Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan Strait’

Significantly, on the ASBM…

December 27, 2010

Just caught my eye over on my Google Reader feed – a new report from the gurus of the Chinese ASBM at the U.S. Naval War College.  I haven’t had a chance but to skim through it and look at the pictures, but it looks pretty informative, nonetheless.  I’ll read through it tomorrow, but in the meantime, if you have time today, go ahead and have a look:

China Deploys World’s First Long-Range, Land-Based ‘Carrier Killer’: DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Reaches “Initial Operational Capability” (IOC) (HTML) (PDF – includes graphics)

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The new Korean War and Taiwan

December 20, 2010

Chinese Military Involvement in a Future Korean War

Capt Jacquelyn Schneider, USAF

Strategic Studies Quarterly, 2010 (4), 50 – 67.

I came across a timely article in a not-too-well-known journal last week that discusses the likelihood of China intervening in the next edition of the Korean War (which, based on contemporary news accounts, seems like it could start any day now).

It’s fairly well-known that the beginning of the original Korean War (1950 – 1953) in June 1950 had the side-effect of placing the U.S. 7th Fleet in the Taiwan Strait to keep another conflict from erupting in East Asia at the same time.  The author of this piece, Jacquelyn Schneider, argues that ever since that time, Korea and Taiwan have been linked, which raises some vexing issues for the present:

However loathe the United States is to link actions on the Korean peninsula with Taiwan, it is historically impossible to completely separate the two issues. As mentioned previously, China’s attempts to initially reunify Taiwan with the PRC were stymied by the Korean War. Would it be possible for China to capitalize on the US focus on Korea to launch a simultaneous amphibious operation to conquer Taiwan?

Her question is an interesting one.  She answers it by looking at military capability to take Taiwan and willingness to do so.  Her take – the capability exists, but it is too difficult for non-Chinese to understand the Taiwan issue fully, for there is no equivalent in the American experience, and thus impossible to make a willingness judgment.

In my mind, if China would decide to enter a new Korean War, assuming that it was initiated by the North, then I think that there would be little additional loss in terms of international standing, economic losses, etc. from also initiating a move against Taiwan.  China would already be branded an outlaw and condemned in places like the UN for backing North Korea’s aggression, so why not settle up when it comes to Taiwan at the same time?  After all, why else would the PRC have in excess of 1,000 short-range ballistic missiles stationed opposite Taiwan, a burgeoning fleet of attack submarines, and a rapidly modernizing air arm?  It’s not to offset any equivalent military buildup taking place in Taiwan, that’s for sure.

Back to Korea, though, Schneider surmises that modern China as a largely integrated stakeholder in the international order has too much to lose, and thus chiefly for this reason (though also including the absence of a Mao-like leader, fear of domestic repercussions in term of refugee flows out of North Korea, and the vulnerability of critical infrastructure in Northeast China to U.S. attack) would not enter a new Korean War.  That’s all well and good, but I think there is more to it than that – what about treaty obligations?  My understanding of the PRC – DPRK treaty of friendship, etc. is that it makes security guarantees that specifically exclude those of the nuclear umbrella-type, but that it also states that the PRC is under no obligation to assist if the DPRK initiates the aggression.  How about this – the DPRK attacks South Korea (as we’ve seen them do twice this year so far), who then counterattacks into North Korea, and then the attacks escalate, from initial artillery and air strikes on mainly military facilities of both sides to more and more areas populated mainly by civilians, at which point U.S. forces become involved in a range of military operations, including troop movements (with the South Koreans) across the DMZ.  What now, China?  I think that in such a case, the PRC joins in – I don’t think they are going to sit idly by if U.S. forces are being actively involved, just as I think U.S. forces would be automatically committed if PRC forces were involved.  It’s like each side on the Korean peninsula has their “big brother” there waiting to jump in if the other side’s back-up decides to get feisty.

And, if that all happens, then who knows if China would decide to try to capitalize on the opportunity to move on Taiwan?  It’s certainly a possibility I hope the planners at U.S. Pacific Command have taken into account…

Schneider goes on to introduce some very sensible “rules of engagement” that would help prevent a rapidly escalating conflict in Korea between the primarily interested non-territorial powers, including the establishment of buffer zones and assignment of responsibility over refugees in particular locations.  I agree that measures such as these would be essential to keep from quickly moving down the road to a greatly expanded war in Korea. (Ah, but could the U.S. trust China to live up to their parts in the rules?  She talks about this as well…read the article.)

She returns to the Taiwan issue at the end:

The change [North Korea’s defeat and the reunification of the Korean peninsula] could prove advantageous for decoupling the Taiwan situation from the Korean peninsula. By demonstrating the will to use force, openness in military planning, and gracious collaboration in victory, the United States would demonstrate its inherent trust in China to participate in the region as a stabilizer.

…and then the closer:

In a game of multiple iterations, a Korean conflict could help the United States and China more advantageously perceive utility and value of each nation’s interests and actions in Asia. By building trust between the two players in the Asian region, the probability of provoking conflict becomes less likely. Perversely, if executed properly, a conflict on the Korean peninsula could serve as a stabilizing event in the Pacific region.

I’m not buying it.  It’s just too optimistic.  I can only see negative and ill effects on the Asia-Pacific region from a new Korean War – heaps of dead bodies in Seoul, a shattered former North Korea hollowed out from refugee outflows, and an even greater tension between China and the United States, if not outright war.  I think she’s right about decoupling Korea and Taiwan, but only because there would no longer be troops facing off over the 38th Parallel.  If China refrained from invading Taiwan at the same time, then cross-Strait tensions would be vaulted to new highs.  Let’s hope Korea doesn’t kick off anytime soon – the U.S. is militarily still too preoccupied with exiting Iraq and searching for the door in Afghanistan.

China Brief “spy games”

November 6, 2010
Taiwan is mostly mountainous in the east, but ...

Image via Wikipedia

I mentioned in the last post that I added the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief to the blogroll.  A new issue is out today:

http://twitter.com/#!/gjsamps/status/758697928171520

Today’s edition concentrated on Chinese espionage, China’s development of its rare earth (RE) industry and the decline of other nations’ RE holdings, and a recent large-scale PLA military exercise inside of China. (It did not mention the PLA Navy’s recent live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, which reportedly included Chinese marines practicing amphibious maneuvers and coordinated air operations.)

I found the espionage pieces particularly interesting.  One focused on the continuing “spy war” between China and Taiwan, which continues despite warming relations across the Taiwan Strait.  How’s the old saying go? – “There are friendly nations, but there are no friendly intelligence services.”  Too true, and I think that anyone who supposed that since China and Taiwan were making nice across the strait since Ma Ying-jeou’s election in 2008 that it naturally followed that espionage activity between the two would also fall is a bit naive.  The Ma administration’s reported 2009 decision to discontinue the recruitment of spies in China, mentioned in the article, is incredibly short-sighted and certainly has not been reciprocated by the PRC. (In fact, I would be that with improving ties, China’s intelligence services are taking full advantage of the increased ease with which they can get into Taiwan, be it via tourist groups or student exchanges.)  Just because there is a temporary rapprochement now, nothing says that China won’t break out the old “belligerence stick” and wave it this way again when they become impatient with the pace of their pursued unification, and when they do, one of the best ways to know how serious they really are about escalation could be from spies inside China that Taiwan unilaterally decided to stop recruiting – bad idea.

The other espionage piece in the report this week is about PRC efforts to infiltrate U.S. security services.  The story discussed is one that I had heard of via other media sources, but the context in which it is discussed here – trying to determine if this type of infiltration attempt is part of a larger shift in Chinese intelligence strategy away from previous  long-term efforts to use Chinese nationals towards one where they co-opt and then exploit non-Chinese American citizens who are not at the time of their recruitment in sensitive positions – is quite interesting and unique.  I think the overall conclusion is that there simply isn’t enough information to know just yet if this is indeed a major shift, but it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

On the 2010 China Military Power Report, Part I

August 18, 2010
National emblem of the People's Republic of China

Image via Wikipedia

I spent part of my day today reading through the opening section of the new Pentagon report on China‘s military power.  Quite frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed by chapter 1, the “annual update”  where significant developments related to questions raised by Congress in the fiscal year 2010 National Defense Authorization Act are discussed.  Perhaps it is because I have been studying China for the entire time frame this report covers (2009) – there really wasn’t much here that was new to me; or perhaps it was because when I read the previous version (2009) of the China Military Power report in the spring of 2009 I was a fairly new “China watcher”; now most of this seems like old hat.  Or maybe it was because every time I read the report talking about things happening in whatever month (say for instance, June), I had to remind myself that since the report is so late in being released this year, they aren’t talking about the month of June that recently ended, but instead the June that is nearly 15 months ago now.  So a lot of what is discussed seems a bit stale and out of date.  Note to DoD: release the report on time, and this last beef won’t be nearly such an issue.

There aren’t a lot of surprises in chapter 1.  That said, here are a few nuggets I found to be interesting.  The PRC continues its military buildup unabated, regardless of thawing relations across the Taiwan Strait.  (You don’t say.)  The PRC continues to add to its arsenal of short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) and cruise missiles aimed at Taiwan.  (It was nice to see that the DoD estimate of the number of SRBMs opposite Taiwan in December 2009 to be 1,050 to 1,150; many of the scare-mongering pieces I see currently talk about more like 1,500 SRBMs.)  China is developing a host of anti-access, area-denial weapons systems, one of which is the anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), designed to be a U.S. “carrier killer.”  In conjunction with developing anti-access technologies, the PRC is also beefing up its over-the-horizon skywave and surface wave radars.  These radars are used to help target ships at sea that continue to move after a ballistic missile is launched in their general direction and are used to supplement surveillance satellites.  There is a (very) short section in chapter 1 (a single paragraph on page 7) that discusses the PRC’s cyberwarfare capabilities.  I hope there is more on this topic later in the report, for otherwise this is a pretty big topic of interest for me that was hardly mentioned in chapter 1.

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It’s finally here

August 17, 2010

The Pentagon’s 2010 China Military Power report, that is.  Though I had been waiting for this release for some time, I had a busy day today and haven’t had a chance to read much beyond the executive summary, but here are a few links to keep you busy for a while:

The report:

Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2010, http://www.defense.gov/pubs/pdfs/2010_CMPR_Final.pdf (PDF, 83 pages)

Accompanying Armed Forces Press Service story – “Report Says Chinese Military Transparency Still Lacking

MSM coverage:

The Wall Street Journal – “U.S. Sounds Alarm at China’s Military Buildup

The New York Times – “Pentagon Cites Concerns in China Military Growth

The Washington Post – “Economic powerhouse China focuses on its military might

I plan to write more about the report once I’ve had a chance to get through it a bit further.  Since the report is months past its customary release date, I wonder if it will prove to be worth the wait.

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A few more conferences…

May 26, 2010

It’s too bad I missed Willy Lam’s talk in Taipei a couple of weeks ago…

Willy Lam flyer

…but yesterday I didn’t have to do a thing and a good opportunity fell into my lap.  As a guest speaker in my Tuesday afternoon course on Cross-

Michael Ying-mao Kau

Michael Ying-mao Kau

Strait Relations and Asia-Pacific Security, Ambassador Michael Ying-mao Kau, PhD, Taiwan’s former representative to the European Union and Belgium (also former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, and so forth), spoke on some salient issues related to the EU and contrasted them with the current situation in Asia.  It was an interesting talk.  He is very hopeful about the EU’s integration and sensitive to challenges it faces, including issues facing Turkey’s possible accession to the union and the near-trillion US dollar bailout for Greece.  Asia, by contrast, remains firmly entrenched in the throes of nationalism and nowhere near as robust a level of integration, consisting mainly of a very loose economic regime in ASEAN.  The unilateral use of force or the threat of force is still often times the preferred way to solve problems in Asia, something that Europe has moved beyond, at least in terms of relations internal to the Continent.

But that’s not all!  Also this week I saw a couple other flyers up announcing some upcoming events that look like they might be worth checking out.  These events are both in Taipei, put on by National Chengchi University.

Kau event poster

Kau event poster

The first one is next week, June 1 – 2 (Tuesday and Wednesday).  Here’s the full scoop:

Welcome to IDAS international conference on 6/1

◆Title: Stronger Nations. Stronger Relations: New Prospects for Asia-Pacific Regional Integration

◆Time: 08:30-17:30,2010/06/01(Tue),06/02(Wed)

◆Venue: 5F, International Conference Hall, General Building of Colleges, National Chengchi University

◆International scholars: Dr.TJ Pempel from UC Santa Barbara University, Dr. Benjamin Cohen from Berkeley University, etc.

◆The conference focuses on the following issues:

*Frontiers in Public Administration Governance: Leadership for the Modern World
*New IPE Challenges for Asia- Pacific Region
*Rediscovery of social and cultural development
*Evolution of Asia-Pacific Security and New Security Focus

◆Language: English

◆P.S.: We welcome all professors and students. Registration Required. Please register through the registration system before 05/28. Please see the agenda as the link below.

Acdemics .posted by IDAS.中文 列印

The second conference, on June 12 (Saturday), looks even better.  It’s the 3rd annual conference of the Republic of China Institute of International Relations and the event, which runs all day, is entitled, “Theory and Practice of Dialogue.”  The keynote speaker will be Dr. Richard Bush, former director of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and current director of the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.  I haven’t been able to locate an English version of the conference’s program, but here’s the program in Chinese (it’s essentially a larger version of the photo just below this paragraph).  Lack of English publicity materials makes me suspect this event will be in Chinese, as opposed to the two-day conference next week, which explicitly indicates that it will be held in English (see above).

June 12 event poster

"Theory and Practice of Dialogue" International Conference Agenda

Finally, for those folks a bit west of here in a few weeks (DC-area), I would recommend trying to catch an event at the National Defense University on June 16.  The symposium’s title is “China’s Naval Modernization: Cause for Storm Warnings?” and it looks almost as if the entire faculty of the China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) of the U.S. Naval War College will be occupying the place to put on the event.  They’ve gone as far as preparing a nice list of “read-ahead”-type items (PDF)for folks who are interested in attending.  Related to the Naval War College’s CMSI, just today Dr. Andrew Erickson, an assistant professor at the Naval War College, founding member of CMSI, and fellow in the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program, released the first edition of a newsletter (PDF) written by him and another researcher called China Signpost.  The aim of the newsletter is to provide “high-quality China analysis in a concise, accessible form for people whose lives are being profoundly affected by China’s political, economic, and security development.”  That pretty much describes anybody in Taiwan!  The first issue concerns China’s reliance on petroleum and the authors’ conviction that China will continue to disproportionately rely on seaborne means of transportation to keep their oil supply flowing (despite what you might hear about China’s efforts to build pipelines to reduce their reliance on seaborne oil transport).  The authors go on to explore the naval security implications that arise from China’s continuing dependence on maritime transport for energy needs.  It’s certainly worth a read – as is everything else posted over at Dr. Erickson’s webpage, www.andrewerickson.com.  (See also the top of the blogroll on the right-hand margin of this page.)

See you at the conferences!

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Military Power of the PRC in 2010

April 1, 2010
2009 report cover page

2009 report

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the latest version of the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military strength.  Typically, this report is issued about this time of year (last year’s report came out in late March).  This report is required annually from the Department of Defense pursuant to the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year (FY) 2000 (FY2000 NDAA), which stated

the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65, provides that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report “in both classified and unclassified form, on the current and future military strategy of the People’s Republic of China. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development on the People’s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese grand strategy, security strategy, and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts, through the next 20 years.

Taking into account the post-Cold War, pre-9/11 context in which this legislation was enacted, as well as China’s annual military spending increases that surpassed 10% annually for most years between 1997 and now (see Fig. 10, p. 34, in the 2009 report), it’s not that hard to imagine why China’s increasing military power would have been a topic of some concern to the lawmakers who drafted the FY2000 NDAA and included this annual report as a requirement for the DoD.  Indeed, with the PLA’s military modernization having continued unabated in the ensuing decade, the decision to “statutize” the requirement for this report looks to me to have been a pretty good call.  I have read that the release of this year’s report has been delayed for strategic reasons, e.g. the U.S. doesn’t want to tick off the Chinese any more while they are still simmering about Taiwan weapons sales and President Obama’s decision to allow a visit with the Dalai Lama at the White House in February, which makes sense.  One “milestone” that reportedly was part of the calculus about the release date of the report was whether or not China’s President Hu Jintao would attend a meeting on nuclear security in Washington later this month…looks like you can count him in.   The conference dates are April 12 – 13, and afterwards Hu will visit a few South American countries, including Brazil, Venezuela and Chile.  Therefore, I would wager that it’s pretty firm that the Pentagon report won’t be released until after Hu’s visit to Washington.  One news report I read even said that the PRC military power report might be delayed until May.

Why do I want to read this report so badly?  It’s a veritable goldmine of information about China’s military capabilities and modernization, and although as a public document, it won’t contain any of the really juicy sensitive information that might be contained in a classified version, it still is a good yardstick to see what “Big Pentagon” thinks about China’s military and I would like to see what has changed in the Pentagon’s assessment in the course of a year, if anything.  Based on last year’s report, which gave prominent attention to China’s growing asymmetric and anti-access capabilities, I would imagine there will be even more about these issues, including anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBM), and computer network operations (CNO), which I mentioned in my last post as things that interest me with regard to Taiwan Strait security and the regional balance of power.

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“The Motherlode” on Chinese ASBM Development

March 29, 2010

Bad day

Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM), said something in testimony to House Armed Services Committee last week that, uh, sort of set off people who have been watching Chinese anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) development.  Here’s the key bit of Admiral Willard’s testimony (PDF):

China is also developing and testing a conventional anti-ship ballistic missile based on the DF-21/CSS-5 MRBM designed specifically to target aircraft carriers. (p. 14)

The part that was so provocative to China ASBM-watchers was the use of the word “testing.”  Dr. Andrew S. Erickson, Associate Professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College and a founding member of the department’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI), had this to say about the use that particular word in official testimony:

While mounting evidence from Chinese doctrinal, service, technical, trade, and netizen publications suggests that China has been developing an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) since the 1990s, this is the first official confirmation that it has advanced to the stage of actual testing. This data point should dispel notions previously held by some that Beijing could not, or would not, develop an ASBM. (emphasis in original)

If Chinese ASBM capabilities interest you, you should do yourself a favor and check out Dr. Erickson’s related post in its entirety.  He includes at the bottom of the post a useful list of relevant recent literature, some of which I was already familiar with, but that also contains some new items that I had not seen before.  The motherlode!

I think that China’s rapid military modernization, particularly as focused on so-called asymmetric capabilities (sometimes also called anti-access weapons) like ASBMs, computer network operations (CNO; so-called “cyber” or computer hacking capabilities), and anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) could indeed be “game changers” in the Taiwan Strait.  In fact, it is likely that I will focus on some aspect related to this in my master’s thesis.

During my first semester in graduate school in Taiwan, I wrote a short term paper that started off some lines of thinking on these asymmetric capabilities and their effect on Taiwan Strait security.  A copy of the paper is here:

China’s Development of Asymmetric Capabilities and Taiwan Strait Security

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Out of Office AutoReply

January 18, 2010

Kindle

I’m going to be on the road for the next couple weeks, so “posting will be light.”  Ha ha – like it has been heavy thus far!  I always wanted to write that, though.  I am now done with my first semester of graduate school, so I should have extra time to post things here – except that I will be conducting “TouristOps” for most of the semester break. (Classes resume after the Chinese New Year.)

Like some of the other bloggers I aim to emulate, I am going to leave some reading suggestions for you.  Here’s what I am going to have on the plane to Tokyo with me:

  1. David Finkel’s book The Good Soldiers.  It has been hailed in multiple places as one of the best on the Iraq War, so I am to see for myself.  I’ve read other acclaimed accounts like Craig Mullaney’s The Unforgiving Minute and Dexter Filkins’s The Forever War (if you haven’t read these two, you should), and I want to see if Finkel’s book measures up.
  2. The report “Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network” from The Information Warfare Monitor and the U.S. – China Economic and Security Review Commission’s report  on Chinese cyberwarfare.  The recent big kerfluffle with China and Google is a neat window into the spooky world of computer network operations, and in fact is an area of research that I am very interested in.  There’s a lot of breathless, overheated stuff in the day-to-day media about cyberwarfare, but reports like these (both published last year) are a lot more objective.
  3. Earlier this month, CSIS released a new report on Taiwan Strait security called “Building Trust Across the Taiwan Strait: A Role for Military Confidence-building Measures.”  Taiwan Strait security is another one of my research interests, so this one ought to be good to.  (If you missed CNAS’s China-Taiwan report last month, then you should go ahead and fix yourself right now and read it.)
  4. If that’s not enough, then I’ll finish myself off with the latest edition of the National Bureau of Asian Research’s Asian Policy.  It’s got an interesting-looking “roundtable” piece devoted to training the next generation of Asia experts.

I can’t help but “pile on” here – if you are reading this and haven’t yet read CNAS’s other new report about fixing the intelligence effort in Afghanistan, just stop and go read it.  Excellent stuff.


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