahfud Siddiq, the head of the House of Representatives’ (DPR’s) commission on defense and foreign affairs, said on March 24 that developing a base would be “important for the defense system” of Indonesia, “which shares its borders with many countries in the South China Sea.” To be sure, the plan to construct a base in the Natunas is not new. As I pointed out in a previous piece, it has been considered for a while now and was even publicly known since last July. Siddiq himself noted that this is a plan that has been in the works since 2015 and had been planned to be completed in 2017, costing around 1.3 trillion rupiah by his estimate. And as I noted in that piece, it is still early days and it is not entirely clear what exactly that base would look like. As the panel’s deputy chairman T.B. Hasanudin noted, it may not be a traditional base – a post where military personnel are placed in a particular location ready to be deployed – but what he termed a “redisposition of forces” with additional equipment and defense equipment in the area. But the broader point is that Chinese actions increase Indonesian threat perceptions and give these initiatives even more momentum. Since the incident, some lawmakers have called for other military initiatives as well including reinforcing the fleet supervising the Natunas. Indonesian officials, including the coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Luhut Pandjaitan, have also said that Jakarta will boost its presence in the Natunas with better-equipped patrol boats and other defense systems, which are also moves that had been previously in the works. Luhut, who is no stranger to sensationalist comments, said that Indonesia would “transform Natuna Islands akin to an aircraft carrier.” “It will become a strong military base with the navy and air force there,” he added. He also said that Jokowi had himself been firm on the issue. “It is part of our territorial integrity. The President told me two or three days ago: ‘Luhut, I won’t compromise.’ So that is clear,” he said.”

Analysis – A Chinese Way Of War. Wendell Minnick, Defense News. “A new paper by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) warns of misreading Chinese tea leaves, such as the tendency of U.S.-based China-watchers to use mirror imaging, ignore China’s lack of transparency and use of subterfuge, and the fact that the Chinese military advocates no differentiation between peace-time and war-time use of cyberwarfare. Written by Ian E. Rinehart, an analyst in Asian affairs at CRS, the report was released on March 24 for members of the U.S. Congress. Entitled: “The Chinese Military: Overview and Issues for Congress,” Rinehart argues the U.S. Congress must begin to examine “a Chinese way of war.” These include numerous factors that are largely ignored in the U.S. China-watching community that will greatly determine the winner of a war. Differing Geographic Scope Of Responsibilities: “The U.S. military has extensive global security responsibilities, including Europe and the Middle East. During a war with China, the U.S. military would only be able commit a limited amount of its resources to the crisis or war with China. The Chinese military, in contrast, will not face these constraints.” Differing Missions: “More meaning comes from measuring a military’s capability against its assigned missions than measuring against other metrics. This consideration is significant in assessing U.S. and Chinese military capabilities, because the missions of the two are quite different.” Statements From Chinese Leaders About Their Intentions May Not Always Be Reliable: “China’s leaders make regular and often generalized statements about their intentions for their military through white papers and public statements. These statements might be propagandistic nature. Attempts to influence foreign audiences or for domestic consumption, and might not be an accurate guide to understanding the actual intentions that China’s leaders have for the military. On the other hand, not all statements should be dismissed as posturing. Chinese leaders have made statements about China’s “core interests” and their willingness to defend them by military force. These statements might be true, as in the South China Sea and Taiwan. “The challenge is to discern posturing from genuine expressions. Observing what kinds of military capabilities China is pursuing, and how these capabilities appear to align or not align with stated intentions, can help inform judgments on this question.” Limited Transparency: “Assessing China’s military capabilities, as well as assessing the intentions of the leadership, is complicated by China’s limited transparency. The Pentagon has stated, “China’s lack of transparency surrounding its growing military capabilities and strategic decision-making has also increased concerns in the region about China’s intentions. Absent greater transparency, these concerns will likely intensify as the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] modernization progresses.”  Mirror Imaging: “Values and belief sets of Chinese leaders differ, perhaps substantially, from the U.S. “Mirror imaging – tacitly and perhaps unconsciously assuming that one’s values and belief sets are shared by the other party – can lead to less accurate assessments of the other party’s intentions.”

Don’t Miss The Boat On Australian And U.S. Policy In The South China Sea. James Kraska and Pete Pedrozo, USNI. “Australia’s 2016 Defense White Paper expresses concern over “friction” in the South China Sea (SCS) arising from U.S.-Chinese naval interactions, and it worries that territorial disputes have created “uncertainty and tension.” Those statements, which show Canberra (like the rest of the states in the Indo-Pacific region) is slowly coming around to the gathering threat posed by China to freedom of the seas. Predictably, the Mandarins in Beijing harshly criticized Australia, as did reliably pro-Chinese scholars such as Sam Bateman in an article in East Asia Forum. Those antagonists view Australia’s new White Paper as a move by Canberra to support U.S. naval operations in the region and a deepening of the Australia-U.S. Alliance. Bateman, for example, accused the United States of ignoring the “carefully balanced regime of exclusive economic zones (EEZ) established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) when conducting naval operations in the SCS. Adm. Harry Harris, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, for example, recently pledged that the U.S. Navy “must continue to operate in the South China Sea to demonstrate that water space and the air above it is ‘international’ in character.” While the EEZ is sui generis – neither territorial seas nor high seas – the balance of rights and interests in the zone inure to the international community and not the coastal state. While it is true that coastal states enjoy limited rights in the EEZ, the term “international waters” is an accurate shorthand reference used by navies to describe all waters seaward of the territorial sea. While the coastal state has rather limited and circumscribed rights in the EEZ, the ships and aircraft of all nations enjoy all the high seas freedoms and other internationally uses of the seas, except those that interfere with narrowly prescribed coastal state rights, such as fishing. The EEZ was cut out of the high seas in order to grant coastal states a handful of limited rights, and it is correct as a matter of law to describe the zone as “international waters” for military purposes. Bateman and Beijing also say that foreign warships nations must operate with “due regard” in the EEZ for the “significant rights and duties” of coastal states. Of course user states must have “due regard” for coastal state rights in the EEZ, but those rights are strictly limited to resource exploitation, and narrower jurisdiction over protection of the marine environment, authority over offshore structures related to resource exploitation, and marine scientific research. Moreover, in exercising these limited resource-related rights, coastal states also must observe “due regard” for high seas freedoms in the EEZ, such as naval operations. Articles 58(2), 86 and 87 of UNCLOS and the negotiating history of the convention, as well as longstanding customary international law, make clear that all nations enjoy high seas freedoms of navigation and overflight, and other internationally lawful uses of the seas associated with those freedoms, in and over the EEZ. These other internationally lawful uses include the full range of foreign military activities, such as deterrence patrols, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, and air and naval exercises and operations. Ironically, China apparently still objects to U.S. military activities in its EEZ, even as the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) does the same thing in the U.S. EEZ of Hawaii and Guam. China has accused the United States of “militarizing” the SCS through freedom of navigation (FON) operations and naval exercises with partner states, while characterizing its massive military buildup in the region as limited and necessary for “self-defense.” But the U.S. rebalance, Australian submarine program, and unprecedented regional naval buildup underway from New Delhi to Tokyo is a direct consequence of China’s turn toward coercive tactics at sea and reliance on a newly-minted blue-water battle fleet to change the status quo. It is unclear why China sees a handful of periodic FON operations as provocative since the United States and other nations have operated in the region for centuries.”

China’s Dredging Strategy In The South China Sea. Robert Potter, The Strategy Bridge. “Chinese dredging operations add an interesting complication to the debate over sovereignty, control, and conflict in the South China Sea. The Spratly Islands are presently claimed by both China and the Philippines. Each party to the dispute makes claims that are intended to define the interpretation of events. However, it is not always the case that these interpretations fit the facts. As part of their efforts to assert their claim to ongoing sovereignty in the area, China is engaging in significant dredging operations there. The Chinese are involved in dredging operations on five different reefs and has created some 2,900 acres of land in the Spratlys. This behaviour sits within murky and sometimes undefined legal frameworks, but often clashes with Beijing’s official reasoning for their behaviour. Facing a drastic military imbalance, Manila based its protest to China’s behaviour within a legal framework. Their position hinges on a number of legal documents including the 2002 Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea. This is firstly tenuous because Beijing is not a party to this document. However, their case draws strongly upon section five: 5. The Parties undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner. -2002 Declaration of Conduct in the South China Sea, Part 5. The Philippines assert dredging operations are designed to assist in placing Chinese infrastructure on islands that have thus far been uninhabited. Indeed, when looking at the photographs of the area taken by supporters of the Philippines and visiting journalists, it appears that this is exactly what China is doing. While it is perhaps too early to unpack how exactly this strategy will impact ongoing tensions over sovereignty in the South China Sea, it is possible to discuss some of the advantages China can gain from this situation. There has been a direct link between the cultivation of these islands and the development of Chinese infrastructure in the area. One of the dredging operations located in the Johnson South Reef appears to have created enough space for the building of an airstrip. A possible interpretation of Chinese behaviour could be the that China is simply seeking to hand off day-to-day operations in the area to land-based forces, rather than relying on maritime capability. As such, it might not be prudent for states such as the Philippines to see this as an intended provocation. China could see this behaviour as not violating the status quo. Notwithstanding this, the occupation of previously uninhabited islands is unlikely to undermine the narrative being put forward by Manila that China is attempting a slow takeover of the area. The occupation of these islands also impacts on the status of islands themselves. This has flow on impacts to the kind of territorial claims that China is making in places like the Johnson South Reef. Although the Philippine government has protested these actions under its agreements with ASEAN (an association in which China is an observer of, but not a full member), the legal case does not necessarily favor Manila. The United Nations Charter on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), an agreement to which both China and the Philippines are signatories, states: 3. Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. – UNCLOS Part 8. This means that if China were to occupy these islands, their status under UNCLOS might change and result in claims to a significantly greater exclusive economic zone in the area. An occupied island sustains a 12 nautical mile territorial zone, but China’s relationship with Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) territory is quite complicated. Certainly China has a great deal to gain in terms of economic space from these dredging operations but UNCLOS does not allow that same economic territory to be policed as territorial waters. Beijing, however, has ambitions to change the way EEZ space is considered under international law, preferring a view that allows them to maintain a monopoly over legitimate military deployment in the area in the same way territorial zones are defined. This debate impacts significantly on China’s relationship with the United States, but it also relates to the sort of gains Beijing is seeking to make by converting these islands into inhabited islands. China is therefore seeking to exploit the definitions of UNCLOS whereby an artificial island does not have status, but an inhabited island does. China is attempting to convert uninhabited islands into inhabited ones while bypassing the claim that they are ‘artificial’. This area of international law is untested.”

Prevent The Destruction Of Scarborough Shoal. Capt. Sean R. Liedman (USN), Council on Foreign Relations. “Reuters reported on March 19 that the U.S. Navy had observed Chinese maritime survey activities around Scarborough Shoal that may be a precursor to reclamation activities similar to those executed by China on seven other maritime features in the Spratly Islands located more than three hundred and fifty nautical miles to the south. The U.S. response to China’s island building campaign in the Spratlys has been confined to calls to “halt the expansion and the militarization of occupied features” and maritime and aerial freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) to preserve freedom of access to the high seas and international airspace. However, the case of Scarborough Shoal is different as an arbitration case remains ongoing, and the United States and its allies and partners in the region should be prepared to use a broader range of the tools of statecraft to prevent similar ecological destruction and occupation of Scarborough Shoal by the Chinese. On the heels of the Chinese seizure of Mischief Reef in the Spratlys in 1995, a U.S. State Department press briefing outlined the elements of a South China Sea policy that remains in place today. The briefing stated that the United States: “strongly opposes the use or threat of force to resolve competing claims and urges all claimants to exercise restraint and to avoid destabilizing actions,” “has an abiding interest in the maintenance of peace and stability in the South China Sea,” has “a fundamental interest” in maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, “takes no position on the legal merits of the competing claims to sovereignty over the various islands, reefs, atolls, and cays in the South China Sea” and, …would “view with serious concern any maritime claim or restriction on maritime activity in the South China Sea that was not consistent with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).” Therein lies the policy conundrum for the United States; while it continues to assert that it takes no position on the legal merits of any of the multitude of sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, it also opposes the use or threat of force to resolve competing claims and any restrictions on maritime activity that are not consistent with UNCLOS. The Chinese seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in June 2012 in a strategic move that the Wall Street Journal labeled “Putinesque.” China employed a hybrid strategy of diplomatic ruse backed up by paramilitary forces that included the use of fishing vessels, China Marine Surveillance vessels, and People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels to coerce the Filipinos into departing the waters surrounding Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese have exerted de facto sovereign control over Scarborough Shoal ever since through the constant presence of China Marine Surveillance vessels that have resorted to ramming and using water cannons to eject any non-Chinese registered fishing vessels from the area. While no shots have been fired, Chinese behavior during the seizure and subsequent patrolling of Scarborough Shoal clearly violated the first and fifth U.S. policy principles listed above.”

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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