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The story of what is happening with the Solomon Islands and Australia is very important, given that it reflects the context of the Ukraine conflict. The Solomon Islands has ostensibly agreed to host a Chinese military base as part of a wider-ranging security pact with China. Australia is claiming that this is unacceptable, and that... Read More
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A Wake-up Call for East Asia – and the World
“When elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.” So warned Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in his address to the UN General Assembly on September 22, 2020. He was referring to the consequences for East Asia of a conflict between the US and China. Fast forward to October 2, 2021, about one year later,... Read More
Pax Americana was always a minor character in a zombie apocalypse flick. Pax Americana is actually The Eternal Return of the Living Dead. “Pax” was never in order; War Inc. rules. The end of WWII led directly to the Cold War. The unipolar moment was an arc from the First Gulf War to the bombing... Read More
I love this image juxtaposition.
Imagine being an Australian and being completely invaded by the Chinese. Like, literally everything in your country is owned by the Chinese, and they’re building colonies inside your country, because your government legalized selling national resources to foreigners. Then imagine that while you’re being told that it is racist to complain about your country being... Read More
In a diplomatic coup, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a deal last week with the U.K. and U.S. to have those Anglo-American allies help build a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia. A $66 billion French deal to provide Canberra with diesel electric-powered submarines, among the largest defense contracts Paris had ever negotiated, was blown off.... Read More
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by Alfred Thayer Fred, a True Son of Tsu
I will now explain war, or some of it. If you wonder how some mutt in Mexico with a computer thinks he knows about strategy, well, look at what we have in Washington. How could I be worse? In geopolitical circles, blather swirls over whether the United States can defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion... Read More
In his final state of the nation speech Monday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte defended his refusal to confront China over Beijing's seizure and fortification of his country's islets in the South China Sea. "It will be a massacre if I go and fight a war now," said Duterte. "We are not yet a competent and... Read More
As our July Fourth celebrations were beginning, the U.S. quietly closed and abandoned Bagram Air Base, the largest American military base between the Persian Gulf and the South China Sea. Afghan looters were soon seen scavenging inside the base. The long retreat of the American Empire is underway, and this longest war is likely to... Read More
What are Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping up to? In recent days, Russian tanks, artillery, armor, trucks and troops have been moving by road and rail ever closer to Ukraine, and Moscow is said to be repositioning its 56th Guards Air Assault Brigade in Crimea. Military sources in Kyiv estimate there are now 85,000 Russian... Read More
Last Monday, in a single six-hour period, NATO launched 10 air intercepts to shadow six separate groups of Russian bombers and fighters over the Arctic, North Atlantic, North Sea, Black Sea and Baltic Sea. Last week also brought reports that Moscow is increasing its troop presence in Crimea and along its borders with Ukraine. Joe... Read More
Today, the four premier leaders of The Quad -- the U.S., Australia, India and Japan -- conduct their first summit, by teleconference. The Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is an informal strategy forum of the major Indo-Pacific democracies that some wish to see evolve into an Asian NATO to contain China, as NATO contained the... Read More
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Actually, None is Necessary
The Correlation of Armed Forces: U.S. goods and services trade with China totaled an estimated $634.8 billion in 2019. Exports were $163.0 billion; imports were $471.8 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China was $308.8 billion in 2019. Trade in services with China (exports and imports) totaled an estimated $76.7 billion in... Read More
In early August 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait and declared it to be his nation's lost 19th province. Said George H. W. Bush, "This will not stand!" Translation: Get out of Kuwait, Saddam, or we will come over there and throw you out. Six months later, after a five-week air assault... Read More
Because of Donald Trump, Vice President Joe Biden thundered during the campaign, the U.S. "is more isolated in the world than we've ever been ... America First has made America alone." Biden promised to repair relations with America's allies. And he appears to have gone some distance to do so in the congratulatory phone call... Read More
"The Indians are seeing 60,000 Chinese soldiers on their northern border," Secretary of State Michael Pompeo ominously warned on Friday. He spelled out what he meant to commentator Larry O'Connor: "The Chinese have now begun to amass huge forces against India in the north. ... They absolutely need the United States to be their ally... Read More
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When the Ronald Reagan and Nimitz carrier strike groups recently engaged in “operations” in the South China Sea, it did not escape to many a cynic that the US Pacific Fleet was doing its best to turn the infantile Thucydides Trap theory into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The pro forma official spin, via Rear Adm. Jim... Read More
Is the U.S., preoccupied with a pandemic and a depression that medical crisis created, prepared for a collision with China over Beijing's claims to the rocks, reefs and resources of the South China Sea? For that is what Mike Pompeo appeared to threaten this week. "The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South... Read More
Is America, in lockdown, with 26 million unemployed and entering a new depression, up for a confrontation and Cold War with China? For that appears to be where the GOP wishes to lead us. According to Politico, a 57-page memo from Mitch McConnell's senatorial committee instructs GOP candidates to blame the coronavirus pandemic on China,... Read More
As President Trump flew home from his Hanoi summit with Kim Jong Un, Mike Pompeo peeled off and flew to Manila. And there the Secretary of State made a startling declaration. Any armed attack by China on a Philippine ship or plane in the South China Sea, he told the Philippine government, will be treated... Read More
Like a bolt of lightning, that call of congratulations from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to President-elect Donald Trump illuminated the Asian landscape. We can see clearly now the profit and loss statement from more than three decades of accommodating and appeasing China, since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger made their historic journey in 1972. What... Read More
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When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of... Read More
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Another day, another piece of US think-tankery poo-pooing the prospects for a nuclear confrontation with the PRC. RAND came up with a new report on the economic costs of war with China,Thinking the Unthinkable. In RAND's view the war won’t escalate beyond a limited conventional war fought in the West Pacific and over Chinese territory,... Read More
Things fall apart. Especially with a helping push from the United States. The world’s easier for America to manage if it’s broken into smaller, weaker, and more vulnerable and manageable pieces. That, I think, is one of the lessons of the post Cold War era. The USSR fell apart. Yugoslavia fell apart. So did Sudan.... Read More
There’s a blue hole in the South China Sea. Longdong («Dragon Hole») is an astonishing 300,89 meters deep, in deep blue waters around Yongle, a major coral reef in the Paracel islands (or Xisha, in their Chinese denomination). Cynics may argue that after the recent ruling in The Hague largely against China’s «nine-dash line», the... Read More
Now that the UNCLOS SCS ruling has come down, it’s time to deal with What’s Next? Not good things, in my opinion, as expressed in my latest at Asia Times. It’s called No off ramps, only dead ends in the South China Sea. The diplomatic and strategic wild card, I think, is not the fact... Read More
Long Live?
As relatively muted reactions to the Philippines v. China arbitral tribunal award come in from ASEAN and EU, it appears likely that the PRC at the highest level traded an undertaking to finally abandon the nine-dash-line in return for international forbearance on declaration of China as an international outlaw for ignoring the ruling. I suspect... Read More
I have a piece up at Asia Times, China has right to declare ADIZ in the South China Sea. A bit more in your face than my proposed title but a) essentially true and b) not a bad idea improving coordination in zones abuzz with contentious military presences and missions and c) decent clickbait. Pre... Read More
No one ever lost money betting on the Pentagon refraining from exceptionalist rhetoric. Once again the current Pentagon supremo, certified neocon Ash Carter, did not disappoint at the Shangri-La Dialogue – the annual, must-go regional security forum in Singapore attended by top defense ministers, scholars and business executives from across Asia. Context is key. The... Read More
If China begins to reclaim and militarize Scarborough Shoal, says Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino III, America must fight. Should we back down, says Aquino, the United States will lose "its moral ascendancy, and also the confidence of one of its allies." And what is Scarborough Shoal? A cluster of rocks and reefs, 123 miles... Read More
The PRC is in a pretty solid position, legality-wise in occupying Scarborough Shoal. And that means it’s pretty much free to build on it. Even island-build it. The United States and the Philippines know that. Losing Scarborough Shoal was the price of the pivot. It’s just hard to admit it. Back in May 2012, a... Read More
...With Its Own Floating Nuclear Power Station!
I’ve been a somewhat skeptical concerning Western handwringing about perceived PRC intentions to islandbuild Scarborough Shoal, seeing them as perhaps pivot-promoting alarmism. But, as Freud said, sometimes a cigar is a cigar and sometimes a threat to build the shoal is…a threat to build the shoal. My rethink was prompted by the appearance on a... Read More
In this post I’m developing at length several themes that I touched upon in my most recent article up exclusively at Asia Times on the current pivot hot button: South China Sea Dispute: Rewriting the History of Scarborough Shoal. There is currently a great deal of handwringing as to whether the PRC will island-build the... Read More
I’ve got an article up exclusively at Asia Times—Pentagon Looks Beyond FONOPs in the South China Sea-- on the latest wrinkle in the US tussle with the PRC in the South China Sea: augmenting the maritime “Freedom of Navigation” gambit with a new focus on the PRC threat to regional and US territorially-based interests. The... Read More
For a guy who’s sick of the whole South China Sea imbroglio, I sure write about it a lot. I have a piece up at The Asia-Pacific Journal/Japan Focus: China Not Leaving the “South China Sea”. It updates the PRC strategic move to an island based posture in anticipation of an unfavorable ruling on the... Read More
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Stupid Sh*t: US Failure, Denial, and Escalation in the South China Sea
By most metrics the US campaign to deter and modify PRC behavior in the South China Sea has been a colossal bust. The US “Freedom of Navigation” initiative for the South China Sea is, to put it bluntly, completely bogus. The PRC has no interest in impeding the movement of ships in the South China... Read More
I have an article up exclusively at Asia Times Online, South China Sea Face-off: The Mystery of Woody Island. Go ahead, click the link! It addresses the media freakout over a Fox News report that commercial satellite imagery revealed something that looked like HQ-9 surface-to-air missile launchers were on the beach at Woody Island in... Read More
There has been a concerted campaign to depict the South China Sea as an indispensable artery for commercial shipping and, therefore, a justifiable object of US attention and meddling. This flagship of this effort is invoking the “$5 trillion dollars” worth of goods that pass through the SCS each year. Reuters, in particular, is addicted... Read More
When the US destroyer USS Lassen finally executed its Freedom of Navigation sailthrough a.k.a. “The FONOP” within 12 miles of Subi Reef on October 27, the China hawks were ecstatic. John Garnaut exulted that the United States had bested the PRC in a “seminal test of wills”. On his Twitter feed plugging his piece he... Read More
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Russia and US warplanes are flying way too close to one another over Syria and may soon, in Iraq. Drones are all over the place. An accident is inevitable. Civilian airliners are increasingly at risk over the Mideast. US ground troops may enter Syria. This week the missile destroyer, USS Lassen, openly challenged the maritime... Read More
It appears that Washington, ever a seething cauldron of bright ideas, is looking for a shooting war with China, or perhaps trying to make the Chinese kowtow and back down, the pretext being some rocks in the Pacific in which the United States cannot possibly have a vital national interest. Or, really, any interest. And... Read More
Trailed by two Chinese warships, the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen sailed inside the 12-nautical-mile limit of Subi Reef, a man-made island China claims as her national territory. Beijing protested. Says China: Subi Reef and the Spratly Island chain, in a South China Sea that carries half of the world's seaborne trade, are as much ours... Read More
This was an anxious week in Pivotland© , the Beltway district in which milsec types congregate to formulate, promote, and profit from the forward strategy toward the PRC. President Obama has been laggard in executing a cherished pivot initiative, the defiant US Navy sailthrough within 12 miles of the PRC’s faux-island holdings in the South... Read More
Anti-Submarine Warrior” Primps for Its Close-Up
Assistant Secretary of State Danny Russel spoke at the CSIS South China Sea Conference on July 20, 2015. He made news by declaring that the United States is not neutral in some issues pertaining to the South China Sea. The money quote came in reply to a question from Wu Shicun, the PRC representative at... Read More
Actually, that was a title of a post I wrote in July 2010, before island-building, before the Senkaku crises, before the rare earths brouhaha, even before Hillary Clinton declared that the US had a “national interest” in freedom of navigation at the 2010 ASEAN foreign ministers’ conference in Hanoi and formally kicked off the “pivot”.... Read More
The New Silk Route/Silk Road. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Wikimedia Commons
The Skirmish in the Spratlys
The vast build up of military assets in the Asia-Pacific signals a fundamental change in U.S. policy towards China. Washington no longer believes that China can be integrated into the existing US-led system. Recent actions taken by China– particularly the announcement that it planned to launch an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that would compete... Read More
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Ignorance is renewed with each newborn, and by the time any man figures out anything, he can almost feel the mortician leaning over his stiff face. Though all lessons are embalmed within history, few care to explore that infinite corpse. Lewis Mumford, “So far from being overwhelmed by the accumulations of history, the fact is... Read More
Spoiler: No.
It would seem a certain amount of foreign affairs reporting starts out as pabulum fed by the government and its loyal allies to available journos, who further if incompletely digest it and then crap it out on the digital pages of various newspapers, magazines, and think tank white papers for the delectation of a somewhat... Read More
...But Won't Be
Attendees at the Shangri La confab would like you to believe it’s about protecting Freedom of Navigation (hereinafter FoN) in the South Chinese Sea (hereinafter SCS) from the Perfidious Red Chinese (hereinafter PRC). I debunked the FoN canard pre-conference at Asia Times. The only nation with an existential interest in FoN in the SCS is... Read More
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Pivot Insanity
US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is willing to risk a war with China in order to defend “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii on Wednesday, Carter issued his “most forceful” warning yet, demanding “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation” by China in the disputed Spratly Islands.... Read More
I have a piece up at Asia Times, The Salami Slices Back!, on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Spoiler: the threat to FoN is the linchpin justification for US meddling in the SCS, but it's pretty much BS. Rather timely, isn’t it? Since the US started flying military patrol aircraft around PRC-held... Read More
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