Posts Tagged ‘Strait of Malacca’

India’s Incremental Balancing in the South China Sea

September 29, 2015


INS Kochi.

By David Scott

Despite not being geographically in the South China Sea, India is increasingly being recognised as an actor in the balance of power in the South China Sea (Muni 2011; Puri and Sahgal 2011; Sakhuja 2011; Kaushiva 2012; Salil 2013; Majumdar 2013; Chaturvedy 2014; Baruah 2014; Chaturvedy 2015). The reasons for India’s involvement remain twofold – entwined geopolitical China concerns and geoeconomic energy security concerns (Das 2013; Scott 2013).

India’s Strategic Interest

At the government level the South China Sea has been classified as within India’s extended neighborhood for over a decade, for the first time in February 2004 by Yashwant Sinha the then External Affairs Minister. When formulated in the mid-1990s, India’s Look East Policy originally focused on economic cooperation in Southeast Asia channeled through ASEAN. However, a Look East-2 focus in the 2000s cast India’s horizons more widely across the South China Sea into the Western Pacific/East Asia, with more overt security consideration. Accordingly, the Indian Navy’s 2007 doctrine statement India’s Maritime Military Strategy defined the South China Sea as an area of “strategic interest” to India. This leaves India with interests to be gained, maintained and if necessary defended – primarily through the Indian navy’s unilateral presence and bilateral security arrangements. India’s Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Joshi made that clear in December 2012 when he announced that the Indian navy could and would be deployed to the South China Sea to defend Indian energy security interests there. By 2013, the increasing adoption of the Indo-Pacific as a strategic framework for India gave the South China Sea closer geopolitical relevance for India. Narendra Modi’s arrival in power in May 2014 saw his Act East readiness to strengthen India’s military and economic position in the South China Sea cutting across China’s own drive across the South China Sea (Chang 2015).

India’s “Balancing”

In international relations (IR) terms, India is hedging towards China; simultaneously pursuing economic engagement together with military balancing. A further two-level analysis is in play whereby there is some global China-India political cooperation with regard to restraining US unipolarity and replacing it with a more multipolar system, and with regard to restructuring some international economic institutions. However, at the regional level security competition between India and China is far more apparent. The South China Sea is an acute example of this regional level friction now being seen between these two Asian giants (Baruah 2015). Indian unease with Chinese assertiveness in the South China is why India has started to raise the South China issue at various regional settings like the India-ASEAN Delhi Dialogue in 2014 and 2015, the ASEAN Regional Forum in 2014, and the East Asia Summit in 2013 and 2014. Chinese actions in the South China Sea continued to attract Indian criticism in 2015; especially China’s Great Wall of Sand atolls to islands reclamation-militarisation project (Chaudhury 2015a), and China’s rejection of the Philippines taking the South China Sea issue to the UNCLOS tribunal (Valente 2015).

India’s balancing partly consists of internal balancing whereby India is building up its own military strength. This has been most effective in the maritime sphere with the creation of a blue water navy increasingly able to operate at a distance, beyond the Indian Ocean into the South China Sea. India’s projection of maritime power into the South China Sea is further underpinned by its build up of the Andaman and Nicobar Command, which functions as a Far East Naval Command (FENC) looking down the Strait of Malacca into the South China Sea. The inauguration in July 2012 of the air marine station at INS Baaz, the most southerly point of the Andaman islands, enables India to conduct surveillance operations into the South China Sea.

Admittedly, India is not really able to block China from appearing in the Indian Ocean, but it can respond by going into China’s backyard of the South China Sea, as an example of lateral pressure theory (Weimar 2013). The Indian navy has been deploying through the South China since 2000, generally twice a year, which has involved its own unilateral practicing, as well as bilateral port calls and exercises with local actors, particularly Vietnam. Such deployments attract Chinese criticism, as with the so-called INS Shardul incident of July 2011, where the Indian ship was supposedly radioed from nearby Chinese vessels to vacate these “Chinese” waters. India though continues to deploy into such disputed waters, and China continues to warn India about such appearances (Patranobis 2015).

India’s balancing also consists of external balancing whereby India has been strengthening security links with other countries who are similarly concerned about China. Such balancing is already noticeable in the South China Sea, primarily through strengthened military and maritime arrangements with Vietnam, and secondarily through strengthened military and maritime links with the Philippines. This China-centric balancing is also noticeable outside the South China Sea where India has established security partnerships with the US, Australia and Japan – with such wider partnerships starting to be applied to the South China Sea.

This range of external balancing is not classic Cold War hard explicit containment alliances, but rather represent new post-Cold War soft implicit balancing partnerships. Nevertheless, India’s strategic-military arrangements with Vietnam, the US, Japan and Australia are implicitly China-centric, with an unstated but nevertheless apparent China-focus, and with increasing significance for the balance of power in the South China Sea.

India’s Partners for the South China Sea

With Vietnam, India’s “diamond on the South China Sea” (Brewster 2009), India’s Cooperation Framework agreement of 2003 and strategic partnership proclaimed in 2007 has become strengthened in its military side, in the wake of China’s growing strength in the South China Sea. This partnership has been given teeth in recent years through military supplies, especially maritime, from India to Vietnam, which has attracted Chinese criticism (Bagchi 2014). Port facilities have also been extended by Vietnam to India at Cam Ranh Bay. The pace of India-Vietnam relations have quickened under the Modi administration (Thayer 2014), with a “pivot” (Karnad 2014) to Vietnam on the part of India, leaving an “axis” (Patil 2014) that is now implicitly China-centric. A significant development under the Modi administration is how the South China Sea has featured in their Joint Statements drawn up in President Mukherjee’s trip to Vietnam in September 2014 and the visit by Vietnam’s Prime Minister to India in October 2014. These Joint Statements’ formulaic reiteration of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and adherence to international law, are an implicit criticism of China. The October 2014 visit also saw a slew of increased military assistance programmes by India to the Vietnamese navy.

Geopolitically, Vietnam serves as a barrier to Chinese domination of the South China Sea, from where Beijing would be able to project power up through the Strait of Malacca into the Indian Ocean. From India’s point of view, Vietnam can put pressure on China’s southern flanks, and give China a two-front challenge. India’s “Vietnam card” against China in the South China Sea serves as some counterpart to China’s “Pakistan Card” against India in the Indian Ocean.

Geoeconomically, India seeks access to oil fields in Vietnamese-controlled waters. The problem has been that some of these exploration plots have been in waters claimed by China. India says it is not taking sides on sovereignty issues in the South China Sea, but yet its decision to sign deals with Vietnam in disputed waters thereby implicitly support Vietnam’s claimed position against China. This generated heated Chinese comments during 2011, with further fields in these disputed waters allocated to Indian exploration during the visit of the Vietnamese Prime Minister to India in October 2014. India’s energy involvement, via Vietnam, in the South China Sea continues to rankle China (Parashar 2015b).

In turn, India has moved into closer bilateral security links with the US, Japan and Australia. Of particular significance is how the South China Sea was a feature of India-US defence discussions in June 2015, when the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited India and further India-US defence agreements were initialled (Chaudhury 2015). It is also significant that the US Pacific Command (PACOM) is now openly egging on India to maintain its presence in the South China Sea, “the South China seas are international waters and India should be able to operate freely wherever India wants to operate. If that means the South China Sea, then get in there and do that” (Harris cited in Som 2015). India has also embraced closer security links with Japan, including bilateral JIMEX Japan-India Maritime exercises in the Western Pacific (in 2012 and 2014) and in the Bay of Bengal (in 2013 and 2015). Finally, India has embraced closer security links with Australia, including naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal in September 2015.

In turn, India has been moving into these Indo-Pacific trilaterals. The India-Japan-US (IJUS) trilateral was formally set up in December 2011, and has been “revitalised” (Kapila 2014) in the wake of Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. That mechanism already involving India in trilateral exercises with the US and Japanese navies in the Western Pacific (2007, 2009, 2013) and Bay of Bengal (2007, 2015). As part of its wider activism, the Modi administration also complemented its IJUS involvement with the India-Japan-Australia (IJA) trilateral set up at Foreign Secretary level in June 2015. This first IJA meeting was dominated by questions of maritime security, the South China Sea and desirability of holding trilateral naval exercises in the future. From an international relations point of view these Indo-Pacific trilaterals are further examples of what can be styled minilateralism, which is in-between bilateralism and multilateralism.


Certain developments would affect India’s role in the balance of power in the South China Sea, and which China would not welcome. A small but significant development would be if and when India starts carrying out such bilateral and trilateral exercises in the South China Sea with the US, Japan and Australia. Precedents for this are the exercise formats with them that India is already involved with in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific, and which those other three states have already conducted between themselves in the South China Sea in July 2011. Greater use of Cam Ranh deep water bay by the Indian navy would also be significant. A further development would be if and when India starts conducting fuller military exercises in the South China Sea with Vietnam. Precedents for India-Vietnam naval exercises are India’s SIMBEX military exercises with Singapore in the South China Sea that have been a regular biannual feature since 2005 (Collin 2013), and Vietnam’s participation in the 2010 MILAN exercises held by India in the Bay of Bengal. Finally, a further China-centric trilateral permutation with immediate relevance for the South China Sea would be the India-Japan-Vietnam format suggested by Panda (2014).

Admittedly, elements of engagement between India and China might develop some further momentum under the naval dialogue mechanism that was haltingly mooted in 2015. South China Sea matters would be an obvious agenda item for it, but there are little signs of that dialogue mechanism developing much impetus. Instead what is more likely is that India will increasingly impact on the South China Sea balance of power through its own increased presence and range of strategic security partnerships in the region. This is what IR realism would predict; exemplified in John Mearsheimer’s speech in Sydney where he forecast future balancing behaviour as being “certain” (Mearsheimer 2010: 390) between India, Vietnam, the US, Japan and Australia in the face of China’s regional rise. Five years on and this strategic geometry is coming to pass in the South China Sea, and in which India is doing its bit.

About The Author:

David Scott, is an ongoing consultant-analyst and prolific writer on India and China foreign policy, and on the geopolitics and international relations of the Indo-Pacific and Asia-Pacific, having retired from teaching at Brunel University in 2015.

This article was first published at E-International Relations Website on July 26, 2015 and it has been reproduced under Creative Commons License 3.0



Bagchi, Indrani. (2014) ‘India ignores China’s frown, offers defence boost to Vietnam’, Times of India, October 29.

Baruah, Darshana. (2014) ‘South China Sea: Time for India to mark its presence’,

RSIS Commentary, 225, November 17.

Baruah, Darshana. (2015) ‘Asia’s Nightmare: Could India and China Clash over the South China Sea?’, July 14, National Interest.

Brewster, David. ‘India’s strategic partnership with Vietnam: The search for a diamond on the South China Sea?’, Asian Security, 5(1): 24-44.

Chang, Gordon. (2015) ‘Clash of titans: India’s “Act East” Policy meets China’s “Maritime Silk Road” in the South China Sea’, Journal of Political Risk, 3(7), June.

Chaturvedy, Rajeev. (2014) ‘Is India making waves in South China Sea?’, ISAS Working Paper, 185, March 26.

Chaturvedy, Rajeev. (2015) ‘South China Sea: India’s maritime gateway to the Pacific’, Strategic Analysis, 39(4): 360-377.

Chaudhury, Dipanjan (2015a) “Chinese Military Bases in South China Sea Worries India,” Economic Times (Mumbai), March 26, 2015.

Chaudhury, Dipanjan. (2015b) ‘India, US discuss measures for South China Sea stability amid Chinese aggression’, Economic Times, June 4.

Collin, Koh. (2013)  ‘ASEAN perspectives on naval cooperation with India: Singapore and Vietnam’, India Review, 12(3): 186-202.

Das, Rup. (2013) ‘India in the South China Sea: Commercial motives, strategic implications’, China Brief, 13(20):14-17.

Kapila, Subhash. (2014) ‘South China Sea and the US-India-Japan trilateral revitalisation’, SAAG Papers, 5811, October 27.

Karnad, Bharat. (2014) ‘Vietnam as India’s pivot’, New Indian Express, October 31

Kaushiva, Pradeep. (2012) ‘India’s maritime interests and future engagement in South China Sea’, September 20.

Majumdar, Munmun. (2013) ‘India’s stakes in the South China Sea’, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 3(13): 242-247.

Mearsheimer, John. (2010) ‘The gathering storm: China’s challenge to US power in Asia’, Chinese Journal of International Politics, 3(4): 381-396.

Muni, S.D.  (2011) ‘The Turbulent South China Sea waters: India, Vietnam and China’, ISAS Insights, 140, October 11.

Panda, Rajaram. (2014) ‘Proposal for an India-Japan-Vietnam trilateral initiative’, C3S Paper, 2079, March 11.

Parashar, Sachin. (2015a) China in South China Sea and Indian Ocean: A quest for pre-eminence in Asia, Times of India, May 24.

Parashar, Sachin. (2015b) ‘No oil hunt in South China Sea without nod: Beijing to Delhi’, Times of India, May 31.

Patil, Kapil. (2014) ‘India-Vietnam Axis: energy and geopolitical imperatives’, NAPSNet Policy Forum, December 8.

Patranobis, Sutirtho. (2015) ‘Beijing tells India to lay off South China Sea’, Hindustan Times, June 05.

Puri, Raman and Sahgal, Arun. (2011) ‘The South China Sea Dispute: Implications for India’, Indian Foreign Affairs Journal, 6(4): 437-448.

Sakhuja, Vijay. (2011) Developments in South China Sea and its impact on India, Sakhuja (ed.), India-Vietnam strategic partnership, New Delhi: Pentagon Press, 89-103.

Saloni, Salil. (2013) ‘India, to the South China Sea and beyond’, Journal of Defence Studies, 7(1): 239–46.

Scott, D. (2013) ‘India’s role in the South China Sea: Geopolitics and geoeconomics in play’, India Review, 12(2): 51-66.

Som, Vishnu. (2015) ‘In South China Sea row, top US Commander roots for India’, NDTV, March 4.

Thayer, Carl. (2014) ‘India and Vietnam advance their strategic partnership’, The Diplomat, December 11.

Valente, Catherine (2015) ‘India backs PH in China Sea row’, Manila Times, March 11.


Weimar, Niclas. (2013) ‘Sino-Indian power preponderance in maritime Asia: A re-source of conflict in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea’, Global Change, Peace & Security, 25(1): 5-26.

China conducts air, sea drills in East China Sea

August 27, 2015


Photo: PLA helicopters fly over Beijing during parade rehearsal this week

China conducted large-scale air and sea exercises in the East China Sea on Thursday, state news agency Xinhua said, the third time in the last two months it has carried out such live-fire maritime drills.

The training involved more than 100 ships, dozens of aircraft, information warfare units as well the firing of close to 100 missiles, Xinhua said.

It did not specify where exactly the exercises took place.

China and Japan are involved in an increasingly bitter dispute over ownership of a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, called the Senkaku by Tokyo and Diaoyu by Beijing.

China has in the last two months held similar exercises in the Yellow Sea, and also the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and rejects the rival claims of Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan.

Photo: Chinese and Russian warships conduct live firing exercises during 2014

Separately, China’s Defence Ministry said China will hold joint military drills next month with Malaysia in the strategic Strait of Malacca, and will also hold training exercises, with Australia and the United States in Australia.

China’s rapidly modernising armed forces have been increasing their global reach and carrying out exercises in ever more distant locations, as the government seeks to protect its interests around the world.

But China has jangled nerves, especially in its territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas with a growing assertiveness.

(Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel)


China’s South China Sea claims are not supported by its own historical records — Beijing needs a history lesson

June 29, 2015

Philip Bowring says China’s own written records show that, long before its vessels became active, seafaring merchants from Southeast Asia and elsewhere ruled the South China Sea

By Philip Bowring
South China Sea

Is China starting down a path similar to that followed by Japan and Germany before 1945, when nationalism backed by new economic clout led to overconfidence and adventures which eventually proved disastrous?

The question needs asking in the context of China’s latest moves ultimately aimed at making the South China Sea into a Chinese lake. Beijing has been railing against a US overfight of a China-controlled islet being expanded with a massive dredging operation.

Mainland-based academics have rushed to condemn this “dangerous provocation”. Yet the brutal fact is that no international body or significant state recognises China’s claim that the sea and its islets and shoals are its territory; least of all neighbouring states.

The artificial expansion of the islets may be more for show than to provide any significant strategic advantage. They may even prove impermanent, should they be hit by monster typhoons. But they are part of a pattern which in 2013 saw Chinese vessels occupy the Scarborough Shoal and drive out Philippine fishermen. The shoal lies well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and had long been fished by boats from nearby Luzon. The seizure was an act of imperialism.

The US, like any other country, has a right to overfly territory which is not officially acknowledged as part of this or that nation. The same applies to features occupied by Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia. China’s claim that its reclamations are to improve security are viewed with derision by its neighbours. But those people do not count. They do not exist in the version of history by which Beijing claims the whole sea, stretching to the coast of Borneo, as defined by its nine-dash line, on the basis that the Chinese had always been in command of the sea.

Given that Hong Kong last week celebrated the Buddha’s birthday, it is worth recalling the relevance of China’s experience with Buddhism to the question of the sea. Far from showing Chinese maritime command, China’s own records show clearly that long before Chinese vessels first became active – during the Song dynasty – shipping between China and the Strait of Malacca, and even to southern India, was the preserve of mariners from Sumatra, Java, Borneo and south and central Vietnam, with Tamils and Arabs later becoming major players.

The leading centre of Buddhism in Southeast Asia was the Srivijayan capital, Palembang, in Sumatra, to which Chinese Buddhist monks travelled on Srivijayan ships to study, sometimes proceeding from there to Sri Lanka or India.

A 7th-century Chinese monk wrote of it: “There are more than 1,000 Buddhist monks whose spirit is turned only to study and good actions. They study all possible subjects like in India.” A Chinese wanting to study in India needed to go there “to learn how to behave properly”.

Chinese texts from as early as the 3rd century refer in detail to ships from Sumatra more than 50 metres in length and able to carry 600 people plus cargo. By the 6th century, trade between Srivijaya and ports around the South China Sea was very regular, with the journey to Canton usually taking 30 to 40 days. Other links included routes from Butuan in northeastern Mindanao to the Cham ports, such as Nha Trang. Javanese traders had a settlement near Manila in the 9th century, long before Chinese settled there.

The single largest driver of trade was Chinese demand for and supply of luxury goods, buying aromatics, ivory, spices and tropical forest products and selling silk and porcelain and other goods. For a thousand years, the traders were primarily the people of island and coastal Southeast Asia – the Austronesians whose seamanship enabled them to colonise the island world from the eastern Pacific to Madagascar. It was also an era where India was the main outside cultural influence on the region, spreading Buddhism, Hinduism, writing systems and kingship ideas.

Yes, this was a long time ago, but Chinese claims today are best refuted by China’s own written records, be they of Buddhist monks or in dynastic annals reporting trade missions and accounts of travellers to the southern lands. Chinese documents are the single most important source for the early history of maritime Southeast Asia and conform to evidence in more fragmentary Tamil, Javanese, Malay and Arab records.

Even though Chinese merchants and settlers in the region’s ports came to play a major role in commerce, they always shared these roles, whether with the Arabs, the Muslim sultanates and later the Europeans. China only twice briefly attempted to use force to impose its will on the maritime region, during the Mongol period when an invasion of Java failed, and briefly during the Zheng He voyages of the early Ming.

Zheng He

Communist party governments everywhere, not just in China, are notorious for rewriting history. But if Beijing wants to know why it feels surrounded by enemies, it should ask itself the reason: riding roughshod over the interests and identities of its neighbours, raising issues of “unequal treaty” borders and engaging in colonialism in Xinjiang and Tibet, by fostering Han settlement to undermine the ethnic identity of those once-independent nations.

Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator

South China Sea: China’s Pathway and The Starting Point of The Maritime Silk Road

June 20, 2015


In this series, Rudyard Griffiths, chair of the Munk Debates, Canada’s leading public-affairs forum, talks to renowned analysts and policy-makers about issues and trends that are just over the horizon

Robert D. Kaplan: ‘The South China Sea is to China what the Greater Caribbean was to the United States’

Why do you consider the South China Sea one of the world’s more important pieces of geo-political real estate?

The South China Sea is to China what the Greater Caribbean was to the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The United States became a great power, geopolitically, by dominating the Caribbean. Once it could do that, it could dominate the Western Hemisphere, and once dominating the Western Hemisphere, it could affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere, which was what the world wars and Cold War were all about.

The South China Sea is no less important for China. If China can gain dominance, it then can have access to the wider Pacific and, through the Strait of Malacca, into the greater Indian Ocean, which is the global energy interstate, bringing all the oil and natural gas from the Middle East to the population zones of Asia. So this is really big stuff. Also, if China can dominate the South China Sea, then it will, effectively, “Finlandize” countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, which would affect the entire balance of power in Asia.

Talk about this idea of Finlandization. Is this China’s grand strategy?

During the Cold War, Finlandization was a successful Soviet imperial strategy. Essentially, it allowed Finland to be democratic, free, but constrained its foreign policy, so that Finland could not join NATO and/or do other things that would undermine Russian interests. It was a cheap form of colonialism, in a way – unlike the expensive form, which was the Warsaw Pact from Poland south to Bulgaria, which ultimately failed. Finlandization, in the case of Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia would mean that these countries would remain nominally independent, but the parameters of their foreign policies would essentially be written in Beijing. This strategy would also bring China two or three giant steps forward to dominating Taiwan.

Why is China suddenly escalating tensions with its neighbours?

After the Second World War and during the Cold War, the nations of the South China Sea were internally focused. Japan, China and Vietnam all had their wars, Malaysia had its insurgencies. For decades these countries could not project power outward. That has all changed. They are now building large navies and air forces and, lo and behold, they now have active conflicts in terms of who owns what in the South China Sea. The other thing that’s driving this is that China, as we know, is no longer experiencing double-digit economic growth rates year after year. As a result, China’s going to face a more restive population at home, and one of the ways you deal with economic and political discontent is you dial up nationalism, and that is what they’re doing. So a more aggressive posture gives Chinese leaders more of a political cushion. Even autocrats are dependent on public opinion, in the 21st century.

Given its interdependence with China, isn’t it inevitable that America will back down?

Yes. What American policy has to do is steer between two extremes. One extreme is to try to prevent the Finlandization of the nations of the South China Sea, but the other extreme is to avoid a shooting war with China, because the U.S.-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world, and will be for the foreseeable future. So the U.S. has to defend a treaty ally, like the Philippines, but it cannot allow a country like the Philippines to lure the United States into a military conflict with China. It’s a very tricky passage, so to speak, to navigate your way through, but that is the challenge right now, especially for the U.S. Defence Department.

Is there a strategy here for the United States to marshal the nations of the South China Sea basin into an anti-China bloc?

The United States has to show that its navy is not going to withdraw, and may even ratchet up its presence in the South and East China Sea. This is not the time for any kind of a pullback in terms of our military presence in the region, because anything like that would indicate weakness. We have to show that we are prepared to push back against China, to a degree, without getting into a military conflict. The real challenge for the Pentagon is slowing down China’s transformation into the dominant military power in South Asia. Simply because you cannot prevent something from happening does not mean you cannot delay it for 10 years or 15 years. In a decade or a decade and a half, the whole world may shift. China may have an internal rebellion due to an economic crisis, or the nature of the Chinese system itself could change.

Is there a risk that future tensions could be Vietnam-China as opposed to U.S.-China?

It could. Vietnam is the most serious challenger to China in the South China Sea. The Philippines may be a treaty ally of the U.S., like Japan and South Korea, but the Philippines is a very weak institutionally and has little in the way of real military power. Vietnam, on the other hand, is a much stronger actor. Vietnam has a long tradition, going back hundreds of years, of conflicts with China. What Vietnam is trying to do is ensnare the United States in its power play with China by providing American warships with resupply capabilities along its South China Sea coast. Vietnam needs the United States as a de facto balancer against China.

Viet Nam General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong and Xi Jinping April 7, 2015 in Beijing. Vietnam News Agency

Most people think of naval power as some 18th- and 19th-century concept. You think it’s still the key to geopolitical influence?

Absolutely. In 2007, when everyone was engaged in counterinsurgency discussions and dirty land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I published a long piece in The Atlantic Monthly talking about the importance of naval power. Remember, we are in an age of globalization – and an age of globalization is an age of container shipping and an age where navies are very important to protect the sea lines of communication and commerce. Most human beings, the overwhelming majority, live near coastlines, so we know navies will be key to the future. Also navies and air forces, used as a combined force, can project power over large swathes of the globe. Ground forces, like armies or marine corps, are there really for unpredictable contingencies. It’s really your navy and your air force that make you a great power. The U.S. Navy is America’s primary strategic instrument, much more so than its nuclear-weapons arsenal.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


Related here on Peace and Freedom:


Crude prices plunge on diminishing Chinese imports — After Iran nuclear deal, Iran will double output in six months

June 9, 2015 – — Crude futures fell sharply on Monday as energy traders continued to react to the long-term ramifications of OPEC’s decision last Friday to keep its production ceiling above 30 million barrels per day.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, WTI crude for July delivery fell 1.00 or 1.70% to 58.12, extending a recent skid over the last week. U.S. crude futures traded between 57.88 and 59.12 on a light day of trading.

On the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), brent crude for July delivery dipped 0.69 or 1.07% to 62.62, falling for the fourth time in five sessions. The spread between the international and U.S. benchmarks of crude rose to $4.50, above Friday’s level of $4.23.

At a semi-annual meeting of its members on Friday in Vienna, OPEC decided to maintain production at its current level – a move which caused crude to spike roughly 1.5% on the session. While in Vienna, Iran oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh said he is optimistic that his nation could double production from its current level of 3 million bpd within the next five years if it can increase its crude exports exponentially.

Moving forward, energy traders will focus intently on Iranian exports as the nation works toward completing a comprehensive nuclear deal with Western powers later this month. Once a deal is reached, Iranian officials said at the meeting that it could double exports with six months of the removal of longstanding economic sanctions. An outflow of Iranian oil into the global markets is considered to be bearish for crude prices, which has been weighed down by a glut of oversupply in recent months.

Iran oil minister BijanNamdarZanganeh

Traders will also monitor a bid by Indonesia to return to OPEC. Indonesia, which suspended OPEC membership in 2008 when its import level exceeded its amount of crude exports, announced its intention to pursue full membership in the cartel at the meeting. The inclusion of the Southeast Asian emerging nation could help level the global supply-demand balance. Indonesia consumes around 1.5 million barrels of crude per day and is seeking supply agreements with OPEC members in order to import more oil, according to reports.

Also on Monday, crude prices slid amid disappointing import and export data in China. In May, the Asian nation’s trade surplus widened to $59.5 billion, up from $34.2 billion a month earlier. Exports fell by 2.5% on a year-over-year basis, while imports declined by more than 17%. In terms of crude, Chinese imports fell to 5.47 million bpd a decline of 26% on a year-over-year basis. In April, China became the world’s largest importer of crude. Chinese imports fell sharply last month, as the nation’s state-owned oil company drew from its enormous stockpiles while its tankers off the Strait of Malacca continued to horde cheaper crude.

Energy traders await the release of weekly U.S. crude stockpiles at the middle of this week for further indications on current supply levels. Last Friday, oil services firm Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) said that the number of oil rigs nationwide fell by four on the week to 642, the lowest level since August, 2010. It marked the 26th consecutive week of weekly rig declines. Though U.S. shale producers have been forced to slash drilling due to the lower price of crude, they have still maintained high production levels by keeping their more efficient rigs online.

The U.S. Dollar Index, which measures the strength of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, plummeted 1.09% to 95.34. offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.
Read more News on and download the new apps for Android andiOS!

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.

Read more:



China Sees South China Sea Occupation as a Necessary First Step To Become an Unquestioned Global Power

June 5, 2015


From Want China Times

An image showing China nudging into Philippine waters. (Image/CFP)

The US recently sent P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft to monitor China’s deployments in the South China Sea region and has said that the country may send planes within the 12 nautical mile contiguous waters of the disputed islands, according to a piece by Liang Fang, a professor at China’s National Defense University, published on the website of China’s .ationalist tabloid, the Global Times.

This has heightened tensions in the region, as all eyes are on how things will play out between the US and China, Liang stated.

The US is determined to maintain freedom of navigation in the Pacific and will likely attempt to acquire control of it, as a “17th strategic shipping route,” Liang said.

In February 1986, the US announced plans to control 16 of the world’s most strategically positioned shipping lanes, to establish itself as the dominant world power, Liang said. In the last 30 years, the US has deployed military strength to these 16 shipping lanes with naval bases and joint military exercises, asserting tight control, the website said.

None of these 16 shipping lanes are in the South China Sea however, according to Liang. In the Western Pacific there are four, the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait, the Makassar Strait and the Korea Strait. With a shift in US military strategy, tactics with regard to the shipping lanes have changed too, according to Liang. Strategic shipping routes include straits, tunnels and canals, as well as islands and reefs surrounding these routes and certain maritime territories, said Liang. The US Navy’s movements in the South China Sea region indicate that they have shifted from a tactic of controlling major straits to controlling strategic sea territory, said Liang. This makes the South China Sea the “17th shipping corridor” which the US hopes to control.

Controlling maritime territory is a lot harder than controlling straits, said Liang. Controlling straits only entails controlling the countries that have coasts on the strait, by establishing bases or forging alliances, allowing one to seal off the strait to enemy ships in wartime. Controlling sea territories, on the other hand, requires controlling the air and the sea. The US Navy has made a series of moves in the South China Sea, suggesting that it is willing to support its allies in the region, however, it is more keen to control the important shipping routes in the South China Sea, according to Liang.

The US Navy has been preparing to realize control of the South China Sea corridors for almost 20 years. In the 1990s, the US frequently sent Lockheed EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft on patrol missions in the region, said Liang. In recent years, the US has launched the “repivot” to Asia, deploying forces to Changi in Singapore to enable them to potentially blockade China and unite with its allies Japan and the Philippines against China, according to Liang.

There are three reasons why the US has chosen now to make these moves, according to Liang. The first is that it is concerned that China’s land reclamation efforts on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea will reduce the US’s projection power in the region. Liang said that the US believes that after finishing its construction in the region, China will then control it, a scenario they do not wish to see.

The second reason is that it wishes to get Japan involved in the South China Sea issue as well. The US is making much of tensions in the region because it wants Japan to deploy troops there, said Liang.

The third reason is that the US is eager to hit back at China for its undercutting of the Strait of Malacca, according to Liang, who said that China’s Belt and Road initiatives have broken through the US attempt to blockade the world’s second largest economy. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of the Belt and Road plan, is a particular bone of contention for the US, as this provides a route for energy imports to pass directly from the North Indian Ocean to China, which decreases the strategic importance of the Strait of Malacca, said Liang, adding that the US now places more importance on the South China Sea than the Strait of Malacca.

This makes the South China Sea a major strategic hotspot, which will decide the new world order, said Liang, urging China to continue its land reclamation activities, whilst continuing to maintain dialogue with US officials.


Liang Fang 梁芳



The Real Problem in the South China Sea: To Obama It’s A Game, To China and Others It Is Clearly a Bank Robbery

June 2, 2015


Peace and Freedom Commentary

Yesterday, the President of the United States told China to do whatever it want in the South China Sea — just stop “throwing elbows.”

The President seems to be watching a basketball game. Most of the rest of the world sees the biggest bank heist ever as China lays claim to a vast region of valuable resources in the South China Sea.

China may have even “thrown its last elbow.” The reason is simple: One year ago, China had practically no presence in the South China Sea. Today, China has military bases in the South China Sea — and the region is awash in a teeming school of Chinese fishermen.

China doesn’t need to flex another muscle, at least until President Obama retires and moves out of the White House.

But by President Obama’s choosing to do practically nothing to halt China’s bank heist in the South China Sea, China can forever more lay claim to all the petroleum, natural gas, fish and other natural resources in and below the South China Sea. Moreover, China has paved the first part of its new Silk Road, from China almost all the way to Singapore, with land based air assets to watch and protect its commercial lifeline.

China has created a Chinese military highway from the East China Sea, through the South China Sea, and all the way to the gateway to the Indian Ocean: the Strait of Malacca.

In Obama’s “game,” he can happily run out the clock and become the next “former President” cash cow like Bill Clinton.

But to Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore and others: they’ll have to shut up and accept China and its bank heist — and whatever China has planned for the next chapter of this global expansion, whether international law gets violated or not.

Just as Vladimir Putin confiscated Crimea and sent troops to Ukraine, Xi Jinping has built military bases on territory many believe is not even sovereign territory of China.

We should be happy the American flag still flies in Hawaii.

It should come as no surprise to anyone should China decide to “get closer” to Myanmar and make the next small step in the Silk Road.

John Francis Carey


General Sir Richard Dannatt condemns armoured vehicle transfer to Ukraine: Newly mobilized soldiers take part in training at the 169th training center of Ukrainian ground forces

This is not what you think: there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine. Photo: REUTERS

Hillary Clinton with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at the Apec summit, November 12 and 13, 2011. Since this photo was taken, experts believe China has been in the process of creating up to eight military bases in the South China Sea on tiny islets China may not “own” due to territorial disputes and claims from other nations. Hillary Clinton has been promoted to Democratic Party front runner for president. Yang Jiechi is now a State Councilor under Premier Li Keqiang and a man in China’s inner circle. Most foreign policy experts say U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have been no match for China.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, May 16, 2015. Kerry reported that he discussed China’s South China Sea behavior — but China has not shown any change as a result of the conversation.


Kra Isthmus canal would benefit all of East Asia: Global Times

May 21, 2015


Concept art for the proposed Kra Isthmus canal. (Image/CFP)

The question of whether or not China and Thailand will team up to build a canal through the Kra Isthmus, the narrowest part of the Malay peninsula in southern Thailand, has stirred up debate worldwide, prompting officials from both countries to come forward to clarify the issue, according to China’s state-run Global Times.

The proposed 102-km canal will cost US$28 billion and will allow Chinese cargo ships to pass into the Indian Ocean without having to navigate through the Strait of Malacca. This would change the geopolitical layout of the region, the paper said, given that 80% of China’s oil comes from the Middle East and Africa and 80% of this has to pass through the strait, where pirates pose a constant threat to China’s oil supply.

A May 19 report in Hong Kong’s Oriental Daily News stated that construction starting on the Nicaragua canal project in Central America last year and research into the possibility of a canal being cut through the Kra Isthmus signals China’s moves to assert itself in the world’s oceans. Almost 90% of global trade in the world uses ships to transport goods. The US Navy at one time had 16 major sea corridors, seven of which were in the Atlantic, two in the Pacific, two in the Indian Ocean and two in the Mediterranean. The 16 corridors connected the five continents and the four major oceans, not just for global trade, but also facilitating access for military action.

The six most important shipping corridors are referred to as the six keys to the world, as they controlled the world’s energy shipments. They are: the Panama Canal; the Strait of Gibraltar; the Suez Canal; the Strait of Hormuz; the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, which connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, and the Strait of Malacca. The majority of these shipping lanes are controlled by the US, giving it control over global trading routes. When the Nicaragua canal, a rival to the Panama Canal, and the Kra Isthmus canal, a rival to the Strait of Malacca, open, this will increase China’s influence, according to the Oriental Daily News. This is because the Kra canal will grant Chinese merchant and military ships unfettered access to the Indian Ocean. Singapore will also lose its geopolitical advantage in the United States’ strategic chess game. China also has a lot to offer Thailand, including a railway that would goods from Yunnan and Guangxi to travel by rail directly to the Kra canal, according to the paper.

Tsai Yi, CEO of the Taiwan-based Center of East Asian Integration Studies, said China hopes to link major ports in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean with the project to strengthen its relationship with countries which border the Indian Ocean, including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar. It hopes also to secure for itself safe routes to Europe and Africa under its 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiative.

Hong Kong media outlets have suggested that the US may put pressure on Thailand to forestall construction of the canal, according to the Global Times. The nationalistic tabloid said the West is suspicious when China takes part in large-scale projects overseas. Beijing’s talks with Brazil and Peru over a proposed transcontinental railway in South America, for example, have been attacked as “playing in the US’s backyard,” the paper said. In December 2014, a private Chinese company began construction on the Nicaragua canal, with an investment of US$50 billion, which was also criticized in Western media who questioned the necessity of the endeavor and said it would damage the local environment. Beijing’s planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will also see Kashgar in Xinjiang linked with the Indian Ocean port of Gwadar in Pakistan, which China has a 40-year contract to operate, including highway and rail links as well as oil pipelines and optical cable links.

Zhuang Guotu, a professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Xiamen University told Global Times on May 19 that the Strait of Malacca alone is not enough to satisfy the demands of the global economy, especially given the economic rise of East Asia. The addition of the Kra canal would be beneficial for the regional economy, he added. Zhuang said that certain Western media outlets have implied that the Kra canal project is aimed at reducing the influence of the US and Singapore, as they both control the Strait of Malacca, but in his opinion the Kra canal would benefit the whole of Southeast Asia, not just China.

Hong Kong’s Yazhou Zhoukan said that the canal would benefit China, Japan and South Korea in Northeast Asia, as well as Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia in Southeast Asia.

The current proposal is for a two-way 25 m deep canal measuring 102 km in length and 400 m wide.


Tsai Yi 蔡翼

Zhuang Guotu 莊國土


South China Sea: Singapore Urges ASEAN Nations To Sign An Agreement With China, Ease Tensions

May 19, 2015

SINGAPORE – Asean and China should “expeditiously” ink an agreement that is aimed at easing the tensions in the South China Sea, urged Singapore Defence minister Ng Eng Hen.

China and the claimant states should “expeditiously conclude” the Code of conduct, a pact that would forbid the first use of force in potential conflicts and reduce miscalculations at seas, he said.

This will also allow all sides to peacefully settle the disputes in the fiercely-contested waters based on internationally-accepted norms and legal frameworks, said Dr Ng on Tuesday.

He was speaking to navy chiefs and coast guard heads from the region and beyond at the opening of this year’s International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (Imdex) Asia at Changi Exhibition Centre.

China and Taiwan, along with four Asean nations – Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei – have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea.

As a non-claimant state, Singapore takes no sides in these maritime disputes, said Dr Ng, but the Republic is concerned that the risks of incidents and even conflicts have gone up.

Just last month, Chinese coast Guard vessels clashed with Filipino fishing vessels off Scarborough Shoal.

In his speech, Dr Ng said said such territorial disputes are among the maritime challenges that can be “potentially disruptive” to maritime trade routes in this part of the world and affect not only Singapore but global economy. The other two challenges are the rising threat of maritime terrorism, as well as, piracy and sea robberies.

Having successfully curbed piracy in the Strait of Malacca, Dr Ng said the littoral states in the region will “now need to extend our efforts to new hotspots in the South China Sea”.

This year’s Imdex Asia, which is in its 10th edition, has a record 23 navy chiefs and vice Chiefs attending it. The trade show, which is not open to the public, opened on Tuesday to projections that the Asia-Pacific would spend more than US$200 billion over the next two decades on new ships and submarines, making it second only to the United States in naval spending.


China’s global economic strategy is also China’s global military strategy — What’s the American plan?

May 18, 2015


By John Francis Carey
Former President, International Defense Consultants, Inc.

China’s global economic strategy is also China’s global military strategy — and its no secret to anyone.

President Xi Jinping and his top government team want to revitalize the “Silk Road” between China and the Middle East and onward to Europe. Along the way, China knows it needs to invest heavily in infrastructure development — including roads, rail, seaports, canals, military and logistic hubs and whatever else is required to feed Chinese industry the products they need, when they need them, at a price they can control or at least greatly influence.

From Northeast Asia near Japan and Korea, China sees a gigantic ocean highway down through the South China Sea, past Singapore and into the Indian Ocean. This Silk Road highway will require military bases, including modern fighter jet airports and sea ports for China’s growing and very sophisticated PLA Navy.

Wherever China sees a potential “choke point” like the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea or the Strait of Malacca, China is manufacturing alternatives to any potential disruption of the resource flow. In Thailand, China plans a canal that will relieve shipping of the dangerous transit through the Strait of Malacca. In the South China Sea, China is building up to eight fortress islands for air strips, naval seaports and troops concentrations.

This strategy has already started a South China Sea arms race, with Vietnam buying Kilo-class submarines and modern fighter jets from Russia, and the Philippines, long a nation with a military of little consequence, angling for more war supplies and equipment.

China’s strategy has also sparked a new phase of military rules for Japan — and even a revision to their decades-long adherence to their “pacifist constitution.”

Just as nations violated treaties governing shipbuilding and military forces in the past, Japan is already equipping itself large helicopter aircraft carriers, called the Izumo-class “helicopter destroyer” — a name carefully chosen to assure political correctness no doubt.

Vietnam and the Philippines have been the victims of rough treatment from Chinese fishermen for years. Now China is preparing to back up those Chinese vessels with with a system of combat air patrol (CAP) fighter jets, integrated surveillance and warning, missile defense and armed Coast Guard ships or PLA Navy Battle Groups.

Just a few days ago, China told Vietnam that the Gulf  of Tonkin was closed for fishing. While lawyers may wring their hands and complain that China has no legal right to make suck a closure, Vietnam is in no position to argue with its well-armed largest trading partner.

China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, and denies accusations its actions in its own territory are provocative.

Many fear that China will also be in a position to “close” air traffic over the South China Sea soon by activating and a long-threatened air defense identification zone or ADIZ, as it has already done over a part of the east China Sea.

China has already stated that they intend to control the skies and sea in a vast area of the South China Sea from islands they themselves have built.

As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton seemed totally unaware of this plan and the implications for all American allies in Asia. Secretary of State John Kerry and successive Secretaries of Defense have also seemed to stand by idle, or nearly so, while China has expanded its holdings in the South China Sea, all subject to arbitration in legal disputes over territorial sovereignty.

Hillary Clinton with the Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, at the Apec summit, November 12 and 13, 2011. Since this photo was taken, experts believe China has been in the process of creating up to eight military bases in the South China Sea on tiny islets China may not “own” due to territorial disputes and claims from other nations. Hillary Clinton has been promoted to Democratic Party front runner for president. Yang Jiechi is now a State Councilor under Premier Li Keqiang and a man in China’s inner circle. Most foreign policy experts say U.S. Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry have been no match for China.

But no matter to China. To China, ownership is all about who is there, not about some absent landlord’s deed.  And to make all this work, China is preparing to bring the “might” that will make their claims “right.”

The so called “salami strategy” or “cabbage strategy” of slowing slicing off one piece of small islet or coral reef at a time so as not to anger the U.S. or any ASEAN nation, has worked marvelously.

China’s Major General Zhang Zhaozhong has been one of the few Chinese to openly discuss the “salami strategy” or “cabbage strategy.”

And now we see China investing heavily in infrastructure projects to all the Silk Road feeder systems bound for China and export routes to send more Chinese goodies to buyers around the globe. China’s huge infrastructure development projects in India and Brazil, are examples of this effort just announced.

During this American presidential election season, each candidate should be grilled on his or her plan for handling all of this. The first question one might pose to American politicians and lawmakers is this: what is the plan to make American economically strong again? Because the U.S. cannot field military assets to do anything in the future world envisioned by China, unless an economic juggernaut backs up the military — and vice versa.


John Kerry Tells Everybody What He Has in Common with Abe Lincoln & Winston Churchill


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,141 other followers