Archive for the ‘Indo-Pacific’ Category


US Naval Institute looks at China

April 14, 2014

Proceedings is the monthly journal of the US Naval institute.  The April 2014 issue is focused primarily on the naval challenge that China presents to the US.   Several of the articles are open to the general public, but many require membership with USNI (which includes both a digital and paper subscription to Proceedings – well worth the price of membership for anyone interested in geopolitics).  This issue does a good job of covering many different possible approaches to dealing with China in the Western Pacific.  James R. Holmes argues for a very forward strategy of fortifying and patrolling the First Island Chain, while Milan Vego argues for the less aggressive approach of a distant blockade of Chinese shipping  as it transits from the Indian to Pacific Oceans.

The First and Second Island Chains

The First and Second Island Chains

I strongly recommend reading the entire issue, but these two pieces in particular.  I also read with particular interest the Navy’s dormant plans for transforming Guam into a forward base capable of hosting aircraft carriers.  This would make Guam a clear and early target for preemptive attack . . . which is actually another reason why I believe that Guam should be made a state.  An aggressor would be far more reticent about attacking a US state than it would a territory, IMO.


How the US Lost the Naval War of 2015

April 9, 2014

That is the title of a 2010 journal article by James Kraska:

By 2015, U.S. command of the global commons could no longer be taken for granted. The oceans and the airspace above them had been the exclusive domain of the U.S. Navy and the nation’s edifice of military power for seventy-five years. During the age of U.S. supremacy, the Navy used the oceans as the world’s largest maneuver space to outflank its enemies. Maritime mobility on the surface of the ocean, in the air and under the water was the cornerstone of U.S. military power. The United States was able to utilize its maritime dominance to envelop and topple rogue regimes, as it demonstrated in Grenada and Panama, and use the maritime commons to ferry huge ground armies to the other side of the world and sustain them indefinitely, as it did in Vietnam and twice in Iraq. The unique capability to project decisive power rapidly in any corner of the world gave the United States deterrent power and unrivalled military influence.

All that changed in 2015, when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, sunk to the bottom of the East China Sea. More than 4,000 sailors and airmen died and the Navy lost eighty aircraft. A ship that would take seven years and $ 9 billion to replace slipped into the waves. The incident upset not just the balance of naval power in Asia, but ushered in a new epoch of international order in which Beijing emerged to displace the United States.

If you have never read Kraska’s article, read it now.  If you have, read it again.  And ponder it while listening to senior US and Chinese officials trade tough talk over maritime disputes in the Western Pacific.


The Backbone of the Chinese Navy

December 16, 2013

While China’s forays into naval aviation and expansion of their submarine service garner most of the media attention, the Chinese Navy has been building large numbers of other types of ships that might prove to be the real backbone of maritime power in the case of war.  Foreign Policy details each of the five key ship types that China is pushing into service.



US, S. Korea and Japan struggle to find common ground vs. China’s new ADIZ

December 4, 2013

China may have found a wedge issue to divide the three main parts of the maritime alliance to its east.  While the US, South Korea and Japan have thus far formed a common opposition to China’s newly released Air Defense Identification Zone, the Americans are seem to be offering a sort of concession, while the Koreans are prepared to challenge the Chinese in a way that would put them at odds with Japan.  Breaking Defense lays it all out here:

All three democracies have now flown military aircraft through China’s new ADIZ without complying with Beijing’s demand to file flight plans in advance and to communicate via radio once in the zone. The issue between the allies is whether commercial flights should follow China’s unilaterally declared rules (reprinted here on the FAA website).

The governments of Japan and, more quietly, South Korea have gotten their national airlines not to. The US State Department, however, just quietly reiterated the longstanding US policy that airlines should comply with all countries’ flight rules — which presumably would include the new ones put out by China, although State didn’t say so outright.

Meanwhile, South Korea is contemplating expanding its own long-standing ADIZ to challenge China’s — but it might do so in a way that would cause conflict between Seoul and Tokyo as well. So while the US, Japan, and South Korea have presented a united front so far; they may not be able to keep it up as the stand-off drags on.


Note:  this will be the last post of the week, as I will be traveling.  Posting will resume on Monday, Dec. 9.



US ditches Monroe Doctrine, while China appears to be construcing its West Pacific analog

November 25, 2013

Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry proclaimed that the nearly 2 century old Monroe Doctrine, through which the US claimed hegemony over most of the Western Hemisphere, was “dead” (although it should be noted that Kerry either mischaracterized or misunderstands the Monroe Doctrine to begin with).

This week, China has added a new layer to what is essentially its own version of the Monroe Doctrine in the East and South China Seas, identifying areas in international space and even legally Japanese space as subject to China’s air defense rules.   This follows by just a few months China’s extending its controversial “9 dash map” with an even more expansive 10 dash map.

China does not have the military power – yet – to successfully challenge the US on these matters.  However, they are probably banking on the fact that the US in general and this president in particular are not positioned for a fight and will likely let these matters drop with nothing more than a protest.  This gives China its de facto claim over the waters, while at the same time diminishing US credibility as an effective counterbalance to her growing power.  This is a significant victory in the coalitioning phase of the current world power cycle and China has, in effect, won this round without firing a shot.

Read Andrew Erickson for updates on the ADIZ (air defense identification zone) controversy. 


US extends its position in the Western Pacific

October 10, 2013

First, news broke late last month that the South Korean government had re-thought its choice of the updated F-15 “Silent Eagle” for its next big fighter purchase, and instead will likely opt for the F-35.   This means the F-35 will operate among all of the major US allies in the region – Australia, Singapore, Japan and now South Korea.  The uniformity would offer a bonus in the event of a region-wide conflict, with spare parts and trained maintenance personnel available from north to south.

The US is also broadening its presence in Japan, stationing the largest array of advanced weaponry on the islands in years.   Both the Air Force and Marine Corp variants of the F-35 will be stationed there, along with squadrons of V-22 Ospreys and unmanned Global Hawk surveillance craft.  The Navy will station their most advanced anti-submarine planes, the P-8 Orion, on Japanese soil as well.  This upgrade in Japanese postings will be augmented by an array of “temporary” bases across the region, including “Tinian and Saipan to Australia, Singapore, Thailand, India, and possibly sites in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.



The Western Front in the Indo-Pacific Naval Arms Race?

September 19, 2013

Daniel Lee at the American Foreign Policy Institute takes a detailed look at Iran’s strategic naval needs and capabilities.  He concludes that Iran is most likely to remain a littoral threat to Persian Gulf shipping, but unlikely to build a blue water navy that will venture deep into the Indian Ocean.  In either case, they remain a threat to regional and world peace and prosperity, and their maritime forces cannot be overlooked as the world focuses on their nuclear ambitions.