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South China Sea: Beijing boosts naval power

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] R [/yt_dropcap]ecently on June 28, China launched what it calls the most advanced and largest warship in Asia on Wednesday, billing it as a major step forward in the modernisation of its navy. As the first of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyers – which have a displacement of more than 12,000 tonnes – military experts said it was designed to accompany the country’s future aircraft carrier battle groups.

The destroyer was built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai and was equipped with air ¬defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. The Type 055 destroyer is similar in size to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke class ships and is billed as a major step forward for Chinese sea power.

USA cannot attack China by sea

Obviously, China is serious about its claims of South China Sea and has been developing its navy on the one hand and the region with modern military facilities, on the other. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. Not only is the South China Sea (SCS) a major shipping route but also a zone of high rich energy resources. Hence USA is also keen to intervene in the dispute and hence there is tension in the region. Several countries have supported the Chinese position on the South China Sea issue.

China has bolstered its claim by building artificial islands including airstrips in the area, some of which are suitable for military use. Other regional powers the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbor significant oil and gas deposits.

The launch of the warship marks an important step towards China’s dream of having a strong and modern naval force, General Zhang Youxia, a member of the Central Military Commission who oversees the army’s equipment, was quoted as saying at the launch ceremony. Military analysts said the Type 055 was in theory the world’s second most powerful destroyer – after the US Navy’s DDG-1000, or the Zumwalt class. The capabilities of the Type 055 surpass South Korea’s DDG-991 and Japan’s ¬Atago class, which have a 10,000 ton displacement.

With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ¬People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.

The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ¬analyst Zhou Chenming. “In some respects – such as the size, radar system, missile capacity and the multifunctionality in use – the Type 055 has now caught up, or at least it’s on the same level as the United States’ main ¬destroyer,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said.

With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ¬People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.

The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ¬analyst Zhou Chenming.

Li said the warship would play an important role escorting aircraft carriers or the new advanced Type 071 amphibious assault ships, and it could also lead a comprehensive combat group of smaller destroyers and frigates. For these purposes the PLA Navy would need at least 10 Type 055 destroyers, and at the current capacity China could build one or two a year, Li said.

Meanwhile, the sheer size of the warship means there is space for more – and more powerful – weapons. Before the 055, the PLA Navy’s most advanced destroyer was the Type 052D, a 7,500-tonne vessel that squeezed in a flat-array radar, a 64-cell vertical launch system (VLS) and long-range anti-air missiles.

The Type 055, according to the Jane’s Defence Weekly, is over 180 metres long – more than 20 ¬metres longer than 052D. It has a 128-cell VLS and missiles to attack planes, ships, submarines and missiles, making it the most powerful destroyer in Asia. Given its size, it could also serve as a platform to develop the next generation of weapons, such as high-energy radio-frequency equipment, Zhou said.“When you have a bigger home, you can fit in different new furniture.” But Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong said the Type 055 had some “disappointing” design flaws. The relatively low positioning of its flat-array radar system would affect its range of detection, he said, while the use of light aluminum alloy in the upper decks would make it vulnerable to damage.

“Despite its very modern stealth shape, the damage control capability is a big concern,” Wong said. “The design follows the Chinese convention, probably due to a lack of experience … in a combat situation.”

Next, the warship will undergo equipment and sea testing and it is due to enter service next year.

The SCS area may be rich in oil and natural gas deposits; however, the estimates are highly varied. The Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining of the People’s Republic of China estimate that the South China Sea may contain 17.7 billion tons of crude oil (compared to Kuwait with 13 billion tons). However, other sources claim that the proven reserve of oil in the South China Sea may only be 7.5 billion barrels, or about 1.1 billion tons According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s profile of the South China Sea region, a US Geological Survey estimate puts the region’s discovered and undiscovered oil reserves at 11 billion barrels, as opposed to a Chinese figure of 125 billion barrels. The same EIA report also points to the wide variety of natural gas resource estimations, ranging from 190 trillion cubic feet to 500 trillion cubic feet, likely located in the contested Reed Bank”.

The South China Sea is dubbed by China as the “second Persian Sea.” The state-owned China Offshore Exploration Corp. planned to spend 200 billion RMB (US$30 billion) in the next 20 years to exploit oil in the region, with the estimated production of 25 million metric tons of crude oil and natural gas per annum, at a depth of 2000 meters within the next five years.

China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. USA is major user of the sea route mainly for trade purposes.

China questions American surveillance activities and other military activities over the South China Sea.  China’s construction activities and military preparatory actions have drawn criticism from the USA. The United States is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute but says it has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.

The USA and China are currently in disagreement over the South China Sea. This disagreement is exacerbated by the fact that the USA is not a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Nevertheless, the USA has stood by its maneuvers, claiming that “peaceful surveillance activities and other military activities without permission in a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is allowed under the convention.

The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Non-claimants want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with the United States conducting “freedom of navigation” operations.

There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime, areas near to sea, boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.

In February 2016, President Obama initiated the US-ASEAN Summit at Sunny lands for closer engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea were a major topic, but its joint statement, the “Sunnylands Declaration” called for “respect of each nation’s sovereignty and for international law”. Analysts believe it indicates divisions within the group on how to respond to China’s maritime strategy.

China has reacted angrily to a US decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering North Korean money. A foreign ministry spokesman urged the US to “stop wrongful actions” to avoid harming co-operation. The US announced the move, as well as sanctions on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese nationals, on Thursday.

It said the blacklisting was aimed at cutting funds to North Korea’s weapons programmes.

“We will follow the money and cut off the money,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a news conference. But he said the move was not a response to Chinese inaction on North Korea, saying: “This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China.”

The UN has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang, but China is widely seen as the nation most able to impose economic pain on North Korea.  Washington has been pushing Beijing for tougher measures amid a series of missile tests by Pyongyang. But in a tweet earlier this month, President Donald Trump said China’s actions had “not worked out”.

The sanctions mean that the Bank of Dandong will be barred from doing business in the US.

The US Treasury said it had been “a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity” and facilitated “millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missile programs”. Two Chinese nationals accused of creating front companies for North Korean entities and a shipping company, Dalian Global Unity Shipping, accused of smuggling luxury goods to North Korea, have also been blacklisted. Mnuchin said that the US could impose more sanctions in the future. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the US action went “against the important spirit” of the apparently friendly meeting between Trump and US President Xi Jinping at the US president’s Florida resort in April.

The sanctions came as the US announced the sale of $1.42bn (£1.09bn) worth of arms to Taiwan, the first such transaction under the Trump administration. US arms sales to Taiwan always anger Beijing because it considers the self-governing island part of its territory. It also came as new South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Washington for talks with Trump on security issues.

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Defense

Turkey is the Guarantor of Peace in the Black Sea region

Asim Suleymanov

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The wider Black Sea region—which brings together the littoral states plus neighbouring countries—is experiencing a rapidly shifting security environment that combines large-scale conventional military threats, internationalized civil wars and protracted conflicts, as well as weapons of mass destruction (WMD) challenges. As such, a fragile set of states caught between the Euro-Atlantic community, on the one hand, and Russia and its allies, on the other, has emerged as a key interface between the two security communities.  

Since the 1990s, most of the world’s identified cases of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials—fissile materials, in particular—have been located in countries around the Black Sea. The nuclear security situation in the region is further complicated by the existence of areas with unstable governance and protracted conflicts such as in Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and areas of Eastern Ukraine since 2014.

The Washington’s open, aggressive behavior in the international arena pushes traditional allies away from it. But despite the escalation of the conflict with Turkey, the United States, being the founding member of NATO, is still pursuing the goal of strengthening its presence in the Black Sea.

Today, the main allies of the White House in this region are the leadership of Georgia and Ukraine, who dream of entry into NATO and accept all the imposed conditions.
However, for more than 80 years the presence of warships of non-Black Sea powers, that could enter the sea via the Bosphorus, has been regulated by the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits. According to it, the total non-Black Sea tonnage, with few exceptions, is limited to 15 thousand ships. It prevents the emergence of something more significant there than a detachment of light forces, one or two large warships. At the same time for warships there are restrictions on the class and duration of stay. In particular, ships of non-Black Sea states can stay in the water area for no more than 21 days.
Any attempts to violate this document will be extremely negatively perceived by Turkey, that should be one of the leading players in the region. It is impossible to revise the convention without the consent of Turkey, and only supporting by Ankara country can provide overwhelming superiority in the Black Sea.


In such a situation, the Pentagon considers it possible to use the navigable channel of Istanbul for the passage of American aircraft carriers, that will connect the Marmara and the Black Sea. A channel of about 50 km in length will run parallel to the Bosphorus, while the Montreux Convention will not extend to it. The construction of Channel Istanbul will be completed in 2023.

By the end of construction, everything will depend on the leadership of Turkey. If Ankara concedes and allows the passage of the US Navy aircraft carriers through the new channel, it will surrender all its positions in the Black Sea to the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, NATO member countries (this is not about Bulgaria and Romania) maintain a military presence in the Black Sea region. The Sea Shield 2019 naval drills ended in mid-April, and the reconnaissance ship HMS Echo of the British Royal Navy continues to carry out its mission in the Black Sea.

The US Navy already has 11 atomic high-speed aircraft carriers, each with about 90 aircraft. If we imagine that a small part of them will be placed in the Black Sea, then Russia will receive a defensive response. And then all the terrible scenarios of hostilities are likely to happen.

There is a hope that the Turkish government has enough resilience and determination in confronting the harsh rhetoric of other NATO partners.

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Insecurity of India’s Nuclear Weapons

Ali Raza

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After 1945, it came into the knowledge that nuclear weapons are the most destructive, lethal and powerful weapon on the planet earth, which can wipe out hundreds of thousands of people in short span of time. That’s why global community, particularly the U.S. and Former Soviet Union agreed on formulation of stringent globally accepted principles to secure these destructive weapons. India is the first country that brought nuclear weapons in South Asia by detonating nuclear device back in 1974 and yet again in 1998.However, since than safety and security of these weapons under the control of violent Hindutva regime has considerably attracted much of the scholars’ attraction.

Terrorism has become an increasing concern within international society but so far there has been less focus on one particular aspect of the problem that is nuclear terrorism. Yet, within the context of South Asia this is of special significance, given the number of insurgencies and freedom struggles with transnational linkages, and the nuclearisation of this region since 1998. Of all the South Asian states, India’s nuclear facilities are perhaps the most vulnerable to nuclear terrorism, given India’s expansive nuclear programme, much of it not subject to IAEA safeguards. In addition, the vulnerability of India’s nuclear facilities is further aggravated by its thriving underworld and more than a dozen insurgencies going on within the Indian states, as well as the freedom struggle in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

India’s nuclear programme has developed at an exceptionally fast pace. However, because a few of such facilities are under international safeguards, there is little knowledge about the levels of safety of the various nuclear facilities. Of the ten operational power plants, only four are under IAEA safeguards. According to an Indian parliamentary report, 147 mishaps or safety-related unusual occurrences were reported between the years 1995-1998 in Indian atomic energy plants. Of these, 28 were of an acute nature and 9 of these 28 occurred in the nuclear power installations. Thus, the state of Indian nuclear facilities raises serious concerns as they seem to be vulnerable to a high probability of terrorist attacks, thefts and accidents. The scale of the programme aggravates the problems, as there are plans for the building of pressurized heavy water reactors, fast breeder reactors and thorium reactors on a commercial scale.

Apart from the risk of falling of nuclear weapons and related technology in the hands of terrorists, if one looks at the leadership of India and try to analyse the factor of rationality in the decision making of use of nuclear weapon it clearly suggests that the current leadership i.e. BJP is not only hawkish in its nature but equally believes in use of force for political gains, which further leads us to the assumption that the nuclear decision making is equally occupied by the Hindu hardliners.

During the recent Pulwama Crisis, it has been learnt that BJP’s irresponsible behaviour should suffice for all Indians to understand that India will remain hyphenated with Pakistan for foreseeable time. India planned to use Brahmos missile that could carry nuclear warhead. India’s behaviour clearly shows that nuclear weapons are in wrong hands. Because the yield and potential related to the nuclear weapons are absolutely detrimental and possession of such weapons in wrong, less responsible and extremist hands is a threat for the entire world.

The only purpose of nuclear weapons is to acquire deterrence in order to avoid the possibility of war. But, India is showing the attitude that it will use these weapons for the purposes of war fighting, which is unacceptable to international community.  

The track record of India in the field of nuclear weapons and related technology is much muddier. India initiated arms race in the region, and, it is leaving no stone unturned e.g. advancements in sea-based nuclear capabilities and militarisation of space. Most importantly the recent ASAT test, which is in fact a compelling factor for neighbouring states to think in the same way in order to acquire comparable technologies for equalizing the defence capabilities. These alarming acts of India can bring the entire region at the verge of instability, which in fact could prove dire for the peace of the entire globe keeping in view the economic, natural resources, political and security factors of the region.

The time has come for the international community to break its silence and stop their patronage for India and take serious note and steps regarding the possession of nuclear weapons by India in relation to its aggressive and immature behaviour and mind-set of its leadership, which can lead entire globe to the unacceptable disaster. Since, Kashmir is flash point between both nuclear armed states it is only India which is triggering it by its continuous atrocities in Kashmir. Most importantly existence of ISIS in India is also a foremost point of concern especially keeping in view the nuclear program of India, according to the recent development ISIS claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group. This is not only the matter, which solely related to the stability and security of South Asia. This time instability is knocking the door of entire globe in the form of India. The continuous negligence of international community with respect to Indian nuclear weapons will definitely disturb the stability as well as peace of the entire globe.

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Why the U.S. is silent about military exercises in the Baltic States

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The Baltic States are in the anticipation of the annual large scale military exercise Saber Strike.

The well-known annual international exercise held since 2010 by the United States Army Europe (USAREUR) is focused on the Baltic States. These countries consider this event as a key element of participants’ training on command and control as well as interoperability with regional partners. The Saber Strike exercise aims to facilitate cooperation amongst the U.S., Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and allied and partner nations.

Usually these maneuvers take place in June. Thus, it is logical to assume that the time of the military exercise is coming, but this year event is never mentioned.

There are two ways of situation development. The first one is – Saber Strike 2019 will not be held at all. The second one is the information about Saber Strike 2019 is classified.

The first assumption is unlikely taking into account the U.S. and NATO desire to strengthen the position in the region. This assumption is also contradicted by the increasing number and scale of international and national military exercises in the Baltic region.
So, the second assumption is most likely. But the question arises about the aim of hiding the information or its content. It is widely proclaimed that NATO and the U.S. put transparency about the exercises in the head. This principle is either one of the key priorities of all international organizations including UN and OSCE. Transparency of activity helps to build international peace and trust.

It is especially surprising after NATO expressed concern about transparency of Russian and Russia-Belarus military drills which were held near the Baltic State’s borders. Unlike allies, opponents give preliminary information about planned exercises. By the way, some facts can be find on Internet about joint exercise Union Shield 2019 that will take place in autumn in Russia.

BulgarianMilitary.com  quoted  Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu who stated in 2018 that “Union Shield 2019” exercise would be only defensive and emphasized: “First and foremost, and I would like everyone to hear that, our drills are solely of defensive nature. We do not plan any offensive actions as compared to the [NATO] military exercises. We, undoubtedly, are doing this not as a response to some drills but as a response to the threats which exist today and which, to our big regret, grow every year.”

From time to time we can read about the preparations for Russian-Belarusian exercise “Union Shield 2019”. Thus on March 12-14, the Belarusian-Russian command-staff training on working out the interaction of military authorities, formations and military units in the framework of the regional grouping of troops (RGT) was carried out jointly, as well as improving the RGT control system.

“The general staffs have embarked on the preparation of the Union Shield 2019 exercise, which will be the main event of joint training of the military command and troops in 2019 and which will further improve the system of military security of the Union State,” Belarusian Minister of Defense Andrei Ravkov noted. According to him, such events help check the quality and level of combat readiness of the regional group of troops, to see the real capabilities of weapons and the ability to carry out combat tasks.
True or not, but information is available. It is not very detailed but at least it is provided in advance. At least they name it as defensive.

As far as Saber Strike is concerned, everything is vaguely and therefore scary. What is the aim of it? Does it have defensive or offensive nature? When and who will come to the Baltic States? The approach “no comments” is not the best one in this case. The Baltics want and should know. Our opponents should be aware either. Otherwise their respond could be unexpected and even destroying. Uncertainty causes panic and rejection among local population.

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