Tuesday, July 28, 2020
The Western block would consist of the US, NATO, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The Eastern block would consist of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, basically all of the Middle East, Serbia, and Belarus. There will unlikely be any large scale fighting near American soil in a strictly conventional war situation. Firstly, let us start with Asia. The United States, Japan, and South Korea. would send their navy to counter North Korea, and China. South Korea would strictly focus on North Korea and would win with relative ease. The United States would focus on China, and Japan would focus on North Korea and China. The United States, India and Japan would form a blockade around China. This would lead to the US and Japan destroying their nuclear launch sites and all aircraft that can carry nuclear weapons. The US air-force, assisted by Japan, would control the skies over China. They would launch devastating airstrikes and would pierce their land defenses. This would all lead to the withdrawal of China, as they would probably not want to surrender. This would be a major victory for the US and Japan in Asia. Overall, it would be a costly US led coalition victory. China, would be recovering from the massive Japanese/American bombardment. North Korea would be under South Korean rule and they would begin to slowly recover and become prosperous. Japan would be trying to recover from the Chinese. They would still remain prosperous. The United States and Canada would remain relatively safe. America, being a war based economy, would profit greatly. Australia would be safe and would not really change at all.
The underlying factors are the growth of Chinese power, Chinese dissatisfaction with the US-led regional security system, and US alliance commitments to a variety of regional states. As long as these factors hold, the possibility for war will endure.
Whatever the trigger, the war does not begin with a US pre-emptive attack against Chinese fleet, air, and land-based installations. Although the US military would prefer to engage and destroy Chinese anti-access assets before they can target US planes, bases, and ships, it is extremely difficult to envisage a scenario in which the United States decides to pay the political costs associated with climbing the ladder of escalation.
Instead, the United States needs to prepare to absorb the first blow. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the U.S. Navy (USN) and U.S. Air Force (USAF) have to wait for Chinese missiles to rain down upon them, but the United States will almost certainly require some clear, public signal of Chinese intent to escalate to high-intensity, conventional military combat before it can begin engaging Chinese forces.
If the history of World War I gives any indication, the PLA will not allow the United States to fully mobilize in order to either launch a first strike, or properly prepare to receive a first blow. At the same time, a “bolt from the blue” strike is unlikely. Instead, a brewing crisis will steadily escalate over a few incidents, finally triggering a set of steps on the part of the US military that indicate to Beijing that Washington is genuinely prepared for war. These steps will include surging carrier groups, shifting deployment to Asia from Europe and the Middle East, and moving fighter squadrons towards the Pacific. At this moment, China will need to decide whether to push forward or back down.
On the economic side, Beijing and Washington will both press for sanctions (the US effort will likely involve a multilateral effort), and will freeze each others assets, as well as those of any co-belligerents. This will begin the economic pain for capital and consumers across the Pacific Rim, and the rest of the world. The threat of high intensity combat will also disrupt global shipping patterns, causing potentially severe bottlenecks in industrial production.
Whether US allies support American efforts against China depends on how the war begins. If war breaks out over a collapse of the DPRK, the United States can likely count on the support of South Korea and Japan. Any war stemming from disputes in the East China Sea will necessarily involve Japan. If events in the South China Sea lead to war, the US can probably rely on some of the ASEAN states, as well as possibly Japan. Australia may also support the US over a wide range of potential circumstances.
China faces a less complicated situation with respect to allies. Beijing could probably expect benevolent neutrality, including shipments of arms and spares, from Russia, but little more. The primary challenge for Chinese diplomats would be establishing and maintaining the neutrality of potential US allies. This would involve an exceedingly complex dance, including reassurances about Chinese long-term intentions, as well as displays of confidence about the prospects of Chinese victory (which would carry the implicit threat of retribution for support of the United States).
North Korea presents an even more difficult problem. Any intervention on the part of the DPRK runs the risk of triggering Japanese and South Korean counter-intervention, and that math doesn’t work out for China. Unless Beijing is certain that Seoul and Tokyo will both throw in for the United States (a doubtful prospect given their hostility to one another), it may spend more time restraining Pyongyang than pushing it into the conflict.
The US will pursue the following war aims:
1. Defeat the affirmative expeditionary purpose of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).
2. Destroy the offensive capability of the PLAN and People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).
3. Potentially destabilize the control of the CCP government over mainland China.t
Except in the case of a war that breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, the first task involves either defeating a Chinese attempt to land forces, or preventing the reinforcement and resupply of those troops before forcing their surrender. The second task will require a wide range of attacks against deployed Chinese air and naval units, as well as ships and aircraft held in reserve. We can expect, for example, that the USN and USAF will target Chinese airbases, naval bases, and potentially missile bases in an effort to maximize damage to the PLAN and PLAAF. The third task probably depends on the successful execution of the first two. The defeat of Chinese expeditionary forces, and the destruction of a large percentage of the PLAN and the PLAAF, may cause domestic turmoil in the medium to long term. US military planners would be well-advised to concentrate the strategic campaign on the first two objectives and hope that success has a political effect, rather than roll the dice on a broader “strategic” campaign against CCP political targets. The latter would waste resources, run the risk of escalation, and have unpredictable effects on the Chinese political system.
Japan is very much the flavor of the current Indian season. Especially when juxtaposed against China, Japan is acknowledged by New Delhi as being one of the most significant maritime players in the Indo-Pacific. Indeed, Japan’s steadily deteriorating and increasingly fractious relationship with China is a prominent marker of the general fragility of the geopolitical situation prevailing almost throughout the Indo-Pacific. Within this fragile environment, New Delhi is seeking to maintain its own geopolitical pre-eminence in the IOR and relevance in the Indo-Pacific as a whole by adroitly managing China’s growing assertiveness. In this process, Japan and the USA (along with Australia, Vietnam, South Korea, and Indonesia) collectively offer India a viable alternative to Sino-centric hegemony within the region. However, before it places too many of its security eggs in a Japanese basket, it is important for India to examine at least the more prominent historical and contemporary contours of the Sino-Japanese relationship. As India expands her footprint across the Indo-Pacific and examines the overtures of Japan and the USA to seek closer geopolitical coordination with both, it is vital to ensure that our country and our navy are not dragged by ignorance, misinformation or disinformation, into the law of unintended consequences.
Map of Sea of Japan. This could be the scenario in the conflict between India, Japan and USA against China and Russia. Although the videos are cartoon like, they are mostly accurate to some degree. With Japan, Ausrtalia, UK and Vietnam alliance China will be overwhelmed.
The influence of China, with its ancient and extraordinarily well-developed civilization, upon the much younger civilization of Japan has been enormous. Even the sobriquet for Japan — the Land of the Rising Sun — is derived from a Chinese perspective, since when the Chinese looked east to Japan they looked in the direction of the dawn. As Japan began to consolidate itself as a nation, between the 1st and the 6th Century CE, it increasingly copied the Chinese model of national development, administration, societal structure and culture. And yet, for all that, there is also a history of deep animosity between the two countries, which manifested itself across of whole range of actions and reactions. At one end was China’s disapproval of Japan attempting to equate itself with the Middle Kingdom (as when Japan Prince Shotoku, in 607 CE, sent a letter to the Sui emperor, Yangdi, “from the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun rises to the Son of Heaven in the land where the sun sets.”) At the other, lay armed conflict. Over the course of the past two millennia, Japan and China have gone to war five times. The common thread in each has been a power struggle on the Korean Peninsula. Even their more contemporary animosity dates back to at least 1894 — during the Meiji Restoration in Japan. It is true that, much like India and Pakistan, relations between China and Japan have witnessed periods of great optimism. For instance, Sino–Japanese relations in the 1970s and early 1980s were undeniably positive and ‘historical animosity’ was not a factor strong enough to foster tensions between the two nations at the time. However, it is also true, once again like India and Pakistan, that these periods of hope have been punctuated by a mutuality of visceral hatred. In the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, China, which was mired in political conflict and civil war, suffered eight months of comprehensive defeats leading, amongst other indignities, to the occupation of Taiwan by Japan. The historical echoes of this horrific conflict and its humiliating aftermath for China resonate to this day.
The South China Sea has never occupied the top rung on Beijing’s foreign policy agenda, except perhaps during the Philippines’ initiation of arbitration against China’s claims of historic rights in 2013 and the Hague tribunal’s decision in 2016. Given economic reforms, protests in Hong Kong, President Tsai Ing-wen’s renewed mandate in Taiwan, censure of its security policies in Xinjiang, trade talks and great power rivalry with the United States, and the ongoing public health crisis of the novel coronavirus, Beijing will have its hands full. It may have little left in its tank for the South China Sea. In contrast, the six-way territorial and maritime row represents the most pressing security and foreign policy priority for other claimants. This sharp asymmetry may stimulate a willingness on the part of the biggest claimant to concede and negotiate with other disputants. That would jive well with China’s stated intention to project good neighborliness and settle the issue among the claimants without intervention by other powers. However, this readiness for dialogue may not necessarily extend to other maritime powers, especially as the South China Sea gradually emerges as a theater for great power competition.
China is apparently taking a more active role in conveying its narrative and engaging international think-tanks and publics. In April 2019, the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative was launched by the Peking University Institute of Ocean Research. Earlier this year, the initiative has already held exchanges with regional counterparts in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. This is on top of the Hainan-based National Institute for South China Sea Studies setup in 2004 which has also been holding exchanges with foreign counterparts. Whether these attempts at public diplomacy allay concerns among Southeast Asian claimants remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the high priority given to the dispute by other claimants means that they will exhaust the broad gamut of defense, diplomatic, and legal redress to safeguard their interests. Vietnam, for instance, concluded the 11th iteration of its Diplomatic Academy’s annual South China Sea conference in November 2019, drawing local and international experts. But pushback against Chinese incursions tends to wax and wane, and approaches vary among claimants. The nature of the threat posed by Chinese actions and the degree of economic ties with China are important variables to consider here.
Having lost the Paracels in 1974 and Johnson Reef in 1988, not to mention fighting China in a bitter land border war in 1979, Vietnam traditionally pushes back the hardest. Possible resort to legal means and international forums, especially as the country chairs ASEAN this year and assumes a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council (2020-2021), will diversify Hanoi’s toolkit and raise the stakes for future Chinese interference in Vietnam’s marine economic activities. The Philippines took a tougher stance after losing Mischief Reef in 1995 and control over Scarborough Shoal in 2012. The first incident pushed the country to modernize its armed forces (1995) and eventually sign a Visiting Forces Agreement (1999) with its longtime treaty ally, the United States. The second incident compelled the country to launch a legal challenge to China’s excessive maritime claims (2013) and allow U.S. troops a rotational presence in mutually agreed locations throughout the country via the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (2014). Last year, Manila also sought and obtained greater clarity on the scope of its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States. However, Manila’s recent move to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement may undercut the value of the alliance at a time of growing Chinese presence in the disputed sea.
Further from China’s reach, Malaysia and Brunei have long pursued quiet diplomacy. But with Chinese outposts now enabling distant fishing fleets and patrols to scour the sea’s southern reaches, they, as well as Indonesia, may eventually recalibrate their strategy. Indonesia’s tough response to foreign illegal fishing in its waters and its strong posturing in the Natunas creates disquiet in its relations with China as well as with ASEAN neighbors like Vietnam. Thus, China’s assertiveness and the smaller claimants’ heightened sense of insecurity generates the potential for conflict, drawing other major powers in—to Beijing’s displeasure.
In addition, in the interest of gaining legitimacy, smaller claimants have been aligning their maritime claims with international law, notably the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Malaysia’s submission of its second extended continental shelf (ECS) claim in the South China Sea last December is instructive. Prior to that, Vietnam and Malaysia jointly submitted an ECS claim in 2009, a move which compelled Beijing to officially articulate its nine-dash line claim. The Philippines, meanwhile, ratified its first ever maritime boundary delimitation agreement with Indonesia last year. These legal foundations may serve to pressure Beijing to bring its claims into conformity with international law. This is especially so after the landmark 2016 arbitral award invalidated China’s claimed “historic rights” and ruled that none of the features in the contested Spratly Islands are capable of generating exclusive economic zones (EEZs). Other claimants will likely continue to pursue their own ECS submissions and EEZ delimitations in the South China Sea.
Southeast Asian claimants will also push back against Chinese overtures to upend security engagement and offshore energy undertakings with other countries in the South China Sea. The deep and complex web of alliances and partnerships, to which security and economic engagement with China forms just one part, is integral to ASEAN’s centrality and autonomy, an aspiration threatened by growing major power rivalry. The 2019 defense white papers of Malaysia and Vietnam both recognized this context of great power competition. Hanoi, for one, added a new caveat in its defense policy, expressing readiness to develop military relations with other countries while still upholding its four nos policy: no military alliances, no siding with one country against another, no foreign military bases, and no use of force or threat to use force in its international relations. This is a significant departure in Vietnam’s strategic thinking and goes to show the extent to which Chinese actions are driving such shifts.
In relation to hydrocarbons in the South China Sea, Southeast Asian claimants resist Chinese demands to terminate upstream contracts with foreign companies from non-claimant states because doing so would adversely affect investor confidence even outside the energy sector. For example, despite being compelled to suspend Spanish firm Repsol’s offshore work in 2017 and 2018, Vietnam continued to encourage Russian, Japanese, Indian, and U.S. energy companies to operate in its EEZ in the South China Sea. The Philippines likewise suggested it would welcome involvement from Russian energy company Rosneft in the country’s oil and gas projects. This said, the continued retreat of Western investors from offshore projects around the South China Sea may facilitate Beijing’s proposed joint development model by leaving its neighbors with few options. For instance, the exit of U.S.-based Chevron from Malampaya, the Philippines’ largest natural gas field located in the South China Sea, and the purchase of its equity by Udenna Group may pave the way for China National Offshore Oil Corporation to acquire a stake in the aging gas field that supplies up to 40 percent of the electricity for Luzon, the country’s main island. Last year, Phoenix Petroleum, one of Udenna’s companies, signed a deal with the Chinese state-owned company to develop a liquified natural gas terminal. ExxonMobil was also rumored to be exiting from the Blue Whale project off Vietnam as part of the company’s divestment efforts.
In sum, notwithstanding bilateral and regional efforts at dispute management and confidence building, the level of importance that claimants will assign to the South China Sea disputes and the extent to which they will push back against coercion will foretell how tempestuous the South China Sea will get in 2020.
Strategy to Defeat China in The SCS
The air campaign in Desert Storm was a watershed for air power. It demonstrated the effectiveness of precision munitions, marked a high water point for electronic warfare and introduced radar stealth in a decisive manner. It also established a template for the application of air power that has taken root in Air Force culture and remains firmly established a quarter century later.
Continue to limit the access of the Chinese Surface ships to the Western Pacific islands by mining the ports and islands. Limit the energy resource and commercial maritime intercourse which China is so dependent upon. The primary objective here is to effectively neutralize certain elements of PRC military power by starving it of energy. In contrast with maritime interdiction, strategic interdiction is not an airtight blockade but a targeted effort to interdict primarily the production and transport of energy resources all the way back to the source. A campaign would have four elements:
The most prominent Sino-Japanese contributor to contemporary geopolitical fragility is the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands dispute. This is an extremely high-risk dispute that could very easily lead to armed conflict, especially in the wake of Japan’s nationalization of three of the islands in September 2013. Reacting strongly to this unilateral action by Japan, China established an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on 23 November, 2013, encompassing (inter alia) these very islands. This, in turn, was immediately challenged by the USA, Japan, and South Korea. Within days of the Chinese declaration, military aircraft from all three countries flew through China’s ADIZ without complying with the promulgated ADIZ regulations. Perhaps because of the robustness of this response, China has not been enforcing this ADIZ with any great vigour, but has not withdrawn it either. It is appreciated that this is a long-term play, because China would acquire strategic advantage by asserting a maximalist position, then seeming to back down, while preserving some incremental gain — akin to a ‘ratchet’ effect. This is an example of ‘salami slicing’ — of which much has been made in a variety of Indian and Western media.
China’s increased military activities in this maritime area have certainly caused a fivefold rise in the frequency with which Japanese fighter jets have been forced to scramble in preparedness against Chinese aircraft intrusions into Japanese airspace over the East China Sea (ECS). Japanese aircraft have moved up from 150 scrambles in 2011 to a staggering 1,168 scrambles in FY 2016-17. (The Japanese FY, like that of India, runs from 01 April to 31 March.) Given that fighter pilots are young, aggressive, and trained to use lethal force almost intuitively, this dramatic increase in frequency of scrambles causes a corresponding increase in the chance of a miscalculation on the part of one or both parties that could result in a sudden escalation into active hostilities.
Even more worrying is the prospect that once China completes her building of airfields on a sufficient number of reefs in the Spratly Island Group, she would promulgate an ADIZ in the South China Sea. Should she do so, the inevitable challenges to such an ADIZ would probably bring inter-state geopolitical tensions to breaking point.
All in all, the increased militarization and current involvement of the armed forces of both countries in the Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands have grave implications for geopolitical stability. To cite a well-used colloquialism, “once you open a can of worms, the only way you can put them back is to use a bigger can.” In the case of the Senkaku/ Diaoyu Islands, both Japan and the PRC have certainly opened ‘a can of worms’ and now both are looking for a bigger can. Thus, both countries are jockeying for geopolitical options with both the USA as well as with other geopolitical powers that can be brought around to roughly align with their respective point of view. Japan’s alliance with the USA and its active wooing of India and Australia with constructs such as Asia’s Democratic Security Diamond is one such ‘larger can.’
Yet, Japan’s geopolitical insecurities in its segment of the Indo-Pacific are not solely about the Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands. Japan’s apprehension in 2004-05 that China’s exploitation of the Chunxiao gas field (located almost on the EEZ boundary line — as Japan perceives it) was pulling natural gas away from the subterranean extension of the field into the Japanese side of the EEZ boundary brought the two countries to the brink of a military clash. While the situation has been contained for the time being, it remains a potential flashpoint. Across the Sea of Japan /East Sea lie other historical and contemporary challenges in the form of the two Koreas, a Russia that appears to be in a protracted state of geopolitical flux, and of course, the omnipresent elephant in the room, namely, the People’s Republic of China.
Closer home, Japan’s Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) is present and surprisingly active in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as well. Its interest in maintaining freedom of navigation within the International Shipping Lanes to and from West Asia in general, and the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Aden in particular, are well known features of Tokyo’s ‘energy security’ and ‘security-of-energy’ policies. Off the Horn of Africa at the southern tip of the Gulf of Aden, the ‘war-lord-ism’ that substitutes for governance in Somalia is a source of strategic concern at a number of levels.
Chinese soldiers sit atop tanks as they drive in a parade to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on Oct. 1. KEVIN FRAYER/GETTY IMAGES
Many observers believe China is building up its military, especially its navy, to break through the first and second island chains and push the United States out of the Asia-Pacific. China’s military expansion in the region is thus seen as a major threat against U.S. interests and security.
But there’s a big problem with the language involved. Phrases like “pushing the United States out of the Asia-Pacific,” “China’s military expansion in Asia,” or “breaking the two island chains” create the image of a physical process, of the Chinese military pressuring U.S. troops and bases in the Asia-Pacific until they can no longer resist and are forced to leave. In reality, both the goal and the process are different—and unless U.S. strategists rectify the way they think about this, they could come to dangerous conclusions.
This isn’t about a physical outcome, but a political one. It doesn’t refer just to U.S. bases in Japan or South Korea. The United States has no permanent bases in the Philippines, but, because of the two countries’ mutual defense treaty, U.S. troops would defend the Philippines in case of attack. China’s goal isn’t just to remove U.S. personnel or equipment from the region, or even to prevent rotational deployments or joint exercises in the Asia-Pacific; it’s to limit or eliminate Washington’s influence over countries in the region, including, ideally, through the termination of their defense treaties and the Taiwan Relations Act, which commits the United States to support Taiwan’s defense.
This doesn’t mean that China is looking to completely extricate the United States from Asian and Pacific countries: It’s OK if they continue trading, or if U.S. companies invest there. But China’s goal is to constrain Washington’s influence to the point that it would no longer try, or would be unable, to convince regional governments to take measures against China such as banning Huawei fifth-generation technology.As long as Washington remains their chief partner, the U.S. government would still be able to convince Tokyo and Seoul to take anti-China measures.
It will help Beijing little if U.S. troops leave Japan and South Korea, but their mutual defense treaties remain in force. As long as Washington remains their chief partner, the U.S. government would still be able to convince Tokyo and Seoul to take anti-China measures, such as restricting Chinese tech companies it considers national-security threats—even if the assurance of U.S. troops as a tripwire against aggression were removed.
Yet in both Beijing and Washington, there’s a belief that, if China establishes regional military superiority over the United States, it will be able to push the United States out of the Asia-Pacific region. But transforming that military superiority into political influence is far trickier than it seems.
Imagine that it’s 2025, and China’s military has become stronger and more active, while the United States failed to keep up in the Asia-Pacific. Think tanks and experts warn that the military balance has shifted in China’s favor and, in case of war, it’s likely that it would prevail. Would U.S. allies, from Seoul to Canberra, decide to ditch the United States and align themselves with the rising hegemon, fulfilling demands such as Chinese sovereignty over the archipelago in the South China Sea known as the Senkaku or Diaoyu Islands, or censorship of local anti-China voices? Or would they stick to the United States, building up their military capabilities and strengthening other military alliances?
Both U.S. allies and neutral countries in the Asia-Pacific already fear China’s growing power and its geopolitical demands. This is happening while the military balance is still in Washington’s favor. If China becomes more powerful, it will also become more threatening. With the exception of India, all other regional countries are dwarfed by China. If left alone, they would have to acquiesce to any and all demands coming from Beijing, as they would stand zero chance of prevailing in a bilateral military conflict.
The United States, even if weaker than China, would be their only hope in such an adverse geopolitical environment. A more menacing China would also galvanize the U.S.government and public to confront it. Military expansion can’t achieve China’s goals by itself.Unless the United States willingly abandons its competition with China, Beijing will never create the military gap necessary to scare the entire region into submission.
Chinese military power could force the United States out of the region in two scenarios: a China so dwarfing the U.S, presence in the region that its might is unassailable, or a decisive military victory. The first scenario needs the United States to weaken so much that regional military planners would no longer believe that it can impose enough costs on China, thus voiding alliances of any deterrent effect. Combined with Chinese economic sanctions or military skirmishes, Asian and Pacific countries might be forced to cut ties with the United States, if it’s clear that they serve no defense purpose. But the odds of a U.S. government ever allowing so vast a gap to emerge are very low.
The other scenario, a war, would necessitate a crystal-clear military victory over the United States, maybe including the invasion and occupation of an ally. A simple tactical win wouldn’t suffice. If China defeats the Japan-U.S. alliance by sinking a few ships and bombing some bases, leading to a diplomatic agreement that gave Beijing control of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, would the Japanese government later surrender its defense treaty with the United States and remain at Beijing’s mercy? This would make no strategic sense. More likely, it would strengthen military ties with the United States and maybe develop a nuclear capability to deter any further Chinese threats. Only a devastating defeat in a full-blown conflict that risks nuclear war could achieve such a goal—something China desires as little as anyone else.
Posted by ASC at 8:10 AM