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The clash between the United States and the Russian Federation on strategic nuclear weapons

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On October 20 last the US President, Donald J. Trump, stated that North America would withdraw from the INF Treaty on nuclear missile weapons, which means that Europe will be again the main base for the new intermediate and long-range weapon systems.

Obviously the European ruling class, both at national and EU levels, has not yet said a single word about this new configuration of the threats and defences on our territory.

President Trump referred specifically to the 1987 INF Treaty or, more precisely, to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – a treaty that, in particular, banned the ground-launched nuclear missiles having a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometres.

The INF Treaty led to the complete elimination of almost 2,700 medium and short-range missiles, including 850 US ones and over 1,800 Soviet ones. As many may recall, it put an end to the tension between the United States and the Soviet Union just at the time when the latter deployed the new SS-20 missiles in Eastern Europe and, as a response, the former deployed its Cruise and Pershing missiles in the European NATO, in a phase characterized by a whirlwind of “pacifist” demonstrations.

The “Euromissile battle”, as it was defined in the extraordinary book La Bataille des Euromissiles by Michel Tatu, was the real beginning of the end of Cold War.

Nevertheless, it was a leader of the Milanese Communist Party, who was like one of the family in the Soviet Union, who personally informed the German Social Democrat Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, that the Soviet SS-20 missiles had an eminently offensive function.

If there had been only the Soviet SS-20 missiles aimed at European targets, not necessarily only military ones, the remote conditioning of our defence and economic policy would have been almost complete.

Hence the “Euromissile battle” was the real and last battle for the freedom of Europe which, before the Soviet missiles, had undergone almost twenty years of ideological conditioning, which had begun in 1968 and had been turned into a real low-intensity civil war, in Italy in particular.

In that case the pro-Soviet propaganda or, in principle, the “pacifist” propaganda had the last glimpse of life and, above all, huge support by Soviet Union and its various parallel propaganda organizations.

Those were the last days in which the old techniques of political propaganda still operated – between “the partisans of peace” and the Catholics of “dissent” – invented by the German Communist, Willi Muenzenberg, the “Stalin’s propaganda agent” and the organizer of many Communist communication battles.

However, let us revert to President Trump and the INF Treaty.

In fact, the US President states that Russia has actually infringed the INF Treaty rules, as it has developed a new type of medium-range missile.

However, as we will see at a later stage, faults are equally divided between the two contenders.

He refers to the 9M729 missile, in particular, also known asSSC-X-8.

It is a missile having a medium-long range – 3,000 nautical miles –  which is supposed to be the land version of the SS-N-30 missile.

The missile is equipped with a starting solid propellant, which fires after the launch. The control system and guidance of the cruise missile is inertial control system (autopilot) with Doppler sensors drift angle correction according to the Russian GLONASS and Western GPS satellite navigation systems.

If launched from the Siberian coast, this Russian missile could easily reach the Californian coast up to Los Angeles.

If launched from Moscow, however, it could cover the whole Western European area.

It is likely, however, that in a new treaty Russia wants to negotiate the elimination of the NATO ground-launched missiles in exchange for the abolition of its ones, thus excluding – from the negotiations for the reduction of strategic weapons – the newly developed long-range missiles and the hypersonic ones, of which we will speak later on.

The next race for new weapons will be focused there.

Over the last few days, however, both Trump and Putin have declared to be ready for dialogue, also with a future  informal meeting in Paris, as had been recently decided during the visit paid by President Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton, to Moscow where he met President Putin.

On March 1, 2018, however, President Putin had stated Russia had already developed and making operational a new complete line of medium-long range strategic missiles, capable – above all – of quickly getting the North American and NATO missile defences out of play.

Putin mainly made reference to missiles, but also to underwater drones and other types of advanced weapons, all arms systems that the Russian Federation has developed since the US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM)) signed with the USSR in 1972.

The American withdrawal, however, dates back to December 2001.

In his demonstration, Vladimir Putin showed two new weapon systems, the RS-28 Sarmat (NATO reporting code:  SS-X-30 Satan 2), which has an average range of 11,000 kilometres, and another innovative missile about which we will talk later on.

It should be recalled that the Satan 2 missile was designed in response to the deployment of the US GMD anti-ballistic missile systems and the subsequent launch of the US Defence program called Prompt Global Strike in 2009.

At least for the time being, the GMD is deployed in military bases in the States of Alaska and California and comprises 44 kinetic interceptors(40 in Alaska and 4 on the Western coast in the Los Angeles area) for intercepting incoming warheads in space, during the midcourse phase of ballistic trajectory flight. It spans 15 time zones with sensors on land, at sea and in orbit.

The GMD positions are supposed to reach 100 by the end of 2020.

The concept of US missile defence, however, is based on the maximum possible redundancy of signals and counteractions, at different altitudes, so as to permit a significant response, even after a severe nuclear missile attack.

The second strike is the basic concept of every ABM defence, both in the USA and in the rest of the world.

The radars for the interceptor networks are mainly located in Pearl Harbor, in relation to the inevitable routes of the Chinese ICBMs, but with the radars for early signaling also deployed in Alaska, Great Britain, Greenland, Qatar, Japan and Taiwan – while the data collected by both fixed networks and aircraft is processed in the Schriever airbase located in El Paso County, Colorado.

It should be noted that the current US system is mainly designed to counter missile attacks by States such as North Korea and Iran, while it is not specifically calibrated to respond to “well-established” strategic forces, such as Russia or China.

In fact, there is no missile shield capable of successfully countering a stratified threat that is put in place by a real nuclear State.

Incidentally, the yearly cost of the Missile Defense Agency for 2018 amounts to 7.9 billion dollars.

Conversely the Prompt Global Strike program is a system that can deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike anywhere in the world within one hour since the President’s order or since the detection of the threat. It is expected to become operational this year.

It has been calculated that this project can make the United States spare at least 30% of its nuclear weapons.

An additional implementation of the strategic redundancy criterion.

Russia, however, responded to this US project with one of the missiles mentioned by Vladimir Putin together with the Satan-2 missile, namely the S-500 Prometey, also known as the 55R6M Triumfator M.

The S-500 is designed to destroy both new generation long-range missiles and hypersonic cruise missiles and has a minimum range of 600 kilometres up to 3,500.

Hence it falls within the scope of the old INF Treaty.

It has a speed of 5 kilometres per second and it is supposed to be operational by the end of 2020.

It is by no mere coincidence that Putin delivered his speech shortly after the release of the Pentagon’s New Missile Doctrine, namely the Nuclear Posture Review, in which an attempt is made to make the new generation anti-missile defence policy line more comprehensive and up-to-date vis-à-vis Russia, China and, as usual, North Korea and Iran.

The logic underlying this Pentagon’s official document is simple: if the USA increases its nuclear war potential, the Russian Federation will automatically be deterred from planning a missile attack against the US territory.

Moreover, Putin also stated that new laser weapons are under construction and that a new hypersonic missile is also ready, namely the Kh-47M2 Khinzal (“Dagger”), an air-launched ballistic missile specific for the MiG31BM interceptors.

Russia has also the brand new RS-26 Avangard, a hypersonic missile equipped with Multiple Independent Targetable Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs).

In short, the two countries that signed the IFN Treaty have resumed the nuclear and ABM arms race.

It was a bad surprise for the United States to discover a technologically advanced and a doctrinally evolved Russia both in the Crimea operation and, particularly, in the actions to support Bashar al-Assad’ Syrian Arab Army.

Hence the periphery is hit with remote control weapons to signal to the centre – be it Russia or the USA – the need to quickly give up that area, that technology, that specific economic, energy and technological presence.

This is the deep logic underlying conventional or nuclear missile systems.

Obviously this applies to both Russia and North America.

Furthermore, considering the Russian technological evolution, the USA plans to resume the arms race not only to weaken the growing Russian economy, but also to combine China’s and Russia’s ICBM threat with the other asymmetric and unpredictable missile threats of Iran and North Korea.

This means that the United States still wants the complete regionalization of the Russian Federation and its encirclement between the NATO-led Eastern Europe and the US-led Central Asia, to control both China’s and Russia’s borders.

The fewer conventional forces are, the greater the remote threats of advanced weapon systems must be – and this is also a common logic for both major players.

Sealing China into its own borders, which have always been insecure, means permanently stopping the Belt and Road Initiative and halting its economic, technological and financial development.

Hence nuclear missiles are the ideal power multiplier for a global attack and defence strategy.

What about China? What policy line does it have for its nuclear ABMs? Meanwhile, China always publicly reaffirms its three classic principles: no first use of the nuclear weapon; no use of the nuclear weapon against a non-nuclear country; maintenance of an arsenal only capable of minimum deterrence, just to ensure the possibility of a second effective nuclear response to an attack.

At statistical level, China is currently supposed to have approximately 280 nuclear warheads, to be used on 120-130 ground-launched ballistic missiles – 48 to be used on ships or submarines and the rest with air carriers.

Nevertheless, once again in response to the ABM and nuclear missile evolution of the United States in recent years, China has added many multiple warheads to its intercontinental ballistic missiles, especially the ground-based ones.

In this case, the “MIRVization” – i.e. the allocation of multiple weapons for each carrier – would also imply a new ability to penetrate the US missile lines, not only for defence purposes.

However, to what extent are missile defences really effective and to what extent is a conventional or nuclear ballistic attack system precise?

With specific reference to the United States, about half of the 18 tests carried out so far for intercepting an enemy missile have failed.

On the best possible assumption, the operational interception made by the ABM systems works only in 50% of cases.

The aforementioned GMD, which already costs 40 billion US dollars, has not yet been tested in sufficiently realistic conditions.

For example, if we consider an attack with five missiles and four interceptors for each target, considering that each interceptor works exactly in 50% of cases, the probability that a missile penetrates the defence network is 28%. Too much.

Every nuclear or conventional attack is such as to make the attacker win.

However, what would happen if there were – as it might be very likely – a concerted attack by various different missile systems, each with a different system of targets and defensive covers?

Hence the danger of a saturation of the US defence systems is extremely high.

They would be grappling with different types of attack, different technologies and different logics for selecting targets.

Every enemy’s successful nuclear attack can be the one determining the final victory. With this particular strategy, the attacker has almost always the victory in his bag.

However, reverting to the end of the INF Treaty, now decided by the United States, it should be noted that, according to the US State Department, as early as 2014 Russia has repeatedly infringed the Treaty.

In December 2017, the US intelligence services identified the Russian short-range 9M729 missile which, however, precisely follows the INF rules.

Nevertheless, the Unites States maintains it violates the Treaty anyway.

It is the United States, however, that has clearly infringed the INF Treaty with its Mark 41 Vertical Launch System and with the manufacturing of drones which are, in effect, cruise missiles in disguise.

Moreover, in recent years China, in particular, has developed many new-design missiles that operate precisely within the range explicitly prohibited by the INF Treaty, namely between 500 and 5,000 kilometres.

It should be recalled that China has never signed the INF Treaty.

Although being often urged to join the INF Treaty, China has always refused to sign it.

Hence, while Russia is modernizing its conventional and nuclear missiles, this implies a clear doctrinal, strategic and technological cooperation with China.

However, if there were a simultaneous attack from China and the Russian Federation, it would be unlikely that the North American ABM networks could protect the whole US territory.

Not to mention Europe, which currently deals only with currencies, without having clear in mind – even in this case -what the real issue at stake is.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Why shouldn’t Israel Undermine Iran’s Conventional Deterrence

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When Naftali Bennett took over as the prime minister of Israel, it was expected that he would take a different approach compared to Netanyahu. This could be a probable expectation, save for the issue of Iran, since Iran is considered a consistent strategic and existential threat in the eyes of Israeli political and military officials same way that Israel has always been considered an enemy in the strategic culture of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, with the resumption of the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, Israel has intensified its campaign for an imminent military strike on Iran. On the other hand, Iran has tried to create a balance of missile threat against Israel based on valid deterrence during the past years.

However, the level and the nature of performance and deterrence of these two influential actors of the Middle East are fundamentally different. While Iran has defined its deterrence based on hybrid missile deterrence concepts—including direct and extended deterrence—, Israel’s deterrence is based on preemptive warfare, a.k.a. “immediate deterrence,” irrespective of its nuclear capabilities, policies of “strategic ambiguity” and “defensible borders strategy.”

From a direct deterrence perspective (i.e., the strength of a large missile fire from within Iranian territory) and given the extended and asymmetric dimensions (i.e., strengthening missile capabilities of the axis of resistance), the Islamic Republic of Iran believes that Israel will gradually become weaker and more fragile defensively, considering the importance of objective components in the area of ​​deterrence—such as geographical depth and population, and this will derive Israeli leaders to consider their fragile security and survival before any attempt to take on a direct military confrontation with Iran. For instance, when the tensions over Iran’s nuclear program escalated between 2010 and 2013 during the Obama administration, none of Iran’s nuclear facilities was attacked, despite Israel’s repeated expression of its willingness to do so. Former defense minister Ehud Barak justified this inaction with the pretext of Barack Obama’s opposition and lack of support.  In fact, the Netanyahu administration sought to instill this idea to the world that Israel has both the “determination” and the “ability” to attack Iran should this preemptive action not have been faced with Washington objection. The fact that Netanyahu still failed to implement the idea even during Trump administration—as John Bolton points out in the first chapter of his book—despite his overwhelming support for Israel, indicated the fact that Israel does not have independent military capabilities and determination to take such hostile action at no cost without the support of the US.

Therefore, despite the constant claims of Israeli officials, this country’s general strategy so far has been to avoid direct military confrontation with Iran and to focus on less intense and covert warfare. This has changed since 2017 due to Israel’s objection to pro-Iranian forces regaining the control over Al-Bukamal Qa’im border crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border, and the consequent lack of a proportionate and retaliatory response from Iran to Israel’s ongoing operations in Syria. In fact, inaction of Iran has allowed Israeli army to expand its campaign from northern borders and the Golan Heights (as the first ring) to the province of Deir ez-Zor in eastern Syria, then to the depths of Iraq in cooperation with the US (as the second ring), and eventually, inside the Iranian territory (as the third ring). The expansion of Israel’s subversive actions deep inside Iran is an effort to discredit Iran’s deterrence as well as undermining Iran’s strategic stability, while also dismantling Iran’s military and nuclear capabilities.

In the meantime, Israel’s embark on the strategy of Third-Circle Directorate based on intensifying low-level but effective military actions on Iranian soil has played a greater role in undermining Iran’s conventional deterrent advantages. Israel’s repeated operation and its recklessness in accepting responsibility for such actions has taken Israel’s belief and determination that it can target Iran’s assets and strategic resources inside and outside of Iran with numerous intermittent actions to a new level. Therefore, it can be said that while the previous positions of Israeli officials regarding the bombing and cessation of Iran’s nuclear capabilities were mostly focused on the assassination of Iranian scientists, targeted cyberattacks, sabotages, and bombings of industrial, security, and military facilities, there is no guarantee that the Third-Circle Directorate would not extent to explicit and direct entry of Israeli fighters, bombers or ballistic missiles to bomb Iran’s nuclear and military facilities in cooperation with the United States or independently.

If Israel mistakes Iran’s inaction with inability to respond and decides to extend Mabam Campaign to air or missile strikes inside the Iranian borders, it should not be sure of the unpredictable consequences. Iran has not yet responded decisively to cyber-attacks, the assassination of its scientists, and the Israeli sabotages due to the fact that these actions have been designed and carried out in such a way that Iran has assessed the damage as compensable. That is, a long set of low-level attacks were conducted to change the state of the field without taking actions that justifies an extensive reaction. Iran’s failure to respond to the recent Israeli attack on the port of Latakia is a clear example of the success and effectiveness of Salami Slicing strategy. Such strategies are designed to engage Iran in a polygonal dilemma: that it cannot respond to every individual military actions and small-scale sabotage, while inaction against these multiple small and non-intensive attacks will gradually result in losing its strategic position and deterrent credibility.

This very, unique Israeli strategy in military confrontation with Iran has reinforced the assessment of the Bennett administration about the serious weakness of Iran’s conventional deterrence. As a clear case Foreign Minister Yair Lapid claimed that “Israel could attack Iran if necessary without informing the Biden administration, which is looking to rejoin the nuclear deal”. This problem became more apparent after the assassination of the commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC, especially in the last months of Donald Trump’s presidency. In other words, if Tehran decided to respond directly to various Israeli actions, such as the assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh and attacks on its military and industrial centers, the risk of a war with Israel with the support of the US would increase. By the same token, this has in fact given Tehran an opportunity not to retaliate based on the concept of conventional strategic stability. That is, at this level of conflict, Iran’s confidence in its ability to retaliate makes it easier for this country to limit and delay the response. From Iranian perspective, therefore, conventional strategic stability means preventing armed conflict in the Middle East, especially a level of conflict that directly threatens its security and territory.

However, if Israel tries to discredit Iran’s conventional deterrence and strategic stability by launching a direct air strike into Iranian territory, Iran’s retaliatory response will not be as limited and symbolic as the attack on the US base of Ain al-Assad in Iraq, because Tehran would face the so-called “Sputnik moment” dilemma, which forces it to test its missile credibility. In such a situation, Iran will be forced to first, launch a decisive comprehensive missile response against Israel and then change its deterrent structure from conventional to nuclear by leaving the NPT in order to contain pressure of domestic public opinion, maintain its credibility with regional rivals such as Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and even the Republic of Azerbaijan, and to reassure its proxy forces in the axis of resistance.

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Indo-Pacific strategy and the new China-IDF relationship

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The signing of the United States of America (the new Aukus defense agreement and the Quad Quartet agreement with Japan, India and Australia), had significant future repercussions on the Middle East region and the balances of power and influence within it, given its great geopolitical importance, according to these new American agreements in the “Indo-Pacific region”, China will have to (face a new strong defense alliance in the Indo-Pacific region, then transfer this entire Chinese conflict to the Middle East and the Iranian nuclear file and increase Chinese influence in the sea straits and waterways in the Middle East), an alliance welcomed by regional partners such as  Japan. The three countries in the new US regional alliances and polarizations of “Japan, India, and Australia” also make it clear that such agreements with the United States of America are a (historic opportunity for them and their allies to protect common values ​​and enhance security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region). On the other hand, we find that those American agreements and alliances in the “Indo-Pacific” region surrounding China will be reflected in one way or another and may increase in the Middle East, for China will have to transfer conflict and competition with Washington to the region, Israel and Iran, and this will have future consequences and repercussions.  The countries of the region in the Middle East and the Arabian Gulf, as follows:

The equation of competition between the United States and China in the Middle East has increased since the Biden administration took office, and here (placing the neutral countries in the middle became more difficult). One of the areas that may witness an escalation in the intensity of competition between the two sides is the Middle East.

To understand the vision of regional countries for their interests with the two powers, it is necessary to look at the initial indicators issued by the Biden’s administration towards the region. It has become clear that the US administration has a desire to reformulate its approach towards the region, but (it is not yet clear how deep this American step and its impact on the regional security structure sponsored by the United States, especially in the Arab Gulf region).

The US Defense Secretary “Lloyd Austin” announced a comprehensive strategic review of the status of US forces around the world, including the Middle East. It seems that officials in the US Department of Defense “Pentagon” are tending to reconsider the status of US forces in the Middle East, which may be understood (not a condition of reducing them), in favor of increasing the size of the forces in the “Indo-Pacific” region.

At the present time, the Biden administration’s focus was on (ending the war in Yemen, reviving the negotiation track over the Iranian nuclear file), and it did not show much interest in other pivotal files.

In parallel with the previous US approach, the US National Security Adviser “Jake Sullivan”, reduced the number of Middle East experts in the US National Security Council, and significantly increased the number and hierarchy of Indo-Pacific experts.

Defense Minister “Lloyd Austin” also appointed three advisers to him, all of them are Asian experts, and none of them specialize in Middle Eastern issues, in contrast to the approach of all previous US administrations, due to the danger of China, according to the current US security strategy.

These American steps toward China reflect the Biden administration’s vision of the world from the perspective of “the theory of the great power conflict”, which prevailed during the Cold War, and the decline of the Middle East on its list of priorities.

On the Israeli-Chinese side, Beijing will try to play an increasing role inside Israel in order to bring about rapprochement with Tel Aviv at the expense of Washington.  Here, we note the (extent and seriousness of Chinese companies sought to obtain contracts to operate the main Israeli ports, as Washington was particularly concerned about a Chinese company winning a tender to manage a port in Haifa, where the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet is anchored).

Perhaps the future analysis will come in (China’s attempt to play a challenge to American interests inside Israel, and China’s future planning in order to manage all Israeli ports, and thus control the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea). Which is what Washington fears the most.

In addition to China’s desire to invest and be present in vital infrastructure projects in Israel, (China is trying to obtain this advanced Israeli technology, and trying to obtain any monopoly information that can be harvested in China by Israeli companies to benefit from it in the aspects of Chinese progress and innovation), thus, he challenged American technological progress from the Israeli gate.

The most important and most dangerous for me, analytically, is the attempts of the People’s Republic of China to obtain all Israeli trade secrets related to the United States of America, and even more dangerous in the future is (the rapprochement of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army with the Israel Defense Forces, which relies heavily on advanced American equipment such as  Fighter “F-35”).

From my analytical point of view, the expectation remains that (if China succeeds in increasing its ability to exist, monitor and infiltrate the Israeli army), this may allow Beijing to obtain all American military technological secrets from Israel directly, and here is the danger for the United States of America being  Israel is a conduit through which the (People’s Liberation Army of China) “PLA” achieves greater parity with the US armed forces. This is what Washington is trying to confront from Tel Aviv to counter Chinese influence there, as the United States of America cannot in any way allow its military technology to fall into the hands of its main opponent, China.

   Perhaps the final analysis here, is explaining that (the absence of American thinking of a clear strategy until now to confront the growing Chinese influence in the region and the world), and perhaps it is a continuation of the same approach of the “Trump’s administration”, as the United States shows interest in what it does not want, without presenting a clear vision of the results that you want access to this conflict.

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China, Vietnam, Philippines and United States Sustainability in the South China Sea

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The guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville during a replenishment-at-sea with the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Harris/U.S. Navy/Flickr

Authors : Nabel Akram, Imran Altaf, Komal Tariq

Supremacy of any world power depends upon its control over the important Geo-strategic places. A hegemon must have influence over the Geo-strategic places. This rule is generally applied for every world super power. Other factors like the will to lead, economic, political and military factors are also important but these factors are restricted in a specific sphere of influence. Influence over Geo-strategic important places enhances the influence over other countries related to that place. Britain remained the superpower due to occupation of such important places. The US as a super power and hegemon, is enjoying influence over the Geo-strategic places in the world. The US has influence over Malacca Strait, Suez Canal, and Panama Canal etc. (Oral, 2012). On strategic places, the US is facing challenges from China and Russia. Russia has occupied Crimea the strategically important place in East Europe which covers black sea and offered a way towards Mediterranean Sea. On the other hand, China is struggling hard to get control over South China Sea (SCS). The SCS is an important Geo-strategic, Geo-economic and geopolitical place for world. It contains plenty of natural resources and the hub of fishing. It covers half of the world trade passage. The US has enjoyed strong influence in this place after WWII, but, now the US is facing great resistance from China. The US does not want to lose its influence in East Asia and the SCS. The US is struggling hard with the coordination of the ASEAN states, Japan, Australia and India. China is gradually strengthening its control over the SCS. Due to economic growth, China has got influence over regional countries. Most critical area of South China Sea dispute contains two groups of islands such as Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands. Paracel archipelago comes under the rule of China (The People’s Republic of China, 2014). China has occupied this group of islands in 1974. Spratly islands are most disputed among China, Philippines and Vietnam (Ngo, 2017). This group of islands are under the different countries like China, Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and Taiwan. China has constructed seven artificial islands on this place (Southerland, 2016). The US has initiated Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) in the SCS region with objective to contain China from establishing its hegemony in this region. It has increased the sensitivity of this issue in region (Harress, 2015).   

Vietnam and Philippines both are the potential rival of China in South China Sea dispute. These countries have deep economic and diplomatic ties with China. Both countries are engaging China to set up alliances with the US and other important states for restraining and hedging China. Vietnam and Philippines are making efforts to strengthen their military setup against China. The US is providing its assistance to the rival states of China and opposing Chinese irredentist claim with the help of maritime law and the right of freedom of navigation in the SCS as an international sea. In this way, China has to face potential rivalry from the US, Vietnam and Philippines in SCS.

Philippines and Vietnam have huge trade and diplomatic relations with China for hedging China. Both countries even have strong economic and strategic relations with Chinese competitors like the US, Russia, Japan and India. In this way, both countries are reducing the risk. Vietnam is consistently building its military capabilities through strong economy and making alliances with the strong countries and international and regional institutions. There are following way which cause to hedging China.

  • For hedging China, Philippines and Vietnam are engaging China through a huge trade volume and interdependence. Vietnam has become the biggest trading partner of China. Mutual interdependence will cause to stop China from taking any aggressive action against Vietnam.
  • Philippines and Vietnam are developing diplomatic, political, party to party and people to people relations with China. This will help to know about the behavior of China towards Philippines and Vietnam over South China Sea dispute.
  • Philippines and Vietnam are focusing to increase its military strength. For this purpose, Vietnam has bought large military equipment from Russia and developed its military equipment complex in Vietnam for modernizing its military equipment with the help of Russia. Philippines has increased its military alliance with the US.
  • Vietnam has made alliances with world powers like the US, Russia, India, Japan etc. to secure itself against any aggression from China. For this purpose, it has engaged itself in many exercises and joint ventures with the US and many other countries.
  • Philippines and Vietnam has improved its relations with neighboring countries who can provide help in time of difficulty. This is the reason that Philippines and Vietnam are active in ASEAN forum.

China would play its role as a hegemon after the US. The US should contain China through its neighboring countries like Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore and Russia. To gain hegemonic status, it is necessary to become regional hegemon. John Mearsheimer supports regional hegemon. He gives example of the US that it first became regional hegemon in 1898 after Monroe doctrine and gained world hegemonic status after the WWII (Mearsheimer, 2004).

China has acquired economic and military power and about to become a regional hegemon. John Mearsheimer (2006) suggests China to gain hegemonic status; China must need to become regional hegemon and to get more power than its neighbors like Japan, Russia and India. China should increase its military strength and power. China has to regain Taiwan for establishing the status of regional hegemon (Mearsheimer, China’s Unpeaceful Rise, 2006).

Rising security demands of China has unsecured the neighboring countries. Arm race has been started in East Asia region. Although, China has maintained good relations with its neighbors but they have strong concerns over Chinese security measures. China’s largest economy and advanced military stimulate China to control its surroundings (Roy, 2013).

After open up policies, China has rapidly grown and become world imminent actor. To become a great power, China has to respond all challenges positively and set its priorities to overcome its drawbacks. In future, China should not claim its hegemony. China should need to advocate new world system with some reforms in economy and politics without claiming its hegemony (Bijian, 2005).

China is the largest trading partner of Vietnam. Vietnam’s second largest export partner is China with 13.2 percent of its export. The US secure biggest trading partner with 21 percent of Vietnamese export and Japan secured third with 8.4 percent of Vietnam export. Vietnam’s first largest import partner is China with 34 percent of its import and Japan secured fourth largest import partner with 6.4 percent of Vietnamese import (CIA, 2017). A huge numbers of Chinese foreign direct investment companies are working in Vietnam. It is estimated that about 833 companies are running their business in Vietnam in 2011. The quantity of these companies are increasing day by day and their total registered capital is 4.3 billion. There are following benefits of Vietnam for economic partnership with China;

Spratly Islands (Kalyan Islands Group) are the part of Philippines territory. KIG is the part of Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under UNCLOS 1982 (Palma, 2009). Philippines has filed a case against China and its historical claim of nine dash lines in International court of Tribunal in Hague in 2013. Court has given decision in favor of Philippines on 12 July 2016 but China has rejected the decision and remained adamant in its claim (France-Presse, Agence, July 8th, 2016). Philippines and Chinese relations worsen due to Philippines case and the ongoing problem in Scarborough Shoal and Chinese construction of new islands. This was the scenario when Philippines new president Rodrigo Roe Duterte took charge on 30 July 2016 (Philippine History, 2017) and initiated new strategy that is called strategic hedging. Although Philippines previous governments have close economic and political relations but current government is leading in this respect.  Philippines started to engage China with a huge trade volume. Politically, Philippines has come closer to China (Shead, 2017).

The Geo-strategic position and bundle of resources are the main reason that China is very conscious to control this region whereas other regional actors like Vietnam, Philippine, Malaysia and Brunei are also active for sovereignty over these islands due to Geo-proximity and resources. The US as the global hegemon has become the part of this game and wants to get its part from these resources. This is the reason that it has established strong alliances with other stack holders against China and also provoking Japan, Australia and India against China due to this regional dispute. The SCS is important for the US for three purposes; first it secures the US trade and military, second, it is check to restrain and contain the Chinese hegemony in the East Asia region (Mustajib, 2016), third, it is necessary for the protection of the US allies like Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan and ASEAN member countries. On the trade basis, the SCS is the passage of the 5 trillion annual ships (Robinson, 2018) and ships related to the US trade and military activities are worth 1.2 trillion dollar trade with East Asian countries (Mustajib, 2016).

Peace lies in continuous diplomatic engagement of claimant countries of the SCS dispute. Any change in existing status quo might put the peace of whole region at risk. Philippines and Vietnam consider China as an assertive state. Both States want to establish close relations with China in order to stop China from assertive actions. The US has strong political, economic and military bilateral alliances with Philippine, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries.  The US has launched the FONE operations in the SCS to contain China. These operations show that the US wants to sustain its hegemony in East Asia.

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