Posts Tagged Asia-Pacific

AMERICA NEEDS TO MAINTAIN A LEADERSHIP ROLE IN SOUTHEAST ASIA—TRADE-WISE AND MILITARILY—TO KEEP THE SEA LANES OPEN AND FREE!

In my last post, I made several points, which I wish to clarify, and enhance. The U. S. should: shift its focus to the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, rather than the Atlantic; remain in the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and avoid local, internecine military engagements.  Let me explain why each of those points are still appropriate.

Russia, with its economy in a shambles, will not be able to continue funding an aggressive military, while providing the domestic programs that its people need.  The Eurasian Economic Union, of former Soviet satellites, adds nothing whatsoever to its global strength.  Also, its primary external target, Europe, is integrated militarily, and geographically concentrated.

China, on the other hand, is on the ascent, both economically and militarily.  Although it’s economy is currently showing its growing pains, it is still projected to surpass that of the U. S., within the next decade or two.  Also, China’s economy further benefits from its location in the moist dynamic, fastest-growing Region on earth.  The growth of the Chinese Navy seems to be a major element of its military growth, since any engagements in Asia-Pacific would be mostly naval battles

While China’s Military Budget pales when compared to that of the U. S., it is more concentrated.  It is primarily focused, first, in Southeast Asia, and then second, in the the Asia-Pacific Region.  It doesn’t patrol all the oceans of the world, as the American Navy does, and therefore, it isn’t diluting itself by acting as the Traffic Cop to the World,  We need our allies to step-up, and share the load—financially and militarily.

Let’s narrow the focus, from the two-ocean WorldAtlas map, to one of the Southeast China Sea (Middleburg-SCS map).  The Strait of Malacca lies between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore (just left of word “INDONESIA”, north-left of Australia), and it is a major choke-point, through which 50% of all global sea commerce passes, as well as 85% of China’s crude oil.  Also, as might be imagined, control of that one location—11 miles across, at its narrowest point, near Singapore—is of strategic importance.

More and more, Energy Security is of primary concern for most nations.  And, as China’s military power increases, the nations of Southeast Asia are concerned for several reasons.  China has been building “islands” in the middle of the Southeast China Sea, while citing historical claims, which have no relationship to any coastal shelf, or any other geological proof.  These claims might be used to take possession of valuable oil and mineral rights, as well as vital fisheries.  Also, there is concern that China might use them for military purposes, or to block vital waterways—such as The Strait!

Several of the Southeast Asian nations invite U. S. ships to visit their major ports frequently, and they have even upgraded their ports to accommodate them.  Realistically, however, they realize that America is half a world away.  They should transform ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) into a mutual defense pact, patterned after NATO, but with an Asian character.  They are all upgrading their military; but, properly coordinated, their might be strength in numbers—if they are integrated.

As China continues to grow its military—both in size and technological capacity—it might begin to become more offensive in asserting its alleged rights and, perhaps, even enforcing them militarily.  Even though the U. S. currently has a larger Defense Budget—and a larger Navy—we might still lose the advantage.  That’s because China’s somewhat smaller Military would have the geographic advantage.  This is why we need to remain engaged; not only in a military capacity, but in trade and diplomatic involvement, as well.  We also need all of our allies to meet their Defense Funding Obligations.

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LEAVING THE TPP IS DUMB! CHINA WOULD JOIN, ASSUME THE LEADERSHIP ROLE, AND EVENTUALLY CONTROL THE REGION’S SEA LANES.

Prior to the formation of the European Common Market, which grew into the current  28-member European Union, there were intra-continental wars—neighbor against neighbor—in Europe, every twenty years or so.  In the 70 years since World War II, after which the E. U. was formed; however, there haven’t been any wars on the Continent.  Familiarity and economic cooperation breeds peaceful coexistence!

The twelve-member Trans-Pacific Partnership would have included members from both sides of the ocean, and from four continents.  Due to the huge size of the U. S. Economy—and the exclusion of China—America would, most certainly, have held a leadership role. With the formation of this trade pact, it could evolve somewhat along the lines of the E. U., but with its own Asia-Pacific character.

Now, let’s consider TPP as a military strategy. China and Russia are the American Military’s two main adversaries.  Global powers require two characteristics:  a strong military; and a large, growing economy.  The importance of the economy, in projecting global power, is two-fold:  domestic needs must be met in order to prevent political turbulence, back at home; and a strong economy is necessary to finance a large, technologically-powerful military.

China’s economy is second only to that of the U. S., and it is growing, although it has recently shown the normal growing pains of a young economy.  It also has the additional advantage of being located in the most dynamic, fastest-growing region of the world! Although its defense budget lags that of the U. S. in total size, it has been continuing to
accelerate its spending to strengthen its military–both in size and technologically..

Russia, on the other hand, appears to be stymied.  It’s poorly diversified economy, was decimated by the economic sanctions of the Atlantic Alliance, and the 50% decline in global oil prices, which accounts for 70% of Russia’s hard currency.   Geopolitically, it has entangled itself in local wars, both in Eastern Ukraine and, more recently, in Syria.  Lastly, it seems to have been rebuffed in its plan to break-up the E. U., by decimating fake news and hacking the political polls in various European National Elections.

With three-quarters of the world covered by seas, and the global landmass already set, at least for the most part, President Obama’s idea of the Asian Pivot was an important one. In fact, he personally preferred the term: “Indio-Pacific Pivot.”  With Russia apparently in somewhat of a decline, the U. S. needs to change the focus from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the Indian and the Western Pacific.  In fact, three-quarters of the American Navy was deployed in that Region when he left office.

In my next post, I will add more detail as to why the shift in focus, from the Atlantic and Pacific, to the Indian and Western Pacific.  Just consider where the current global hot spots are: the Horn of Africa; the Arabian Peninsula; the Persian Plateau; the Subcontinent of India; the South China Sea; Taiwan  (Republic of China) and the Korean Peninsula.  This area also has the two choke-points through which global sea commerce passes: the Strait of Hormuz (40% of global crude oil), between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the Strait of Malacca (50% of all global sea commerce, and 85% of China’s oil), between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Parts of this region, mostly toward the South China Sea are very dynamic, both intellectually and economically, while others, more toward East Asia (left on the WorldAtlas Map), are not advancing either intellectually or economically.  Many analyst predict that the future will be one of the two Asian Giants—China and India—confronting each other in their quest for Oil Security.

NOTE:  Welcome to my readers from the Republic of China, A/K/A Taiwan!

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IS DONALD TRUMP TRYING TO PROVOKE NORTH KOREA’S KIM JONG-UN?

Who can be certain that North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-Un, can restrain himself from escalating the current tension with the United States?  But then, can we trust Donald Trump to attempt a peaceful solution either?  Each man has lived his whole life in a privileged environment, is conceited, and appears to love the exhilaration of power.  Also, both have surrounded themselves with loyal Yes-Men!

Given Donald Trump’s recent outlandish attacks on Syria and Afghanistan—both of which were unconstitutional, and violations of the UN Charter—I am concerned that, he believes he’s on a roll!  A very dangerous one, at that!  China, on the other hand, has appealed to both sides to show restraint, and it has reportedly cut-off coal shipments to North Korea.  I can only believe that it is a sorry state of affairs when I can take more comfort in what Chinese President Xi Jinping might do, as compared to our own “Fearless Leader”.

The Korean Peninsula is a dangerous region, at present.  The Kim Dynasty has purposely kept anyone, but the Kim line, from leading the country.  And yet, some sort of re-unification of the Two Koreas—similar to Germany in 1990—would never work.  The Soviet Union had collapsed by then; so, the German re-unification was successful.

China doesn’t wish to assume responsibility for a failed North Korea, if it were to invade it.  Similarly, I doubt that some sort of U. S. military attack on the North would work either, since Mr. Kim just might begin firing missiles.  Also, President Xi doesn’t wish to become America’s next door neighbor, nor should we want that. either.  But, the Trump Regime doesn’t plan ahead for such contingencies.

China is North Korea’s only source of (mostly) humanitarian goods; but, it has recently stopped the shipment of coal.  Food and medicine can hardly be denied to the North Korean People.  The American deployment of a Carrier Task Force, led by the USS Carl Vincent, accompanied by three guided missile destroyers and support ships, hardly diffuses the situation—especially given Mr. Kim’s apparent instability.  So, what is the solution?

Expecting rational thoughts or actions from someone, like Supreme Leader Kim, whose very being is treated as godlike, is hard to comprehend.  He doesn’t seem to be especially concerned about his People, since they are barely given a semblance of human needs as it is.  I firmly believe that, if Kim were asked the proverbial Guns vs Butter question—the balance between Military vs Consumer needs—Mr. Kim would surely respond:  Butter?

Although I have no experience in National Security, there are several things that I would suggest:  stop the shipments of military supplies; deny North Korea access to all manufacturing equipment and supplies; and also eliminate the import of any luxury supplies, which Mr. Kim and the privileged class receive from somewhere.  And then, surround the Korean Peninsula with a U. N. flotilla, plus aircraft, including AWACS!  

The blockade armada could be deployed under a U. N. Resolution.  Besides acting as a blockade against all incoming supplies, other than humanitarian necessities.  The global armada would also eliminate any rational “Fields of Fire”, for North Korean missiles.  Lastly, have the Chinese Navy, as a North Korean Ally, take the lead, in order to provide additional buy-in from Mr. Kim.

NOTE:  Since this action would be under a U. N. Resolution, Congressional Approval of U. S. participation should be easily approved.

NOTE #2:  Welcome to my visitors from Israel and Trinidad & Tobago, and of course the U. S.

NOTE #3:   WHOOPS!  It now appears that the Carrier Task Group had not been deployed to the Sea of Japan, as the White House first announced.  Rather, it had been deployed into the Indian Ocean, for joint naval exercises with the Australian Navy.  The ships are, however, now headed in the right direction–the Korean Peninsula, some 3,500 miles away.

A more in-depth description this last Trump Regime misadventure, is provided by a NY Times article

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WHO WILL DONALD TRUMP HAND-OFF THE MOST DANGEROUS PROBLEM CONFRONTING THE WORLD TODAY? NORTH KOREA! WILL IT BE R. C. McMASTER, OR STEVE BANNON?

North Korea’s nuclear arms have advanced beyond the primitive state.  Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un now has real nukes, and he is in the process of improving the range and accuracy of his missiles, while continuing to miniaturize the warheads to extend the range.  And then, he will be ready to build an arsenal!

China does not want to place anymore political pressure on its failed neighbor; because, that would cause millions of destitute North Koreans to stream across its border, and Beijing would then have to care for the refugees.  Additionally, an invasion would also set-up a potentially disastrous confrontation with the United States.

In a webcast discussion, between Robert Litwak, Vice President at the Wilson Center, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on North Korea, and NY Times National Security Correspondent David Sanger, the topic was “Preventing North Korea’s Nuclear Break-Out.”  The proximity of U. S. Forces, both in South Korea and nearby Japan, along with our allies, turns a potential confrontation with China into a powder keg.

Mr. Litwak suggested, during the discussion, that the likely options—all bad ones—are: “bomb, negotiate, or acquiesce… “   Bombing, which would usually be followed by a ground attack, would merely anger China, and would draw them into the war.  Beijing certainly doesn’t want the U. S. Military just across their border, nor would we want theirs!   That would leave two intolerable situations: facing an unlimited Chinese force, virtually in their backyard; or going nuclear.  Either way, we would not want to see that scenario play out!

Acquiescence is also a terrible option.  North Korea’s Supreme Leader, 33 year-old Kim Jong-Un runs a dynastic dictatorship and, judging by the living conditions that his people must endure, he seems to care little about them.

So, if we merely allow Mr. Kim to maintain the status quo, he will surely begin considering his next move—going even more bellicose.  The North Korean “Leader” is unstable, and cannot be trusted.  And don’t count on regime change; because, Kim has already eliminated the prior military leaders, and replaced them with his generals.

This leaves us with the only one acceptable option:  to negotiate some sort of Iran-like Nuclear Agreement—along with, say, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.  Similar to the Iran Deal, North Korea must be required to:  dismantle its nuclear program and ship, say 95% of the plutonium and centrifuges out of the country, perhaps to China, before the negotiations even begin.

There must be a slight easing of restrictions initially, mostly for humanitarian purposes, and the IAEA must be able to make unannounced inspections.  The negotiating team, and perhaps others, must provide North Korea with increasingly necessary supplies.  The DMZ, between North and South Korea, should be widened, from two and a-half. to 20 miles.  At least, that will eliminate offensive broadcasts and sniper fire, back and forth, between the two korean armies.

The one immediate question that comes to mind is:  would Donald Trump agree to an Agreement similar to the one that President Obama, and five other nations, entered into with Iran?  So far, Trump has appeared to be intent on eliminating anything that Obama had accomplished.  Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tellerson said that the U. S. might consider a pre-emptive attack on Pyongyang, rather than a retaliatory attack.  That concerns me!

I believe that National Security Advisor, R. C. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, might agree to the merits of a Nuclear Agreement, similar to the one with Iran.  Secretary Tellerson, however, the former CEO of Exxon-Mobil, is a veritable novice when it comes to National Security.  So far, Donald Trump has been more willing to hand-off the most important problems to the loyalists among his Regime Staff.  Steve Bannon?  OMG!

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THERE SHOULD BE A TRANS-PACIFIC SECURITY AND DEFENSE ORGANIZATION, PATTERNED ON NATO, BUT MODIFIED FOR THE REGION!

During World War II, the Axis Powers—Japan and Nazi Germany—rolled-over their neighbors in Asia and Europe, respectively.  At first, America did not join the War, due to its Isolationist Policies.  Afterward, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed—including Europe and North America—with a stated goal to: “…safeguard the freedom and security of the member nations, through political and military means.”

China and Russia—the two current powers in their respective regions—have each stepped-up their aggressive behavior against their neighbors.  The Asia-Pacific Region does not have an equivalent security treaty, similar to NATO.  At the same time, with the splintering of the European Union, and the uncertainty over what a Trump Presidency might bring, the Atlantic Alliance needs to be re-invigorated, as it is showing signs of diminishing strength.

Neither of the two Socialist Leaders—Xi Jinping, of China, or Vladimir Putin, of Russia—are particularly friendly toward one another.  But given their common political philosophy, each seems to believer in the old military strategy:  Divide and Conquer!  That’s why both nations are either befriending or intimidating their neighbors, one-by-one, as each pursues it particular agenda.

Let’s look at NATO first.  Once the United Kingdom signaled its intention to leave the European Union last June, heads began to turn, questioning which nation(s) would be next?  And although the E. U. is primarily a trade union, its potentially diminishing membership might cause some–including Russia–to question Europe’s cohesiveness.

The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization was formed in the mid-1950s; however, it lacked wide regional participation, and it accomplished very little. And so, SEATO was disbanded in 1976.  There still needs to be some form of security organization, however, in the Pacific Region.  And similar to NATO, Canada and the U. S. should be included.

It’s still too early to consider how a Donald Trump Administration might change the U. S. participation in the various international organizations—UN, WHO, IMF, World Bank, NATO, etc.  Hopefully, America will continue to participate, and to contribute according to our level of ability.  Since the Republican Party seems to favor International Trade, such as the TPP: hopefully, they will convince Donald Trump to remain in NATO, and to help establish a counterpart organization in the Pacific.



NOTE:  The linked article, from “Foreign Policy”, by James Stavridis, is provided because it makes a good case for our continued support for NATO.  Admiral Stavridis is the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and had served as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander.  The article is linked as follows: http://fletcher.tufts.edu/News-and-Media/2016/11/10/Dean-Stavridis-Foreign-Policy-Audit-NATO.

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DOES DONALD TRUMP REALIZE THAT HE HAS BEEN SUGGESTING A DIRECT CONFRONTATION WITH CHINA?

Last March, Donald Trump had suggested that we should bring our troops back from Japan and South Korea if those countries don’t pay more for our presence there.  Then, he went on to suggest that we should help those two nations develop nuclear weapons themselves.  Now, does Trump have a clue as to what he is talking about?  Probably not!   The NY Times article, describing his comments, is linked, as follows: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/29/world/asia/donald-trump-arms-race.html?_r=0.

Consider the following:  Japan and South Korea already help fund our Military Presence in their countries, to the tune of $2 billion and $885 million, respectively;  it is vital to the U. S. Defense Strategy to have our forces in close proximity to potential global hot spots, like China and Russia;  and nuclear arming of two more nations in East Asia is more Cold War Thinking than pursuant to our current Nonproliferation Strategy.

The Korean Peninsula juts out of China’s eastern land area, and North Korea, the Hermit Kingdom, which already has primitive nuclear weapons, is ruled by the lunatic Kim Jong-Un.  So, arming Japan and/or South Korea would merely be providing the spark that could ignite the powder keg that already exists on the Peninsula.  Additionally, neither of our two allies there want nukes, and Japan doesn’t even have a Military, just a Self-Defense Force.  And, why would we want to provoke China in its backyard, while causing concerns among our many Asian allies?

Last Monday evening, at the First Presidential Debate, Donald Trump even displayed more of his ignorance about National Security, when he said:  “China should solve that problem for us.  China should go into North Korea.  China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.”  The link, from a Washington Post article, is as follows: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/09/27/did-trump-really-just-suggest-that-china-should-invade-north-korea/?tid=hybrid_collaborative_1_na.

That brainstorm appears to have been conceived in a vacuum.  Doesn’t Trump believe that past American Presidents, as well as China and other neighboring countries, have considered possible solutions before?  Was Donald Trump really suggesting that two of the world’s nuclear-armed superpowers confront each other on the Korean Peninsula?

China prefers having North Korea serve as a buffer between it and a South Korea, which is backed by an American presence of some 28,000 troops.  At the same time, China doesn’t want North Korea to implode; and thus, causing tens of thousands of starving Koreans to flood across its border.  Perhaps, Donald Trump doesn’t understand this, because he doesn’t read—he just tweets.

Currently, the two Koreas go about their daily business, just separated by a de facto border—the Demilitarized Zone—which is just two and a half miles (four km.) wide.  If China were to take over the North, the U. S. would then have to move its forces up to the DMZ, and reinforce them considerably.  And, let’s not assume that Russian President Vladimir Putin wouldn’t accelerate his aggressive objectives in Europe while the U. S. is distracted in Asia.

NO, DONALD, YOU CERTAINLY ARE NOT PREPARED TO BE PRESIDENT!

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WHAT MIGHT WARS OF THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE?

Much of the political rhetoric spewed against Islamic State currently seems mostly based on the racist anti-Muslim agenda of certain politicians.  The strategic planners in our Defense Department place ISIS toward the bottom of our potential National Security risks.  Russia and China, by far, are at the very top of the Pentagon’s List of Risks.

Surely, terrorism will always be a risk in any peaceful country.  It always has been, and always will!  An advantage that we, in America, have is that our anti-terrorism activities are coordinated through one governmental entity, the FBI, as compared to 30 national defense entities across Europe.  Also, the Muslim Community here is somewhat better assimilated.  Again, terrorist attacks, by groups such as ISIS, are at the bottom of our Defense Department list of priorities.

The planning for Future Wars is coordinated by Deputy Secretary of Defense, Bob Work.  The so-called “Third Offset Strategy”, is fully-integrated with the knowledge and cooperation of our allies.  The First Offset (or Advantage) Strategy was initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the 1950s, and it used nuclear power to compensate for the Soviet Union’s manpower advantage.  At the height of the Cold War (1970s and 80s), the Second Offset Strategy emphasized: long-range, precision-guided weapons: stealth aircraft; and new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

Currently, as our list of potential adversaries has increased, the Third Offset Strategy has classified our anticipated sources of danger as follows: Russia and China are the very highest priority; then Iran (an exporter of terrorism) and North Korea (only because Kim Jong-Un is unstable and has primitive nuclear weapons); and various rogue states and non-government organizations, such as ISIS, are at the bottom. Although they all pose dangers to America and our allies, it always are makes sense to prioritize risks.

Over the past fifteen years, as the U. S. military was distracted, fighting two wars, and depleting its Defense Budget, Russia and China were able to narrow the gap with our technological superiority. Both have grown their budgets substantially, increased their technology development programs, and they were able to observe both what our military did well, and notice its weaknesses.  Also, their cyber-intel warriors were able to hack into our computers, and steal technology—saving themselves time and money.

The T-O Strategy will include more coordination with our NATO Allies, as well as encourage them to increase their own defense budgets to the agreed-upon two percent of their respective GDPs.  In the future, research will be mostly carried-out in a combination of academic and commercial labs, rather than in government facilities.  Future weapon development will be developed and funded similar to how Boeing and SpaceX have taken on the mission of re-supplying the International Space Station with the rocket systems, which they funded and developed.

Besides traditional battlefields, look for: greater use of miniature air, land and sea-based drones; continued stealth technology; ships with lower manpower requirements; advanced manufacturing, to include robotics and 3-D systems; and guided bomb and missile systems. Future wars will also make greater use of cyber-technology, not only in hacking to gain intelligence, but in jamming, providing false intelligence or even, planting viruses to incapacitate enemy systems.  As in our daily lives, the advantages of digital technology can harm us when they become inoperable or malfunction.

Traditionally, the U. S. has had the unquestioned quickest and most comprehensive system of technology management, from development to useful application.  That requires: a combination of government-funding, as necessary; a rational regulatory environment; and the coordination of academia and corporate management.  It seems like Academia and Industry will be ready to go; but, the question is: Will Congress?

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