US and Chinese Naval Forces in the West Pacific Current points of conflict in the area

Stronger Chinese Navy Worries Neighbors and US

By Bernhard Zand

The best view of China’s new flagship, which inspires fear in its enemies, could recently be had from a window on the fourth floor of an IKEA store in Dalian, a port city in northeastern China. Here, someone had scratched out a viewing hole in the opaque film masking the window, providing a view of the pier across the way – and of the Varyag.

This ship, whose keel was originally built by the Soviets, is now being put into service by the China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. Shipyard employees spent years working on the colossal ship, drilling and welding. Then the Varyagdisappeared a total of 10 times for sea trials, leaving geostrategists and naval experts from Tokyo to Washington endlessly speculating about where the ship might be at any given moment and with what kinds of weapons and airplanes China would decide to outfit it.

Since late August, the ship has once again been docked in Dalian. On the morning of September 2, observers noticed a team of painters at work and, by the afternoon of the next day, the result of their work could be seen: an enormous number “16” emblazoned on the gray hull of the ship. This, it seems, will be the identification number of the first aircraft carrier put into service by China’s naval forces, a number said to have been chosen in honor of Admiral Liu Huaqing, father of the modern Chinese navy, who was born in 1916.

One day later, on Tuesday of last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton paid a visit to Beijing. This was the third stop on Clinton’s trip, which began in the Cook Islands, in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, and would then take her to Indonesia, China, East Timor and Brunei along the way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok, Russia. Clinton represents a government that is paying particular attention to the actions of the Chinese navy. One of the main reasons for Clinton’s trip was to remind the US’ allies in the region that America is the hegemonic force in the West Pacific – and intends to remain so.

Chinese Muscle-Flexing

Right at the start of her trip, in the Cook Islands, Clinton met with representatives from allies, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and the Philippines, as well as ones from Vietnam, America’s former enemy. “The Pacific is big enough for all of us,” Clinton told them. However, some have reasons to doubt that statement because they know the US and its allies have rivals in the region, as well: North Korea and China.

Greek Prime Minister Antonios Samaras will visit the United States next month to meet President Obama and discuss a number of issues critical to Greece, Europe and the United States, including energy security. 

Greece finds itself in a strategically advantageous position in southeastern Europe, geographically, economically and politically. Situated at a crucial point on the routes between the exporting countries of the East and South and the importing countries of the West, Greece is gradually reinforcing its role as energy security provider, by supporting key energy projects.

The recent selection of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) by the Shah Deniz Consortium constitutes a major step to the implementation of the “Southern Gas Corridor”. Through the territory of Greece, will cross Albania and the Adriatic Sea and come ashore in southern Italy, allowing gas to flow directly from the Caspian region to European markets.

A few weeks ago in Iraq 10 years on: Good times in Kurdish Irbil I wrote about a BBC article by Ahmed Maher of BBC Arabic, Irbil, and now The Economist has an article, Peace, Harmony, and Oil, that reiterates the news from Iraqi Kurdistan: things are good, and getting better.   The relative success of Iraqi Kurdistan brings with it both risks and opportunities.   There are risks of conflict with the surrounding regimes that are concerned that their own minority Kurdish populations will look toward the homeland the Kurds have created for themselves in Iraq and will want to be a part of this, and there are risks of confrontation with the central government in Baghdad.   There are also many opportunities. The Economist article says that 4,000 trucks a day now cross the Turkish-Kurdish border, despite Turkey’s long history of tensions with its own Kurdish minority. As happens so often in human history, trade trumps fear.
  The instability of surrounding regimes has actually played into the Kurds hands, rather than destabilizing the region as one might expect under other circumstances. Many of the refugees that Iraqi Kurdistan has taken in have been fellow Kurds, who are able to rapidly integrate into Kurdish society because of their shared ethnicity.
  This is, after all, the original idea of the nation-state, but it is an idea that has become lost as the ideological superstructure of the international nation-state system ossifies and departs ever further from the realities on the ground. (Something I have pointed out repeatedly, as in my post Geopolitical Irony.)   And so it is that the Kurds, who really are a nation-state in every sense that counts, do not have a nation-state officially recognized by the international nation-state system, even while Iraq, which manifestly is not a nation-state in any meaningful sense, is an official recognized nation-state.
SECURITY: Is Africa's maritime strategy all at sea?

We are reproducing a paper published in

JOHANNESBURG, 22 October 2012 (IRIN) - The African Union’s (AU) deadline for securing the continent’s territorial waters - the world’s last major geographical region without a maritime strategy - has been set at 2050, a target that may prove untenable.

Without a comprehensive strategy to police, patrol and promote the maritime economy and resources along its 42,000km coastline, Africa loses billions of dollars in revenue annually and leaves itself vulnerable to myriad criminal activities.

“Africa remains the continent that suffers most from illegal and unregulated fishing, maritime terrorism, piracy and armed robbery at sea, poor legal and regulatory maritime regimes, illegal drugs, arms and human trafficking, a lack of effective communication and other technological maritime requirements, and last but not least, unsuitable ships and ports,” Annette Leijenaar, Head of the Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a Pretoria-based think tank, said in a recent policy brief titled Africa Should Wake up to the Importance of an Integrated Maritime Strategy.

A meeting on the Africa Integrated Maritime (AIM) strategy was held earlier this month in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Leijenaar told IRIN, “It is the right direction, however, action is required through implementable plans that are well coordinated and have the political commitment of African leaders.” The AU will also address management of riverine systems, dams and wetlands.

“Like the rest of the world, more than 90 percent of Africa’s imports and exports are carried by sea. If one includes the illegal market in military arms and logged forest products, Africa has a maritime economy estimated at US$1 trillion a year, representing 90 percent of its overall commerce,” the policy brief said.

Of Africa’s 54 states, 38 are either coastal or island nations. Johan Potgieter, a former captain in the South African navy and senior ISS security sector researcher - referring to neglect of maritime opportunities and risks - told IRIN, “Sea blindness is our [Africa’s] biggest threat.”

No defence

Some 70 percent of the continent’s rapidly growing population - which currently stands at over one billion people - depend on fish, both inland and coastal, for protein, highlighting the importance of policing and managing the continent’s territorial waters.

I said to a politician, don’t look at what it’s going to cost you to run a navy. You need to say, ‘What is it going to cost me to feed this population when there are no more fish?

“I said to a politician, don’t look at what it’s going to cost you to run a navy. You need to say, ‘What is it going to cost me to feed this population when there are no more fish? Where I am going to get the food from?’” Potgieter said.

An October report by the Environmental Justice Foundation, Pirate Fishing Exposed: The Fight Against Illegal Fishing in West Africa and the EU [European Union], observed, “Global losses due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate fishing’ are estimated to be between $10 billion and $23.5 billion per year. West African waters are estimated to have the highest levels of IUU fishing in the world, representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch.”

Foreign trawlers have been known to illegally haul up hundreds of tons of fish per day for export to Europe, while local fishermen’s catch is typically limited to what they can bring up with 8m-long pirogues.

Anti-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa in 2011 cost an estimated $6.9 billion, or about two-thirds the annual GDP of Madagascar, an island country that has no naval capacity to speak of.

Potgieter said the relative success of anti-piracy operations off East Africa is having a “balloon effect of pushing the pirates further and further away [to], we suspect, the east coast of Madagascar, [which] is fairly unpopulated, and the pirates will find a safe haven there to set up bases.”

Building and maintaining a navy is both a costly and politically fraught exercise. Navies operate out of the sight of the electorate and are easily used by opposition parties in “guns versus butter” debates. Additionally, the procurement of defence systems in Africa has been mired in corruption issues. The price of a naval vessel can start in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and keeping ships on operational duties often requires a compliment of three. The annual running cost for three 80m British Royal Navy patrol vessels is $32 million.

Helmut Heitman, a defence analyst and correspondent for Jane’s Defence Weekly, told IRIN that Mozambique does not have a naval capacity. The “Comoros has nothing. On the west coast [of Africa], there is very little.”

Expanding navies

But increasing piracy in the Gulf of Guinea has prompted several countries to acquire patrol vessels in a piecemeal fashion to bolster maritime capacity. Nigeria’s navy has requested the procurement of 49 ships and 42 helicopters over the next decade. Earlier this year, the country commissioned its first locally built 31m patrol craft, the NNS Andoni.

Neighbouring Ghana acquired two former German Navy fast attack crafts in July, after commissioning four new Chinese patrol boats earlier in the year. Namibia brought in a 100m refurbished Chinese patrol vessel earlier this year, adding to a naval compliment that includes harbour and inshore patrol boats.

There is also a growing trend towards aerial reconnaissance over the ocean, especially in West Africa, with Ghana and Nigeria acquiring aircraft for monitoring and addressing piracy.

It’s not just about buying ships. It takes three generations of officers to build up a competent navy

Heitman said, “It’s not just about buying ships. It takes three generations of officers to build up a competent navy. So 30 years [the 2050 AIM goal] is a reasonable timeframe. [However,] a ship without an aircraft is pointless. An aircraft without a ship is also pointless.”

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, is also finding greater currency as an option for policing territorial waters. Potgieter said, “You don’t need a warship to fight a pirate… If you use a drone, you can have 18 to 24 hours of flight time. But it is not necessarily cheap.” The price tags for drones range from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars.

“But you still have to send a boat out to make the arrest, and this is where the problem starts. If we detect something on the other side of Madagascar - collaboration becomes important - and maybe the French are better suited to help… But we have to start talking to one another,” he said.

Aligning legislation

Developing coastal security is one step toward protecting continental waters. Creating the required legislation for individual AU members states to cooperate on a continental level presents another set of time-consuming complications.

Read more  Shrinking lake threatens livelihoods  Overfishing - culprits and consequences  Fishy business - the cost of illegal trawling  Fishermen on Lake Tanganyika  Coastal erosion

“Maritime security and policing management is an inter-departmental/agency function that is extremely difficult to coordinate and achieve. Among other [issues], it requires good governance, an industrial infrastructure, technological competence, effective information-sharing mechanisms and political commitment. Few African countries, if any, meet these requirements,” the ISS policy brief said.

Leijenaar said developing a domestic maritime strategy involves numerous government departments, from environmental affairs to tourism and defence, and these ministry’s first have to be aligned at a country level, then at a regional level and finally at the continental level.

Each country has to sift through memoranda of understanding and protocols signed by each department and then change conflicting legislation, “a small task that can take five to ten years,” Potgieter said. “Then [to] get it through [each country’s] parliament - some of these things will take you ten years.”

And that’s before countries can begin to address the issue of “hot pursuit” through neighbouring territorial waters. “Most countries will still not allow your ships to go through their waters unless you have permission in advance,” Potgieter said.

“The importance of assuming collective responsibility for Africa’s maritime domain is essential - within national governments, regions and Africa,” he said.

Rarely has a country had a more bruising week than Cyprus. As one commentator, Pawel Morski, memorably put it, ‘No human agency has achieved so much economic destruction in such a short time without the use of weapons.’ However, it was not just the direct financial fallout from the crisis that has shocked Cypriots; it is the way in which the events of the past week have forced them to re-evaluate their understanding of their place in Europe and the world. Much of what they thought they knew about their friends and allies has been fundamentally challenged.

Perhaps the biggest shock for ordinary Cypriots has been the way in which the European Union – or, perhaps more accurately, the 17-member eurozone – has behaved. Although never perhaps the most enthusiastic supporters of the European Union, polls taken this past week show that their trust in the EU has been shattered. 

Senkaku-Diaoyu-Tiaoyu-Islan.jpg From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ad in Wall Street Journal seeks U.S. support for Senkaku purchase plan

NEW YORK — The Tokyo Metropolitan Government ran an ad in Friday’s Wall Street Journal asking for U.S. support over its plan to buy four of the Senkaku Islands from their private owners.

Covering two-thirds of a page and titled “To the American People from Tokyo, Japan,” the ad said, “It is with the hope of gaining the understanding and support of the American people for our purchase of the Senkaku Islands that we are running this issue advocacy ad today.”

Claiming that China is ramping up pressure over the territorial dispute, the ad warned that “failure to support the Asian nations confronting China would result in the United States losing the entire Pacific Ocean.”

Tensions have risen recently, with Chinese vessels repeatedly spotted in the islets’ surrounding waters.

The ad said that the Senkakus are “historically Japanese territory” and located in Okinawa Prefecture, “which is of indispensable geostrategic importance to U.S. force projection.”

Gov. Shintaro Ishihara announced Tokyo’s plan to purchase the uninhabited but potentially resource-rich isles in April.

China claims that the islets, which it refers to as the Diaoyu, have been part of its territory since ancient times, but Japan maintains they are an integral part of Japanese territory and that there is no territorial dispute between the two countries.