Connect with us

Intelligence

Asia’s troubled waters: Chinese advances in the South China Sea

Published

on

Satellite images show radar construction on China’s manmade island above Cuarteron Reef. And one US think tank says this is even more threatening than missiles as the satellite images show China building a new high-frequency radar system in the Spratly Islands, a move intended to boost their control of the region.

What’s going on in the South China Sea? Is China installing a high-tech radar system in the South China Sea which is detrimental to the interests of other regional powers? Why is the USA interfering in the region?

A recent report released by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative says overhead images of the artificial island above Cuarteron Reef in the South China Sea from January to mid-February show two radar towers and a number of 65-foot poles. CSIS warns this could be a significant step in a long-term Chinese plan to assert control over the air and sea lanes of the disputed South China Sea.

China has been asserting their control over one of the world’s busiest waterways for decades, saying their claim has been indisputable since the Xia and Han dynasties. Neighboring Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Taiwan all have overlapping claims to the area, where more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year and likely holds billions of barrels of oil.

China has sent fighter jets to a disputed island in the South China Sea, where it deployed surface-to-air missiles earlier this month, U.S. government sources said on Tuesday.

China’s missiles in the South China Sea create a sort of panic situation for the region as China regularly sends jets to Woody Island, part of the Paracel archipelago controlled by Beijing. No one had any doubts about China’s intentions to militarize the South China Sea when the Chine military occupied and began building certain structures there, making the regional powers became nervous and objected to the China’s designs.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea rose after a Fox News report that the Chinese military had apparently placed advanced HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, in the Paracel group of islands. The claim, which was quickly taken up by the American and international media, accused Chinese leaders of “increasingly ‘militarizing’ its islands in the South China Sea.”

The Pentagon claims evidence of HQ-9 missile batteries on the island—a claim also made by Taiwan’s defence ministry. While not confirming the presence of the missiles, the Chinese Ministry of Defence noted that its navy and air force had kept forces in the Paracels for many years. At a press conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointedly remarked that “non-militarization is certainly in the interests of all parties, but non-militarization should not be just about one single country.”

Strategic experts say if these poles signal radar installation as the report suggests, the new system would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic across the southern portion of the South China Sea. And the Asian giant has escalated its claims to the region in the past year, by building seven small new islands and raising fears that China is militarizing the South China Sea. Just last week, Chinese surface-to-air missiles were found on Woody Island, part of the Paracel Islands, which Beijing claims are simply defense systems to protect their manned islands.

While that move was condemned, says CSIS, new radar facilities being developed in the Spratleys, on the other hand, could significantly change the operational landscape. The radar system will allow Chinese forces to detect both ship and air traffic. China already has significant radar coverage on the mainland and nearby Paracel Islands, explains CSIS, but a radar system on the Cuateron reef is crucial because it would unilaterally access busy straits and channels. All three of these capabilities “speak to a long-term anti-access strategy by China – one that would see it establish effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the South China Sea.” CSIS says South China Sea rivals can expect Chinese radar systems at the Gaven, Hughes, and Johnson South reefs as well.

Much of the media coverage of the latest missile revelations is just as exaggerated and deliberately misleading. The Paracels and the Spratlys are conflated; images of Chinese missiles are shown alongside photographs of land reclamation in the Spratlys; and the history of the disputes in the South China Sea is either ignored or distorted.

Unlike the Spratlys, where it is a relative newcomer, China has occupied Woody Island since 1956—that is, for 60 years—and controlled all of the Paracels since 1974, when it seized the remaining islands in the group from South Vietnam. At the time, North Vietnam recognised Chinese sovereignty of the Paracels, a claim that Vietnam has disputed since 1982, following its war with China in 1979.

Woody Island is the largest of the Paracels and has been used by China as an administrative centre. While President Xi Jinping gave an undertaking to Obama not to militarize the Spratlys, he gave no commitment on the Paracels. Indeed, the Chinese military has long maintained a small garrison on Woody Island and has flown fighter jets to its airstrip. China has sent air-defence missiles to the Paracels in the past.

Woody Island, one of northernmost of the Paracel group, is barely more than 300 kilometres from key Chinese naval bases on Hainan Island, which is just off the Chinese mainland. Its proximity highlights the real purpose of the Pentagon’s “freedom of navigation” operations, which is to maintain its “right” to place US warships virtually anywhere outside the immediate 12-nautical-mile limit off the Chinese coastline.

Improved radar coverage is an important piece of the puzzle – along with improved air defenses and greater reach for Chinese aircraft – toward China’s goals of establishing effective control over the sea and airspace throughout the nine-dash line. The nine-dash line refers to maps used since 1947 by China and Taiwan to claim certain islands in the region.

China says their actions are entirely legal and appropriate. “Most people in this area recognize that the facilities that China has constructed are primarily for strategic reasons. Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore: “But that’s how China will spin it.”

In a press conference, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the media should focus on the islands’ lighthouses and weather forecast stations, instead of the country’s “limited and necessary national defense facilities” in the region. Because as the biggest coastal state in the South China Sea, China is “providing goods and services to the international community,” says Wang. Despite last week’s missile installations and this week’s radar systems, China says their activities in the South China Sea are exclusively for civilian purposes. And any defensive facilities practiced on the islands are a mere exercise of self-defense as allowed in international law.

China wants its fellow UN veto member USA to stay out of the South China Sea dispute, while other regional powers plead for US intervention. Beijing complains that constant US close-in patrols of the region are the only reason there has been greater local tension in recent years.

Last month, after a US Navy patrol near the Triton Island, the US State Department indicated that was exercising its international rights to send ships through the area: “The excessive Chinese claims regarding Triton Island are inconsistent with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention”. The purpose of US naval patrols in the area, is to assert “freedom of navigation” (FON), “to ensure that US naval, coast guard, and civilian ships, and by extension those of all nations, maintain unrestricted access to their rights at sea,” while doing so in such a manner that averts military conflict with China.

Starting last October, the USA has been directly challenging Chinese maritime claims in the region by sending warships and military aircraft within the 12-nautical-mile territorial limit surrounding Chinese-administrated islets. On January 30, the destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur, intruded into water surrounding Triton Island in the Paracels.

Over the past five years, the Obama government has deliberately transformed the longstanding maritime disputes in the region into a dangerous global flashpoint. Washington has exploited the tensions to forge closer military ties with countries in the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and justify its own military build-up as part of the “pivot to Asia” against China. US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday again demanded that there should be “no militarization” of the South China Sea.

Speaking after a two-day US-ASEAN summit in California, President Barack Obama called for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions. He repeated US demands for “a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization.” Foreshadowing further military challenges to Chinese territorial claims, Obama declared the USA would continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and “we will support the right of all countries to do the same.”

The response of the Chinese leadership to the US “pivot,” on the one hand, has been to try to appease Washington and, on the other, to engage in a dangerous arms race, which can only end in catastrophe for the civilians in China and internationally. However, the chief responsibility for this drive to war lies with US imperialism.

USA is recklessly using its military might to maintain its dominance in Asia and around the world and using the regional powers in South Asia and Asia pacific against China.

Last month, the Washington-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), released a report commissioned by the Defence Department that could only be described as a blueprint for war against China. It complained about Beijing’s increased “tolerance of risk” in the face of Washington’s confrontational “pivot”—in other words, China’s refusal to buckle to US demands. The report called for a huge military expansion in Asia, not only by the United States, but all its allies and strategic partners.

Whether or not the missile claims are true, the western stories have the character of a provocation concocted within sections of the US military and intelligence establishment that have been critical of the Obama governance for not being aggressive enough in asserting against Russia and China its military super power.

The Pentagon wants to conduct more, and more complex, freedom of navigation operations as time goes on in the South China Sea. The P8-A Poseidon surveillance flight over Chinese-administered islets in the Spratly group would provide breathless footage highlighting China’s land reclamation activities.

Such operations are in line with the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle plans for war against China, which envisage massive air and missile attacks launched from bases, submarines and aircraft carriers in the western Pacific to destroy China’s military, industrial and communications infrastructure. Washington wants to cut off vital Chinese imports of energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East.

Continue Reading
Comments

Intelligence

Iran: New details of shooting Global Hawk disclosed

Newsroom

Published

on

Deputy of Operations of Iran’s Passive Defense Organization Amir Khoshghalb, in an interview with Mehr news agency, released the details of downing US Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone by IRGC.

“We were precisely observing the US drone’s activity even from the beginning moments of its flight,” he said, “We knew its route and it was under full supervision of Iran Defense Organization.”

“The drone was moving towards Iran, breaching international regulations i.e. taking that route it was making a threat to Iran,” the Iranian official said. 

“It had even turned off its identification system,” he added.

“We needed to take a tactical measure, accordingly,” he said.

“Our tactical measure has various aspects; first we issued a radio warning,” Khshghalb described, “In some cases, the warning is stronger and will lead into a strong tactical measure such as shooting.”

“On its route, which was longer than three hours, the drone, which was under our full surveillance, was seeking something,” he reiterated.

“May be we could take initial measures much earlier but we let the drone do its job and end its route,” he said, “We repeatedly issued warnings when the drone was on its way moving towards us asking it to act upon international regulations but it ignored all of them.”

On June 20, In June, Iran’s IRGC downed a US Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drone after it had violated Iranian airspace. Despite the US claims that the drone had been flying over international waters, Iran said it had retrieved sections of the drone in its own territorial waters where it was shot down.

The intruding drone was shot by Iran’s homegrown air defense missile system “Khordad-3rd”.

US President Donald Trump said afterward that he aborted a military strike to retaliate against Iran’s downing of the US drone because it could have killed 150 people, and signaled he was open to talks with Tehran.

Chief of General Staff of Iranian Armed Force, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, said on Wednesday that the US was on the verge of attacking Iran but called off the plans after Iran downed the intruding drone.

“The US was to take a practical measure [military strike] against us but in the name of a high number of probable victims, it overturned the decision,” he said, adding, “The main reason, however, was Iran’s deterrence power.”

These are the result of the Iranian thought and the commands of the Revolution Leader, he said, noting that despite all problems, Iran enjoys great capabilities in the defense sector and the Iranian nation will not let eruption of another war.

From our partner MNA

Continue Reading

Intelligence

Rethinking Cyber warfare: Strategic Implications for United States and China

Zaeem Hassan Mehmood

Published

on

“Every age had its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.”Carl von Clausewitz

Internet has transformed the front lines of war. Modern conflicts are now waged online in cyberspace. World Wide Web (WWW) has eradicated all physical borders and defences, without which weak and powerful states are all prone to attacks. Concurring to this pretext, a number of countries have formally recognized cyber as the new domain of warfare in their strategy papers and documents. United States and China are the master players in this realm having military units active, with sophisticated state of art capabilities dedicated to cyber strikes. The consequences are dire, for the sole superpower, and for the rising economic giant which is projected to take over the former by 2025.

The dynamic nature of cyber warfare has caused frustration in the inner circles of Washington and Beijing. Both the public and the private sector have been targeted. The former to get hands on state secrets and latter for intellectual property rights. According to an estimate by US Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), it has cost the American economy $338 billion, an amount closer to the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Pakistan. China on the other hand leads the Asia-Pacific region in cyber losses which incurs the country an annual estimated loss of $60 billion.

Next Generation Warfare

There is a surge seen in cyber attacks against the US. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and National Security Agency (NSA) at multiple times have came under attack. This is followed by Silicon Valley tech giants, such as Netflix, Twitter and Spotify who on numerous occasions have been taken down by cyber attackers. It is very difficult to trace the identity and origin of the attack, as various techniques like changing Internet Protocol (IP) cannot only hide identity of attacker but misattribute it to other nations. Cyber security analysts working in their private capacity have collected evidence that seems indicate China as the alleged perpetrator of recent waves of cyber-attacks.

However, cyber pundits have openly stated that they cannot guarantee with a hundred percent accuracy that the evidence collected in wake of cyber-attacks is authentic and not planted by perpetrators to seem to look genuine. In cyberspace. An attack could be from anywhere around the globe. It could be from friends and foes alike, anyone can attack and make it look like an attack came from China or other adversary. In the past, cyberattackers from France bypassed into secured servers stealing classified information relating to American products and designs. Added to that, it is an expensive and difficult task to analyze these attacks. To know that you have been attacked or infiltrated is itself a big achievement. Considering that, it take days or even months to find that your security has been compromised. It took seven months for security analyst to find the Stuxnet virus that was hiding itself into a legitimate Siemens software responsible for controlling centrifuges at nuclear power plants around the world. According to an estimate starting rates for analyzing and identifying cyber attacks start from $650 dollars per hour, which often end up towards an uncertain conclusions.

Philippe Goldstein author of Babel Zero argues that attacking against a wrong adversary would be catastrophic. A troublesome scenario, where attacks in cyberspace can be met with conventional and even nuclear culminating a “Cyber Armageddon”. It is this reason that states have taken cyber warfare seriously and synonymous to national security. China has incorporated cyber command structure within its armed forces, under the“Three Warfare strategy.”

Cybersecurity analysts have called minuet “cyber bullets” as ‘Cyber weapons of Mass Destruction.’ All one needs is ‘bad timings, bad decision making and some bad luck!’ and you can end up having a World War III which was 24/7 nightmare of Cold War veterans. The world is not immune from such attacks. Anyone having an access to any computing device, from iPods to digital smart watches, having right technical skills can cause a national security crisis. This is well depicted in John Badham’s film, WarGames where a young hacker unknowingly sets a US military supercomputer to launch nuclear weapons on the former Soviet Union. Few years back, an attack on FBI’s website resulted in leaking of classified data caused alarm bells in Washington. Later it was found out the perpetrator was a 15 year old school boy from Glasgow, Scotland.

The way forward for states remains cumbersome in the absence of legal framework from the United Nations (UN). Further complications arise when the attack is orchestrated by a non-state actor or private individual from a particular state. Recent debates among the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members have arisen in the wake of alleged Russian sponsored cyber activities against Europe and America whether the collective defence measures under Article 5 would apply to a cyber-attack.

Cyber security is a relatively new introduction in war studies. The US Department of Defence (DOD) recognized cyber warfare, as the fifth domain of warfare following land, sea, air and outer space. There are around 30 countries that have dedicated cyber military units, whereas more than 140 countries have or are in developing stages to acquire cyber weapons. Cyber is the means by which countries irrespective of their financial standing can acquire to further states objectives. US and China are considered advanced states in cyber realm, having cyber military technology and capabilities that are rarely matched by other contenders. Therefore, studying their way of cyber dealings, strategies and policy making would allow other countries such as Pakistan to better able to understand the dynamics and nature of this new type of warfare. India has tasked the Defence Cyber Agency (DCA), presently headed by a two-star Admiral which reports directly to Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CCSC). DCA is presently undertaking to prepare a Cyber warfare doctrine for India. The repercussions of the developments are critical for Pakistan, which require a comprehensive safety and information guideline to be prepared for the masses. 

Continue Reading

Intelligence

Protest: The King is dead, long live the king

Dr. James M. Dorsey

Published

on

Protest is back on the front burner.

Protesters occupy streets in cities ranging from Hong Kong and Moscow to Khartoum and Algiers. They would likely do so in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, were it not for unprecedented pre-emptive security measures.

When protest is not on the streets, it is embedded in culture wars wracking countries like the United States, Germany and India that stem from the struggle between liberals and mainstream conservatives on one side of the divide and civilisationalists, populists, extreme nationalists and far-right wingers on the other.

A clamour for transparent, accountable rule that delivers public goods and services is at the core of the protests even if some are framed as battles for environmental and economic issues and against corruption rather than democracy or in terms of nationalism, civilisationalism, racism and opposition to migration.

The sparks of the protests differ from country to country. So does the political environment. And the stakes at various stages of the game vary.

In Algeria and Sudan, it’s about an end to corrupt autocracy and more inclusive rule. In Kashmir, the rub is imposition of direct Indian rule and failure to ensure that the region benefits equitably from economic growth.

In Russia, deteriorating standards of living and environmental degradation are drivers while a younger generation in Hong Kong rejects Chinese encroachment in advance of incorporation into a totalitarian system.

The different drivers notwithstanding, the protests and the rise of civilisationalism, populism, and racial and religious supremacism, aided by fearmongering by ideologues and opportunistic politicians, are two sides of the same coin: a global collapse of confidence in incumbent systems and leadership that initially manifested itself in 2011 with the Arab revolts and Occupy Wall Street.

The Arab Spring was a warning bell; the fact that it was bloodily crushed does not mean it will not come back in another form,” said former Italian and United Nations diplomat Marco Carnelos.

It already has with the fall of Sudanese autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who is currently standing trial on corruption charges, and Algerian strongman Abdulaziz Bouteflika, whose associates face corruption proceedings.

Developments in the two African nations notwithstanding, protesters have so far won major battles but have yet to win the war.

Perhaps their most important victory has been the ability not only in Africa but also elsewhere like in Hong Kong to sustain their protests over substantial periods of time.

In maintaining their resilience, protesters were aided in Africa and Hong Kong by governments’ realization, despite the occasional use of force in Khartoum and Hong Kong, that brutal repression would at best provide a short-term, costly solution.

Even Russia, despite more frequent use of police violence, has not attempted to squash protests completely and on several occasions caved into protester demands.

The various experiences suggest that the political struggles underlying the protests are long rather than short-term battles involving lessons learnt from this decade’s earlier protests. The protests go through stages that at each turn of the road determine the next phase.

The struggles in Sudan and Algeria have developed into battles for dominance of the transition following the toppling of an autocrat.

In Sudan, the struggle has shifted from the street to the board rooms of power shared between the military and political forces with external forces like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates seeking to shape the outcome in the background.

A Bellingcat investigation suggested that weapons used by Sudan’s Rapid Support Force (RSF), the successor organization to the Janjaweed that has been accused of war crimes in Sudan, were bought by Saudi Arabia in Serbia.

The RSF is believed to be responsible for the deaths in June of some 120 protesters.

Algeria is one step behind Sudan with the military and protesters still seeking to agree on a mutually acceptable transition process.

In Hong Kong, China has sought to avoid direct intervention. However, its use of proxies,  bullying of corporates and the business community, pressure on the Hong Kong government to resolve the issue without major concessions and attempts to play protesters on the basis of divide and rule has so far failed to produce results.

In contrast to Sudan, Algeria and Hong Kong, Russia has equally unsuccessfully sought to stifle protests with violence and repression.

“There is the desire to show strength in Moscow, but this will not stop the protest movement unless they start imprisoning people for 15 years. This will continue in a certain form, but whether it will change the country, no, not yet. It will keep the flame alive,” said political analyst Konstantin von Eggert.

Mr. Von Eggert’s analysis is equally valid for centres of protest elsewhere. The 2011 Arab revolts or Arab Spring and what analysts have called the Arab Winter were neither.

They were early phases of a messy process in which grievances are reflected as much in street protests as they are in support for civilizational, nationalist and populist leaders who have either failed to produce alternative workable solutions or are likely to do so.

Ultimately, the solution lies in policies that are politically, economically and socially inclusive. So far, that kind of an approach is the exception to the rule, which means that protest is likely to remain on the front burner and a fixture of the times.

Continue Reading

Latest

Defense58 mins ago

Pakistan’s Skepticism on India’s NFU Policy Stands Validated

The South Asian region is widely regarded as vulnerable to the threat of nuclear war. This is largely because of...

Energy2 hours ago

Attack on Saudi oil facilities: Consequences and solutions

As expected, oil markets started Monday trading with an unprecedented jump in prices following the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil...

Reports4 hours ago

Digital Technologies Can Facilitate Access to Trade Finance in Asia-Pacific Region

Financial technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence, can enhance the efficiency and availability of trade finance, especially for small...

Russia6 hours ago

Eurasia’s Great Game: India, Japan and Europe play to Putin’s needs

Eurasia’s Great Game is anything but simple and straightforward. A burgeoning alliance between China and Russia that at least for...

Environment11 hours ago

New Study Offers Pathways to Climate-Smart Transport

A two-volume study laying out a pathway to a low-carbon and climate-resilient transport sector in Vietnam was released at a...

Science & Technology17 hours ago

Digitally shaping a greener world

Women were not allowed on map-making ship voyages until the 1960s—it was believed that they would bring bad luck. Spanish...

Reports19 hours ago

Promoting Innovation and Market Competition are key to China’s Future Growth

China needs to foster new drivers of growth to address productivity challenges, intensify reforms and promote greater innovation in the...

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Modern Diplomacy