Collision Course in the South China SeaVikram NehruTensions in the South China Sea are ratcheting up. China and the Southeast Asian nations with competing territorial claims seem set on a collision course. Though still low, the probability of conflict is rising inexorably.The current trajectory is lose-lose-lose for all concerned, including China, Southeast Asia and third-party countries in the Pacific Rim, such as the United States, that have a large stake in a peaceful South China Sea. At this point, the focus should not be resolving competing claims. Instead, diplomats must try to lower temperatures and get all sides to implement confidence-building measures to ensure peace and stability in the region. Only when cooler heads prevail can the concerned countries turn their attention to resolving the longer-term questions of the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the islands in the South China Sea.The forty-year history of disputes in the region has seen a steady escalation in tension punctuated by occasional conflicts that have been quickly contained. Based on the vaguely defined "nine-dash line" (reduced from eleven dashes in 1953), China claims sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands and their adjacent seas in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The other side is represented by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and includes Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam, which have more modest, but nevertheless competing, claims that overlap with each other and with China.The latest escalation in friction started with a confrontation between China and the Philippines over the Scarborough Shoal. There also were competing international bids by China and Vietnam for oil exploration in areas of the South China Sea contested by the two countries. Efforts by the Philippines and Vietnam to get the support of their ASEAN counterparts at a recent ministerial meeting resulted in ASEAN's inability to issue a communiqué for the first time in the organization's forty-five-year history.Cambodia, ASEAN's chair for 2012, refused to make reference to disputes in the South China Sea, starkly revealing the not-so-subtle influence of China. But thanks to shuttle diplomacy by Indonesia's energetic foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, ASEAN emerged with a face-saving "common position" that reiterated six principles adhering to the declaration of a code of conduct and the Law of the Sea. ASEAN's joint communiqué, however, still hasn't been issued.Following Vietnam's June 2012 approval of a maritime law that declared sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, China objected strongly and upped the ante by announcing steps to actively administer the disputed islands and the Macclesfield Bank, as well as 772,000 square miles of ocean within its "nine-dashed line." Sansha, a 1.5-kilometer islet in a disputed part of the South China Sea, has been declared a city that will include a local government responsible for overseeing the area. Legislators and a mayor have been elected, and the Chinese authorities announced plans to station a People's Liberation Army garrison there to monitor—and defend, if necessary—China's claims over the area.These developments merely escalated tensions and served neither China's broader strategic interests nor those of the Southeast Asian claimant nations.China's recent actions in the South China Sea are likely to severely damage its ability to influence the region and the world on other more important issues. For example, China's economic strength relies in part on its economic integration with Southeast Asia that has helped build globally competitive production networks. That integration, which depends on good bilateral relations with its neighbors, is now jeopardized.China already has few friends in the region. In a speech last year, Vice Premier Li Keqiang (expected to be China's next prime minister) said that China sought to assure the world that its intentions are to cooperate with other countries to smooth its emergence as a global power. This idea of China's peaceful rise has been a cornerstone of Beijing's foreign-policy strategy. Unfortunately, its Southeast Asian neighbors do not see China's actions matching its rhetoric.By taking provocative actions in the South China Sea themselves, Vietnam and the Philippines are not altogether blameless in the latest series of events. They don't need reminding, however, that a confrontation with China is not in their interests or those of the rest of Southeast Asia.The region's impressive economic performance over the last two decades has benefitted enormously from China's growth engine. Major investments have been made in developing production networks, and continued good relations with China hold out promise for more. Worsening relations could put this at risk. More importantly, Southeast Asian countries recognize the dangers of any armed conflict with China, which could increase manifold if the United States were to be drawn into the fight.Finally, the growing risk of conflict is not in the interest of the global community, especially for countries that rely on peaceful passage through the South China Sea and those on the Pacific Rim. The global economy, already suffering from myriad challenges, cannot afford yet another layer of uncertainty.Certainly, the potential costs of conflict for the region and the world far outweigh any potential economic benefits contained in the seabed of the South China Sea—much of which is unknown in any case. Rather than the availability of hydrocarbons and fisheries, the South China Sea dispute is now increasingly being driven by domestic public opinion in the countries concerned that is fueled by military lobbies and strong nationalist sentiments.Stepping back from the brink is in everyone's interests. But this has to be done in a way that builds mutual trust and confidence. The current escalating tit-for-tat dynamic between China and the two ASEAN claimants—Vietnam and the Philippines—must be stopped, difficult as that may be, and perhaps even reversed. It necessarily will involve a series of carefully choreographed actions to gradually unwind present positions in a way that can satisfy their respective domestic constituencies.Given his recent success at shuttle diplomacy, Indonesia’s Natalegawa could well be the man to thread this needle. Perhaps helped by a small team of internationally recognized statesmen, he could shuttle between the three key claimant countries—China, Philippines and Vietnam—to broker a deal. Natalegawa's recently burnished credentials as a diplomat have earned him the confidence of both sides. Moreover, such an approach could satisfy Beijing's reluctance to enter multilateral negotiations over the South China Sea while still arranging a collective stand-down.But make no mistake, the real leadership and courage will need to come from the claimant countries themselves. Given the high stakes involved, let's hope that such leadership is forthcoming.Vikram Nehru is a senior associate and Bakrie Chair in Southeast Asian Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace .
Preparing for War with ChinaJames HolmesFor an operational concept that has never been published, the U.S. military’s AirSea Battle doctrine has elicited some fiery commentary. Or maybe it stokes controversy precisely because the armed forces haven’t made it official. Its details are subject to speculation. The chief source of information about it remains an unclassified, unofficial study  published in 2010 by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.The debate over AirSea Battle swirls mostly around technology and whether the doctrine is aimed at China. To answer the latter question first: Yes, it is about China. It has to be.This is no prophecy of doom. From a political standpoint, war with China is neither inevitable nor all that likely. But military people plan against the most formidable capabilities they may encounter. And from an operational standpoint, China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) presents the sternest “anti-access” challenge of any prospective antagonist. Either strategists, planners and warfighters prepare for the hardest case, or the United States must write off important regions or options.The PLA thus represents the benchmark for U.S. military success in maritime Asia, by most accounts today’s crucible of great-power competition. Other potential opponents, notably the Iranian military, fall into what the Pentagon terms “lesser-included ” challenges. If U.S. forces can pierce the toughest anti-access defenses out there—if they can crack the hardest nut—the softer defenses erected by weaker opponents will prove manageable.That focus on anti-access is why AirSea Battle is about China—because it’s the gold standard, not because anyone expects, let alone wants, war in the Western Pacific.The TechnologyAnti-access is a catchy new name for the old concept of layered defense. Like all naval officers, I was reared on it. Think about air defense. When an aircraft-carrier task force goes in harm’s way, commanders dispatch “combat air patrols” around the fleet, concentrating along the “threat axis,” or direction from which air attack appears most likely. Interceptors from the carrier air wing constitute the first, outermost line of defense.Then come surface-to-air missiles from the fleet’s picket ships. If attackers get past the fighter- and missile-engagement zones, “point” defenses such as short-range radar-guided missiles or gatling guns essay a last-ditch effort. Each defensive system engages assailants as they come within reach. Multiple engagements translate into multiple chances for a kill, improving the fleet’s chances of withstanding the assault. A corollary: defenses become denser and denser as an adversary closes in.The same logic applies to coastal defense but on a grand scale. A nation intent on warding off adversaries fields a variety of weapons and platforms to strike at sea and aloft. These systems have varying ranges and design parameters. Tactical aircraft can fly hundreds of miles offshore and fire missiles that extend their lethal reach still farther. Missile-armed patrol boats have small fuel tanks and limited at-sea endurance, so they stick relatively close to home. The same goes for diesel-electric submarines.If anti-access is about mounting layered defenses, AirSea Battle is about developing technologies and tactics for penetrating them. Thus, in some sense China and America are replaying the interwar years. War planning commenced in earnest following World War I. Imperial Japan planned to shut the U.S. Pacific Fleet out of the waters, skies and landmasses within a defense perimeter enclosing the Western Pacific, the China seas, Southeast Asia and parts of the Bay of Bengal. Not to be outdone, U.S. Navy officers devised and tested out war plans for breaching Japanese anti-access measures.Weirdly, planners on both sides of the Pacific largely agreed on how the coming conflict would unfold. Japan would lash out at the U.S.-held Philippines. U.S. leaders would order the Pacific Fleet to relieve the islands, confronting the Imperial Japanese Navy with a numerical mismatch. Anti-access, Japanese style, meant forward-deploying warplanes to islands along the defense perimeter and submarines to adjacent waters. Aerial and undersea attacks would whittle the U.S. fleet down as it lumbered westward—evening the odds before a decisive battle somewhere in Asian waters.Submarines and land-based tactical aircraft remain among the panoply of anti-access weaponry. Complementing them are missile-armed patrol boats acting as offshore pickets; shore-fired antiship cruise missiles; and antiship ballistic missiles with ranges conservatively estimated at over nine hundred statute miles . Beijing would expect the PLA Navy surface fleet to handle whatever remnants of the U.S. Pacific Fleet limped into East Asian waters following repeated aerial and subsurface onslaughts.The Human ElementThe hardware dimension of the U.S.-China strategic competition, however, is inextricable from the all-important human dimension. Weapons don’t fight wars, as strategic thinkers from U.S. Air Force colonel John Boyd  to Chinese Communist Party chairman Mao Zedong  remind us; people who operate weapons do. Both individuals and the big institutions they serve have deep-seated worldviews and ideas about how to cope with the strategic surroundings. A culture that comports with strategic and operational circumstances represents an asset. A culture that flouts reality is a huge liability.So the struggle between AirSea Battle and anti-access is about more than developing gee-whiz technologies. A culture war is brewing between two great powers with very different conceptions of the relationship among land, air and sea power. And again, ideas matter. As naval historian Julian S. Corbett explains, armaments are “the expression in material of strategical and tactical ideas that prevail at any given time.” What hardware a nation’s armed forces acquire speaks volumes about how strategic leaders think about war—and how they may wage it.China conceives of land-based forces as intrinsic to sea power and has done so at least since the inception of the People’s Republic. This composite conception of sea power comes as second nature for the PLA. Mao Zedong reportedly issued the PLA Navy’s founders three curt instructions: “fly, dive, fast!” Commanders, that is, premised maritime defense on short-range aircraft flying from airfields ashore, diesel submarines diving beneath the waves, and fast patrol boats armed with guns and missiles. These were the ancestors of today’s ultramodern anti-access force.Maoist China viewed sea power as more than the fleet. It was an amalgam of seagoing and land-based platforms and weaponry. Accordingly, the navy remained close to home throughout Mao’s long tenure as CCP chairman. That’s markedly different from the U.S. Navy, which kept squadrons on foreign station from its earliest history. Forward deployment is in American seafarers’ DNA. Think Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Wars. China, by contrast, has not forward deployed warships since the Ming Dynasty—and even then it did so only intermittently. The ongoing counterpiracy deployment off Somalia thus marks a break with centuries of historical practice.The PLA Navy has remained true to its Maoist history even while constructing a blue-water fleet. Coastal defense remains the service’s core function, although it has vastly expanded its defensive zone.If the PLA Navy needs to reinvent its institutional culture to operate far from Chinese coasts, the U.S. military faces an even stiffer cultural challenge in orienting itself to new realities. The post–Cold War U.S. military came to see naval power as a supporting arm of land power. The U.S. Navy projected power onto distant shores, supporting the army, Marines and air force as these sister services prosecuted air and ground campaigns in theaters such as Iraq and Afghanistan.Facing no competitor of the Soviet Navy’s stature, the U.S. Navy leadership issued guidance stating that the navy could assume it commanded the sea. There was no one to contest its mastery. Thus, in the words of the 1992 directive "...From the Sea  ," the service could “afford to de-emphasize efforts in some naval warfare areas.” In practice, that meant capabilities like antisubmarine warfare and mine countermeasures—capabilities critical to surviving and prospering in anti-access settings—languished for two decades.Only now are they being rejuvenated. As the anti-access challenge has come into focus, the navy has started scrambling to upgrade its weaponry and relearn half-forgotten skills. In all likelihood, the air force is in worse straits. Despite Billy Mitchell’s early experiments with using air power to defend American coasts—remember his famous 1920 sinking of a battleship  from the air—the modern U.S. Air Force does not consider fighting at sea one of its central purposes. The services have some way to go before they can put forth the cohesive effort AirSea Battle demands.Punching the Pillow In short, the Asian continental power takes a holistic view of sea power, while the power that rules the waves thinks of sea power as subsidiary to land power. This cultural inversion would favor PLA defenders in a U.S.-China war. After all, fighting offshore is familiar terrain for them, whereas U.S. leaders long assumed they no longer had to fight for sea control. The services must dispel that ingrained assumption. The advantage goes to China unless the U.S. Navy and Air Force undertake a cultural transformation ahead of time, learning to work together in the maritime domain.Reinventing military institutions in peacetime invariably poses a high-order leadership challenge. It often takes some trauma—like defeat—to clear minds. What to do, short of that doomsday scenario?First, we need an official AirSea Battle concept to jolt the services into action and impart direction. Let’s publish one. Second, the navy and air force must embrace the concept, forging themselves into a joint weapon of sea combat. And third, national leaders must hold the services accountable for this project. Franklin Roosevelt once compared the U.S. Navy to a pillow. Civilian officials could punch it as hard as they liked, but it sprang back to the same shape. One suspects the U.S. Air Force bureaucracy is the same way.Keep punching, Washington.James Holmes is an associate professor of strategy at the Naval War College and a contributor to Competitive Strategies for the 21st Century , just out from Stanford University Press. The views voiced here are his alone.
China e Japão à beira de conflitoRochedos de Senkaku, poderão provocar problemas sérios17.09.2012Vários governos têm vindo nos últimos dias a manifestar suas preocupações com o degradar da relação entre a China e o Japão, por causa da posse das ilhas de Senkaku (nome da maior das ilhas do arquipélago que tem um comprimento máximo de cerca de 3,400 metros ).
A China está a anos luz do Japão no que toca ao mar e ar... dali não vai levar nada.