Category Archives: Current Operations

On-going Naval Ops or Maritime Current Events

Management and Process Improvement: The Navy of the 1990s and Today

By Jason Chuma

On December 25, 1991, following a year and a half breakup of Soviet states, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered at the Kremlin for the last time and the flag of the Russian Federation was raised. The next day, the Supreme Soviet voted the Soviet Union out of existence. It was a great victory for the United States and what was dubbed the “First World.” They were victorious in the Cold War, a different kind of war, but a war nonetheless. A war between east and west; a war between communism and capitalism; a war fought using all elements of national power – diplomatic, intelligence, military, and economic – which never erupted into combat between the major powers of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.

The End of an Era
(Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)

Though the war did not involve combat, discussions of conflicts such as Korea and Vietnam aside, the U.S. military was in a near constant state of preparing for the Soviets to push through the Fulda Gap and for a great naval battle in the Norwegian Sea.

But suddenly, the adversary was gone. For nearly five decades the Soviet Union provided focus and direction for what to buy, how to train, and what to study. What now? In 1991, China was not the military power of today and the idea of a Global War on Terrorism couldn’t have been further from mainstream military thought. A look at the 1991 U.S. National Military Strategy makes only generic mentioning of terrorism and shows an isolationist view of China:

“China, like the Soviet Union, poses a complex challenge as it proceeds inexorably toward major systemic change. China’s inward focus and struggle to achieve stability will not preclude increasing interaction with its neighbors as trade and technology advance. Consultations and contact with China will be central features of our policy, lest we intensify the isolation that shields repression.”

The potential threat of China and the actual threat of terrorism did not reveal themselves in force until the early 2000s. The 1990s were a sort of rudderless decade for the U.S. military. With no major perceived enemy to fight, budget cuts commenced. Military spending in the 1990s quickly dropped by a third of its Cold War levels. Intervention in failing or failed states was the name of the game, and American technological superiority, specifically airpower, was the weapon of choice in places such as Iraq, Bosnia, and Serbia.

The Navy found itself without an enemy to confront at sea and with a rapidly shrinking budget. Control of sea lines of communication became assumed and the Navy gradually disarmed itself for fighting a major sea battle in the 1990s through decisions like discontinuing the UGM-84A submarine launched Harpoon anti-ship missile and converting remaining R/UGM-109B Tomahawk anti-ship missiles (TASM) into the Tomahawk land-attack missile (TLAM) R/UGM-109C. The last combatant commissioned equipped with anti-ship missiles was the USS PORTER (DDG 78) in1999.

Idle hands may be the devil’s workshop, but an idle Navy surely is the bureaucrat’s and the administrator’s. Without war or the real risk of war, Navy culture shifted. Instead of warriors patrolling the oceans and maintaining freedom of the seas from the Soviet Navy, it became about management and process improvement. The MBA became the graduate degree of choice and process improvement models such as Deming’s Total Quality Management – rebranded as Total Quality Leadership of course – became the norm.

Admiral James Stavridis had command of the USS BARRY (DDG 52) from 1993 to 1995. He maintained a diary while in command which was published as Destroyer Captain: Lessons of a First Command. Within it he makes some very astute observations of the Navy of the 1990s:

“[W]e have become a navy that specializes in safety, communicating, inspecting, engineering, administering, retaining, and counseling. There is too little emphasis on shiphandling, warfighting, battle repairing, and leading…As an example of how we are a bit out of whack is that if I charted my personal time, I suspect I spend virtually my entire day working the first list and precious little devoted to the latter…If I completely reversed my priorities – and focused exclusively on shiphandling and warfighting, I would be in some danger of being relieved for cause within ninety days…But in some not-too-far-distant decade, I think ships will be hit by cruise missiles, they will sink, men and women will die bad deaths. And hard questions will be asked about the Navy of the 1990s and its priorities and beliefs.”

Admiral Stavridis tells a grim but honest tale of the culture of the Navy in the 1990s, but is it a really a story of the past or is it a story of what has continued to this day? If you compared the Navy of 1995 and the one of today, what cultural differences would you see? Have we turned the tide and placed a focus back on mastering our trade of warfighting? The recent establishment of the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (NWMWDC) and Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC) in 2015 is a positive start. Is attending the War College viewed as career enhancing? Recent discussions with officers indicate it may be currently viewed as not career hindering at the least. What is truly viewed as more important today: understanding tactical employment of a ship, fleet, or nation, or efficiently managing a major maintenance availability and developing and executing a shipboard training plan?

Yes, management of programs is a skill needed in any organization, especially in one as complex as the Navy and as unforgiving as life onboard a ship. But does it define that organization, is it what that organization’s culture is centered around, and can someone survive and even succeed in that organization simply being a manager and administrator instead of a leader and a warfighter? These are simple yet hard questions which must be asked in order to heed Admiral Stavridis’s warning of the Navy’s priorities and beliefs from the 1990s which have continued to today.

Harkening back to another famous admiral, Arleigh Burke, may help with some simple guidance from his Destroyer Squadron 23 Doctrine in World War II. These tenets (paraphrased for modernity) were the most basic guidance to his Commanding Officers while he was Commodore:

“If it will help kill [the enemy] it’s important. If it will not help kill [the enemy] it’s not important. Keep your ship trained for battle! Keep your material ready for battle! Keep your boss informed concerning your readiness for battle!”

Simple yet powerful tenets which serve to maintain the focus where it belongs, ensuring our ships and sailors are ready to sail into harm’s way to take the fight to the enemy. It becomes easy to be distracted by inspections, paperwork, and watchbill management. Items which are easier to audit and assess tend to get the energy and attention over warfighting effectiveness and combat readiness. Potentially at great peril during the next war at sea.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer currently serving as Navigator and Operations Officer onboard USS SPRINGFIELD (SSN 761). He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Featured Image: PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2016) Sailors on board the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) render passing honors to the fast-attack submarine USS Pasadena (SSN 752) as it transits the San Diego Bay. Carl Vinson is currently underway in preparation for an upcoming deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sean M. Castellano/Released)

Reinforcing China’s Malacca Dilemma

The Red Queen’s Navy

Written by Vidya Sagar Reddy, The Red Queen’s Navy will discuss the The Red Queeninfluence of emerging naval platforms and technologies in the geostrategic contours of the Indo-Pacific region. It identifies relevant historical precedents, forming the basis for various maritime development and security related projects in the region.

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.”– The Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll.

By Vidya Sagar Reddy

China has been pressing to complete the Gwadar port in Pakistan and build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), allowing it to be connected over land to an Indian Ocean port. Gwadar and CPEC allow China to circumvent the Strait of Malacca which can be blockaded by rival navies in the event of  conflict, termed as “Malacca Dilemma.” However, the rising activism of Balochistan independence parties could complicate these projects, compelling China to continue to depend on this Strait. This situation certainly bodes well for maintaining regional stability.

As China’s economic power burgeoned, its political class sought to transform the country into a major power by building comprehensive national power, which also requires investing in a sophisticated military. Political narratives were developed citing “historical” facts and figures to re-establish China’s position in the world order. However, China’s attitude towards its neighborhood has become increasingly assertive in  recent years, signaling the rise of a potential regional hegemon. Those countries with stakes in maintaining the peace dividend responded by building alliances and partnerships to counter this security threat.

By signaling the intent to blockade the Strait of Malacca, these regional countries seek to deter China from military adventurism in the region. China’s economic growth is dependent on the seas, both for receiving energy and other raw materials required for low cost manufacturing, as well as the shipping of finished goods to markets in the U.S., Europe, etc. These ships have to pass through the Strait of Malacca situated between Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia connecting the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Therefore a blockade of this Strait will impose energy and trade crises in China that can trickle down to hurt society, and in turn lead to pressure on the political class. Losing the people’s support will undermine the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China and could lead to an internal political transition. In fact, China’s history shows such transitions occurring after wars.

India has established credible naval presence in the Andaman Sea adjacent to the Strait of Malacca and is partnering with the U.S. and other countries in safeguarding it. Such presence can be translated into a formidable blockade. On the other hand, China has yet to showcase its capabilities and willingness to fight to keep this Strait open for its ships. Citing these developments, Hu Jintao termed this situation “Malacca Dilemma.”

His successor Xi Jinping resolved to overcome this dilemma by investing in the One Belt, One Road initiative. China moved determinedly to build ports in the Indian Ocean countries Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has been transformed into a blue water navy and is routinely deployed in the Indian Ocean. The docking of PLAN ships and submarines in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the region signals China’s intent to safeguard its energy and trade shipments in the Indian Ocean.

china-pakistan-economic-corridor-cpec
A map depicting China’s sea lines of communication through the Malacca Strait as well as the land route of the proposed China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. (SCMP)

The ports in Myanmar and Pakistan have the added advantage of being connected to China via overland routes. This sea/land interspersed connectivity allows China to minimize maritime threats by rerouting its energy and trade over the land. During a conflict, China can focus its forward deployed naval assets f in the Indian Ocean on safeguarding the sea lines of communication connected to its ports in Pakistan and Myanmar instead of stretching those assets across the Ocean. The development of overland routes also serves Beijing’s intention to develop poorer western regions of the country.

China’s projects in Myanmar are proceeding with difficulties, with some of them cancelled due to opposition from local communities and environmental groups. Furthermore, China’s ships have to navigate the Bay of Bengal to reach Myanmar’s port which gives opportunity for rival navies to interdict. More significantly, Myanmar has recently undergone political transition from military rule to a democratically elected government. This transition signaled the country’s willingness to break through international isolation and normalize diplomatic relations with the outside world. As a result, China lost Myanmar as a client state and can expect a review of its projects as the new government balances between competing political and economic narratives in the region.    

The trump card for China remains to be Pakistan. Despite international condemnation and American displeasure for its unwillingness to cease state sponsored terrorism, Pakistan continues to enjoy diplomatic leverage with the U.S., and despite the show of political clout in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, India is still lacking a credible strategy to curtail Pakistan’s destabilizing behavior in the region.

China has adopted the earlier U.S. policy of hyphenating India with Pakistan and is willing to safeguard its client state’s interests across international forums. It has promised to invest $46 billion in Pakistan to complete the CPEC project. In addition, China is building nuclear plants, co-producing military jets, and will sell eight submarines; all incentives for Pakistan to align its interests with China’s.

In return, China will gain access to the Arabian Sea in the Indian Ocean, which is connected to the Persian Gulf, through the Gwadar port. The CPEC envisions building the requisite land route from Gwadar to China via the sensitive Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Karakoram mountains, ignoring India’s apprehensions regarding building infrastructure in the disputed territories without consultations.

However, Pakistan itself is not without problems. The Balochistan province where Gwadar is located forms a major part of Pakistan’s territory and is highly rich in natural resources. However, its development needs have long been ignored by Islamabad. The Baloch people argue that neither the Gwadar port will benefit them but can instead lead to further exploitation of the province’s natural resources and affect their livelihoods.

silk-roads-china
A graphic depicting the various forms of investment, their estimated costs, and proposed infrastructure linkages. (Wall Street Journal)

India is convinced that the Gwadar port and the CPEC projects have underlying strategic intentions while the Baloch people question the veracity of economic benefits that can be derived from these projects to their province. Both parties are concerned about infrastructure build up in those areas considered sensitive for historical or strategic reasons. In this situation, Modi’s reference to Balochistan in his recent Independence Day speech signals India’s willingness to work with the Baloch people to confront the common problem and fulfil mutual interests.

While more details are pending, China is apparently concerned with these developments as its options to connect to the Indian Ocean via land routes fall into jeopardy, forcing continued reliance on the Strait of Malacca. This could be a welcomed development for upholding regional stability as it offers concerned countries an opportunity to maintain strategic deterrence and escalation dominance against China by controlling access to the Strait of Malacca.

Vidya Sagar Reddy is a research assistant in the Nuclear and Space Policy Initiative of the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

Featured Image: Crew members work on the Chinese Navy ship Wei Fang as it docks in Myanmar on the outskirts of Yangon on May 23, 2014 (AFP 2016/ SOE THAN WIN)

Navy Information Warfare — What is it?

By Richard Mosier

Defining a warfare area’s mission and function is the foundation for all activities required to conduct mission area analysis to determine requirements, develop doctrine and tactics, and structure, train, and equip the fleet to accomplish the mission.

Within the U.S. Navy, the terms Information Warfare (IW), Information Operations (IO), and Information Operations Warfare are widely used but not well defined. Nor are they linked to provide coherent definitions from joint and service perspectives that are essential to successful communication regarding IW’s relationship to other warfare areas and supporting activities. The result is confusion and a lack of progress in structuring, training, and equipping the U.S. Navy to perform this emerging predominant warfare area.

The following are examples of how these terms mean different things to different groups:

Reference: Station Hypo, 14 Jul 16, “CWOBC, a Community’s Course“: “The Cryptologic Warfare Officer Basic Course (CWOBC) formerly known as the Information Warfare Basic Course (IWBC) is an entry level course for all officers, regardless of commission source, who are coming into the Cryptologic Warfare Officer (CWO) community. Six weeks in length with an average annual throughput of 154, the course focuses on Signal Intelligence (SIGINT), Electronic Warfare (EW), Cyber Operations, as well as security fundamentals and community history.” Inasmuch as the content of the basic course remained the same, the terms “Information Warfare” and “Cryptologic Warfare” appear to mean the same thing for this group.  

150828-N-PU674-005 PENSACOLA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2015) Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2015) Officers attending the Information Professional Basic Course at Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station listen to Rear Adm. Daniel J. MacDonnell, commander of Information Dominance Corps Reserve Command (IDCRC) and Reserve deputy commander of Navy Information Dominance Forces (NAVIDFOR). Macdonnell spoke with them about career opportunities in the Information Dominance Corps and active and reserve integration. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)

Reference the BUPERS Information Warfare Community Management web page. It only addresses Information Professionals (1820), Cryptologic Warfare Specialists (1810), Cyber Warfare Engineers (1840), Intelligence Officers (1830), and Oceanography Specialists (1800), implying that together this aggregation of legacy support specialties constitutes Information Warfare. All of these are restricted line designators that by definition exercise command only over organizations that perform these specialties. There are no unrestricted line designators for specializing in and exercising Information Operations Warfare Commander (IWC) functions described in Naval Warfare Publication NWP 3-56 below.

Reference: NAVADMIN 023/16, DTG 021815 Feb 16, Subject: Information Dominance Corps Re-designated Information Warfare Community. The message states Information Warfare’s mission is: “providing sufficient overmatch in command and control, understanding the battlespace and adversaries, and projecting power through and across all domains.” This description of the Information Warfare mission is substantially different from the definition of Information Operations defined by Secretary of Defense, adopted by the JCS, and reflected in Naval Warfare Publications.

The Secretary of Defense defines Information Operations in DOD Directive 3600.1, dated May 2, 2013, as: “The integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.” This definition was incorporated in Joint Pub 1-02 and Naval Warfare Publications.

Naval Warfare Publication (NWP) 3-13 Information Operations, Feb 2014, defines Information Operations as: “the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.” Paragraph 1-3 states: “Evolving joint and Navy doctrine has refined IO as a discrete warfare area, not just a supporting function or enabling capability, and the IE [information environment] as a valuable and contested part of the battlespace.”

160123-N-PU674-018 PENSACOLA, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2016) Information warfare Sailors from the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station mentor high school students during CyberThon, an event designed to develop the future cybersecurity workforce. Hosted by the Blue Angels Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, CyberThon challenged the students to play the role of newly hired information technology professionals tasked with defending their company's network. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)
PENSACOLA, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2016) Information warfare Sailors from the Center for Information Dominance Unit Corry Station mentor high school students during CyberThon, an event designed to develop the future cybersecurity workforce. Hosted by the Blue Angels Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, CyberThon challenged the students to play the role of newly hired information technology professionals tasked with defending their company’s network. (U.S. Navy photo by Carla M. McCarthy/Released)

Naval Warfare Publication (NWP) 3-56, subject: Composite Warfare Commander, Feb 2010, Paragraph 3.7 identifies twenty-three typical functions assigned to the “Information Operations Warfare Commander (IWC)” that are summarized below:

  • Planning IO, EW, Military Deception, Operations Security, PSYOP, and Spectrum Usage.  
  • Developing, coordinating, and practicing preplanned responses for counter-surveillance, counter-influence, and counter-targeting in response to changes in the tactical situation.        
  • Recommending the EMCON profile and coordinating with ASWC to manage acoustic emissions in response to changes in the tactical situation.
  • Controlling ES and EA assets, and coordinating employment of ES and cryptologic sensors.
  • Conducting computer Network Defense (CND) and COMSEC monitoring.
  • Paragraph 4.3.4 states; “The IWC establishes and maintains the tactical picture….” It also states: [T]he IWC ….. achieves and maintains information superiority….and supports other warfare commanders.”

The term Information Operations is officially defined and documented. The term Information Warfare, though used extensively within the Navy, is not clearly defined, nor is it linked to Information Operations, resulting in confusion and limited progress.

VADM Jan Tighe assumed duties as OPNAV N2/N6 and Director of Naval Intelligence in July 2016. Image credit: US Navy
VADM Jan Tighe assumed duties as OPNAV N2/N6 and Director of Naval Intelligence in July 2016. (U.S. Navy photo)

For example, within the OPNAV Staff the N-2/N-6 carries the title Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare. He/she leads the “Navy Information Warfare Community” which so far is composed only of the legacy support specialties of Intelligence, Cryptology, METOC and IT. To date, there is little to suggest that the OPNAV N-2/N-6 has assumed responsibility for mission analysis, requirements definitions, and structuring, training, and equipping the fleet to achieve superiority over an adversary through Information Operations. Moreover, there is little suggesting recognition that Information Operations Warfare Commander (IWC) functions require performance in a command capacity (IWC), specialized training, and substantial systems functionality that has to be integrated with, rather than separate from, the combat systems that support other warfare areas.

CNO NAVADMIN 083/12, DTG 121702ZMAR12, Subject: OPNAV Realignment, lays out that the DCNO for Warfare Systems (N9) “is responsible for the integration of manpower, training, sustainment, modernization, and procurement readiness of the Navy’s warfare systems.” The N9 supplies leadership, guidance, and direction to the directors of Expeditionary Warfare (N95), Surface Warfare (N96), Undersea Warfare (N97), and Air Warfare (N98). The organization also oversees requirements and resource allocation across these warfare areas. Information Operations is not mentioned. From all indications, the N9 is not responsible for integrating IW/IO combat system functionality with the combat systems that support planning and execution in the traditional warfare areas. Given the functions of the IWC summarized above, combat systems integration is essential for mission success. This suggests the need for a well defined relationship between the N-9 and the N-2/N-6.

In order to eliminate confusion and realize the potential contribution of Information Operations to naval warfare, the U.S. Navy needs to formally (1) define the IW mission, (2) specify IW functions to be accomplished by personnel, organizations, and systems, and (3) assign IW organizational responsibilities. The following are proposed definitions.

Mission

Per JP 1-02, Information Operations is “the integrated employment, during military operations, of information-related capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”  

This definition, focused on “operations” or “employment” would be retained.  However, it does not satisfy the JP 1-02 criteria of “mission”: “The task, together with the purpose, that clearly indicates the action to be taken and the reason therefore.”  The mission statement should be focused not on employment, but on the warfare task, purpose, action to be taken and the reason therefore. This translates to the need for the term “Information Warfare.” The following is offered as a statement of the mission of Naval Information Warfare:

That portion of naval warfare in which operations are conducted to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the enemy’s human and automated decision making to gain warfighting advantages over the adversary, while protecting our own.

Functions

JP 1-02 defines “Function” as: “The broad, general, and enduring role for which an organization is designed, equipped, and trained.” The following is offered as a statement of the functions of Navy Information Warfare:

Naval Information Warfare functions are to achieve superior situation awareness and combat command decisions; influence enemy decisions; deny the enemy information superiority; disrupt enemy decision making; and  protect and defend own force information and information systems from external or internal threats.

Tasks

JP1-02 defines “Task” as: A clearly defined action or activity specifically assigned to an individual or organization that must be done as it is imposed by an appropriate authority. A discrete event or action that enables a mission or function to be accomplished.”

IW tasks are those tasks considered essential for the accomplishment of assigned or anticipated missions. After defining IW mission and functions, mission area analysis can proceed to identify mission essential tasks, and define required operational capabilities derived therefrom.

In summary, IW is a predominant warfare area that has the unrealized potential to be a major factor in prevailing in naval warfare with a near-peer adversary through the employment of Information Operations. A clear definition of IW missions, functions, and assignment of responsibilities for requirements, resource sponsorship, acquisition, and combat systems integration would serve to place this warfare area on a firm footing and serve a foundation for the realization of its significant potential contribution to combat success.  

Richard Mosier is a former naval aviator, intelligence analyst at ONI, OSD/DIA SES 4, and systems engineer specializing in Information Warfare. The views express herein are solely those of the author.

Featured Image: PENSACOLA, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2011) The Center for Information Dominance (CID) has become the first non-operational shore command approved for the newly created Enlisted Information Dominance Warfare Specialty pin. (U.S. Navy photo by Gary Nichols/Released)

China’s Reactions to the Arbitration Ruling Will Lead It Into Battles It Won’t Win, Part I

The following is a two-part series on China’s possible reactions to the Arbitration Ruling in its dispute with the Philippines. In Part I, the military implications of China’s recent and possible future actions are analyzed. Part II will look at the likely outcome of China using economic and legal leverage to register its displeasure with the ruling.  

By Mark E. Rosen

The Arbitration Panel’s ruling against China on July 12 was a stinging blow to China’s international prestige. China advanced a narrative that it had historic rights to nearly the entirety of the South China Sea (SCS), and that it could prevent states like the Philippines and Vietnam from fishing in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and drilling for oil near their coasts. China also maintained, through its actions, the right to engage in island building and fishing practices which caused severe damage to the marine environment. Since these activities occurred inside of its Nine Dashed Line Claim (9DL), China felt justified in these “internal matters” and told its neighbors in almost evangelical terms that the SCS is their patrimony and that no country or international body has a right to mess in their domestic affairs. On all these counts, the Tribunal disagreed and issued a strong rebuke of China’s activities.  

The few positive signs that China is receptive to peaceful resolution and has moved past the ruling have been overtaken by a number of very disturbing trends which, regardless of which path China ultimately takes, puts it on a collision course with Japan, the United States, or even a much broader group of states. Unless something dramatic emerges as a result of the secret conclave in Beidaihe, the negative developments seem to overwhelmingly demonstrate that China’s gaze is only focused on settling scores with the U.S., Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, because these states are responsible for its legal embarrassment and loss of face within ASEAN.  

China’s Negative Reactions to the Ruling

Immediately after the ruling, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a detailed repudiation of the ruling on July 12; declaring that the ruling was “null and void,” “has no binding force,” and that “China neither accepts nor recognizes it.” It also stated that the Philippine’s actions in filing the action were “unilateral” and a “violation of international law,” because the Philippines deviated from its legal commitment in the 2002 ASEAN Declaration of Conduct (DOC) to resolve differences via negotiations. China, in the same breath, reaffirmed its commitment to international law and to peace and stability in the South China Sea. Two days later, the Chinese state media declared the permanent court of arbitration a “puppet” of external forces and that “China will take all necessary measures to protect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests.” Since then, the following developments have taken place:

  • On July 13, China sent civilian aircraft to two new airports on Mischief Reef and Subi Reef. This action was taken in spite of the Tribunal’s ruling that Mischief Reef is a low-tide elevation and part of the Philippine continental shelf, and Subi Reef is a low tide elevation and part of the territorial sea of Itu Aba. In both cases, low-tide elevations cannot be appropriated by China.  
  • On July 13, China’s vice foreign minister asserted, “If our security is being threatened, of course we have the right to demarcate a [air defense identification] zone.”  
  • On July 15, China posted images of its recent overflight of the highly contested Scarborough Shoal by nuclear capable H-6K bombers (and escorts) and announced that such patrols would be a “Regular Practice.”  This announcement came the same day as the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson was visiting his Chinese counterpart, Adm. Wu Shengli.   
  • On July 18, Press reports cited Adm. Wu Shengli as warning the U.S. CNO that future U.S. freedom of navigation operations “will only backfire” and that Beijing will complete its planned land reclamation and reef reclamation and has made “sufficient preparations” to deal with any sovereignty infringements.    
  • On July 19, China’s vice minister of commerce Gao Yan told reporters that trade relations between China and the Philippines were “mutually beneficial,” and added that the government did not endorse calls within China to boycott Philippine products. There were also reports of Chinese activities smashing iPhones and massing protests in front of KFC restaurants in several cities.  
  • On July 24, ASEAN failed to achieve consensus to issue a statement on the Tribunal decision after China’s ally, Cambodia, broke away from a consensus document that was being proposed by the Philippines, Vietnam, and others.
  • On July 25, the United States, Australia, and Japan held a Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and issued a statement expressing “their strong support for the rule of law and called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal’s Award of July 12 in the Philippines-China arbitration, which is final and legally binding on both parties.” The ministers also expressed opposition to any coercive or unilateral actions that could alter the status quo including future land reclamation activities.    
  • On July 27, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi dismissed the Trilateral statement and charged that the statement was not constructive and was “fanning the flames.” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also charged that the U.S., Australia, and Japan have been adopting double standards towards international law which they adopt when it “fits their needs.”   
  • On July 28, The Chinese Defense Ministry announced plans to hold a joint military exercise with Russia in the SCS in September; the first such bilateral exercise in that body of water.   
  • On August 1, China held a significant live fire drill in the East China Sea (ECS) that included the firing of “dozens” of missiles and torpedoes. (AP, Aug 2, 2016).  There were also reports that six PRC coast guard vessels and over 200 fishing vessels swarmed in the vicinity of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.  
  • On August 2, Japan’s Ministry of Defense published a white paper describing China’s position on the SCS an object of “deep concern.” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called Japan’s paper “full of malice,” “lousy clichés,” and “irresponsible” and a smokescreen to obscure Japan’s expansionist arms policies. This exchange of statements was then followed by North Korea’s firing of a ballistic missile into Japan’s EEZ on August 3.  When the UN Security Council sought to condemn North Korea’s actions, China “curtailed” the Security Council’s actions.
  • On August 2, China’s Supreme People’s Court clarified China’s 2014 Fishing Regulation to the effect that those that engage in illegal activities inside of the waters claimed by China will be arrested and tried as criminals. This decision settled past differences of opinion as to whether China’s EEZ and Territorial Seas empowered Chinese officials to pursue criminal liability for those involved in illegal hunting or fishing in China’s jurisdictional seas. The practical import is that fishing within the 9DL area will be met with vessel seizure and imprisonment.  
  • On August 2, Malaysia joined Indonesia in announcing that they would sink any foreign ships that are fishing in their claimed waters. This statement was a veiled threat to China that had allowed its “fishing militia” to fish in waters claimed by both countries.  
  • On August 6, China sent bombers and fighter jets on patrol in the vicinity of “Scarborough Shoals.” China announced that these flights would be a “regular practice” to “normalize South China Sea combat patrols” to safeguard its sovereignty interests. 

Converging Flash Points

Much like current U.S. presidential campaign antics, it is hard to imagine what is likely to happen next in the high stakes poker game being played out in Asian waters. Taking into account what has happened to date and where China believes that it has leverage, there are three possible ways in which China might lash out: military, economic, and legal.   

Possible Military Moves by China: The Senkakus

The statements by China’s Chief of the Naval Staff and its military activity near the Senkakus suggest that China is employing tactics of intimidation to get Japan to back away from its recent statements over the Tribunal’s decision. It may also be the case that the presence of swarming vessels in and around the Senkakus and the North Korean missile shot (presumably with tacit PRC approval) suggest that China is trying to goad Japan to militarily respond or back off its claims.   

The Senkakus have always been the powder keg of Asia because it features the two leading powers in Asia: one ascending and one arguably in decline both competing on the world stage. Both are rivals for dominance over a tiny scrap of land and associated maritime space which, given the implications for access to fisheries and oil and gas, is not irrational. This is somewhat ironic because the Tribunal decision in China v. the Philippines takes away much of the incentive for the two states to fight over these rocks since they would be enclaved within the continental shelf of one of the two states; most likely Japan. In that case, the rocks themselves and the surrounding territorial sea have much less value that the large continental shelf projections of each country and aren’t worth fighting over. (See, Fixing the Senkaku/Diaoyu Problem Once and For All ).      

It is somewhat curious that China is lashing out at Japan, given that the Senkaku/Diaoyu issue has been rather quiet until recently and the SCS is China’s current problem. Regardless, China would do well to revisit its strategic objectives, especially since the United States declared in April of 2014 that Japan is the lawful administrator of the islands and are within the scope of Article 5 of the 1961 Mutual Defense Treaty. The reaffirmation of solidarity between U.S., Australia, and Japan in the July 25 Trilateral declaration likely provides Tokyo the fortitude it needs to militarily respond if China continues to operate provocatively near the Senkakus.   

Another important point in this calculus is Japanese President Shinzo Abe. Abe stated in 2015 that Japan is a “maritime state” and can “only ensure its own peace and security by actively engaging in efforts to make the entire world a more peaceful and secure place.” Japan’s record 2016 military budget of roughly $42 billion is further evidence of that goal. Japan has a combatant fleet of 131 vessels,  including 3 aircraft carriers, 43 destroyers, and 17 submarines using frontline U.S. tactics and systems. China has substantially more hulls and submarines, but most naval analysts interviewed by the author cite the excellent Japanese submarine force as a likely game changer.

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Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyer. (AFP)

More important is the will to fight. Japan, as noted, has been greatly increasing its military spending even though its economy has been in the doldrums. According to the OECD, output growth has been slowed by a drop in demand from China and other Asian countries and by sluggish private consumption. This indicates that if Japan is pushed to the point that it must militarily respond, it has three valid reasons for using instant and overwhelming force now. First, Japan’s economy is too fragile to become involved in a protracted war with China. It would need to win fast and win big to reestablish economic dominance within Asia. If China is not dealt a mortal blow and forced to capitulate, it will use its economic leverage to coerce states to suspend trading with Japan. Japan’s trading economy cannot easily weather a suspension of its trade relations – even if the U.S. and Australia remain in their corner. Second, Japan cannot win a military war of attrition with China: it suffers from a lack of hulls, aircraft, personnel, and production capacity.

Like Israel did in the 1967  six-day attack on Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, Japan would feel compelled to use its current qualitative advantages to deliver a massive blow to Chinese maritime and air forces to dissuade Beijing from further military incursions in the ECS. In a few years, the military edge could shift to China because of its massive building plans. Third, Japanese domestic politics today would likely support a massive strike. This starts with Japan’s new self-defense law which entered into force in March of 2016 and allows Japan to engage in limited coalition warfare. Also, a 2012 Public Opinion Poll by the Cabinet Office shows a nose-dive in Japanese attitudes towards China. According to a 2013 paper by Stimson Center Analyst Yuki Tatsumi Chinese economic ascendancy has been a source of friction as has been the influx of Chinese citizens into Japan as members of the workforce or as tourists. People complain of the increases in crime by Chinese living and working in Japan and bad manners. Finally, the Japanese public is extremely well read and are likely becoming unnerved and physically threatened by the constant scrambling of Japanese fighters (200 times alone in April – June) to intercept Chinese aircraft, ballistic missile tests by China’s “Puppet” in Pyongyang, and live fire exercises in the Senkakus.       

China needs to ask itself what it is trying to achieve in the ECS. If its intent is to beat Tokyo into submission or lure it into a limited and protracted war of attrition to undermine public support for Abe, it seems very unlikely that Tokyo will take the bait. However, if its intent is to successfully provoke a full-scale military attack, they are likely to be very disappointed, particularly since U.S. forces will be present to backstop the protection of Japan’s homeland. They may also be gravely miscalculating that Japan will only respond to Beijing’s move in a piecemeal  fashion. Japan has an excellent and professional Navy – especially its submarine force – and could deliver a knock-out punch to much of China’s maritime forces.   

Possible Military Moves by China: An Actual or De Facto South China Sea ADIZ  

Until the combat patrols on August 6 near Scarborough Shoal, Beijing’s recent attention seemed focused on the East China Sea. However, while Chinese threats to establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the SCS seemed to have died down, the possibility cannot be reasonably excluded. The question then becomes: does an ADIZ advance China’s campaign to assert its sovereignty in the South China Sea? If China concludes that an ADIZ will send the correct signal that it has sovereignty claims in the SCS, the next concerns are the likely responses and whether or not they can succeed.

The United States was the first country to establish an ADIZ during the height of the Cold War as a way of providing notice to Soviet flights entering the zone near the United States that the United States reserved the right to undertake a radio challenge or dispatch fighter aircraft to ascertain the incoming flights course and intentions if it was not flying on a predetermined flight plan. The United States now has four ADIZs in operation:  the U.S. ADIZ (Continental U.S.); Alaska ADIZ, Guam ADIZ, and Hawaii ADIZ. Upwards of 20 other countries have established these zones adjacent to their coastlines. These zones do not seek to restrict freedoms of navigation or overflight; their sole purpose is to ascertain a particular flights intention to reassure the coastal state that no surprise attack is being launched. When China established its ADIZ in late 2013 over the contested Senkaku islands, it was diplomatically protested because it was overbroad and inappropriate to defend an uninhabited rock as a sort of occupation measure. China’s ECS ADIZ was also criticized for including civil aircraft flying on established flight plans.

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China’s ECS ADIZ declared in November 2013. (Wire Agencies, BBC, Yonhap News)

ADIZs have no explicit foundation in UNCLOS or other international instruments, yet they are regarded as customary and lawful when used for the limited purpose of identifying aircraft near a country’s coastline, not to deny such aircraft their lawful rights of overflight. For this reason, the United States and other countries protested the Chinese ADIZ, since it was established to “control and react to aircraft entering the zone” and warned that aircraft flying in the ECS Zone “must comply” with the requirements to provide detailed identification data and “comply with the instructions” of the zone controller.  

The same legal issues in China’s ECS zone would apply in a SCS Zone. Depending on how it was actually constituted, it would certainly be provocative because it is not associated mainland protection but rather protection of mostly uninhabited rocks and islets from surprise attack. As it relates to military aircraft lawfully operating in the SCS, there is a fear that China will seek to limit military flights to corridors that they can instrument and hold at risk with missiles. There are also the impacts of a large SCS ADIZ and the impact on civil aviation. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the South China Sea is a “Main Truck” for all traffic on “all routes” and there are concerns that added reporting and routing by Chinese civil authorities will impede international air traffic.

The last possibility is that China, through deeds and action, will establish a de facto ADIZ as an adjunct of its promised combat air patrols. It might simply declare that all aircraft flying in the SCS have to provide flight information to Chinese Military authorities or risk interception or being shot down.

In the last analysis, if China were to establish an actual or de facto ADIZ encompassing the SCS and used the same sort of rules as its ECS ADIZ, the United States will almost certainly protest the action and fly combat aircraft into those portions of the ADIZ which are illegitimate. Australia and France are two other states that are also unlikely to stand idly by if a SCS ADIZ is established because of Australia’s longstanding commitment to UNCLOS, order at sea, and also because of the verbal barrage which it received from China following the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue statement. Also, this support from Australia is consistent with the U.S./Australia Security Treaty of 1952 in which security guarantees are triggered by an “armed attack in the Pacific Area on any of the Parties.” Finally, France announced at the Shangri-La Dialogue Forum in June that it would, on its own right, conduct “regular and visible” patrols in the South China Sea. This is logical, because France frequently operates in those waters in conjunction with the protection of its vast South Pacific Territories. The French defense minister has also urged the EU to also join in these patrols to reinforce “a rules-based maritime order.” Great Britain, Vietnam, and India are other countries voicing public support for the ruling and could conceivably contribute to a “FON Coalition.”  

If China goes forward with an ADIZ, it is very reasonable to expect that the United States, France, Australia and even Japan will mount FON-like operations to protest with the zone’s establishment. If these operations are “regular and visible” as suggested by France, China would need to ask itself whether or not it is is achieving its political objectives when foreign aircraft can operate with impunity in their new ADIZ. Also, if China continues to engage in persistent combat patrols around Scarborough Shoal, then a declaration that the United States that regards Scarborough to be within the scope of the “metropolitan territory” of the Philippines under Article V of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty is both possible and a fresh challenge to Beijing that would cause it embarrassment.         

China puts itself greatly at risk if it moves forward with an ADIZ or something resembling it given the widespread international support for the Tribunal Ruling, abhorrence with China’s behavior towards its neighbors, and general concern that China’s bad behavior be deterred. Now that the U.S. has bed down rights in five bases in the Philippines adjacent to the South China Sea, it has gained a significant military advantage in being able to operate fixed wing combat aircraft from land locations to conduct its own FON operations or combat patrols that don’t put a carrier at risk. China’s ADIZ gamble might have paid off if only the United States were involved so that it could “declare victory” in a future contacts with U.S. ships or aircraft such as the EP3 incident. However, given the threat dynamic and the potential to trigger alliance support from Australia and France, China will hopefully conclude that it will be biting off more than it can chew by going down the ADIZ path or, as noted above, further provoking Japan in the East China Sea.   

A maritime and international lawyer, Mark E. Rosen is the SVP and General Counsel of CNA and holds an adjunct faculty appointment at George Washington School of Law. The views expressed in this paper are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of CNA or any of its sponsors.   

Featured Image:Japanese submarine Oyashio arrives at the former U.S. naval base in Subic bay. (AFP)