Monday, August 31, 2015

When You Pivot to Asia and the Pacific

We will increase our military and humanitarian exercises in the western Pacific to counter China's expansive claims in the region:

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, highlighted key aspects of the Pentagon's freshly drafted Asia Pacific Maritime Security Strategy during talks with his Filipino counterpart, General Hernando Iriberri, during a visit to Manila.

Colonel Restituto Padilla, a military spokesman, told journalists that the report outlined Washington's set of actions in the disputed South China Sea and East China Sea, focusing on the protection of "freedom of seas", deterring conflict and coercion, and promoting adherence to international law.

Remember that while we don't take a position on the ownership of the islands, we do hold a position on using force to resolve the disputes--we're against that; and we also have a position on whether the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that a country can claim from owning coastlines and legitimate islands (not from owning artificial islands, as an aside) includes the ability to exercise sovereignty on those waters as if they are territorial waters, allowing the EEZ holder to deny us access by our military assets to the water and air space within those EEZ. We're against that, too, since we hold that international law denies China the ability to enforce such a view of EEZs.

But China feels that their military power allows them to insist on their view.

So we will push back.

Perhaps it includes Freedom of Navigation exercises that cross into South China Sea waters that China claims is their territory (within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands or anywhere within the so-called City of Sansha that encompasses the South China Sea.

Perhaps it will include humanitarian exercises on and near islands held by rival claimants.

Perhaps it will include humanitarian resupply missions to Filipino outposts on their islands under pressure by China, which tries to keep them cut off from supplies.

Perhaps we will join with Japan in exercises in the East China Sea to defend their islands that China covets:

Japan's Defense Ministry will buy AAV7 amphibious assault vehicles made by BAE Systems , F-35 Stealth warplanes made by Lockheed Martin Corp and Osprey tilt-rotor transport aircraft from Boeing Co under the budget plan, said the document.

Other purchases would include Global Hawk drones made by Northrop Grumman Corp , mobile missile batteries, helicopters and other kit the military wants to defend island-dotted ocean territory stretching 1,400 km (870 miles) from the Japanese mainland almost to Taiwan.

Money would also be allocated to building and extending military bases along the island chain, the document added.

There is no doubt that China will not like these activities. Perhaps they will resist.