31 October 2015

AUS: Troops bound for Iraq farewelled in Brisbane

Some 300 Australian Defence Force members were formally farewelled in Brisbane today ahead of their departure for Iraq under Operation Okra.

The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Mark Binksin, AC, the Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, DSC, AM, the Commander of the Army’s 1st Division, Major General Stuart Smith, AO, DSC; and Federal Member for Ryan Jane Prentice MP, joined families and friends of the ADF members at the farewell parade.

The second rotation of the ADF’s Building Partner Capacity contingent, known as Task Group Taji 2, is a combined force of Australian and New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel.

Air Chief Marshal Binskin said the second rotation of Task Group Taji would carry on the important work of the ADF members currently serving in Iraq.

USA: Dunford Heads to Seoul for Military, Security Meetings

By Jim Garamone 
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, October 30, 2015 — The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is en route to Seoul, South Korea, to participate in military and security discussions with America’s long-term ally.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. will meet with South Korean and American leaders as part of the Military Committee Meeting and then will join Defense Secretary Ash Carter for the 47th Security Consultative Meeting, also in Seoul.

This is Dunford’s first trip to Seoul since taking office less than a month ago. Following the meetings there, the general will travel to Japan for meetings with military and civilian officials.

Discussions will likely cover North Korea, which remains a potent threat, with about 1.2 million active duty military personnel and millions of reservists, according to DoD figures. The military budget in the reclusive state is around $10 billion -- making it one of North Korea’s few well-funded activities.

News Story: J-31 stealth fighter could be paired with J-15 for carrier use

The J-31 "Falcon Hawk" stealth fighter being developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation could eventually be paired with the J-15 on the Liaoning, China's first and so far only aircraft carrier, reports Duowei News, a US-based Chinese political news outlet.

The J-31 with its new vertical tail design recently went on display at the 16th China Aviation Expo in Beijing.

Given the capabilities of the single-seat, twin-engine, mid-size fifth-generation jet fighter, it is believed that the J-31 could become a carrier-based aircraft. Duowei notes that the J-31's stability and double front wheel design make it well-suited to carrier deployment, adding that it might be more suited to being paired with the Liaoning than the J-20 fifth-generation stealth fighter prototype.

Read the full story at Want China Times

Editorial: Why US FON Operations in the South China Sea Make Sense

Image: Flickr User - Greg Bishop
By Jonathan G. Odom

The U.S. Navy’s Freedom of Navigation Program is an important expression of international law.

The U.S. Freedom of Navigation (FON) Program [PDF] has recently drawn significant attention in the United States and the international community. During this period of focused attention, some observers have questioned the legality of U.S. FONOPs. This author has previously outlined the legality and legitimacy of the U.S. FON Program, including FONOPs conducted as part of that program. Other observers have also questioned the appropriateness and wisdom of U.S. FONOPs, particularly in the South China Sea. A prime example would be a recent critique by Dr. Sam Bateman of Australia, in which he alleged that U.S. FONOPs in the South China Sea “don’t make sense.” This followed a similar piece that he published in June 2015. Although Dr. Bateman asks some valid questions about the ongoing South China Sea situation, he makes incorrect assumptions on several points about U.S. FONOPs and misses the mark on several others. Below is an attempt to set the record straight on the matter, based upon this author’s prior experience with the U.S. FON Program at the operational, theater, and policy levels of the U.S. military. 

Need for Clarity Does Not Start with the US

In Dr. Bateman’s analysis of the South China Sea situation, he understandably turns on a spotlight calling for clarity, but he unfortunately aims that spotlight in the wrong direction. Specifically, he complains, “It’s not clear just what the Washington is protesting in the South China Sea.” To be sure, lack of clarity is a component of this complex South China Sea problem, and this author has previously argued that greater clarity could help to improve the overall South China Sea situation. However, the need for greater clarity begins not with Washington, but with the claimant states – and particularly with Beijing.

China has never clarified the meaning of the U-shaped line. That is the official determination of the United States [PDF], Singapore, Indonesia [PDF], and a number of other non-claimant states. It is even the assessment of Wu Shicun, the president of China’s National Institute for the South China Sea Studies, who wrote in his 2013 book that the debate on China’s U-shaped line “will continue if China remains silent and keeps its claim ambiguous.” Most recently and perhaps most importantly, that was also a finding by the Arbitral Tribunal in the Philippines-China arbitration case, who stated it is a “fact” that “China has not clarified the meaning of the nine-dash line.”

Curiously, Dr. Bateman has been able to accomplish something that those foreign governments, international tribunal, and expert observers have been unable to do. In February 2014, Dr. Bateman criticized the congressional testimony of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, saying that Russel demonstrated a “lack of understanding” of what China’s U-shaped line is. Specifically, Dr. Bateman said the U-shaped line is a “loose geographical shorthand to say we claim islands and features, it is not actually questioning other countries who have established exclusive economic zones inside the nine dash line, or indeed have maritime boundaries with their neighbor.” While this might be what Dr. Bateman presumes it to mean, there is no record of official declaration or documentation issued by China to support his interpretation. Moreover, the practice of international law does not operate by “loose geographic shorthand” for establishing territorial and maritime claims.

In addition, China has not clarified the specific nature of the geographic features that it is claiming in the South China Sea or the maritime zones to which China asserts those features are entitled, to include those for which it has recently undertaken reclamation (i.e., enhancement to naturally-formed areas of land) and “clamation” (i.e., construction of artificial islands on low-tide elevations and submerged features). Time and time again, China’s official representatives have said only that China has “indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha [Spratly] Islands and their adjacent waters.” But China has never clarified which South China Sea features are islands entitled to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which features are rocks entitled to only a territorial sea, and which features are artificial islands warranting only the maximum of a 500-meter safety zone. While China declared [PDF] in its 1992 territorial sea law that it would employ straight baselines for its entire coastline and all of its islands, it has never drawn or published baselines for any of the features in the Spratly Island group, as it would be required to under Article 16 of UNCLOS. And even after the United States conducted FONOPs this week, China remained ambiguous in the specific nature of the geographic features within the Spratlys and maritime zones around those features that it is claiming.

Washington has attempted to be clear on many of the matters involving the South China Sea situation, and might very well need to be clearer on other aspects in the future. But Dr. Bateman should also call upon Beijing to officially clarify what exactly it is claiming in the South China Sea and provide its basis under international law for making those claims.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: India’s First New Stealth Submarine Begins Sea Trials

The Scorpene class diesel electric submarine Kalvari
during her launch ceremony (6-4-2015)
By Franz-Stefan Gady

The first of six Scorpene class diesel - electric submarines started sea trials in Mumbai this week.

The Scorpene-class diesel electric submarine Kalvari has begun extensive sea trials in the waters off Mumbai this week, The Hindustan Times report.

The Kalvari was set afloat this Wednesday at the state-run Mazgaon Docks Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, where it has been built in close collaboration with the French shipbuilder DCNS.

“The accomplishment of this milestone will initiate commencement of sea trials which will eventually lead to the commissioning of the boat into the Indian Navy in September 2016,” rear admiral RK Shrawat, the chairman and managing director of MDL told reporters.

The Indian Navy is slated to receive six Scorpene-class submarines by 2020. MDL officials said that they will deliver one new boat every nine months.

The 67-meter long submarine with a 6.2 meter diameter will be equipped with an air-independent propulsion system, which allows the boat to stay submerged longer making it more difficult to detect.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: This Fighter Might Replace Indonesia's Aging F-5 Fighters (Hint: Not the Su-35)

Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen
By Benjamin David Baker

Sweden’s Saab recently unveiled a new bid to gain access to Indonesia’s fighter market. Can it beat the Russian favorite?

Indonesia is currently in the process of updating a part of its eclectic mix of military aircraft. The three platforms which represent Jakarta’s most formidable airborne capability are the U.S. General Dynamics (GD) F-16, Russian Sukhoi-27, and Sukhoi-30MK. The Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU) reflects the country’s recent history international relations, operating a mixed bag of Russian, U.S., Brazilian, and European aircraft.

Since its independence in 1945, the country has fielded aircraft from both sides of the Iron Curtain, often reflecting its political alignment. In 1986s, Indonesia purchased a batch of F-16s, intended to supplement its fleet of F-5E Tigers. However, after the U.S. imposed sanctions following Jakarta’s involvement in the 1999 East Timor independence, these quickly dilapidated due to a lack of spare parts. As a result, the TNI-AU acquired Russian jets. Together with the F-16s, which were modernized after Washington lifted sanctions in 2005, these aircraft still form the mainstay of Indonesia’s aerial combat fleet.

As previously reported by the Diplomat, Indonesia has been looking to beef up its aerial combat capabilities. For its long term needs, Indonesia has signed up to South Korea’s KF-X program, an ambitious project aimed at providing Seoul and Jakarta with a “4,5 generation fighter.” This fighter is supposed to fill a role between the F-16 currently fielded by both states, and the F-35, which has been deemed a too expensive option. Indonesia currently has a 20 percent stake in the project, and is expected to deploy 80 KF-Xs by 2030. (South Korea owns the remaining 80 percent and is expected to field 120.)

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Is Genocide Underway in Myanmar?

By Shawn W. Crispin

A new legal analysis released this week presents strong evidence that it is.

Does Myanmar’s systematic persecution of its ethnic Rohingya population legally constitute genocide? And, if so, who should be held accountable?

New legal analysis by Yale Law School’s Lowenstein Clinic in conjunction with rights group Fortify Rights presents strong evidence to suggest that genocide is being committed against the Muslim minority group by Myanmar state actors, including the army, police and a recently disbanded border security force known as Nasaka.

The research, launched on Thursday at a press event in Bangkok, applies the 1948 Genocide Convention’s checklist of criminal elements to the Rohingya’s situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The findings confirm that the Rohingya qualify as a protected group, that they have suffered acts defined under the convention as genocide, and that the state-sponsored acts have been committed with the intent to destroy the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group, in whole or in part.

While acknowledging the Rohingya suffered discrimination and abuses under previous military rule, the Yale analysis focuses on abuses committed from 2012 to present under President Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian administration. These include documented cases of arbitrary detention, forced labor, sexual violence, restrictions on free movement and population control policies the report’s researchers likened to “biological genocide.” The study follows a 2013 Human Rights Watch report that characterized the persecution as “ethnic cleansing”, a non-legal term that lacks the criminal ramifications of genocide accusations.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The Truth About Myanmar's New Ceasefire Agreement

By Jack Myint

The recently concluded nationwide ceasefire agreement is a step in the right direction.

Since coming to power in 2011, the Thein Sein administration has made Myanmar’s peace process and reconciliation with ethnic armed groups a top policy priority. As such, it has put tremendous effort into finalizing a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA).

The ideal NCA that the administration envisioned would have brought to a halt ongoing fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed groups, primarily those along the China and Thailand borders – a necessary precursor before establishing a federal state. With this agreement, it is not necessarily the intent of the administration to bring an end to 60 years of ethnic tensions overnight by delivering a comprehensive peace agreement. Instead, the aim is to put a stop to continuing warfare between the various factions and create a platform for further dialogue between key stakeholders that the next elected government can then build upon.

As a first step, 15 ethnic armed groups were identified to participate in negotiations led by representatives of the administration’s peacemaking team along with the Myanmar military and other individual armed ethnic factions. Talks began in August 2011. Many ethnic representatives stalled and demanded the inclusion of additional groups, citing previous agreements and expressing concern regarding the military’s constitutional role, among other issues.

Regardless, by the October 15, 2015 deadline to sign a final cease-fire agreement, eight of the 15 groups agreed to become signatories and formally conclude the deal, with the stipulation that the government leave the door open for political dialogue and inclusion of other ethnic groups at a later point in time. Local and international perceptions on the deal are split, with supporters calling it a “historic victory” for Myanmar’s peace process and critics calling it “an inconclusive deal” that was hastily reached to present an illusion of peace and progress. Before the deal can be assessed, we should look at the relevant facts and considerations regarding the NCA.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Japan Launches New Warship

By Franz-Stefan Gady

A Japanese shipyard has launched a new minesweeper for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

This Tuesday, the Japan Maritime United Corporation (JMUC), a shipyard located in Tsurumi, Yokohama, launched a new mine countermeasures vessel built for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), The Japan Times reports.

The 690-ton Awaji is the lead vessel of a new class of mine countermeasure vessels slated to replace three wooden-hulled 1,000-ton Yaeyama-class minesweepers that have been in service since March 1993.

The Awaji, named after an island in Hyogo Prefecture, boasts a new special hull made out of composite fiber-reinforced plastic in order not to set off mines with its built-in metal detecting sensors during minesweeping operations.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: The South China Sea - A Test for Japan’s 'Proactive Contribution to Peace'

Image: Flickr User - Official U.S. Navy Page
By Yuki Tatsumi

What will Tokyo do to demonstrate its commitment?

It’s turned out to be an eventful week for the South China Sea. On October 26, the USS Lassen conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) within 12 nautical miles of an artificial land feature that China has reclaimed and been building on since the beginning of this year. China strongly condemned the U.S. action as having “threatened China’s sovereignty and security interests, jeopardized the safety of personnel and facilities on the reefs, and damaged regional peace and stability.” But the United States firmly maintains that what its Navy ships did was a routine freedom of navigation operation, which it is entitled to conduct in accordance with the international law.

At China’s request, U.S. Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson and his Chinese counterpart Wu Shengli had a one-on-one video conference on October 29 regarding the U.S. action. Although no details of their discussion have been released, it is clear that their conversation was triggered by USS Lassen’s sailing near China’s artificial land feature.

In addition, on October 29, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that it accepts the arbitration case that Philippines submitted vis-à-vis China. In the months ahead, the Court will deliberate on four primary questions: (1) status of China’s so-called nine-dash line, (2) the legality of Chinese occupation of various land features in the Spratly Islands, (3) the legality of China’s exploitation of natural resources within areas that would be considered as the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), and (4) whether China has interfered with the Philippines’ freedom of navigation in its own EEZ. Washington welcomes this decision, as it has long held the position that the sovereignty claims in South China Sea need to be solved through diplomatic means, including arbitration.

Now that the tide in the international community seems to be converging in the direction of questioning China’s recent assertiveness in its maritime claims in South China Sea, Japan may be tested for its commitment to making a “proactive contribution to peace.”

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: South China Sea - No Win-Win for China and US

Image: Flickr User - Greg Bishop
By Bernard Fook Weng Loo and Koh Swee Lean Collin

Neither China nor the U.S. can back down now without losing credibility and face.

In October 2015, the U.S. Navy announced that it was preparing to send a surface combatant to sail within 12 nautical miles – what the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) recognizes as the territorial waters of littoral states – of the artificial islands that China has been constructing in the South China Sea. On October 27, the USS Lassen, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, patrolled within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, in the Spratly Islands.

As Ashton Carter, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, said, “Make no mistake, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception.”

The move has potentially serious consequences for the security and stability of the South China Sea and Southeast Asia, especially when one considers the more intrusive nature of prospective U.S. Navy intelligence-gathering activities so close to the artificial islands. The U.S. Navy risks creating a situation where there is no win-win solution for either the United States or China.

At least two possible scenarios eventuate from this policy position: One, China is forced to back down and lose any credibility as a great power that has overcome its Century of Humiliation; or two, the U.S. ultimately gives way on future freedom of navigation patrols, undermining at best the credibility of its security guarantees to its allies and security partners in the Asia-Pacific.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

30 October 2015

USA: Possible Foreign Military Sale to Thailand of Evolved Seasparrow Missiles (ESSM)

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29, 2015 - The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to Thailand of Evolved Seasparrow Missiles (ESSM) and associated equipment, parts and logistical support for an estimated cost of $26.9 million. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale on October 28, 2015.

The Government of Thailand requested a possible sale of Major Defense Equipment for its Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) program. The total estimated value of MDE is $18,570,385. The total overall estimated value is $26,943,445.

Major Defense Equipment (MDE) includes: 
Sixteen (16) Evolved Seasparrow Missiles (ESSM) (Fourteen (14) tactical missiles and two (2) telemetry missiles)
Three (3) MK25 Quad Pack canisters
Ten (10) MK783 shipping containers

Also included with this request is additional equipment; training; and technical services.

Industry: ASC on a roll with (Australian) submarine maintenance

Adelaide-based submarine builder and maintainer ASC has taken another step towards achieving international benchmark performance with Collins Class submarine HMAS Farncomb rolling out of the shed, on its way back to the water.

HMAS Farncomb arrived for maintenance in late May 2014 and is the first Collins Class submarine to undergo the new and revised maintenance regime since the Coles Review into submarine sustainment. 

Previously, a full cycle docking of a Collins Class submarine could take in excess of three years; but HMAS Farncomb is on track to be completed in less than two years.

ASC Interim Chief Executive Officer Stuart Whiley says HMAS Farncomb rolling out of the shed represents another step in ASC’s journey to overhaul the way it undertakes submarine maintenance and ultimately improve submarine availability for the Royal Australian Navy.

News Report: Vietnam Gives Noncommittal Response to US Patrol in S. China Sea

Tra Mi

Two days after the United States sailed a warship within the 12-nautical-mile zone of man-made islands in the hotly disputed waters of the South China Sea, Vietnam has given a noncommittal response to the incident.

While most nations in the region responded quickly to the event, Vietnam stayed silent until Thursday, when a foreign ministry spokesman in Hanoi was asked a question about the incident.

Without directly criticizing China or the U.S., spokesman Le Hai Binh told reporters that Vietnam respects the freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea consistent with relevant provisions of the U.N. Convention  on the Law of the Sea as well as its national laws.

However, others in Vietnam have called for their government to be supportive of the U.S. action.

News Story: Xinhua harrumphs over US Navy passage in South China Sea

Though the United States insists that it won't take positions on South China Sea disputes, all of its actions seem to be targeting China — a naval destroyer sailing within 12 nautical miles off China's artificial islands in the Nansha (Spratly) islands is the latest example.

An Associated Press report quoted a Pentagon official as saying that "we will fly, sail, and operate anywhere in the world that international law allows."

We should give "credit" to Uncle Sam. As an unrelated party in the dispute, the country has spared no effort to create a fanfare in the South China Sea, accusing China of harming navigational freedom, though evidence has seldom been presented on how harm was done or how shipping lanes have been threatened by China's island construction, which is primarily used for the creation of two lighthouses.

China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and adjacent waters is "irrefutable," said Lu Kang, a spokesman of the foreign ministry when commenting on the incident, adding China will respond to any deliberate provocation by any country.

It is understandable for the US to be posturing as a defender of world order, as it always claimed to do so, for itself or for its allies, but sending warships and planes to the islands may have stepped out of the line. Worse still, it is counterproductive to the solution of the disputes.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: Australia Plans Chinese Naval Exercises Despite US Warship Sail-by

HMAS Stuart - Pearl Harbor 2006 (Image: Wiki Commons)
SYDNEY — Australia said Thursday it would continue scheduled live-fire naval exercises with China, even after close ally the United States sent a warship into disputed South China Sea waters this week.

On Tuesday, Washington sent its USS Lassen destroyer within 12 nautical miles of small artificial islands in the South China Sea claimed by Beijing and vowed to send more, sparking fury in China.

The disputed waters — claimed in part by Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and others — have become the stage for a burgeoning tussle between the world's two largest economic and military powers as they struggle for regional dominance.

Australia's Defence Minister Marise Payne said after the incident she supported the Americans' right to freedom of navigation under international law, but added that Canberra was not involved in the US action.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Secretary Carter Heads to Asia Amid South China Sea Tensions

US SecDef Ash Carter
By Aaron Mehta

WASHINGTON — US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is set to embark on a swing through Asia, days after the newest wave of tensions between US and Chinese naval forces began to rise.

Carter's trip, which has been planned for some time, will take him through South Korea and Malaysia before returning to the US. The visits coincide with a number of major conferences, including the 47th Security Consultative Meeting between the US and Republic of Korea held in Seoul and the ASEAN Conference in Kuala Lampur.

His trip will loop back through California in time for the Reagan National Defense Forum on Nov. 7 near Los Angeles, where he will be the keynote speaker.

The trip also comes amid another round of exchanges by the US and China in the South China Sea.

On Monday, the US sent the destroyer Lassen within 12 nautical miles of an artificial island built by China on a reef in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands. The artificial island is one of at least seven construction projects intended to cement Chinese sovereignty claims in waters where several nations have territorial disputes. The US contends that its ships merely continue to navigate international waters.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

News Story: Protesters Dragged Away at US Military Base Demonstration in Japan

TOKYO — Japanese police on Thursday dragged away a group of elderly protesters trying to block construction of a US military base in Okinawa, the latest flare-up in tensions over the bitterly opposed project.

Hundreds of local Okinawans, most of them elderly, were staging a sit-in protest with their arms linked in a bid to block trucks and other construction vehicles.

In response, police dragged away some demonstrators including physically picking up frail activists, television images showed.

"Okinawa doesn't belong to the United States or the central government," a visibly angry Hiroshi Ashitomi, 69, told the Jiji Press news agency.

The clash comes days after the Japanese government overturned a move by Okinawa's governor to stop work on the US base relocation site.

The proposal to move the Futenma air base, first mooted in 1996, has become the focus of anger among locals, who insist it should be shut and a replacement built elsewhere in Japan or overseas.

Read the full story at DefenseNews

Editorial: India to Lease Another Nuclear Submarine From Russia

Image: Wiki Commons
By Franz-Stefan Gady

New Delhi and Moscow are slated to sign a contract in December.

The Indian Navy will lease another nuclear-powered submarine from Russia, TASS reports. The 10-year lease agreement will likely be signed at the Russian-Indian summit in December, according to a source at India’s Defense Ministry.

India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar will meet Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu next week in Moscow to discuss details.

“Parrikar will hold talks on this strategic project with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu. After the ten-year contract is signed another two or three years will be required for upgrading the submarine in keeping with India’s requirements,” the source toldTASS.

The Russian submarine likely to be handed over to the Indian Navy will be the KashalotK-322 nuclear-powered attack submarine (NATO classification Akula II-class), a ship that has served in Russia’s Pacific Fleet since early 1989 and is currently under repair.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Evaluating India-Africa Maritime Relations

Indian Navy Frigate - INS Teg
By Abhijit Singh

Partnering Africa requires that India work with it in the maritime realm.

On October 26, leaders of 54 African nations gathered in New Delhi for the third edition of the four-day India-Africa Forum Summit – an event billed in the Indian media as India’s most ambitious outreach program towards Africa. On the eve of the high-level conclave, reports indicated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed launch of “a new era of India-Africa relations” included a plan for the comprehensive development of Africa’s littorals. In keeping with India’s expanded focus on Africa’s maritime economic potential, commentary in the media suggested, the Indian government was keen to formalize a wide-ranging maritime partnership.

Indeed, the past few years have witnessed a reorientation in India’s nautical outlook towards Africa. With increasing emphasis on developing maritime relationships with Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius, India has reached out to African states through offers of greater military aid, capacity-building and training assistance. With its economic engagement in the African continent growing rapidly, New Delhi has also sought to widen its sphere of influence in the Western Indian Ocean. In a display of a more purposeful maritime diplomacy, Indian naval ships have increased their port visits to Africa’s East coast and smaller Indian Ocean island states.

Yet, India’s essential approach to maritime cooperation has revolved around anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. While it has provided security assistance to small island states in the Indian Ocean (undertaking regular patrols in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Mauritius and Seychelles, carrying out hydrographic surveys, even providing assistance in the establishment of a coastal radar network) the Indian Navy’s larger security initiatives have been animated by the need to safeguard energy and resource shipments in the waters off Somalia. Consequently, India’s most significant achievement in Africa has been the naval escorting of more than 3000 merchantmen since 2008, in the pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa.

Not surprisingly then, India’s security role in the Africa’s continental littorals has struggled to move beyond the set parameters of anti-piracy collaboration. With Indian naval ships constantly involved in collective maritime patrols in the Gulf of Aden and the East African coast, capacity building efforts – in terms of the provision of security and surveillance assets and critical technology to African navies and coast guards to help them perform basic constabulary functions – have remained rudimentary.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: What’s Behind Indonesia’s South China Sea Rhetoric Amid US-China Tensions?

By Prashanth Parameswaran

Observers need to look past the words of a few to understand Indonesia’s approach.

Over the past few days, much ink has been spilled about Indonesia’s rhetoric on the South China Sea disputes as the United States finally conducted a freedom of navigation operation near China’s artificial islands there.

While paying attention to what the world’s fourth largest country thinks is important, observers would do well to look beyond the words of a few individual officials to get a sense for Indonesia’s South China Sea approach.

A case in point was the brouhaha over the comments of Luhut Pandjaitan, one of Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s top advisers. On Tuesday, according toKyodo News, Pandjaitan said that Indonesia disagreed with the U.S. “power projection,” equating the move with ineffective wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To some, such comments make it seem like Indonesia’s South China Sea position is slightly anti-U.S. – perhaps even pro-Chinese – and that Jakarta may not view Chinese assertiveness there with much alarm. In fact, that could not be further from the truth.

Pandjaitan’s exact comments, which were given offhand in response to a few reporters, ought not to be viewed as an official articulation of Indonesia’s South China Sea policy, which I have detailed at length previously (See: “No, Indonesia’s South China Sea Approach Has Not Changed”). More generally, parsing comments by individual Indonesian officials makes for good headlines but is a bad way to assess policy change because of the diversity of views that can emerge even within a few weeks. Indeed, just last week, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu made the news when he suggested in Beijing that that if regional countries can manage the South China Sea on their own, “there’s no need to involve other parties in resolving the dispute.”

A less hyperbolic and more authoritative and comprehensive version of Jakarta’s approach was what Jokowi himself said in prepared remarks at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, while on his inaugural trip to the United States. As fate would have it, Jokowi wound up speaking just hours after the FONOP had occurred. As I reported for The Diplomat, Jokowi said that while Indonesia was not a South China Sea claimant, the country has an interest in the preservation of regional peace and stability (See: “Indonesia Calls for South China Sea Restraint Amid US-China Tensions”). He implored all sides – not just the United States – to exercise restraint. He also said tensions in the area must be defused through peaceful means based on international law and that China and ASEAN should make progress on a binding code of conduct (CoC).

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: Grounded - Taiwan’s US-Made Attack Helicopter Fleet is Rusting Away

A AH-64 Apache Helicopter Gunship (File Photo)
By Franz-Stefan Gady

Taiwan’s tropical climate may be too much for the AH-64E Apache gunship to handle.

The Republic of China Army is currently investigating the grounding of the majority of its AH-64E Apache “Guardian” attack helicopters purchased from the United States, Taipei Times reports.

The aircraft’s manufacturer Boeing has also dispatched a special task force to help identify the cause of the technical difficulties, which could be due to Taiwan’s “wet and high humidity climate, seasonal monsoon rains blowing salt-laden ocean water inland, or improper maintenance and handling by ground service crew,” according to the media report.

Major General Huang Kuo-ming, commander of the Army Aviation Special Forces Command, stated that nine helicopters had to be grounded due to serious oxidation on metal components, which was discovered in the helicopters’ tail rotor gearboxes- made of a new aluminum-magnesium alloy.

“We noticed rust corrosion developing in the tail rotor gearbox in March, and notified the US side of the problem at that time. They were quite concerned, and have advised our side to apply several remedial measures to counteract the corrosion,” Huang said at a news briefing this week.

Read the full story at The Diplomat

Editorial: US Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Aircraft Approaching US Aircraft Carrier

USS Ronald Reagan
By Franz-Stefan Gady

The U.S. Navy scrambled four fighter jets to intercept two Russian warplanes in waters off the Korean Peninsula.

Two Tupolev Tu-142 aircraft flew within one nautical mile of the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, prompting the dispatch of four F/A-18 Super Hornets from the Reagan to intercept the Russian warplanes, AFP reports. The Reagan was sailing off the Korean Peninsula at the time of the incident.

The Tu-142 aircraft were flying at an altitude of 500 feet approximately one nautical mile away from the aircraft carrier, which was operating in international waters in the Sea of Japan as part of a joint U.S.-South Korean naval exercise.

A naval vessel escorting the Reagan attempted to contact the aircraft but did not receive a response. This led to the sending of the F/A-18 Super Hornets fighter jets from the Reagan’s flight deck to intercept and escort the Tu-142s –”standard operating procedure,” according to the U.S. Navy.

The Tupolev T-142 is a maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. It is derived from the Tu-95, which, along with the Tu-160, constitutes the current backbone of Russia’s long-range and strategic aviation.

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Editorial: Top US, Chinese Naval Officials Meet to Discuss South China Sea Tensions

By Ankit Panda

Top officials from the U.S. and Chinese navies will meet to discuss recent tensions in the South China Sea.

Admiral Wu Shengli, the current commander of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy (PLAN), and Admiral John Richardson, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, will hold an hour-long video conference on Thursday, two days after the United States sent a guided-missile destroyer within 12 nautical miles of a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea, to discuss current tensions in the region.

The meeting will be the first high-level interaction between U.S. and Chinese senior military leaders over tensions in the Spratly Islands since the patrol by the USS Lassen on Tuesday, October 27. The USS Lassen, accompanied by P-8A Poseidon and P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, asserted high seas freedoms within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef in the Spratly Islands.

The conversation between Wu and Richardson will focus on the freedom of navigation patrol and on related issues. China’s Ministry of Defense notes that Wu will present China’s “solemn position on the U.S. vessel’s entry without permission,” echoing language used by the Chinese foreign ministry. According to Reuters, Thursday’s video conference will be the third of its kind between the top officers of both the U.S. Navy and the PLAN.

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Editorial: US-China - No More Spy Games?

By Sameer Patil

Are the U.S. and China working to create norms in cyberspace?

On September 25, the United States and China agreed to contain their industrial or economic cyber espionage activities against each other. This is the first instance of two major cyber powers reaching common ground on norms of state behavior in cyberspace.

The agreement, reminiscent of the United States-Soviet Union arms control accords of the Cold War era, is important because industrial or economic cyber espionage has been a thorny issue in the U.S.-China relationship since the early 2000s.

Although traditional espionage—the collection of state secrets—is an accepted part of statecraft worldwide, the U.S. government has repeatedly tried to distinguish between such spying and economic cyber espionage. And it has repeatedly accused China of engaging in economic espionage through cyber attacks against American companies to steal intellectual property and commercially valuable data such as corporate strategies, product designs, business negotiations, and dual-use technology-related data.

The U.S. has often cited China’s alleged theft in the mid-2000s of data related to F-35, the stealth fighter aircraft, as a prime example of China’s economic and military cyber espionage. According to the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), China repeatedly breached the computer networks of American government and private defense companies to steal data about design and radar modules for the F-35, and incorporated it into its own stealth fighter aircraft, the J20.

Attacks like these have cost the U.S. Department of Defense $100 million, mainly in costs for rebuilding networks. The repeated attacks have also potentially increased the cost of the $98 million-plus F-35—an escalation that affects the export potential of the fighter aircraft, since it is being jointly developed with the U.K., Israel, Italy, Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Turkey.

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Editorial: Can the US and China Cooperate on the First (and Last) Line of Cyber Defense?

By Franz-Stefan Gady

Deeper China - U.S. CERT cooperation will be beneficial for both countries.

Earlier this month, I noted that the recent agreement between China and the United States to cooperate on a number of cyberspace-related policy issues, including an understanding on intellectual property theft, would, in all likelihood, not lead to a reduction of the number of cyberattacks ostensibly launched from Chinese territory.

A new report issued by the U.S.-based cybersecurity company CrowdStrike appears to confirm my previous analysis, since it outlines that attacks by Chinese “state-affiliated” hackers (a rather vague term) on U.S. technology and pharmaceutical companies have continued unabated from the time the agreement was announced until now.

This is not surprising. After all, the agreement did not specifically prohibit all cyberattacks and the collection of information via cyberespionage, but rather called for an end to the passing on of information extracted from U.S.-private sector networks to Chinese companies in order for them to gain a competitive advantage. It may be too premature to argue that the agreement has failed.

For now, the September 2015 China-U.S. cyber agreement remains the most useful framework for bilateral cooperation on cyber-related policy issues after the June 2013 Sunnylands summit pledges to deepen cybersecurity cooperation were abandoned with the U.S. indictment of five Chinese military hackers in May 2014.

To avoid past mistakes, the rather vague September agreement needs to be followed up as soon as possible by bilateral meetings to more clearly define specific venues of cooperation between China and the United States.

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Editorial: Beware the Fatal Flaws of Britain's China Strategy

By John Hemmings

The UK’s approach to Beijing, while hardly surprising, suffers from several fatal flaws.

Chinese President Xi Jinping received the reddest of red-carpet treatments in London last week, with Xi being treated to a 21-gun salute, a royal carriage ride down the Mall, an address to both Houses of Parliament, followed by a State Banquet at Buckingham Palace and a visit to the Prime Minister’s official residence Chequers.

The fact that British Prime Minister David Cameron used the full powers of the British state to welcome the Chinese leader has many wondering about the future of UK-China ties as the two proclaim a new “golden era” of bilateral relations, and agree to create a “global comprehensive strategic partnership.”

While many in London question the timing – this year Beijing mismanaged a stock market slump while simultaneously tightening control over dissidents – the Treasury attitude is simply to bulldoze the new China approach through other departments of government, including a skeptical Foreign Office. The visit and the assumptions it’s based on raise questions about Britain’s tactical understanding of China. After all, as Evan Medeiros, former senior staffer on Asia on President Obama’s National Security Staff, told the Financial Times, “if you give in to Chinese pressure, it will inevitably lead to more Chinese pressure.”

The seemingly ‘new’ mercantilist approach of Chancellor George Osborne is deeply embedded in historical traditions of British foreign policy-making, and has run parallel and sometimes counter to Britain’s values-oriented foreign policy. Long before Henry Kissinger said it, Lord Palmerston claimed that Britain had no “permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests.” Britain has always viewed trade as one of these permanent interests, since power is derived from economic standing. This is evident throughout the last century: the UK was the largest source of long-term foreign direct investment in the United States, played a pivotal role in Japanese industrialization, and was one of Germany’s main trade partners prior to both the first and second world wars. If the new China policy is a mistake, Britain has made it before.

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Editorial: Philippines v. China - Court Rules Favorably on Jurisdiction, Case Will Proceed

By Ankit Panda

China’s nine-dash line will have its day in international court.

On Thursday, October 29, the Permanent Court of Arbitration awarded its first decision in the The Republic of Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China. The court ruled that the case was “properly constituted” under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, that China’s “non-appearance” (i.e., refusal to participate) did not preclude the Court’s jurisdiction, and that the Philippines was within its rights in filing the case. In short, Thursday’s decision means that the Permanent Court of Arbitration rules in the Philippines’ favor on the question of jurisdiction. With the jurisdictional issue resolved, the case can move forward to evaluating the merits of the Philippines’ legal assertions in the South China Sea.

In a press release, the Court noted that the decision was “unanimous” and “concerns only whether the Tribunal has jurisdiction to consider the Philippines’ claims and whether such claims are admissible.” Notably, the Court has rejected an argument in China’s position paper that the “2002 China–ASEAN Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea constitutes an agreement to resolve disputes relating to the South China Sea exclusively through negotiation.” The Court has decided that the Declaration on Conduct was a “political agreement that was not intended to be legally binding.” This may influence the already lethargic process between China and ASEAN toward a binding Code of Conduct for the South China Sea.

As the Court prepares to consider the merits of the Philippines’ claims, it’s worth revisiting what exactly Manila is seeking a decision on. As Jay Batongbacal succinctly outlined over at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative earlier this year, Manila is looking for the Court to decide on four primary questions.

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Editorial: Road to Nowhere? Peace Efforts in the Southern Philippines

By Peter M. Sales

The derailing of the work of peace makers is raising the odds of renewed conflict in Mindanao.

The plight of the southern Philippines is a lesson in how not to undertake a peace process. It especially illuminates the pitfalls of negotiating without the wholehearted commitment of the stakeholders, especially the central government. Successive regimes in Manila have made feints at achieving a settlement in Mindanao, but the national leadership has been in turns half-hearted, dilatory and insincere. So the south remains in turmoil despite the best intentions and unflagging efforts of peace advocates. Whatever else, the so-called Mindanao problem has much to teach the international community about intractable warfare. Hard-won lessons in this southernmost and second largest island of the Philippines can undoubtedly contribute to understanding civil unrest and the challenges of peace-building in general.

Often dismissed as a religious war, the conflict in Mindanao is far too complicated for simplistic labels. Centuries ago, when Spanish (and then American) invaders established control across the archipelago, the southern region was already part of a tide of Malay Islam which resisted Manila-based incursions vigorously. But mainly the Moros – the indigenous Muslims – thrived in an atmosphere of benign neglect. After independence, however, the central power became more assertive and Mindanao fell subject to a form of internal imperialism. The centrifugal impulse towards separatism grew ever stronger among increasingly alienated clans and tribes. It remains difficult for a largely Islamic and fiercely independent bangsamoro homeland to identify with a Catholicized, neo-colonial Philippine nationalism. Economic exploitation and rapacious development have compounded feelings of exclusion and powerlessness among Moros, lumads (indigenous peoples), and the landless poor.

This Mindanao imbroglio permits the enemies of peace to manipulate complex issues for their own purposes. In such cases, academe, the media, and other opinion makers have a special responsibility to speak truth to power and provide some much-needed analysis. This sort of rigor has been absent in Philippine public life, allowing the worst rogues to reinvent themselves at will and even to interfere with peace initiatives ostensibly to protect the constitution and the sovereignty of the state, thus revealing the difficulties of a weak polity in achieving a political settlement with a disgruntled, rebellious, and distant territory.

During decades of vicious fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and a series of secessionist groups, Mindanao has occasionally appeared to be poised on the brink of peace as various political settlements moved towards fruition. The fate of these initiatives explains the nature of the turmoil in the south. Peace efforts since the 1976 Tripoli Agreement reveal a process which insiders appear unable to put into perspective and outsiders simply do not comprehend.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under its charismatic leader Nur Misuari led the modern struggle for Muslim independence until surrendering to the administration of Fidel Ramos in 1996 (the so-called Davao Consensus). Such arrangements invariably work in favor of the central government, itself too corrupt and cash-strapped to honor its commitments. Development funds go astray and in the 1996 case Ramos even appears to have introduced the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) into the volatile equation as a means of compromising the Moro cause and linking it to Islamic extremism. And by 2001, Washington had branded Mindanao the Second Front in the new War on Terror. The southern Philippines was dragged into a global predicament and its problems became ever more complicated.

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