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North Korean media condemns U.S.-Asian military alliance

February 15, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Korea News Service (KNS), Tokyo, citing North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang.
 

U.S. – Japan – S. Korea Triangular Military Alliance Slashed
©  KCNA
February 14, 2011

Pyongyang, February 14 (KCNA) — The need to foil a scheme to knock into shape the criminal U.S.-Japan-south Korea triangular military alliance is urged by a bylined article of Rodong Sinmun Monday. It is also essential for ensuring peace and security of Asia and the rest of the world and building a new independent and prosperous Asia, the article added.

Citing evermore undisguised moves of the U.S., Japan and south Korea to establish the dangerous triangular military alliance for aggression, the article went on:

It is a task common to the people of Asia and the rest of the world to frustrate the U.S. moves to build up the alliance.

This alliance is fraught with the danger of invasion and a war.

Its first target of attack is the Korean Peninsula, a top-priority task in carrying out an immediate task of the U.S. war strategy.

The situation on the peninsula is rendered so grave due to the enemies’ frantic moves for invasion that a war may break out there any moment. A war in Korea is bound to spread to Asia and the rest of the world or may even turn into a nuclear war. This will naturally plunge Asia and the rest of the world into a disastrous war and a nuclear holocaust again.

The U.S. seeks to put the Asian region under its domination and control by putting the triangular military alliance into force. Japan attempts to take the advantage of the U.S. Asia strategy for aggression and become a leader of Asia. The enemies’ criminal ambition to set up the alliance is becoming a grave threat to the sovereignty, peace and security of Asian countries.

It is a sacred cause of protecting sovereignty, peace and security of Asian countries and an urgent requirement of the times at present to smash the moves to build up the triangular military alliance.

[End.]

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Categories: DPRK, JAP, S.KOR, USA

Russia to boost Kuril defense to ward off war

February 11, 2011 Comments off

The following analysis is reprinted with permission from RIA Novosti, Moscow.
 

Russia to boost Kuril defense to ward off war
©  RIA Novosti
By Ilya Kramnik
February 11, 2011

Russia’s unresolved conflict with Japan over the Kuril Islands, which has been simmering since WWII, may reach a boiling point now that Russian authorities are set to go ahead with their plan to build up the disputed territory’s defense potential.

The plan, unveiled by President Dmitry Medvedev and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov as part of a comprehensive development program for Russia’s Pacific Coast, envisages, among other things, the deployment of modern armaments to defend the country’s eastern borders against a hypothetical military attack.

Historical parallels

The Kuril dispute is, in a sense, similar to the one Britain had with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. This latter conflict ended in a brief war, preceded by years of diplomacy and numerous attempts to implement joint economic projects. Argentina’s government had used the Falkland issue all along as a tool for shifting public attention away from domestic problems and onto a struggle against an external enemy.

It would be wrong to draw any direct parallels between today’s Japan and the Argentina of the 1950-1980s. But in the rapidly changing world, the South Kuril Islands, referred to by the Japanese as the Northern Territories, may well be chosen one day as a soft target by Russia’s eastern neighbor, seeking to vent out aggression.

The archipelago’s attractiveness as a politicking tool will become more apparent to Tokyo if Moscow continues to drag its feet on the upgrading and expansion of the Russian Pacific Coast’s economic and military infrastructure. The defense capabilities of that area could be enhanced by sending in new warships and aircraft, building airfields and launching grounds, and, most importantly, by deploying competent personnel who could remain on the ground on a permanent basis rather than working under seasonal, back-to-back schemes.

Analyzing the developments that led to the Falkland war, one can say in retrospect that the Argentine government’s decision to launch a military operation was prompted by a dramatic weakening of Britain’s armed forces, notably the Royal Navy, in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. The British had by then written off most of their ageing big-sized warships without replacing them with new vessels, and this weakened the country’s aircraft carrier fleet. As a result, the Navy found itself without modern aircraft carriers, and had to make do with ships designed to carry aircraft with vertical takeoff only.

Russia’s defense arsenal in the Far East

Similarly, Russia’s defense arsenal is not at its strongest these days. In conventional armaments, Japan now enjoys numerical supremacy over the Russian Far Eastern forces, and it also boasts a higher percentage of modern hardware in the navy, the air force, and the army.

In the Kuril Islands, homeland defense relies on a single machine gun artillery division (incidentally, this is the only division remaining in the country’s ground forces, with all the others already reconfigured into brigades). But this unit can hardly provide efficient defense on its own, without any support from AF, ABM, and Navy forces.

Clearly, the deployment of additional service personnel in the Kuril Islands will not make the Russian Pacific Coast better protected against a potential military attack. It is a qualitative change that needs to be brought about.

It is vitally important to improve the archipelago’s infrastructure, which would enable the Air Force and the Navy to act more effectively in the Pacific area.

Russia’s ageing Pacific Fleet, where most of the ships currently in service will have to be scrapped in the next 15 years, needs urgent refitting. The fleet has already been pledged two French-made Mistral ships, but that is not enough. It also needs new corvettes and frigates to perform tasks ranging from escorting bigger vessels to combating submarines and providing support for paratroopers.

Another key priority is to enhance the Air Force presence off Russia’s Pacific Coast and to restore the permanent deployment of a combat jet fleet on the Sakhalin Island. This will make Russia better equipped for a prompt response.

The construction of a forward-based airfield in the Kuril Islands would let us have a squadron of jet fighters on standby. But there is no point in creating a permanent air base here, since such a base will be too vulnerable to potential enemy attacks.

The deployment of multifunctional and combat helicopters is one more possibility to consider.

Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war)

All these plans to reinforce the Kuril Islands’ defense potential should be translated into reality so as to discourage the most radical of Japanese politicians from contemplating regaining the possession of the South Kuril Islands through the use of military force.

Luckily for Russia, there is no imminent threat. At the moment, Japan seems to be more concerned about the intra-Korean conflict, which puts its national security in jeopardy, as well as by the growing military might of its old arch rival, China.

A dramatic buildup of Russia’s defense capabilities in the Kuril Islands could make Japanese politicians put this long-running territorial dispute on the backburner and concentrate on more urgent challenges to its homeland security.

It should be kept in mind that no military arsenal, however strong, can provide adequate national defense unless there is a political will. Yet, even relatively modest armed forces can make a difference if political and military leaders are really determined to uphold the interests and the dignity of their country.

In 1982, the U.K. managed to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine occupation. That British campaign proved a success thanks primarily to the tough line maintained by Margaret Thatcher and her government.

The Russian authorities are facing a different challenge today, one that is simpler and trickier at the same time. They need to demonstrate – without resorting to military force – their determination to uphold Russia’s interests and its territorial integrity. And doing so in such a way that no ill-wisher would want to put that resolve to test.

[End.]
__________

Ilya Kramnik is RIA Novosti’s military commentator. The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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Categories: ARG, JAP, RUS, UK

RUSSIAN MEDIA: USA’s 2011 National Military Strategy: We’ve got the power!

February 10, 2011 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from Pravda, Moscow.
 

USA’s 2011 National Military Strategy:  We’ve got the power!
©  Pravda.ru
By Sergei Balmasov
February 10, 2011

The USA has unveiled the 2011 National Military Strategy for the first time in seven years. The strategy, as usual, serves for the preservation of the U.S. predominance in the world. The appearance of the document is based on recent major changes on the planet. The authors of the strategy pointed out a number of challenges for the United States in particular and for the Western civilization in general.

U.S. strategists claimed that the shortage of resources in the world may trigger territorial disputes, which poses a direct threat to American interests. They are also concerned about the fact that the national debt of the United States “poses a significant national security risk.”

All of that is aggravated with a whole list of unsolved problems, which have become even more serious during the recent years. First and foremost, “the world’s preeminent power” has not been able to defeat terrorism and extremism. The war in Afghanistan continues, and the fire of Afghan unrest is spreading into neighboring Pakistan. The strategists of the U.S. national security wrote that terrorists had nested on the Arabian Peninsula, in the countries of north-western Africa and in Somalia.

Nevertheless, the authors of the document said: “We will be prepared to find, capture, or kill violent extremists wherever they reside when they threaten interests and citizens of America and our allies.” Therefore, it is not ruled out that the world will soon witness the USA launching another military adventure in the above-mentioned territories.

Secondly, the USA is concerned about the rising powers, India and China, as well as other regional powerful countries. The Americans are especially worried about China and its defense preparations in the Taiwan Strait.

In this connection, the Pentagon is not going to reduce its attention to South Asia and the Far East. However, the USA does not exclude increasing its military presence in potentially dangerous directions. “With partner nation support, we will preserve forward presence and access to the commons, bases, ports, and airfields commensurate with safeguarding our economic and security interests worldwide,” the strategy runs. Here, it goes about such old allies as Japan and South Korea.

Thirdly, the nuclear proliferation issue remains unsolved as well. North Korea has proved the possession of nuclear weapons to the whole world. Iran is just about to do the same. “The prospect of multiple nuclear armed regimes in the Middle East with nascent security and command and control mechanisms amplifies the threat of conflict, and significantly increases the probability of miscalculation or the loss of control of a nuclear weapon to non-state actors,” the document says.

To solve the problem, Washington intends to support regional allies, like Iraq, to develop the missile defense system, which Russia vehemently objects to, and to take defense measures against those violating the nuclear non-proliferation regime. The USA must be prepared to eliminate sources of weapons of mass destruction, the document runs.

Fourthly, by 2025, Washington predicts serious destabilization in a number of developing states because of the ongoing demographic explosion. The population of those countries will grow by 1.2 billion people, which will lead to serious food and water problems. “Conversely, in Europe and parts of Asia, populations are projected to decline and age with long term impacts to the global share of their economic output. Population growth and urbanization in the Middle East, Africa, and South Central Asia will contribute to increased water scarcity and may present governance challenges,” the report says.

In other words, the American supremacy is facing many challenges on different continents. One shall pay attention to the following telling phrase: “In this multi-nodal world, the military’s contribution to American leadership must be about more than power – it must be about our approach to exercising power.”

Thus, the U.S. National Military Strategy must be flexible to take account of all serious changes in the world. That is why the USA must be prepared to dealing with modern-day challenges without allies’ help.

“Let us not forget, the Nation remains at war abroad to defend against and defeat threats to our homeland. Our foremost priority is the security of the American people, our territory, and our way of life.” “We will pursue deliberate acquisition process improvements and selective force modernization with the cost effective introduction of new equipment and technology,” the report says.

U.S. strategists point out the necessity to maintain high prestige of the U.S. Armed Forces. According to the document, the state must continue to pay increased attention to improving the well-being of its defenders. “Just as our Service members commit to the Nation when they volunteer to serve, we incur an equally binding pledge to return them to society as better citizens. We must safeguard Service members’ pay and benefits, provide family support, and care for our wounded warriors,” the report runs.

Needless to say that the Americans could not leave Russia out of their attention. On the one hand, the document declares the intention to develop military partnership, continue the reduction of arms and build security in Central Asia in cooperation with Russia. As for the Asian security, the Americans, most likely, are planning to get Russia involved in the Afghan war.

The new strategy also mentions more important things about Russia. For instance, the USA is going to continue its cooperation with Canada regarding the issues of regional security, such as the development of the Arctic region. It is an open secret that Russia claims its right on the Arctic shelf, which infuriates Canada in the first place.

Here is another, rather expressive statement: “NATO members act as a stabilizing force on its perimeter, which ranges from the Middle East and the Levant, Northern Africa, the Balkans, and the Caucasus.” One shall assume that the Americans will continue to interfere in Russia’s internal affairs.

The authors of the new National Military Strategy are certain that the USA will preserve its economic and defense power in the foreseeable future. The USA still places its stake on brutal military force, which, as the authors of the report say, will contribute to America’s security and prosperity in the 21st century.

[End.]

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Categories: AFG, CAN, CHN, DPRK, IND, IRN, IRQ, JAP, NATO, PAK, RUS, S.KOR, SOM, TAI, USA, WORLD

North Korean media: Aim Sought by S. Korea-Japan Military Cooperation

January 16, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Korea News Service (KNS), Tokyo, citing North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang.

Rodong Sinmun on Aim Sought by S. Korea-Japan Military Cooperation
©  KCNA
January 16, 2011

Pyongyang, January 16 (KCNA) — Defense ministers of south Korea and Japan at the talks on Jan. 10 blamed someone’s “provocations” and discussed the issue of establishing a “close cooperation” system to cope with them.

Rodong Sinmun Sunday observes in a signed commentary in this regard:

South Korea is tightening in real earnest its military nexus with Japan, covering up its crime-woven past. This is little short of paving the way for Japan’s reinvasion.

This is, at the same time, an act of vitiating the atmosphere of dialogue and negotiations between the north and the south and harassing peace and security of the region.

Japan has worked hard with bloodshot eyes to secure a legitimate pretext for its military overseas expansion. To cite an example, some time ago the Japanese prime minister openly expressed his intention to discuss the issue of dispatching “Self-Defense Forces” to the Korean Peninsula to rescue Japanese in “contingency.”

The recent military talks held between Japan and south Korea were obviously aimed at putting into practice the former’s scenario for staging a comeback to Korea. Such sophism about someone’s “provocations” and the like let loose at the talks were just rhetoric to cover up its sinister purpose. Japan is now availing itself of the mounting tension between the north and the south to prod the south Korean authorities into laying a springboard from which it can stage a comeback to Korea.

The south Korean authorities are turning their eyes away from the goodwill offer from fellow countrymen while unhesitatingly tightening the nexus with the Japanese reactionaries keen to launch a war of reinvasion against the Korean nation.

If they are interested in the improved inter-Korean relations and peace on the peninsula even a bit, they should give up military cooperation with foreign aggressors, an act quite contrary to dialogue.

[End.]

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Categories: DPRK, JAP, S.KOR

North Korea’s state-run media KCNA “urges Japan to behave itself”

January 11, 2011 Comments off

The following article is reprinted with permission from Korea News Service (KNS), Tokyo, citing North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Pyongyang.

KCNA Urges Japan to Behave Itself
©  KCNA
January 11, 2011

Pyongyang, January 11 (KCNA) — A diplomatic document declassified by the Japanese Foreign Ministry recently disclosed the fact that Sato, prime minister in 1969, proposed [to] the U.S. himself that Japan would provide a rear base to south Korea in “contingency” on the Korean Peninsula.

He said at the talks with the U.S. secretary of State at that time that “if there came a formal request from south Korea on this matter, it was his intention to let not only bases in Okinawa but those in other parts of Japan provide logistic support to south Korea.”

This discloses the invariable scenario of the Japanese reactionaries for staging a comeback to Korea as it provided a glimpse into the successive Japanese rulers’ wild ambitions to invade Korea.

In the 1950s when the U.S. imperialist aggression forces launched a brigandish war against the young DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] Japan offered its territory as logistic and sortie bases for them.

Officers of the Imperial Japanese Army provided to the “U.N. Command” explanations and detailed maps not only on the military strongholds in the DPRK, harbors, factories, schools, hospitals but also on the type of every facility and voltage used there to help the U.S. forces in their military operations.

Japan was not recovered from the aftermath of its defeat in the war but spared no human and material assistance to the U.S. imperialists during their aggression against the DPRK.

Japan, having such precedent, is keen to launch reinvasion in the new century under the U.S. war umbrella in a sinister bid to fish in troubled waters.

This is evidenced by the following fact: Japan is contemplating revising the “Japan-U.S. Defence Cooperation Guidelines” to hurl its “Self-Defence Forces” into the Korean front in “contingency” on the Korean Peninsula under the motto of “closer alliance” with the U.S.

In case the U.S. ignites another Korean war, Japan is set to take part in it as a force of aggression.

Japan had better draw a lesson from its history and behave itself.

[End.]

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Categories: DPRK, JAP, S.KOR, USA

Critical Minerals: Growing Demands, Rising Tensions

January 3, 2011 Comments off

The following commentary is reprinted with permission from International Relations & Security Network (ISN), Center for Security Studies, Zurich.

Critical Minerals:  Growing Demands, Rising Tensions
©  Christine Pathemore
Source:  ISN
January 3 2011

Looking back at the major headlines of 2010, one story stands out as truly unexpected: The sudden concern with a little-known class of minerals – rare earth elements – that had previously served a key but quiet role in the global economy. These minerals serve as a foundation for modern technologies – from television screens to missile guidance systems – making this newfound interest warranted.

It seems an historical abberation that concern over mineral supplies critical to weapons systems and energy production did not deeply permeate industrial policies, trade and geopolitical planning in the past two decades.

Throughout history, battles have been fought over control of natural resources. During World War II, the U.S., its European allies, Germany and Japan all relied on imported supplies of many raw materials critical to their war efforts, including steel and petroleum and the minerals used to process those materials. Both sides also developed extensive operations to cut off their opponents’ supply lines.

After World War II and during the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s expanding sphere of influence included many of the world’s most important minerals suppliers. Economists and defense planners in all industrial countries sounded alarms that import dependence on minerals from Southern Africa and Eastern Europe created intolerable strategic vulnerabilities. This concern extended to common imports such as steel and petroleum, but also to lesser-known minerals, such as cobalt and minerals of tailored use in strategic weapons, such as uranium required for stockpiling nuclear weapons. As the Cold War drew to a close, however, worries about minerals supplies waned.

The modern challenges of minerals

Today, the resurgence in concern over minerals is no longer characterized by great power competition, but by globalized markets and booming economic growth in the world’s most populous developing countries. Demand for many minerals is growing at a scale that few would have predicted a decade ago.

Though India, Brazil and other countries are rapidly becoming modern industrial powers and driving a surge in demand for minerals, China is at the heart of these concerns. China has a distinct strategy for its economic development that makes certain minerals central to its growth, including rare earth elements such as neodymium and europium. In addition to its ongoing space exploration and extensive military expansion, economic growth plans include “advanced manufacturing, new energy, new material and new-energy automobiles” – all areas of technological development that depend heavily on rare earth elements. Moreover, China’s economic, diplomatic, and military tactics to create a robust international supply system that meets its rapidly growing mineral demands is seen as a potential strategic concern by many analysts.

The renewed wave of interest in minerals has been several years in the making. An early incident, a disruption in supplies of rhenium, a mineral used to produce specialty alloys for the aerospace industry, caused prices to spike from $1,000 to $6,000 per kilogram. In 2007, China threatened to withhold exports of certain rare earth minerals used as catalysts in petroleum refining for long enough that American refiners warned of gasoline shortages; the U.S. State Department had to step in to help settle the tensions.

Most recently, rare earths have grabbed headlines and the U.S. Congress and Obama administration’s attention, in large part due to China’s regularly-changing export quotas for these minerals and its recent cessation of exports to Japan. Following a scuffle in the East China Sea in September, Chinese exporters halted shipments of rare earths to Japan for weeks, eventually resuming in late November. Although China’s leaders denied that they had imposed an official, government-sanctioned embargo, the move made clear China’s ability to leverage its current corner on the rare earths export market.

While this does not appear to have directly affected American companies, it served as a warning about the possible effects of over-reliance on China by the U.S. and other developed countries. For the U.S., more than 90 percent of its rare earth minerals imports could be at risk of supply disruptions of this kind. Beyond the direct economic costs of China changing rare earths export policies, its control of the vast majority of current world supplies allows it significant political power in relation to countries that have important military and civilian needs for these minerals.

What to do?

The U.S. must overcome several key challenges in order to better manage these minerals issues – which may in the future extend beyond rare earths, given the country’s complete reliance on imports for at least 19 different minerals.

First, the government and private sector should increase information sharing regarding mineral supply chains. The Japanese government, for example, has more open information sharing between the government and private sector, helping to mitigate potential problems. Second, governments of all industrialized countries should work to catalogue their dependencies on the most contentious minerals, such as rare earth elements and indium, for defense equipment needs and clean energy manufacturing goals. The U.S. government is in the early stages of taking on this task, but unfortunately it will take years to get even a general sense of the country’s true vulnerabilities. Finally, the government must improve its understanding of the kinds of economic and geopolitical risks that mineral import dependence could create when things go wrong. This will entail educating high-level policymakers and especially diplomats of the connections between the global minerals trade, defense industrial needs and international relations.

In the long term, experts project that supplies of rare earths (and most minerals on which the global economy relies today) will be sufficient to meet demand for decades – centuries in some cases. Unfortunately, this does not preclude the negative effects of short-term supply shortages, market share consolidation by only a few suppliers, and exporting countries flexing their geopolitical muscles by leveraging their control of important minerals. The growing recognition that assured access to minerals and raw materials is important for ensuring a reliable defense industrial base, developing a clean energy economy and managing geopolitical tensions is therefore a positive development.

Understanding these issues and mitigating potential problems will become vitally important in the future, as demand grows and tensions surrounding supply chains rise. The stakes are high. In the past three years, these issues have led to trade disputes, detracted attention from important diplomatic gains in the Asia-Pacific and renewed clashes over territory from the Arctic to the South China Sea. We should expect to see minerals make even more headlines in 2011 and beyond.

[End.]
__________

Christine Pathemore is a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a non-profit, bipartisan national security think tank in Washington, D.C. She directs CNAS’s program that analyzes national security challenges related to natural resources.

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Categories: BRAZIL, CHN, IND, JAP, RUS, USA, WORLD

U.S. diplomatic offensive tightens strategic encirclement of China

November 13, 2010 Comments off

The following perspective is reprinted with permission from World Socialist Web Site.

U.S. diplomatic offensive tightens strategic encirclement of China
©  World Socialist Web Site
By John Chan
November 13, 2010

Washington’s aggressive diplomatic campaign in Asia over the past two weeks has amounted, in the words of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to “a full court press” against China, with the western Pacific and the Indian Ocean emerging as potential future theatres of war.

President Barack Obama’s visits to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, and Clinton’s trips to Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, sought to either strengthen existing alliances or create new partnerships for a U.S.-led strategic encirclement of China.

Obama fervently courted India, China’s regional nuclear-armed rival. He urged New Delhi to become a “world power” and backed its bid to become a U.N. Security Council permanent member. Clinton twice reiterated that Washington could invoke the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty to militarily support Japan against China in the conflict over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Vietnam announced it was ready to hire out its strategic Cam Ranh Bay port in the South China Sea “to naval ships from all countries” – with Washington the most likely client. Canberra agreed to provide greater U.S. access to its military facilities, especially those in northern Australia.

The American offensive aims to prevent China from controlling the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and key connecting waterways, such as the Strait of Malacca and the Sunda/Lombok straits of Indonesia. Since China depends on ships to transport one third of its oil consumption and 70 percent of its foreign trade, these sea lanes have become its “lifelines”. Some 60 percent of the ships passing through the Strait of Malacca every day are Chinese.

Since World War II, retaining the ability to cut off vital oil supply shipments to rival powers by controlling such “choke points” has been a key U.S. naval strategy. This task looms ever larger for Washington today, with the accelerating decline of American economic power and the rapid rise of China, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. Since the China-Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) free-trade zone came into effect last January, Sino-ASEAN trade has increased by nearly 50 percent, whereas rising protectionism in the U.S. is stalling any free trade agreement with Asian states.

Far from accepting a diminishing role, the U.S. is determined to retain its dominant position in Asia through its residual military might. In an interview with The Australian newspaper on Monday, Clinton recalled that when Chinese officials first told Washington, earlier this year, that Beijing viewed the South China Sea as a core Chinese interest, “I immediately responded and said, ‘We don’t agree with that’.” What followed was Clinton’s aggressive announcement at the ASEAN meeting in July that Washington would intervene into disputes between China and ASEAN members, such as Vietnam and Philippines, over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. China angrily responded by warning that “outsiders,” i.e., the U.S., should keep out of South China Sea affairs.

Clinton’s subsequent statement that the U.S. had a “national interest” in “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea was even more provocative. More than 40,000 ships freely pass through the sea each year. The “freedom of navigation” that Washington demands is the freedom of American surveillance vessels and warships to sail the waters near the Chinese coast, and to collect intelligence on Chinese military operations, including the deployment of submarines, in the region. If China likewise were to send spy ships to international waters just off the coast of Hawaii or San Diego to monitor the U.S. naval bases there, the American media and political establishment would respond with outrage over what would, legitimately, be interpreted as acts of provocation.

By establishing or strengthening military ties with Vietnam, India, Australia and Indonesia, the U.S. is seeking to counter China’s “string of pearls” strategy. The aim of this strategy is to build port facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka for the deployment of Chinese warships into the Indian Ocean in order to protect the shipping lanes that carry oil and raw materials from the Middle East and Africa to China.

Herein lies the importance of Indonesia, which was the second stop on Obama’s trip. The U.S. think tank Stratfor noted: “It [Indonesia] straddles the Strait of Malacca, a global shipping choke point, as well as the Sunda and Lombok straits, making it critical for sea-lanes between the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and the Pacific, and Australia and China. These sea lanes supply China with critical raw materials; any power controlling this area accordingly has enormous leverage over Beijing.”

These considerations also apply to East Timor, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, which sit astride other vital sea lanes. There is concern in Washington that over the past decade, China has established economic and even military ties with Pacific island states, and the Obama administration is determined to reassert U.S. “leadership” in the region.

Thus Clinton visited Papua New Guinea and discussed the Asia-Pacific region in her meetings with key officials in Australia and New Zealand.

The centrality of the South China Sea in Washington’s thinking was expressed by Robert Kaplan, who wrote recently in the Washington Post: “The geographical heart of America’s hard-power competition with China will be the South China Sea, through which passes a third of all commercial maritime traffic worldwide and half of the hydrocarbons destined for Japan, the Korean Peninsula and northeastern China. That sea grants Beijing access to the Indian Ocean via the Strait of Malacca, and thus to the entire arc of Islam, from East Africa to Southeast Asia.”

Kaplan is among those within U.S. ruling circles who have criticised the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq for diverting the focus of the former Bush administration, and allowing China to expand its geopolitical influence throughout Asia. Kaplan’s basic ideas can be seen in the Obama administration’s “back in Asia” policy.

The anti-China coalition being assembled by the U.S. directly conflicts with China’s quest to build a blue-water navy to protect its sea lanes and oil supplies. A bestseller published in China last year, China Sea Power by Zhang Wenmu, summed up Beijing’s view of the present great-power struggle for global hegemony. Zhang wrote: “All players are focusing at one aim, the control of the Indian Ocean.”

Beijing will not allow Washington to undermine the gains it has made in Asia. Just days after Clinton told Cambodia not to become “too dependent” on a single country – i.e., China – the Chinese government gave Cambodia $1.6 billion for infrastructure projects and announced a $590 million loan for the development of mobile phone services. Less than a day after Obama arrived in Jakarta, a Chinese delegation came with $6.6 billion in infrastructure projects. In the words of the New York Times, Beijing “laid down a not-so-subtle challenge to Mr. Obama: Show your Indonesian hosts the money”.

Driven by the deepening global economic crisis, the escalating rivalry between the U.S. and China is yet another sign that the world capitalist system is hurtling towards a major catastrophe. Unless the international working class intervenes to overthrow the profit system and the outmoded system of rival nation-states, these great-power tensions must inevitably lead to a new world war.

[End.]

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Categories: AUSTRALIA, CHN, IND, INDO, JAP, MALAYSIA, NZ, PAK, SRI, UN, USA, VIET, WORLD