Category Archives: Asia-Pacific

Analysis relating to USPACOM.

Sea Control 39 (Asia-Pacific): Pacific Cyber Security

seacontrol2This week, Sea Control Asia Pacific looks at cyber security in the region. Natalie Sambhi, of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), interviews her colleague Klée Aiken from ASPI’s International Cyber Policy Centre about the major cyber issues facing Australia, ICPC’s new report on cyber maturity in the Asia Pacific, what cyber maturity means and how it’s measured, China’s and India’s respective cyber capacities, and what this all means for the individual internet user.

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Europe’s Role in an East Asian War

Major war in East Asia is a very unpleasant, but not unthinkable scenario. Of course, the US would be involved from day one in any military conflict in the East or South China Seas. However, Europe’s role would be less clear, due to its increasing strategic irrelevance. Most probably, except the UK, Europeans would deliver words only.

Europe’s reactions depend on America

While Asia’s naval arms race continue, tensions are rising further in the East and South China Seas. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that any side will lunch a blitz-strike and, thereby, start a regional war. Although China is increasing its major combat capabilities, it is instead already using a salami-slicing tactic to secure its large claims. However, the worst of all threats are unintended incidents, caused for example by young nervous fighter pilots, leading to a circle of escalations without an exit in sight.

Claims in the South China Sea (The Economist)

Hence, let us discuss the very unpleasant scenario that either there would be a major war between China and Japan or between China and South China Sea neighboring countries, such as Vietnam or the Philippines. Of course, the US would be involved in the conflict from day one. But what about Europe? The Old Continent would surely be affected, especially by the dramatic global economic impact an East Asian War would have. However, reactions of European countries would largely depend on what the US is doing: the larger the US engagement, the louder Washington’s calls for a coalition of the willing and capable will count.

The UK would (maybe) go

The Royal Navy undertakes annual “Cougar Deployments” to the Indian Ocean. Therefore, the UK still has expeditionary capabilities to join US-led operations in East of Malacca. Disaster relief after Typhoon Haiyan by the destroyer HMS Daring and the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious proved that British capability. While Daring is a sophisticated warship, the 34 year old Illustrious with her few helicopters and without fixed-wing aircraft would not be of much operational worth.

Royal Navy SSN in the Suez Canal in 2001 (The Hindu)

Moreover, since 2001, the Royal Navy always operates one SSN with Tomahawk cruise-missiles in the Indian Ocean, probably the most sophisticated high-intensity warfare platfrom the Royal Navy would have to offer for an East Asia deployment. The UK still has access to ports in Singapore and Brunei, although there is no guarantee that these countries, when not involved in the conflict, would open their ports for British ships underway to war. Australia, which is likely to join forces with the US, would be an other option for replenishment at the port of Darwin.

Polar Route (Wikipedia)

Through the Polar Route (a route European airlines used while Soviet airspace was closed) and with aerial refueling or stops in Canada and Alaska, Britain could also deploy some of its Eurofighters to Japan. As such, Britain would be capable of doing, at least, something.

 The question is,if Britain is willing to take action. Surely, UKIP’s Nigel Farage would not hesitate to use the broad public reluctance to expeditionary endeavors for his’ own cause. As in case of Syria, a lack of public support at home could prevent the UK from a military involvement. It would be hard for any UK Government to sell to the British voter to cut back public spending at home while signing checks for the Royal Navy heading towards East Asian waters.

France would not make a difference

Beside the US, France is the world’s only navy with a permanent presence through bases in all three oceans. Although, with one frigate, France’s Pacific presence of surface warships is relatively small. The one Tahiti-based French frigate deployed to an East Asian theater would not make a difference, but be a rather small show of force.

French frigate in Bora-Bora 2002 (Wikipedia)

Like Britain, France permanently operates warships in the Indian Ocean, which it could also deploy to East Asia. Its nuclear-powered carrier Charles de Gaulle and SSN would also be able to tour beyond Singapore, however with a relatively long reaction time.

Paris’ main hurdle would be the same as London’s: The lack of public support. Le Pen would do exactly the same as UKIP and mobilize publicly against a French engagement and, thereby, against the government. Moreover, France has not the money necessary for any substantial and high-intensity engagement. In addition, a weak president like Hollande would fear the political risks. Given the operation ends in a disaster for the French, e.g. with the Charles de Gaulle sunk by the Chinese, Mr. Hollande would probably have to resign. Hence, do not expect an active role of France during an East Asian conflict.

No role for NATO and EU 

On paper, NATO, with its Standing Maritime Groups, seems to be capable of deploying relevant naval forces across the globe. In practice, however, any mission with a NATO logo needs approval of 28 member states. Due to NATO’s present pivot to Russia, many members would object any new NATO involvement outside the Euro-Atlantic Area. As the US prefers coalitions of the willing and capable anyway, there would be no role for NATO in an East Asian war.

In addition, there is also no role for the EU. Since 2011, the rejections each year to the EU for observing the East Asia Summit are showing Brussels’ enduring strategic irrelevance in the Indo-Pacific. Moreover, neutral EU members, like Sweden and Austria, would never allow any active involvement. It is even questionable, if EU members could agree on a common political position or sanctions – something they have already failed to do often enough.

Dependent on the size and kind of US response, smaller European countries like Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway may join forces with the US Navy and send single vessels through the Panama Canal into the Pacific or replace US warships on other theaters. This is not far from reality, because these countries did already sent warships into the Pacific for the RIMPAC exercise. However, their only motivation would be to use these deployments to make their voices better heard in Washington.

What would Germany do?

First of all, Germany is the enduring guarantee that, when confronted with major war in East Asia, NATO and EU will do nothing else than sending out press releases about their “deep concern”. Being happy that ISAF’s end terminates the era of large expeditionary deployments, Germany’s political class would never approve an active military role in East Asia – left aside that Germany would not be able to contribute much, anyway.

Sino-German Summit 2012 (Source)

Germany would first and foremost defend its trade relationships with China, which is in its national interests. Thus, the much more interesting question is, if the German government would develop the a diplomatic solution. Germany has very good relationships with the US, China, Japan and South Korea. Vietnam and other South East Asian countries have frequently expressed greater interest in deeper cooperation with Germany.

Hence, Germany has the political weight necessary to work for a diplomatic solution. The question is whether German politicians would be willing to work for that solution themselves. Most probably, Berlin’s press releases would call for the United Nations and the “International Community” (whoever that would be in such a scenario) to take action.

What Germany could do and what would get approval at home, is to implement measures of ending hostilities and re-establishing peace – maybe by an UN-mandated maritime monitoring mission or by the build-up of a new trust-creating security architecture.

Europe’s limits

The debate about a European role in an East Asian major war is largely hypothetical. Nevertheless, it teaches us three relevant lessons.

First, we see how politically and militarily limited Europe already has become in the early stages of the 21st century. Given current trends continue, imagine how deep Europe’s abilities will have been sunk in twenty years.

Second, the main reasons for Europe’s limits are the lack of political will, public support and money. Europe’s march to irrelevance is not irreversible. However, it would need the political will for change and an economic recovery making new financial resources available

Third, we are witnessing an increasing European geopolitical and strategic irrelevance beyond its wider neighborhood. In reality, Europe’s role in an East Asian war would be nothing else but words.

Felix Seidler is a fellow at the Institute for Security Policy, University of Kiel, Germany, and runs the site (Seidler’s Security Policy).

Follow Felix on Twitter: @SeidersSiPo

Vietnam Set to Receive Japanese Patrol Boats Next Year

Vietnam’s Vice Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh told Reuters on Monday at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that the country expects to receive patrol boats from Japan early next year.

This is the first timeline provided by either side, where as recently as Friday at the same conference Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said only that Japan was “moving forward with the necessary survey to enable us to provide such vessels to Vietnam.”

Japan’s assistance comes as both nations engage with China in high-stakes territorial rows over disputed islands and their attendant Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) – Japan over the Senkakus/Diaoyus in the East China Sea, and Vietnam over the Paracels/Xishas in the South China Sea.

Vietnam’s lack of capacity to defend its claimed EEZ was highlighted when it unsuccessfully tried to disrupt the operations of a Chinese oil rig moved into waters off of Zhongjian Island in the Paracels last month, sparking water cannon battles, collisions, and the sinking of a fishing vessel.

Patrol-boat aid for Vietnam has been on Japan’s agenda since at least late 2013. Vietnam reportedly sought 10 Japanese patrol boats as early as April last year, and Abe confirmed in December that the two nations were in talks over a deal. The exact number of patrol boats, their specifications, and whether they would be procured through a Japanese-secured soft loan have not been confirmed.

AbeLast week, Abe told the Japanese Diet that Japan would be unable to provide Vietnam with used, likely more-capable coast guard vessels in the near term due to its own need for maritime capabilities in the current environment. Abe at the time made no mention of the provision of new vessels for Vietnam, although he had agreed in March to send a survey team to the country to research the possibility of a donation.

While it is unclear which maritime departments within Vietnam would receive the vessels, Hanoi took the step in October of transferring the Vietnam Marine Police from the Navy to the Coast Guard to make it eligible for the vessels under Japan’s Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) rules which prohibit aid from use for military purposes.

Japan has in recent years agreed to other patrol boat “gifts” to Southeast Asian nations. In 2007, it provided three new 27 meter patrol vessels to Indonesia and agreed last July to provide ten 40-meter vessels to the Philippines, slated to begin arriving in the Philippines in the third quarter of 2015. While the Philippines deal is also called a donation, the vessels are being procured through a $184 million soft loan announced in December.

In addition to patrol boats, Japan has over the past decade engaged in a variety of programs aimed at boosting the maritime capabilities of Southeast Asian nations, including counter-piracy, search and rescue, and maritime domain awareness training and assets.

Maritime capacity building aid for Vietnam has been forthcoming from the United States as well. In December U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. would give Vietnam $18 million to develop its maritime capacity, including funds earmarked for five fast patrol boats, and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard have increased training engagements with the nation since 2010.

In April, Abe and President Obama released a joint statement affirming their joint commitment to, “assist Southeast Asian littoral states in building maritime domain awareness and other capacities for maritime safety and security so that they can better enforce law, combat illicit trafficking and weapons proliferation, and protect marine resources.

Seen as a dual-purpose effort to maintain regional stability by enhancing sea lanes defenses against maritime crime and boosting the deterrence capabilities of those in territorial disputes with China, the partnership is likely to manifest itself in future coordination in the region.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and vice president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.

This article was cross-posted in coordination with USNI News.

New Strategic Geography Ends “Long Army Century”

Some historians attempt to reframe the timeline of history in order to highlight trends that might otherwise remain submerged in more traditional categories. The British Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawn, for example, re-classified the long period from the French Revolution to the beginning of the First World War as the “long” 19th century. This change showcased a particular period of European ascendency through the Napoleonic, Revolutionary, Victorian and Edwardian periods. A similar effort might now be applied to the influence of the U.S. Army on United States strategic thinking. A “Long Army Century” is now drawing to a close due to new strategic geography and shrinking defense budgets.

Elihu Root

The “long Army century” arguably began in 1904 with the selection of New York corporate lawyer Elihu Root as the Secretary of the Army by President William McKinley in 1899. While the U.S. Army had been victorious in Cuba in the Spanish American War, its organization, operations, and logistics during that conflict revealed deep flaws that might circumscribe future success. Root undertook an aggressive program that created the modern Army General Staff, the Army War College, and the Joint Army Navy board for inter-service cooperation.
The Chief of Staff system, modeled on methods then used by American business, was a great success. Root’s reforms created the “modern” Army that was able to mobilize large numbers of volunteers for the First World War. This system eagerly embraced new technologies such as the tank and the airplane, and was successful in deploying millions of Americans to fight in France in a relatively short time. The Army also had great influence over large numbers of civilians for the first time since the Civil War, as high ranking Army leaders served in key roles on the War Industries Board that coordinated U.S. war production.

The end of the First World War brought a reduction in overall Army influence, but future influential leaders including George C. Marshall, Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Patton and many others were direct products of Root’s post-1903 reforms. These leaders fought the Second World War, and others again occupied significant roles in civilian government like General Leslie Groves who managed the Manhattan Project. The end of World War 2 should have brought about another reduction in Army strength and influence, but the emerging Cold War and the strong personalities of Marshall, Eisenhower, and other products of the Root Army War College had other ideas.

Eisenhower Patton
Eisenhower Patton Bradley

The Army targeted the Navy as unfairly hoarding resources in a “parochial” manner in order to gain its share of scarce financial resources at the beginning of the Cold War. One of the best ways to do this was to advocate for a unified “joint” military force with relatively co-equal branches under a supreme “generalissimo” of the U.S. armed forces. This is not surprising given the wartime experience of the post World War 2 U.S. Army leadership. Officers such as Marshall, Eisenhower, and Omar Bradley served primarily in the wartime European theater of operations where land and air warfare were the predominant modes of fighting. The “Battle of the Atlantic” against the German U-boat arm never fell under Eisenhower’s direct supervision. He and other Army officers respected the ability of naval forces to mount the Normandy invasion, but had little or no direct experience with naval combat. Postwar naval leaders such as Chester Nimitz, Forrest Sherman, and Arleigh Burke by contrast had experienced a relatively decentralized war in the Pacific. Nimitz and Army general Douglas MacArthur shared command authority and responsibility in a collaborative manner unlike the Army Chief of Staff system with one overall commander. As a result of this difference in leadership style and the fierce competition with the Navy and later the Air Force for funding, the Army enthusiastically adopted concepts of “joint” organization and control of the armed forces throughout the Cold War. Dwight Eisenhower as President tried to implement joint concepts of organization for the Department of Defense as a result of his war experience, but was thwarted in his efforts by key pro-Navy Congressional leaders.

Goldwater Jones
Senator Goldwater and CJCS General David Jones

The long and unsuccessful Vietnam War and end of the military draft in 1973 should have brought about a reduction in Army strength and influence, but the Army was again able to avoid large cuts by shifting to an all-volunteer force and refocusing on the European threat posed by the Soviet Union. Army leadership continued to advocate “joint” leadership of the U.S. Armed Forces in pursuit of desired force structure. The passage of the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 further cemented “joint” aspects of U.S. military strategy, policy and operations. The Gulf War of 1991 seemed to confirm that “joint” organization was crucial to U.S. military success. Building on triumph in that conflict, the Army was able to secure a significant force structure in the negotiations that produced the post-Cold War “base force” in 1994. The looming specter of a revanchist Russia, desire to enable a “New World Order”, as well as the continuing specter of Saddam Hussein’s armed forces convinced many decision-makers that there was continued value in a large expeditionary ground force. The Army found further relevance after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent ground invasions and counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army’s success on the battlefield in the last 100 years, especially in more recent “joint” operations has been largely enabled by favorable geography. Combat in and around the Eurasian landmass in both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, and recent wars in the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia all featured airfields within short range of hostile targets and an emphasis on the effects of land-based operations. The geography of future conflict however would seem to be shifting to largely maritime and air struggles in the Indo-Pacific basin. This region’s large maritime spaces offer few immediate venues for employment of land power as did the plains of Europe, the deserts of the Middle East and the highlands of the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. The Air Force and Navy, rather than the Army, have the central role in Pacific strategy. The shrinking U.S. defense budget in response to national debt, trade deficits and massive new social welfare spending also works against the maintenance of continued Army force structure and influence. Without a defined mission in an essentially air and maritime battlespace, the Army has resorted to a kind of “me too” strategy advocating its ability to support the other services Pacific efforts through coastal defense, which ironically was one of the U.S. Army’s first missions in the new republic.


The Pacific Ocean, and the lands touched by its waves have always been of U.S. strategic interest. For the first time however since 1941 there is no comparable “land-based” strategic theater in competition with the Indo-Pacific region. The U.S. Army will likely have other expeditionary missions and conflicts in its future, and may again return to a level strategic influence like that it has possessed in the last 100 years. For the moment however, historians might be well served to give the present “Long Army Century” an endpoint in the early second decade of the 21st century.

Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941. He posts here at CIMSEC, and at under the pen name of “Lazarus”.