#taiwan

Japan defence – change before you have to

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The Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) is scheduled to add two more vessels to the 452 (372 armed patrol) vessels she already has vs the Japan Marine Self Defence Force’s (JMSDF) 145 ships. Although in ultimate tonnage terms the JMSDF is bigger than the JCG (i.e. a Kongo class Aegis destroyer is 5 times the size of the largest JCG vessel),  Still Japan still continues to ramp up its coast guard fleet because it is viewed as less confrontational than deploying naval ships near contested islands such as the Senkaku Islands, where Chinese naval activity continues to increase.

This fiscal year the JCG will get access to a 212 billion yen budget (a 10% hike over last year of which 27% will be committed on surveillance around the Senkaku Islands). The JMSDF is part of the overall defence budget of 5.2 trillion yen.

Two new 1,500-ton JCG vessels with helipads will be deployed between FY2019 and 2020 from the coast guard’s Tsuruga Port in Fukui Prefecture, which is home to several nuclear plants. This is code for more JCG vessels required for duties around the contested waters due to increased China PLA Navy activity. From the 2017 Defence White Paper

“Since December 2015, Chinese government vessels carrying weapons that appear to be cannons have begun to repeatedly intrude into Japan’s territorial waters. Additionally, government vessels deployed to seas near the Senkaku Islands are increasingly larger in size, with at least one of the government vessels intruding into Japan’s territorial waters being a 3,000 t or larger-class vessel since August 2014. Since February 2015, three 3,000 t or larger-class government vessels have been confirmed entering Japan’s territorial waters simultaneously multiple times. China is also building the world’s largest 10,000 t-class patrol vessels, and one vessel was incorporated into the fleet in July 2016.”

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As CM has reported in previous tomes, The Japanese Air Self Defence Force has scrambled almost 900 times in 2016 to interecept Chinese PLAAF fighters, bombers and surveillance aircraft. That compares to 30 in 2008. Many of these intercepts have been over the Senkakus.

The Japanese Ministry of Defence has just turned 10 years old. It used to be an agency reporting to the PM’s office but now has its own minister that fights for budget and policy such has the defence map changed from passive to active deterrence. Japan is well within its rights to be concerned at the status of its changing defence priorities.

It isn’t just Japan. China is conducting live fire drills in the Taiwan Straits again as we write. It’s disdain for Vietnam and The Philippines and contested islands (Spratly & Paracels) mean that at some stage a boil will be lanced as America will be tested on its resolve to back up its allies in the Pacific. A dictator-for-life has time on his side. That doesn’t mean the rest of Asia or the US can be complacent. japan has got the message – change before you have to!

US airlines tell China to take a hike over Taiwan

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Despite the immediate and characteristic folding by in-your-face virtue signaling Qantas and other airlines to remove the word “Taiwan” from the airline in-flight magazines and websites, American airline leaders have decided to tell China to go take a jump saying it is a matter for governments, not airlines to discuss such foreign policy matters. Full credit to China for pushing the boundaries of how powerful the rest of the world thinks it is by the speed of which they roll over and play dead. It doesn’t take much to envisage when the Chinese authorities start to demand ‘real’ things. While leaders in Australia mock the activities of Xi in the Pacific or the Maldives by the irrelevance of the size of free trade agreements to China, they completely overlook the strategic importance of the naval ports China is linking together across the globe.

Of course trivial demands to change maps in inflight magazines on the surface is a backhanded way for the Chinese to prioritize landing slots but the action below the waves is clear. Start with tiny demands and ratchet up the volume and see where the breaking point is. Authoritarian rule at its finest. Where have we seen this before?

Sadly the principle lost on many is that those nations/airlines that “stand for nothing, fall for anything

Qantas gets a taste of its own medicine

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Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has had a taste of his own medicine. Forever a boss ramming social activism at shareholders’ expense down the throats of passengers and staff, China is demanding that the airline remove “Taiwan” off its maps and the airline is likely to comply. True colours. While happy to pontificate to others, Joyce falls into line when real dictators bark orders. So much for the social justice of Taiwanese clientele. Sold down the river without a fight.

Why didn’t Qantas engage the Dept of Foreign Affairs to officially complain about such a ridiculous request? Even if it is odds on that Foreign Minister Julie Bishop would chicken out of such an opportunity, it is a precursor at how China is happy to bully its neighbors around even on trivial things such as in-flight magazines. Then again why wouldn’t the Chinese do this if they know how quickly and easy they can get compliance?

Tyrannies don’t do diplomacy. And too many democracies don’t defend it.

What happens when you poke a Russian bear?

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As written earlier in the week, regardless of one’s views on the righteousness of any attack on Syria, Putin is being faced for the first time in a long time, a leader of a foreign nation (nations as it turns out) prepared to stand up to him. Obama fled the Syria battlefield after being given a two hour window when Russia first went to the aid of Assad. If that wasn’t the ultimate sign of a bully in the Kremlin it is hard to think of what is. While sanctions may have bitten to a degree post Ukraine and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines flight, Syria is essentially a testing ground for Putin to weigh up Western (specifically Trump’s) resolve. If we look at Russia’s response post the Syrian strike,

The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard…A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences…All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris…Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.

Kind of says it all really – Russia hasn’t been insulted. Putin has. He must have a glass jaw  like Trump! Two bullies flexing muscle. In a show down Should Putin wish to pick a direct conventional fight against 3 nuclear powers (explicitly mentioned), he knows that ‘mutually assured destruction’ is the very last option in the drawer and next to no chance of being selected despite all of the media beat up. On a conventional basis, Putin wins more battles by stirring up the hornet’s nests in other regions. Lending more support to Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Destabilize Saudi Arabia and antagonize Israel.

CM wrote,

It is worth nothing that Syria is Rosoboronexport’s (Russia’s military export wing) 2nd largest customer after Iran. Putin is sick of having the West try to remove his clients. Assad is key to Russia’s foothold in the Middle East. With an essentially pro-Iran Iraqi government and Syria as well as Hezbollah Putin has a geopolitical doormat from the troubled separatist states to Russia’s south to Lebanon.

Some arguments have been made about the risks of the American, French or UK strikes killing Russian troops or civilians on the ground in Syria handing Russia free will to attack its enemies. Scroll back to November 2015 when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian Su-24 fighter it claimed entered its airspace. Two Russian pilots were killed in the shooting and subsequent rescue. The Russians were incensed but President Erdogan is still in power and Ankara isn’t flailing after seeing its capitol turned into smoldering rubble.

This argument that the Russians weren’t given advance warnings of the attack is ridiculous. Had the Russian defence forces been on proper alert (they most definitely weren’t passed out behind their radar screens after a vodka binge) they would have detected the missile launches. Wind back to the 59 missile launch earlier last year against Syrian chemical facilities. We didn’t hear a peep from Putin. Why now? Of course he is incensed over the booting of diplomats on the nerve agent scandal but this is a showdown of ego.

Think of the long geopolitical chess board here. Should Trump have backed down on Putin’s threats, wouldn’t China’s Xi feel equally empowered to annex Taiwan by telling POTUS that he risks ‘grave reprisals if he meddles with Chinese sovereign territory’?

For all the initial snubbing of Trump by Macron on his historic election win in France, there is no way he would have gone in alone to attack a chemical facility without the guarantee of the military might of America. It is unlikely Theresa May would have done it either. So for all of the ‘unhinged’ lunatic rhetoric bandied about by the media, foreign nations don’t gamble their own sovereignty lightly, especially over something like Syria.

General Mattis has said they plan no further strikes at this stage. Does Putin order his forces to sink a US destroyer in the Mediterranean which launched those missiles? Highly unlikely. He does have the best weapon available to do that (the ‘Sunburn’) but sending US naval vessels to the bottom of the sea on a strategic strike would seem a big response to a targeted hit.

Let there be no mistake. There is a new sheriff in town. Russia has a bloody nose it didn’t think it would find itself. Putin miscalculated that Trump isn’t all Twitter-fueled bluster. Uncertainty in foreign leaders is always a risk for enemies. Trump has shown Putin he won’t be bullied like his predecessor.

Putin doesn’t want a hot war with America. The best way to strike at the US is like the last 6 decades. Undermine her at every opportunity. Supply her enemies. As mentioned before, if the Russians didn’t think it worth hitting back at Turkey for deliberately targeting its fighters, it is unlikely that Putin, no matter how ‘insulted’ he might feel will take a strike not aimed at Russians as a pretext to pick a fight with Trump. Putin has worked out the US president’s measure. He miscalculated. He won’t make that mistake twice.

For the media, running all the scare campaign stories is not only highly irresponsible (as it did over Yemen’s attacks on Saudi Arabia) but proving the lack of depth of analysis. They can beat Trump over the head all they wish but should note the actions of Macron and May following him into the region as a tacit approval of the US leader. Was he the madman they portrayed him as in the first place they would have stayed well out of it.

Watch for Putin’s response (unlikely but will threaten it will come when the evil Americans least expect) and think deeply about why it is important that the real despots (Putin, Xi, KJ-U, Erdogan) around the world no longer have the ability to exercise free will in knowledge that the worst they face is a slap on the wrist from the UN.

Sounds more like grounds for congratulation than censure.