Posts Tagged ‘PLA’

By Snubbing China in RIMPAC, US Plays a dangerous game

July 8, 2018

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Observers speculate the US is fortifying a coalition with an aim to contain China’s rising clout. If they are right, Beijing’s increasingly assertive foreign policy could prove one of its greatest diplomatic failures


China’s exclusion from – and Vietnam’s inclusion in – this summer’s Rim of the Pacific naval exercise (Rimpac) is not just a diplomatic snub – it’s the kind of slight that could have deep and dangerous geopolitical repercussions. The US-led Rimpac, which started in late June and lasts until early August, is a biennial military exercise often referred to as the world’s largest war game. This year, it brought together the navies of 26 nations for exercises spanning a huge swathe of ocean from the Hawaiian islands to southern California.

It offers a unique opportunity for militaries from Pacific Rim countries to train and work together to maintain peace and stability in the region. Also, the games are seen as a way of ensuring open access to important shipping lanes in the western Pacific’s increasingly contested waters.

China recently deployed its fourth-generation HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles to Woody Island in the Paracels. Photo: Handout

Washington has framed its decision to “disinvite” the Chinese navy from the exercise as a response to China’s militarisation of the South China Sea. In recent months, China has deployed electronic warfare equipment and surface-to-air missiles to the Spratly Islands, and it has, for the first time, landed a strategic bomber on Woody Island in the Paracels.

In the lead-up to the 2016 Rimpac, the Obama administration had considered disinviting China due to its construction of artificial islands in the Spratlys. The islets are contested by Beijing and six others, including Taipei, though an international tribunal has ruled against Beijing’s claims.

Snubbed in world’s biggest war game, will Beijing make waves in South China Sea?

This year’s games come amid rising US-China tensions. Last month, President Xi Jinping told visiting US Secretary of Defence James Mattis China would not give “an inch of territory” in the Pacific Ocean. Earlier in June at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Mattis said there would be “much larger consequences” in response to China’s installation of military infrastructure on disputed islands.

The Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Vancouver arrives in preparation for Rim of the Pacific military exercises at Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam, Hawaii. Photo: Reuters

By contrast, Vietnam’s first participation in Rimpac is a sign of strengthening military relations between former foes, as both Washington and Hanoi see each other as a counterbalance to China’s push for dominance in South China Sea, where Hanoi is also a claimant.

With China out and Vietnam in, the US is signalling a change of direction in its military relations. This gives diplomatic observers good reason to speculate that the US is fortifying a political coalition in the region with an aim to contain China’s rising clout and assertiveness.

Canadian troops take part in the Rim of the Pacific exercise at Red Beach Training Area, Camp Pendelton, California. Photo: Reuters

The US began hosting Rimpac in 1971 as a means of assuring allies the US withdrawal from Vietnam did not herald a withdrawal from Asia. From the US perspective, Rimpac brings together a constellation of allies to conduct operations in support of sustained US influence in the region. Most participants, including the UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, India and Australia, endorse the US assertions of freedom of navigation. Four claimants in the South China Sea – Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines (but not Taiwan) also participate in Rimpac.

Washington’s “snub” of China when it comes to Rimpac comes amid growing fears that smaller Asian nations cannot stand up to Chinese pressure and are unable to influence Beijing. It’s worth noting many of these countries were once in the hands of imperialist powers, including Chinese emperors, and endured brutal struggles for independence.

What’s behind Beijing’s South China Sea moves?

Washington wants to maintain the regional balances of power that have maintained stability under a US-sponsored security order. In recent policy statements, Washington has defined China as a revisionist power that intends to reshape the regional order and security arrangements.

The latest developments are a reminder that a confrontation between the US and China is increasingly possible. Washington and Beijing must decide how much risk they are willing to take to dominate the world’s most important sea lanes. But if Beijing’s increasingly assertive foreign policy results in the creation of a regional US-led, anti-China coalition, it could prove to be China’s biggest diplomatic failure in decades. 

Cary Huang, a senior writer with the South China Morning Post, has been a China affairs columnist since the 1990s


China quietly testing warfare assets in South China Sea

July 6, 2018
This Oct. 31, 2017 satellite image shows China’s installations on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea.

CSIS/AMTI via DigitalGlobe
( – July 6, 2018 – 12:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — China has been quietly testing its electronic warfare capabilities on its bases in the South China Sea, according to reports.

American television network CNBC reported that this is the first known use of such equipment since Beijing deployed electronic jamming equipment in the Spratly Islands.

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An electronic warfare unit of the Sanya Training Base of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted simulated offense-and-defense training, in a bid to comprehensively improve troops’ capability of setting up complex electromagnetic environment. ( Zhang Qiang, Zhang Yelong and Wu Yonghua)

The CNBC report was based on sources who have seen US intelligence reports.

Beijing’s electronic warfare assets in the Spratly Islands have the capability to confuse or disable communications and radar systems.

This move comes amid China’s installation of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs.

China’s coastal defense systems and electronic warfare equipment in the South China Sea further strengthen the country’s military portfolio in the region, the report said.

Beijing, on the other hand, have been insisting that it is not militarizing the disputed South China Sea.

“China is only building civilian and some necessary defense facilities on our own islands. That is the right to self-defense and preservation of every sovereign state,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi earlier said.

Aside from the Spratly Islands, China also has 20 outposts in the Paracel Islands, including Woody Island, its largest military headquarters in the area.

Beijing has built an airstrip, helipads and 20 hangars that can accommodate combat aircraft, J-10 and J-11 fighter jets, HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody Island.

The Chinese Air Force’s deployment of a nuclear-enabled bomber on Woody Island raised alarms as the bombers could reach almost the entire South China Sea.

The US Department of State withdrew its invitation to China in the biannual Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest multinational naval drills.

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J-10 fighter jet

China, meanwhile, accused the US of “hyping” the South China Sea issue and pointed out that US military presence in the region exceeds the total military strength of Beijing.

“We urge certain people in the US to give up all the meaningless hyping up surrounding the situation and do more in a responsible way to enhance trust and cooperation between regional countries and promote regional peace and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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Chinese bomber


Will the South China Sea Become a Chinese Lake?

July 4, 2018

Twelve days at sea on a French warship provide occasion to ponder what lies ahead for the disputed waterway.

Published on: July 3, 2018
Jonas Parello-Plesner is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 


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Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.


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Snubbed in World’s Biggest Military Exercise, Will China Make a Splash in the South China Sea?

July 1, 2018

Twenty-six nations are engaging in the massive US-led naval exercise known as RIMPAC. And China isn’t one of them


South China Morning Post

The resource-rich Spratly and Paracel archipelagos may be the main sticking points in the South China Sea territorial dispute, and this week the world’s two major powers were shadowboxing over the issue thousands of kilometres away in Beijing and the Western Pacific.

On the Chinese side, the fresh missive came from President Xi Jinping as he warned the visiting US Secretary of Defence James Mattis that while Beijing – a claimant to the contested waters – was committed to peace, it would not yield “an inch” of ancestral territory.

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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 

The Americans’ oblique salvo of sorts coincided with the beginning of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), a five-week multilateral naval drill from which the Chinese navy was ejected as a form of protest from Washington against Beijing’s military build-up in the South China Sea.

Billed as the world’s biggest maritime war game, the biennial exercise near Hawaii and the western Pacific Ocean features US navy vessels patrolling alongside warships from 25 countries.

The renewed, albeit low-key sparring between the two major powers comes as no surprise for veteran observers of the decades-old South China Sea dispute, but some say they were alarmed at hardening positions on both sides.

FA-18 Hornet jets aboard the US aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea. Photo: AFP

“Where it concerns South China Sea issues, the Sino-US divergences have widened,” said Singapore-based naval researcher Collin Koh.

The dispute is over control of waterways and as well as islands in the largely uninhabited Paracels and Spratlys, known in China as the Xisha islands and Nansha Islands, respectively.

Unlike China and competing claimants Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei, the US is not a party to the territorial dispute.

But Washington remains a major player in the decades-old contest because of its position that Beijing’s deployment of airbases, radar systems and naval facilities in the strategic waterway pose a threat to freedom of navigation of international shipping.

Forget the warships: Malaysian PM Mahathir’s peace formula for South China Sea

That stance has seen the US navy ramp up patrols – also known as “freedom of navigation operations”, or FONOPs – through the waters, which are rich in oil and gas reserves as well as fish. China views these American patrols as incendiary.

Beijing claims 80 per cent of waterways under its nine-dash line maritime boundary.

Its air force in May landed bombers on islands in the area, and satellite images show that China may have deployed truck-mounted surface-to-air missiles or anti-ship cruise missiles on Woody island.

Singapore’s guided-missile frigate RSS Tenacious arrives for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises at Joint Base Pearl Harbour-Hickam, Hawaii. Photo: Reuters

Observers say the situation could worsen with Britain and France set to join American FONOPs in the waters.

“About the only thing both powers can converge on … would be to avoid spinning the tensions out of control beyond the show of muscle by both sides,” said Koh, who is a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Koh and Western observers believe the US decision in May to withdraw China’s invitation to RIMPAC could prod Chinese leaders to rethink their position on the South China Sea.

China was invited to the last two editions of the drill and hailed the exchanges as an opportunity for “pragmatic cooperation” with the US navy and other participants.

What’s behind Beijing’s South China Sea moves?

In 2016, Beijing sent the missile destroyer Xi’an, missile frigate Hengshui, supply ship Gaoyouhu, the submarine rescue vessel Changdao and the hospital ship Peace Ark. This year’s 26 RIMPAC participants include fellow South China Sea claimants Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as China’s neighbours Japan and South Korea. Forty-seven surface ships, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel will participate in the exercises, which are expected to last until August 2.

Eric Sayers, an adjunct fellow at Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies, said revoking Beijing’s invite could be a “minor demonstration” to China that “they cannot disregard the patterns of acceptable behaviour in the maritime domain”.

A Japanese P-3C Orion arrives in Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercises. Photo: Reuters

And Greg Poling, another US-based observer of the dispute, said the move would be helpful for the US to push back “bad behaviour”, but warned “it’ll be a hollow gesture if not followed up by a real strategy”.

China, while sticking to its guns on the territorial dispute, has projected a relatively sanguine image following the snub.

Following Mattis’ two-day visit, the state-run China Daily newspaper struck a positive tone and did not mention the RIMPAC disinvite.

“The fact that the two militaries are willing to maintain open and honest dialogue speaks of the resilience and maturity of the two countries’ military-to-military relations, which are critical to the broader Sino-US relationship and to control risks,” the newspaper said in an editorial on Thursday.

Koh, the Singaporean naval researcher, said he was less relaxed because of the sheer intensity of military activity in the contested waters.

India’s actions in South China Sea will speak louder than its words

“I’m not that sanguine about the prospect of accidental or inadvertent use of force, caused by miscalculations at the tactical and operational level by local commanders, or simply zealots in the ranks who wished to take matters in their own hands,” Koh said.

The Chinese navy’s swift return to RIMPAC in 2020 could be one way to mitigate some of these risks, other observers say, as they emphasised the importance of frontline personnel meeting one another to break down mutual suspicions.

A recent draft US defence policy bill stated that China could be readmitted to the exercise if, among other things, it established a four-year track record of stabilising the situation in the contested waters.

China Ramps Up Military Exercises in the South China Sea — Introduces new weapons

June 15, 2018

China’s navy carried out drills in the South China Sea to simulate fending off an aerial attack, state media said on Friday, as China and the United States trade barbs over who is responsible for heightened tensions in the disputed waterways.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed concern during a visit to Beijing on Thursday over China’s efforts to militarise the seas.

His remarks came after a flurry of US activity in the region, including reports last week that US Air Force B-52 bombers had flown near disputed islands.

China’s navy carried out a simulated missile attack in an unspecified area of the South China Sea using three target drones making flyovers of a ship formation, the official army newspaper said.

The drills were part of efforts by an also unspecified training base to prepare for real-life combat against aerial targets after China’s leadership said some training failed to prepare troops effectively, the paper said.

The United States and China have frequently sparred over who is militarising the South China Sea, with Beijing blaming tensions on actions such as the “freedom of navigation” operations carried out by the US Navy.

Washington says such operations are necessary to counter China’s efforts to limit nautical movement in the strategic waterway.

A US Navy destroyer sailed through waters claimed by China in May just days after the United States uninvited China from a major US-hosted naval drill.

Critics have said these operations have little impact on Chinese behaviour and are largely symbolic.

Pentagon officials have long complained that China has not been candid enough about its rapid military build-up and its use of South China Sea islands to gather intelligence.

China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines all have competing claims in the South China Sea.



China Adds Advanced Missiles to South China Sea Islands

This photo shows an aerial shot of part of mischief reef in the disputed Spratly islands

This photo shows an aerial shot of part of the undeveloped islands in the disputed Spratly islands / Getty Images


China’s military has stepped up militarizing disputed islands in the South China Sea by deploying advanced missile systems on the Spratly islands, according to the Pentagon.

Defense officials disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that the militarization has raised alarm bells about China’s creeping takeover of the strategic waterway used for some $5 trillion annually in international trade.

The officials previewed Defense Department concerns detailed in the forthcoming China military power report. The annual report to Congress is expected to be made public in the near future.

“China is continuing its gradual deployment of military equipment to its Spratly Islands outposts in the disputed South China Sea,” said one senior official.

“These deployments involve the delivery of military jamming equipment as well as advanced anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile systems to the outposts.”

The most worrisome weapons are missiles.

“The missile systems are the most capable land-based weapons systems deployed by China in the South China Sea,” the official said.

The missiles have been identified as YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles that give the Chinese military the ability to hit ships within 340 miles—enough to target U.S. warships that frequently transit the waters in conducting freedom of navigation operations.

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The Pentagon has stepped up Navy warship passages near the disputed islands as part of a policy of asserting international freedom of navigation.

During the most recent operation May 27, two Navy missile ships, the cruiser USS Antietam, and the destroyer USS Higgins, Chinese navy vessels unsuccessfully attempted for force the ships out of the area.

Missile emplacements were first identified several years ago on the Spratlys by the Defense Intelligence Agency. At the time, the missiles assessed as very short-range coastal anti-ship missiles with ranges of a few miles.

The DIA, however, reported internally that the missile emplacements were built on the same infrastructure as could be used for longer-range anti-ship missiles, an indication China eventually planned to swap out the short-range systems and replace them with the more lethal weapons.

That appears to have happened with the recent deployment of the YJ-12Bs.

The air defense missiles were identified by the Pentagon as either HQ-9A or HQ-9B long-range surface-to-air missiles with ranges of up to 184 miles.

The HQ-9s are capable of shooting down aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and cruise missiles.

U.S. military forces recently flew two pairs of nuclear-capable B-52 bombers near the contested South China Sea in a show of force.

Two B-52s were dispatched from the Navy support base on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and flew close to the South China Sea on June 5.

Two days earlier, another set of B-52s, this time from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, flew to the Indian Ocean but did not pass over the sea.

On Wednesday, another two B-52s flew from Guam to the East China Sea, passing close to Japan’s Senkaku Islands north of Taiwan. China is claiming the uninhabited Senkakus as its territory.

The defense official said the missiles remain in place on the Spratlys.

Fox News reported recently that China appeared to remove air defense missiles from Woody Island, part of another set of disputed islands, the Paracels, in the northern part of the sea.

The South China Morning Post, however, reported this week that the missiles were back.

China is claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea based on vague historical map claims. The islands are claimed by several other nations, including Philippines and Vietnam.

The international Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines and against China’s expansive claims to own most of the South China Sea in July 2016. China has refused to observe the court’s ruling and continues to claim sovereignty of the sea.

China is building up military bases on a trio of Spratly islands located close to the Philippines, a U.S. ally in the region.

Fox News reported, based on satellite images May 9, that two batteries of HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles appeared from photographs to have been removed from Woody Island.

The senior official said the Pentagon is preparing to respond to Chinese military assertiveness in the South China Sea and elsewhere with a series of actions, the official said.

In addition to the missile emplacements, China angered the Pentagon by firing lasers at U.S. military cargo aircraft flying near the Chinese military base on the Horn of Africa at Djibouti.

The laser illumination injured the eyes of air crew members on two flights.

China also has been linked to cyber attacks, most recently a cyber intrusion against a Navy contractor engaged in cutting edge weapons research, including a new submarine-launched cruise missile.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis first outlined the Pentagon’s concerns about Chinese militarization of the islands during a June 2 speech at a defense conference in Singapore.

“China’s militarization of artificial features in the South China Sea includes the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, electronic jammers, and more recently, the landing of bomber aircraft at Woody Island,” Mattis said.

“Despite China’s claims to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion,” he stated.

To press the issue, Mattis noted that the militarization directly contradicted promises made by current Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping in 2015 that China had no plans to militarize the islands.

In response to the weapons deployments, Mattis said the initial response was to disinvite the People’s Liberation Army Navy from the upcoming Rim of the Pacific international naval exercises involving forces from more than 40 militaries.

“China’s behavior is inconsistent with the principals and the purposes of the RIMPAC exercise, the world’s largest Naval exercise, an exercise in which transparency and cooperation are hallmarks,” Mattis said.

Mattis announced in Singapore he plans to travel to Beijing soon as part of efforts to expand the dialogue with China.

The new Pacific Command chief, Adm. Philip Davidson, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in a written statement in April that the electronic weapons deployed on the disputed Spratlys include a variety of radar and electronic attack capabilities on Cuarteron Reef, Fiery Cross Reef, Gaven Reef, Hughes Reef, Johnson Reef, Mischief Reef, and Subi Reef.

“These facilities significantly expand the real-time domain awareness, [intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance], and jamming capabilities of the PLA over a large portion of the South China Sea, presenting a substantial challenge to U.S. military operations in this region,” Davidson told the Senate Armed Services Committee in written answers to questions.

The Chinese military bases on the seven islands include hangars, barracks, underground fuel and water storage facilities, and bunkers for “offense and defensive kinetic and non-kinetic systems,” he said.

With the weapons systems on the islands, Davidson issued this stark warning: “The PLA will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea-claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

Rick Fisher, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the missiles in the Spratlys could have been stored on Woody Island and moved south

“To deter China in the South China Sea it is necessary for the U.S. to base long range offensive ballistic and cruise missiles in that region,” Fisher said.

“If they cannot be based in the Philippines, we need to have them on ships, or quickly develop our own intermediate-range ballistic missiles to base on Guam.”

Fisher said Chinese Communist Party leaders “must be made to understand that any use of weapons from its South China Sea islands will result in the immediate destruction of its illegal island bases.”

Retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell said if the missile deployments on the Spratlys are confirmed it would represent a significant increase in the military threat to the region.

“The PRC’s ultimate objective is to drive the U.S. military out of Asia and replace it with a PLA that is able to force the restoration of what Beijing believes is their sovereign territory—the entirety of the Nine Dash Line in the South China Sea,” Fanell said.

The failure of the Obama administration to confront China has limited U.S. options, Fanell said.

“However, the use of force should not be discounted,” he said. “As we’ve seen with this administration’s use of ‘maximum pressure’ against North Korea, the same approach can yield results against the Chinese Communist Party.”

China’s New Aircraft Carrier Is Already Obsolete

April 26, 2018

But it’s still a powerful signal of Beijing’s ambitions in a post-U.S. Asia. And other new carriers could possibly follow….

China's sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)

China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)


China’s first home-built aircraft carrier, which was seen Monday being towed from berth, will begin sea trials imminently. When the new vessel enters service some time in 2019 or 2020, China will become the world’s second most powerful operator of aircraft carriers, with a grand total of two. It is a position from which it will never be dislodged.

Yes, France, Russia, and Brazil operate a carrier each; Italy has a couple of small carriers; and the United Kingdom is rebuilding a respectable two-ship fleet, as is India. Other countries, such as Japan and Australia, operate several helicopter carriers, though not fixed-wing aircraft. But China won’t stop at two, nor will it remain satisfied with the inferior Soviet-derived design that was seen Monday. (The first carrier of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLA Navy, is a Soviet-era ship purchased half-finished from Ukraine.)

There are rumors that China’s next ship is already being built, and although it will be smaller than the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz-class and probably not nuclear-powered, in most other respects it will resemble an American supercarrier. The follow-on ships will be better still. No nation other than the United States has that kind of ambition, and it will give China unquestionably the second-most powerful navy in the world — though admittedly one still a very, very long way behind the U.S. fleet.

But there’s a mystery at the heart of China’s ambitious aircraft carrier program, because over the course of its immense naval modernization effort of the last two decades, China has put so much effort into making aircraft carriers obsolete.

China has acquired dozens of submarines, fleets of strike aircraft, and missiles that can be fired from the air, land, sea, and under the sea, all with one purpose: to make it excessively dangerous for large surface ships to operate near China’s coast. China has even invented an entirely new class of weapon — the anti-ship ballistic missile — that has been dubbed a “carrier killer.”

So why is China’s navy, the very institution that has made America’s carrier fleet in the Pacific so vulnerable, now investing in its own carrier fleet? It has surely occurred to the Chinese that the United States will respond to the PLA’s carriers just as China has done to America’s. In fact, it’s already happening. The U.S. Defense Department is now testing a stealthy long-range anti-ship missile that is almost certainly a reaction to the dramatic growth of China’s surface fleet.

So is China making a big mistake? Is the aircrafft carrier program a folly driven by the navy brass, with no clear strategic purpose?

We shouldn’t dismiss that possibility. In fact, that may be exactly how China’s carrier program started. In early 2015, the South China Morning Post published a series of articles revealing the extraordinary pre-history of China’s carrier program. In the mid-1990s, a small group of entrepreneurial PLA Navy officers enlisted the help of Hong Kong businessman Xu Zengping to purchase the hull of a half-finished Soviet-era carrier from Ukraine on the public pretense that it would be rebuilt as a floating casino. Incredibly, the officers told Xu that this initiative had no official backing from Beijing. They were making a potentially transformative arms purchase on their own initiative.

The carrier program has clearly grown since those beginnings and has much further to grow still, so it is safe to assume that the Chinese leadership has now embraced it and has a specific plan in mind for its growing fleet. What could that plan be?

China is a great power with a huge economy. In fact, a recent Australian government report estimates that by 2030, the Chinese economy will be worth $42 trillion versus $24 trillion for the United States — in other words, in less than 15 years’ time China’s economy could be almost double the size of America’s.

No country of that size would accept that it should remain strategically subordinate to another great power in its own backyard, and China certainly doesn’t. Beijing already wants to lead in Asia, and that means having a powerful military with the ability to project power over long distances. For China to become Asia’s strategic leader, it will need to push the United States out. So maybe the carrier fleet is a frontal assault on the core of U.S. power in the Pacific, an attempt to build a force capable of ending America’s naval dominance with a fleet that could overwhelm the United States in an arms race or, if necessary, defeat it in a Midway-style battle.

But even for a country as big as China, building a fleet of that size and capability is a formidable and massively expensive challenge. At the current pace of modernization, it could take decades to build such a fleet, particularly if the United States and its allies respond by improving their own capabilities. And that’s not to mention the heightened risk of a catastrophic great-power war.

So here’s an alternative explanation: China’s carrier-centered navy is not designed so much to challenge U.S. maritime supremacy as to inherit it. China may be betting that the United States won’t need to be pushed out of Asia, at least not by a frontal challenge to its naval power. Rather, the United States will slowly withdraw of its own accord because the cost of maintaining that leadership is rising so dramatically. Consider America’s defense commitment to Taiwan. Before China’s massive investment in anti-ship capabilities, the United States could safely sail its carrier through the Taiwan Strait, and its ability to defend Taiwan remained unquestioned. Now, the United States would be at serious risk of losing one or two carrier battle groups in any confrontation over Taiwan. The cost of defending South Korea has risen steeply, too, with North Korea close to deploying a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach cities on the continental United States, if it hasn’t already.

As the costs of U.S. military leadership in Asia rise, questions about why the United States needs to maintain that leadership become louder. America’s military presence in Asia made sense in the Cold War, but it is much harder to justify now.

If China inherits U.S. leadership in Asia, it won’t need a fleet as big as America’s. Some experts predict China will build just six carriers, quite enough to cement its leadership in a post-American Asia. And that’s when China’s carrier fleet will really come into its own, for although aircraft carriers are increasingly vulnerable to sophisticated anti-ship weapons, America has demonstrated that they are incredibly useful when you have command of the oceans.

That’s why China’s new fleet is such bad news for the small Southeast Asian nations in particular. In a post-American Asia, larger powers such as South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Australia have a fighting chance of resisting Chinese coercion if they invest more heavily in their own defense capacities. That isn’t an option for smaller powers, particularly as they enter China’s economic orbit via initiatives such as the Belt and Road.

The Chinese aircraft carrier about to put to sea is no match for the U.S. Navy, but that should bring little comfort to the United States and its Asian allies. Indeed, China may be betting that it will never have to confront the U.S. fleet and that it can prepare for the day the Navy sails back to home shores.

Correction, April 25, 2018: China’s first home-built aircraft carrier will begin sea trials imminently. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that it had already set sail. 

Sam Roggeveen is a senior fellow at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. He is the founding editor of the Interpreter and was previously a senior analyst in Australia’s peak intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments.

Foreign Policy:

China’s Second Aircraft Carrier Going to Sea For The First Time

April 23, 2018

MILITARY personnel around the world have been put on high alert after China revealed a second ocean aircraft carrier which has been sent out for testing.

By Sean Martin

Liaoning GETTY

Liaoning was China’s first aircraft carrier

The revelation means China will have two fully functioning aircraft carriers are capable of projecting firepower well beyond their borders in case of all out war.

The ship has been dubbed as Type 001A (CV-17) and is reverse engineered from a modified version of an aircraft carrier bought from Ukraine in 1998.

The carrier had been supposed to be turned into a casino, but once the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) got its hands on it, the army experimented with to find out the strengths and weaknesses.

Type 001A is now on its way to a designated testing zone in the Bohai sea which, until April 28, was a no-go zone.

Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator, told the state-operated Global Times: “The first sea trials of China’s second aircraft carrier, built at the Dalian shipyard, are likely to take place in the Bohai Sea and Yellow Sea to test its power and design.”

China now has two aircraft carriers in its fleet following the launch of the Liaoning in 2012.

However, two more are on the way, according to state reports, which has caused the likes of the US, South Korea and Japan on full alert.

China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) earlier this year posted on its website plans to “speed up the process of making technological breakthroughs in nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, new-type nuclear submarines, quiet submarines, maritime unmanned intelligent confrontation systems, maritime three-dimensional offensive and defensive systems, and naval warfare comprehensive electronic information systems”.

However, CSIC later removed all references to nuclear aircraft carriers.

The US currently has 10 aircraft carriers in operation, and China hopes to catch up in due course, with at least six active carriers by 2030.

Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said: “In the future, China’s national interests will continue to expand overseas.

“Without a fleet of large nuclear-powered vessels, the Chinese navy cannot sail for a long time to faraway waters.”


China’s new aircraft carrier may start sea trials this week

April 23, 2018

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is expected to start sea trials

Liaoning maritime authorities have cordoned off areas in the northeast

South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 7:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 April, 2018, 9:25am

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is expected to start sea trials imminently,

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is expected to start sea trials imminently, a source close to the navy said, amid what analysts say is growing external pressure to push forward its development.

The Type 001A aircraft carrier’s maiden sea trial could take place this week, possibly coinciding with the PLA Navy’s 69th anniversary on Monday depending on weather and ocean conditions, according to the source.

The Liaoning Maritime Safety Administration announced on Friday that three areas in the northeastern Bohai and Yellow Sea would be cordoned off for military activities from April 20 to 28. The restricted areas are close to the shipyard in Liaoning province where the new carrier is being built.

A main engine run was conducted on Tuesday, indicating sea trials were about to start, said another source who witnessed the engine test.

The aircraft carrier is expected to enter service later this year, 12 months ahead of schedule, which one naval expert put down to a growing sense of urgency as rivalry between China and the United States intensifies.

 The aircraft carrier is not expected to sail far on its first voyage and could stay within Bohai Bay. Photo: ImagineChina

Another military source told the South China Morning Post earlier that the trial would test the ship’s basic functions, including power, damage control and radar and communication systems, as well as checking for leakage.

But the carrier is not expected to sail far on its first voyage, the source said, and it may just stay within Bohai Bay.

Liu Zheng, chairman of Dalian Shipbuilding Industry, confirmed last month that the new aircraft carrier was ready to start sea trials.

The 70,000-tonne Type 001A was launched in April last year and is expected to join the navy as early as the end of this year, well before the original target of 2019.

The new warship is an upgrade to the Type 001 Liaoning, China’s only operational aircraft carrier, a retrofitted Soviet-era Admiral Kuznetsov-class multi-role vessel.

But the source close to the navy said it was far “too early to estimate” when the new ship would be combat-ready.

It took nearly six years for the Liaoning to become a fully combat-ready battleship after it joined the navy in 2012, mainly because it lacked adequately trained crew members and commanders.

The Liaoning conducted intensive ocean drills last week, similar to those carried out by the US Navy, after taking part in the PLA’s biggest-ever naval parade off the coast of Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

It also passed through waters south of Taiwan on its way to carry out the military exercises in the Western Pacific, the latest in a series of drills that self-ruled Taiwan has criticised as “intimidation”.

The Liaoning is mainly used as a training vessel, but the new Type 001A – which will be able to carry up to 35 aircraft and will weigh 70,000 tonnes when fully loaded – is expected to be combat-ready.

“There is growing external pressure for China to speed up the development of its aircraft carrier so that it is the main force of the navy, especially since the US has increased its deployment in Asia,” said Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

“But China is still 10 to 20 years behind the US in this competition.”

The latest US carrier – the USS Gerald R Ford – weighs roughly 100,000 tonnes and can hold more than 75 aircraft.

China carries out aircraft carrier drills in Pacific in attempts to intimidate Taiwan, and perhaps the U.S.

April 21, 2018


© AFP/File | China’s sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, took part in military drills Friday, the Chinese navy said, ramping up tensions with Taiwan

BEIJING (AFP) – China has carried out aircraft carrier drills in the Pacific, its navy said Saturday, ramping up tensions with Taiwan over its military exercises in the sensitive region.Beijing’s sole aircraft carrier and two destroyer ships carried out “offensive and defensive drills to test their combat muscle” on Friday, China’s navy said on its official microblog site on Weibo.

The exercises took place in an area east of the Bashi Channel, which runs between Taiwan and the Philippines, it said.

China sees democratically-governed Taiwan as a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force.

In Beijing’s latest military drills, photos showed J-15 fighters waiting to take off from the Liaoning aircraft carrier.

The Jinan and Changchun destroyer ships also participated in the training.

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Taiwan has accused China of “saber rattling” after Chinese bombers and spy planes flew around Taiwan Thursday, and the Chinese navy conducted live-fire drills off the Taiwan Strait a day earlier.

“China has deliberately manipulated (the exercise) to pressure and harass Taiwan in an attempt to spark tensions between the two sides and in the region,” Chiu Chui-cheng of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council told a regular briefing Thursday.

“(We) will never bow down to any military threat and incentive.”

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Beijing has stepped up military patrols around Taiwan and used diplomatic pressure to isolate it internationally since pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen took office.

Chinese President Xi Jinping observed the navy’s largest-ever military display this month in the South China Sea, which involved 76 fighter jets and a flotilla of 48 warships and submarines.

Beijing has also been angered by Washington’s arms sales to Taipei, and China protested last month after President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing top-level US officials to travel to Taiwan.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 but maintains trade relations with the island.


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Helicopters hold live-fire drills in southeast China

April 19, 2018


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BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese combat helicopters conducted live-fire drills with missiles off the country’s southeast coast, state media said Thursday, without confirming whether the exercises took place in the sensitive Taiwan Strait.The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) exercise took place Wednesday and involved various types of helicopters that tested “all-weather operational capability of the air force at sea,” the official Xinhua news agency said.

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State broadcaster CCTV showed footage of helicopters firing missiles at distant objects in the water.

The reports did not say exactly where the exercises took place, but they occurred on the same day that China conducted live-fire drills in the Taiwan Strait.

Beijing had announced the Taiwan Strait drills last week, further ramping up tensions following stark warnings against any independence moves by the self-ruled island, which China sees as its sovereign territory.

Vessels had been ordered to avoid a certain area off the Chinese mainland’s coast, triggering speculation that a flotilla spearheaded by China’s sole aircraft carrier would take part in the exercise.

But Taiwan’s defence ministry said Wednesday that the drills only involved land-based artillery conducting “routine” shooting practice, accusing Beijing of exaggerating its plans as a form of “verbal intimidation and sabre-rattling”.

The drills coincided with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to Swaziland, one of Taipei’s few remaining international allies.

Beijing has stepped up military patrols around Taiwan and used diplomatic pressure to isolate it internationally since Tsai took office.

China sees the democratically-governed island as a renegade part of its territory to be brought back into the fold and has not ruled out reunification by force.

Beijing has also been angered by Washington’s arms sales to Taipei, and China protested last month after President Donald Trump signed a bill allowing top-level US officials to travel to Taiwan.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979 but maintains trade relations with the island.