Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Tyler Bonin is a history and economics instructor.  He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, where he developed and participated in host nation infrastructure projects as a construction wireman.  He can be found on Twitter @TylerMBonin.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of Infrastructure Development in Africa and Shifting Chinese Foreign Policy

Date Originally Written:  January 12, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  April 2, 2018.

Summary:   The People’s Republic of China’s continued infrastructure investment in Africa through its One Belt, One Road initiative has led to incremental change in its foreign policy. Security challenges arising in Africa due to continued PRC investment might lead to an increased PRC military presence on the continent, as well as a complete revision of its non-interference policy.

Text:  In 2013, People’s Republic of China (PRC) President Xi Jinping proposed a $5 trillion international infrastructure plan entitled One Belt, One Road (OBOR), intended to advance land and maritime trade routes between Asia, Europe, and Africa[1]. Initial expansion has included approximately 1,700 road, railway, pipeline, and port projects undertaken by PRC state-owned and private enterprises. The state-developed Silk Road Fund and several multilateral development banks have financed these infrastructure projects, in addition to PRC commercial bank loans to OBOR partner countries[2].

A combination of private and state-owned PRC construction firms have built several railways between major African cities, including the Addis Ababa – Djibouti line, which is Africa’s first transnational electric railway. PRC-built railways have opened landlocked countries’ access to seaports, eased the burden of travel for workers, and ultimately facilitated the development of industrial economic corridors. Additionally, PRC companies have continued their investment in roadways and ports. Construction of a port at Bagamoyo in Tanzania will have the two-fold effect of easing congestion at neighboring ports and attracting foreign direct investment; it is slated to be Africa’s largest port[3]. Overall, views toward PRC development activities have been enthusiastic. Survey data from Afrobarometer demonstrates that 63% of Africans (averaged across all countries) view PRC influence as “somewhat” or “very” positive[4]. The PRC’s increasing global investment in infrastructure improves the country’s access to natural resources and also opens access to markets for PRC goods and services. It also serves as a powerful element of the PRC’s increasing soft power.

The PRC’s ever-expanding investment in Africa has also meant its increased role in security on the African continent. As the PRC has invested heavily in the Sudanese oil industry, civil conflict in South Sudan in 2013 led Beijing to take a proactive mediation position. In addition to promising to continue PRC participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions, President Jinping has also promised to support the development of counter-terrorism measures within African countries[5]. All of these activities have been a departure from the PRC’s traditional “non-interference” foreign policy stance. Security concerns in the past have arisen as the direct result of terrorist activity in Africa, including the kidnapping of PRC workers by the jihadist group Boko Haram. Furthermore, the PRC is now focusing on security as a manner in which to protect its infrastructure investments. Civil unrest and terrorist activity stalls PRC projects and hinders economic activity; the large upfront capital investment required of these infrastructure projects requires continuity in development, which is interrupted by civil strife.

However, security concerns in Africa may also surface as a direct result of PRC infrastructure development. While PRC activity in Africa has been viewed positively on average, PRC labor practices have received negative attention in particular regions. While PRC construction firms have used local workers for projects in regions where the pool of skilled labor is steady, PRC nationals have been brought into regions where skilled laborers do not exist in large enough numbers. Thus, a narrative of foreign workers taking jobs in which local workers could be employed has given rise to periodic populist movements in Africa. One example of populist movement activity is in Kenya, where a group demanding that a PRC project provide jobs to local citizens attacked PRC railway construction workers[6].

Furthermore, young and unemployed populations provide the foundation for rebel movements; As rebel groups may seize access to a country’s resources—and use the sales of such for continuing to fund the movement—participation in rebellion essentially provides young individuals with their only means to income[7]. Many fragile states are the product of extended civil war. Subsequently, these states have seen low levels of education and loss of skills among their working age populations. These fragile states, such as Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, represent the situation in which PRC workers are used[8]. Thus, PRC activities are a possible catalyst for violence in fragile states where infrastructure projects continue.  In these fragile states, local resentment and populist fervor may build due to the perception that political elites only profit from the governmental arrangement with Beijing, while persistent unemployment exists during an ever-increasing influx of PRC workers. These factors combined may provide the impetus for rebellion that would harm the long-term goals of the PRC’s OBOR.

Due to the preceding, PRC roles in security in Africa may continue well beyond the current financing of counterterrorism measures and the provision of troops to UN peacekeeping operations. Specifically, the PRC’s non-intervention foreign policy may give way to a policy that seeks to actively finance state police forces and provide a stronger military advisory role.  While Djibouti currently maintains a permanent PRC naval station, an active PRC military presence seems likely to grow as investment in Africa increases, especially in fragile states. The dynamics of increased PRC economic and military influence in Africa are just now coming into existence and will pose interesting questions for future security considerations.


Endnotes:

[1] van der Leer, Y., Yau, J. (2016, February). China’s New Silk Route: The Long and Winding Road. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/growth-markets-center/assets/pdf/china-new-silk-route.pdf

[2] Gang, W. (2017, May 9). SOEs Lead Infrastructure Push in 1,700 ‘Belt and Road’ Projects. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from https://www.caixinglobal.com/2017-05-10/101088332.html

[3] Tairo, A. (2017, October 3). Tanzania Surrenders Bagamoyo Port Project to Chinese Firm. Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/Tanzania-Bagamoyo-port-project-to-Chinese/2560-4122244-rxa9wtz/index.html

[4] Lekorwe, M., Chingwete, A., Okuru M., and Samson R. (2016, October 24). China’s Growing Presence in Africa Wins Largely Positive Popular Reviews. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Dispatches/ab_r6_dispatchno122_perceptions_of_china_in_africa1.pdf

[5] Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. (2012, July 19). Fifth Ministerial Conference of FOCAC Opens Further China-Africa Cooperation. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from http://www.focac.org/eng/dwjbzjjhys/t954274.htm

[6] White, E. Analysis: Unpacking Attacks On Chinese Workers in Africa. (2016, August 5). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://international.thenewslens.com/article/45988

[7] World Bank’s World Development Report (2011). Retrieved January 12, 2018, from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTWDRS/Resources/WDR2011_Chapter2.pdf

[8] Coroado, H. and Brock, J. (2015, July 9). Angolans Resentful As China Tightens Its Grip. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-angola-china-insight/angolans-resentful-as-china-tightens-its-grip-idUSKCN0PJ1LT20150709

Africa Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Tyler Bonin

Options for the U.S. to Deter China in the East & South China Seas

Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Curtin is a Field Artillery Officer with over 20 years of experience in the United States Marine Corps, including at the Pacific Division of Plans, Policies, and Operations at Headquarters Marine Corps.  Annie Kowalewski is a Chinese military and defense researcher at Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Chinese militarization of artificial islands in disputed waters in the East and South China Seas.

Date Originally Written:  March 1, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  March 12, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The authors are a military member and a defense researcher.  The authors believe that Chinese actions in the East and South China Sea are destabilizing and threaten to shift the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region.

Background:  China is showing no evidence of slowing down its territorial aspirations within the “nine dash line” and continues to emplace anti-aircraft guns and close-in weapons systems on its man-made islands in the East and South China Seas[1].  China also uses its maritime militia to bully neighboring countries and extend Chinese fishing rights and territorial reach.  The United States has thus far been unsuccessful in responding to or deterring these Chinese challenges to the status quo.

Significance:  Chinese actions represent a “salami-slicing” strategy aimed at slowly changing regional norms and asserting Chinese dominance in the East and South China Seas.  This strategy allows China to exert influence and establish itself as a regional hegemon, thereby threatening the balance of power and U.S. primacy in the region.  Chinese militarization and power projection also threaten the United States’ allies and security partners, some of which the United States is bound by treaty to offer security assistance.

Option #1:  The United States invests in capabilities-based deterrents that can deter specific Chinese actions.

Risk:  China has objected to the capabilities that provide this type of deterrent, such as the new F-35B fighter operating on naval vessels in the pacific[2].  China may use the deployment of these capabilities as an excuse to finally militarize islands such as the Scarborough Shoal.

Gain:  A capabilities-based deterrent will make Chinese islands in the East and South China Seas vulnerable and, ultimately, a military liability rather than an advantage.  New technologies such as the F-35B allow the United States more flexibility when operating in the Pacific, by providing U.S. and allied commanders with a 5th generation aircraft that is normally only employed off traditional U.S. aircraft carriers.  Option #1 would not only help offset the eventual Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA(N)) numerical superiority in the Pacific, but also demonstrate the U.S. commitment to modernizing a capability that has been historically suited for military operations against static, geographically isolated island targets.  This option may help shift China’s risk calculus when deciding how aggressively it hopes to militarize the islands, once it realizes that increased island investment actually increases vulnerability instead of capability.

Option #2:  The United States invests in strategic deterrence by helping boost allies’ and security partners’ amphibious capabilities.

Risk:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities runs the risk of antagonizing China.  China has already strongly condemned proposed amendments to the Japanese constitution calling for a larger defense budget[3].  China has been known to use economic and political coercion to pressure regional countries to adopt, or abandon, policies.

Gain:  Boosting allies’ and security partner amphibious capabilities will be key to creating a sea force able to challenge an increasingly capable PLA(N).  This option would also allow allies and security partners to better deal with Chinese salami-slicing activities by providing them with the capability to deter or engage the Chinese on their own, rather than rely on U.S. deployments and assistance[4].

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Bader, Jeffrey. (2014). The U.S. and China’s Nine-Dash Line: Ending the Ambiguity. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-u-s-and-chinas-nine-dash-line-ending-the-ambiguity/.

[2] Lockheed Martin. (2018). The F-26B Lightning II. Retrieved from https://www.f35.com/about/variants/f35b.

[3] Huang, Kristin. (2017, October 23). China to keep wary watch on Abe’s push to change pacifist constitution. Retreived from http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2116635/china-keep-wary-watch-abes-push-change-pacifist.

[4] Erickson, Andrew. (2016, September 21). Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea. Retreived from https://armedservices.house.gov/legislation/hearings/seapower-and-projection-forces-south-china-sea.

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners Annie Kowalewski China (People's Republic of China) Christopher Curtin Maritime Option Papers South China Sea United States

China’s Options Towards the (Re)emerging Quadrilateral Security Dialogue

Adam Ni is a researcher at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University.  His areas of interest include China’s foreign and security policy.  He can be found on Twitter @adam_ni.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (China) is facing the (re)emergence of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, known as the Quad, consisting of the United States, India, Japan and Australia.  The unstated aim of the Quad is to constrain China’s growing power in Asia through possible military and economic cooperation that would raise the cost if Beijing challenges the status quo.

Date Originally Written:  February 28, 2018.

Originally Published:  March 5, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a scholar of China’s foreign and security policy.  The article is written from the point of view of Chinese decision-makers considering policy options in response to the Quad’s challenges.

Background:  The Quad can be traced back to 2007 when diplomatic efforts culminated in a multilateral naval exercise off the Bay of Bengal.  While the countries involved contended that their activities were not aimed at China, it was clear that these activities were largely a response to China’s growing power.  However, the Quad was short-lived with Australia pulling out in February 2008 under Chinese pressure[1].

Recently, the Quad has been revived in the face of an increasingly powerful and assertive China with expanded geopolitical ambitions.  In November 2017, officials from the Quad nations met on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in the Philippines and agreed that a “free, open, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region” is in the interest of all countries[2].  This meeting was followed in January by the meeting of the Quad navy chiefs at the Raisina Dialogue in India.  During the meeting, Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, characterized China as a “disruptive, transitional force” in the region, and urged Quad nations to take measures against China’s “unilateral ways to change the use of global commons” and uphold “rule-based freedom of navigation[3].”  This sentiment was echoed by the navy chiefs of the other three Quad nations.

Significance:  While it is still too early to tell what the Quad would entail, in theory, it aims to constrain China’s growing power and to ameliorate China’s behavior by altering Beijing’s strategic calculus.  The military dimension of the Quad could take the form of expanded military cooperation that would raise the cost for China to use or threaten the use of force, including in relation to the East and South China Seas.  The economic dimension could take the form of expanded economic and infrastructure cooperation that would compete with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a grand plan to reshape the world economy with China at the center.

Option #1:  Reassurance.  China continues to emphasize to the Quad nations its intent to develop peacefully through public statements and diplomatic channels.

Risk:  Without pushing back against the Quad, the Quad nations and others in the region may believe that China is unwilling to impose a cost on them for challenging China’s security and economic interests.  This lack of push back may lead to further coalescence of the Quad and may even draw in other states in the region that have become wary of China’s growing power, including those that have territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea.

Gain:  Option #1 may help to undermine the narrative of an ambitious China with a willingness to adopt coercive means to protect and advance its interests.  This option would strengthen the arguments of domestic forces in the Quad nations that advocate a softer approach in responding to Chinese power.

Option #2:  Punishment.  China applies a high degree of economic and diplomatic pressure on Quad nations to demonstrate the cost of challenging China’s interests and thus deter further challenges.  This option could take the form of economic coercion, formal diplomatic protests, and the downgrading of bilateral cooperation in key fields.

Risk:  Option #2 would strengthen the rationale for the Quad and the argument for constraining China’s power in the first place by demonstrating China’s willingness to adopt coercive measures against those that challenge its interests.  This option may further exacerbate the negative perception of China among the Quad nations, especially where there is already a lively debate about China’s influence (such as in Australia and the United States).  In addition, economic coercion may damage the Chinese economy and in the long run make the target economies less dependent on China.

Gain:  China demonstrating strength and resolve early on may lead to the collapse of the Quad if the Quad nations are not willing to pay the high cost of challenging China’s interests.  For example, Australia is highly dependent on China for trade and investment flows.  The Chinese government could put in place measures to reduce Chinese tourists or students from going to Australia and link these restrictions to Australia’s involvement with the Quad.  Such measures may also deter other regional countries from cooperating with the Quad against China’s interests.

Option #3:  Reassurance and caution.  China continues to emphasize its peaceful intent while also signaling its willingness to impose an economic and political cost on the Quad nations should they continue to challenge China’s interests.

Risk:  Option #3 may not be effective due to a lack of concrete cost imposed on the Quad nations, through, for example, coercive economic measures.  At the same time, the cautioning may be interpreted as an aggressive warning of China’s coercive intent, further exacerbating public anxiety in the Quad nations.

Gain:  This approach may be enough to forestall the further development of the Quad through providing reassurance but also signals China’s resolve to protects its interests.  Option #3’s key benefit is that it does not incur large political or economic cost for China immediately, but hinges Chinese retaliation on further Quad activities.

Other Comments:  The revived Quad is still in the early stages of its development, and it is too early to tell what the Quad would entail.  The above options are presented on the basis that the Quad may involve military and economic dimensions that challenge China’s interests, including its territorial claims in the South China Sea as well as its Belt and Road Initiative.  Given the diversity of strategic interests between the Quad nations in relation to China, there is a likelihood that the Quad will not develop beyond a mechanism for dialogue.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Indrani Bagchi, “Australia to pull out of ‘quad’ that excludes China,” Times of India, February 6, 2008. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Australia-to-pull-out-of-quad-that-excludes-China/articleshow/2760109.cms.

[2] “India-Australia-Japan-U.S. Consultations on Indo-Pacific (November 12, 2017),” Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, November 12, 2017. Available at: http://mea.gov.in/press-releases.htm?dtl/29110/IndiaAustraliaJapanUS_Consultations_on_IndoPacific_November_12_2017

[3] “‘China a disruptive power,’ say navy chiefs of Quadrilateral nations,” Times of India, January 19, 2018. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/china-a-disruptive-power-quad-nations-navy-chiefs/articleshow/62562144.cms.

Adam Ni Australia China (People's Republic of China) India Japan Option Papers United States

U.S. Options for Basing Forces to Deter North Korea

Mark Loncar is retired from the United States Air Force and is a graduate of the Defense Intelligence College, now called National Intelligence University.  He served in South Korea for 23 months.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The U.S. faces a growing existential Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program.

Date Originally Written: August 1, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 18, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a U.S. foreign policy advisor.

Background:  North Korea recently tested another ballistic missile, the second major test in a month, as part of a nuclear weapons program that, if brought to fruition, could threaten the U.S.  Policymakers in the U.S. are understandably reticent because of the serious threat that North Korea may respond with aggressive military action against South Korea and bring the U.S. into another Korean conflict.

The U.S. security commitment to its South Korea ally has not been in doubt since the Korean War started in 1950.  However, the positioning of U.S. forces in South Korea has been debated, and over the years, the number of U.S. troops has decreased from the mid-30 thousands before the North Korean nuclear program started in the 1990s to around 28,000 today.  Amid the present North Korean nuclear challenge, it is time to reexamine the utility of keeping U.S. forces in South Korea.

Significance:  The Korean peninsula is no longer the center of gravity in any hostilities between North Korea and the U.S. as North Korea’s ICBM capability, according to media reports, could reach Honolulu, Anchorage, and Seattle.  U.S. policy must adapt to this drastic expansion of the threat in order to end the impasse that characterizes U.S. dealings with the North Korean ICBM challenge.  In expanding his nuclear capability to ICBMs, North Korean President Kim Jong-un has turned what was a Korean peninsula-centric issue into more of an eyeball-to-eyeball existential threat to the U.S..

Option #1:  U.S. forces remain positioned in South Korea.

Risk:  U.S. policy options concerning the North Korean nuclear program will continue to be limited due to the risk of war to South Korea.  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea preserves the status quo, but does not move the U.S. closer to a solution to the North Korean nuclear challenge.  Having U.S. forces in South Korea also complicates U.S. – South Korea relations and gives South Korea leverage in how the U.S. should respond to the North Korean nuclear issue, further constraining U.S. freedom of movement to respond to North Korea.

Gain:  The presence of U.S. forces in South Korea signals U.S. resolve in the Korean Conflict through a sharing of risk with South Korean allies.  This option maintains a U.S. capability to respond quickly and forcibly to North Korean conventional incursions and other hostile actions against South Korea.

Option #2:  U.S. forces redeploy from South Korea to present cleaner options for dealing with North Korean nuclear weapons threat.  The policy would relocate U.S. forces from South Korea to Japan and other countries and bases in the region.  A continued U.S. military presence near the Korean peninsula will help to reassure South Korea and Japan that the long-time security commitments will abide.  The redeployment would also represent a continuation of major U.S. conventional capability in the area to counter any North Korean conventional aggression.

Risk:  Perception of outright appeasement by U.S. allies.  How could the U.S. proceed with redeployment of forces from South Korea without communicating to friends and adversaries that it would be engaging in all-out appeasement of the North Korean regime and surrendering important U.S. and allied interests in Northern Asia to the People’s Republic of China (PRC)?

Gain:  The removal of U.S. forces from South Korea would be a major inducement for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons program or for the PRC to pressure it to do so.  Indeed, North Korea’s paranoia concerning U.S. – South Korea intentions toward its regime could be significantly pacified by moving U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula.  At the same time, the stakes would be raised for Kim Jong-un and his PRC benefactors to change behavior on terms attractive to all parties—agreeing to a peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and a reduced threat of war on the peninsula.

Second, removing the threat to U.S. forces on the peninsula would present less cumbersome options for the U.S. with respect to the North Korean nuclear weapons challenge, especially concerns about war on the Korean peninsula.  The U.S. would also be less constrained in deciding to preempt or respond directly to North Korean nuclear aggression.  This is the real capability of such a redeploying U.S. forces from South Korea.  North Korea and the PRC would be on notice that if North Korea continued its nuclear weapons ICBM development after a redeployment of U.S. forces off the Korean peninsula, the regime’s action may be met with the gravest of responses.

Third, this option would deny North Korea a pretext for attacking South Korea should the U.S. strike Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities.  Such a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would come only after a U.S. redeployment from the peninsula and the North Korean regime’s obstinate refusal to scrap its nuclear weapons program.  In this security construct, any North Korean attack below the 38th parallel in retaliation for a U.S. strike on North Korean nuclear facilities would likely elicit the immediate destruction of the North Korean state.

Other Comments:  An opportunity is in reach to have a return to the status quo without a Korean peninsula-centric relationship.  This relationship would be more North Korea-South Korea focused, with the U.S. and the PRC overseeing the relationship.  The U.S. would no longer be in the middle of the mix with its own forces physically present in South Korea.  It may not be the best the U.S. could hope for – that would be a democratic government in North Korea if not an eventual unification of North and South Korea.  However, a U.S. redeployment to incentivize peninsula denuclearization and present cleaner options concerning North Korea’s nuclear weapons program may be a more viable alternative than accepting and having to deter a North Korean global ICBM capability, or to fight another war on the Korean peninsula.  In the end, by removing U.S. forces from South Korea, friend and foe should understand that if North Korea refuses to scrap its nuclear weapons capability, it will be the North Korean regime alone against the overwhelming power of the U.S..


Endnotes:

None.

China (People's Republic of China) Mark Loncar North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States Weapons of Mass Destruction

Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Ray Leonardo previously worked in the defense industry.  He presently works as a graduate researcher in international relations with interests that include power transition, alliance structure, great power politics, and conflict.  He can be found on Twitter @rayrleonardo and writes for rayrleonardo.com.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


Title:  Assessment of the United States-China Power Transition and the New World Order

Date Originally Written:  July 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  September 11, 2017.

Summary:  The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) overtaking of the United States as the largest global economy will bring difficult and potentially dangerous consequences.  Continued peace will depend upon the PRC’s satisfaction with the current international system created by the United States, among others.  History and PRC foreign policy indicate the odds of a peaceful power transition may be lower than expected.

Text:  “…[T]he United States welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, and a responsible player in global affairs[1],” was often stated by United States’ President Barack Obama during his multiple summits with PRC President Xi Jinping.  The United States has little influence in slowing the rapid economic growth of the PRC.  Most forecasters predict the PRC will overtake the United States as the largest economy sometime during the first quarter of this century.  According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the PRC is expected to surpass the U.S. as the world’s largest economy in 2021[2].  Many scholars and practitioners in the field of international relations are concerned that the rise of the PRC will not be so peaceful and their concerns are backed up by theory.

History has shown that rising powers who challenge the status quo, and, or hegemonic nations often create a fertile environment for conflict.  Historical cases indicate that it is power parity (balance of power), rather than a dominated or disproportional relationship (hegemony), that increases the likelihood of war.  This research falls under the theory of Power Transition[3].  Power Transition theory is directly at odds with the often accepted Balance of Power theory, the latter of which states that a balance of power among nations leads to peace[4].  Various theories including nuclear deterrence have formed under the Balance of Power pretext, but the historical data does not back this theory.  Conflict is more apt to break out under conditions where states are about equal in relative power.

Research on power transitions shows that the potential for conflict is dependent on several variables, two of which include relative power and the satisfaction of the rising power[5].  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a common measurement for state power but measuring a state’s satisfaction within the international system is a more challenging task.  Regardless of statistical models, one can see through previous cases of great power transitions that conflict is most likely once the rising power has overtaken (regarding relative power) the previously dominant state.  Conflict is even more plausible when the rising power is highly dissatisfied with the current international system.  This is assuming, as is the case today, that the dominant state (The United States), has created an international regime that of which mirrors its own political and economic systems (Bretton Woods), but also mirrors the dominant nation’s socio-political philosophy and values.

Many factors play into a country’s satisfaction.  One can look at the PRC’s rapid economic rise as proof that they have found a way to be successful in an international system created by the West, particularly by the United States.  However, even as the PRC’s economics can be closely aligned with most of the world under the guise of “capitalism,” it must not be ignored that the PRC has very differing views on political systems, individual rights, and traditional western socio-political values.  The PRC government adopts a foreign policy that is textbook realism in so much that its use of force will never be used to promote “Chinese” or “eastern” values abroad.  The PRC has little concern for human rights domestically, never mind protecting human rights on the international stage.

Twenty-first century conflict in East Asia will be fought on water.  The PRC’s recent build up of artificial islands and claims to various islands in the South China Sea are constant and increasing[6].  This is due to many factors, most of which impact their economy and security.  The PRC’s actions show a consistent effort to leverage regional neighbors, particularly those who lay claim to various land masses throughout the South China and East China seas.  The PRC’s regional foreign policy is not surprising; however, the United States and its allies should be questioning how the future global policy of the PRC will look.  Will the PRC’s aggressive regional policy in the early parts of this century be thought of as a microcosm for their mid-century global policy?  The PRC’s aggressive policy toward countries like Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia shows a strong dissatisfaction with the regional status quo.  The PRC understands the leverage that it has over many of its smaller neighbors and seeks to capitalize on it sooner rather than later.

There is no reason why U.S. officials should assume the PRC will peacefully rise through the international system without leveraging the power and control that comes with being the hegemonic nation.  The PRC will seek to advance their interests even as it may be on the backs of other smaller or even major powers.  With the PRC calling more of the shots regarding our international institutions, capitalist economies will still flourish, the bilateral and multilateral trade will continue to grow, but the principles and values that of which upon these institutions were built will continue to erode.  Human rights will take a back seat on the world stage, and over time few nations will care about the well-being of their trade partner’s people.


Endnotes: 

[1]  Office of Press Secretary, The White House (2015, September 25). Remarks by President Obama and President Xi of the People’s Republic of China in Joint Press Conference Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2015/09/25/remarks-president-obama-and-president-xi-peoples-republic-china-joint

[2]  OECD Data (Edition 2014). GDP Long-term Forecast Retrieved July 25, 2017, from https://data.oecd.org/gdp/gdp-long-term-forecast.htm#indicator-chart

[3]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[4]  Schweller, R. L. (2016, May). The Balance of Power in World Politics Retrieved July 25, 2017, from http://politics.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.001.0001/acrefore-9780190228637-e-119

[5]  Kugler, J., & Organski, A.F.K. (1989). The Power Transition: A Retrospective and Prospective Evaluation. In Manus I. Midlarsky (Ed.), Handbook of War Studies (1st, pp. 171-194). Winchester, MA: Unwin Hyman, Inc.

[6]  Ives, M. (2017, August 4). Vietnam, Yielding to Beijing, Backs Off South China Sea Drilling Retrieved August 4, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/world/asia/vietnam-south-china-sea-repsol.html

Assessment Papers China (People's Republic of China) Power Transition Ray Leonardo United States

United States’ Options to North Korea Missile Development

Mike Dyer is a research assistant at a Washington-based international policy think tank.  He can be found on twitter @mikeysdyer.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  United States’ Options in response to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile developments.

Date Originally Written:  July 22, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 31, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of a senior defense/foreign policy advisor to the Trump Administration.

Background:  After decades of development, for the first time in the history of the Korean conflict, North Korea is nearing the capability to hold U.S. population centers on the continental United States at risk with a small nuclear weapon[1].  Nearing this inflection point requires a reexamination of U.S. policy vis-a-vis Northeast Asia.

Significance:  If North Korea’s Kim regime believes it has an effective deterrent against the United States, it may become emboldened to pursue more provocative and dangerous polices.  Such brinkmanship could lead to disaster.  This new fact threatens U.S. extended deterrence commitments to both Japan and South Korea (Republic of Korea (ROK)), depending on the Trump Administration’s policy response.  The Kim regime, while rational, is certainly volatile, and engages in behaviors well outside of international norms.

Option #1:  The United States accepts the reality of North Korea as a nuclear power while maintaining demands for denuclearization.  This option may require adjustments to U.S. defense posture, namely the reintroduction of tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula or the expansion of the ballistic missile defense programs.

Risk:  First, the most salient risk the United States would face is relying on deterrence against a regime for which it lacks an acute understanding.  Relying on deterrence to keep the peace on the Korean peninsula is risky because the Kim regime derives power and legitimacy from propping up the United States and others as an aggressive enemy.

Second, even if the United States does nothing, the Kim regime would still be incentivized to provoke the United States and the ROK if only for domestic reasons.

Third, as previously mentioned, North Korea could work to weaken U.S. extended deterrence commitments by credibly threatening the U.S. homeland.  The United States could work to reduce this risk by demonstrating the effectiveness of its missile defense shield.

Gain:  This option does not risk conflict in the near to medium terms, thus it continues to “kick the can down the road.”  This policy trades tactical and operational risk for increased strategic risk over the long-term.  Otherwise, this option gains nothing.

Option #2:  The United States conducts a pre-emptive strike on North Korea’s known nuclear and ballistic missile sites.

Risk:  First, this option risks large-scale retaliation against the ROK and Japan and the U.S. forces stationed there.  There is a significant chance a military strike would miss known or hidden weapons sites or leave North Korea with the capability to deliver a conventional counter strike[2].

Second, a military strike on North Korean nuclear sites is likely to cause an environmental and humanitarian disaster to some degree.  This could result in unnecessary civilian loss of life, increased pan-Korean nationalism at the expense of the U.S.-ROK alliance, and generally loss of support for U.S. leadership/presence in the region.  The illicit transfer of unaccounted for nuclear materiel could also result.

Gain:  If a strike were successful, the Kim regime would effectively be disarmed.  Such a blow to North Korea could lead to a coup against the Kim regime or to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) intervening to stabilize the situation.

Option #3:  The United States increases economic sanctions on the regime to either bring North Korea to the negotiating table or cause the regime to collapse.  This option is not possible without increased support from the PRC a because of its importance to the North Korean economy.

Risk:  First, sanctions need years to take full effect.  During this time, North Korea’s capabilities could grow and the regime would have opportunity to degrade the situation in its favor.

Second, it is unknown what the Kim regime would do if faced with collapse and loss of power.  Some North Korean interlocutors have made the point that North Korea did not build its nuclear weapons only to watch them go unused as the regime collapses.

Third, the regime values security, prestige, and power over a growing economy, it has effective control over its people and they are discouraged from speaking out against the regime even in private.

Gain:  If successful, sanctions have the potential to accomplish U.S. objectives without risking conflict.  Given the Kim regime’s hierarchy of values however, this option is unlikely to work.

Option #4:  The United States and the ROK negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea.  This option accepts the reality of North Korea’s newfound nuclear capability and gives up on past demands for complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program prior to peace negotiations.

Risk:  First, for a durable peace to exist between the United States and North Korea, both sides would have to reach a mutually acceptable political solution, this may mean both North Korea and the ROK giving up on their objectives for reunification—something both states are unwilling to do.  Durable peace would also require security for all concerned and trust that does not currently exist.

Second, negotiating peace without denuclearization would weaken the nuclear nonproliferation regime and cause allies to lose faith in United States’ security commitments.  This option could result in greater nuclear proliferation across Northeast Asia.

Gain:  The gain is limited by the risk of failure, but a peaceful Korean peninsula would benefit regional security and ease the burden on U.S. defense commitments.

Option #5:  The United States undermines the Kim regime by encouraging the flow of information into and out of North Korea.  The United States works with the PRC and ROK to encourage the further development of independent (black) markets in North Korea at the expense of regime control on civil life.

Risk:  First, this policy would require years to fully carry out, allowing North Korea to expand its weapons program in the meantime.

Second, this policy may just raise the quality of life of the North Korean people and expand the regime’s tax base while not convincing the people to push-back against the regime.

Third, as previously mentioned, destabilizing the regime raises the risks of conflict.

Gain:  If successful, this policy could chance the character and policies of the North Korean regime, ultimately leading to peace and reconciliation.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ackerman, S., & Jacobs, B. (2017). US commander not confident North Korea will refrain from nuclear assault. the Guardian. Retrieved 22 July 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/26/north-korea-nuclear-attack-south-korea-us-navy

[2]  Your Bibliography: Peters, R. (2017). A New Approach to Eliminating North Korean Weapons of Mass Destruction Is Needed. Washington: The U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Retrieved from http://www.38north.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/NKIP-Peters-WMDE-062017.pdf  Also see, Bennett, B. (2013). Preparing for the Possibility of a North Korean Collapse. Rand Corporation.

China (People's Republic of China) Mike Dyer North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Nuclear Issues Option Papers South Korea (Republic of Korea)

People’s Republic of China Options Toward North Korea

Paul Butchard is a graduate student in the Department of War Studies at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, where he is pursuing his master’s degree in Intelligence and International Security.  He also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Politics.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Options for the foreign policy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) toward North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or DPRK).

Date Originally Written:  July, 15, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  July 24, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of foreign policy advisor to the PRC government.

Background:  Since January 2016, the DPRK has conducted two nuclear weapons tests and ten missile tests.  Such actions, coupled with increasingly bombastic rhetoric, displays a more aggressive posture for the DPRK than previous years[1].

Significance:  For the PRC, their relationship with the DPRK is a regional policy issue and a central element of PRC-United States relations.  President Xi Jinping is forging an outgoing, “Striving for Achievement” foreign policy for the PRC[2].  Simultaneously, the PRC has displayed more public disapproval of Pyongyang’s destabilising behaviour than previous years[3].  The course of action the PRC adopts towards the DPRK will play a major role in the relationship between Beijing and Washington in years to come, influencing events globally.

Option #1:  The PRC maintains/increases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC continuing or building upon its current course of action, providing vast military and economic aid and diplomatic protection to bring the DPRK’s behaviour in line with the PRC’s wishes.

Risk:  The PRC risks appeasing the DPRK, encouraging it to continue along its current path, one that is increasingly casting the PRC as a suzerain unable to rein in a vassal state, to the casual observer.  The DPRK would view such action as capitulation and an acknowledgment by Beijing that Pyongyang cannot be penalised for actions and policies even when they harm the PRC’s interests[4].  The DPRK is conscious of its strategic importance to Beijing and able to take PRC aid without granting concessions.  The PRC risks escalating confrontation with the United States if the latter perceives the PRC as unwilling to act or enabling the DPRK’s current destabilising behaviour, a possibility given recent remarks by President Trump[5].

Gain:  This option enables the PRC to sustain the DPRK regime, avoiding a humanitarian crisis on its border because of regime collapse, maintaining the tense but peaceful status quo.  The PRC avoids being labelled a United States puppet as the DPRK has previously implied[6].  United States’ sanctions related to the DPRK have so far been limited to private companies and individuals, not the PRC government[7].  This option thus avoids igniting military, diplomatic or economic confrontations with the United States.

Option #2:  The PRC decreases/ceases military, economic and diplomatic aid to the DPRK.  This option sees the PRC ‘sanction’ the DPRK by reducing or halting military, economic or diplomatic aid to alter its behaviour to suit PRC preferences.

Risk:  This option risks the collapse of the DPRK regime due to the PRC being its main economic trading partner.  The PRC also risks economic self-harm due to the vast natural resources it imports from the DPRK[8].  The collapse of the DPRK brings unparalleled security concerns for the PRC from uncontrolled nuclear materials and mass immigration to the potential of a United States ally on its border.

Gain:  By reducing aid the PRC would be acting against the DPRK’s unpredictable actions, potentially slowing its development of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), increasing its international standing, a cornerstone of President Xi’s foreign policy.  Such action would be seen favourably by the Trump administration increasing the likelihood of favourable trade deals or relative acquiescence to PRC actions in the South China Sea.

Option #3:  Regime change.  This option would see the PRC pursue regime change within the DPRK by means of supporting a coup d’état or palace coup of some description rather than overt military action of its own.

Risk:  The DPRK government and society revolves fully around the Kim dynasty, the removal of the deity that is Kim Jong Un and the Kim lineage risks the total collapse of the state.  There is no clear successor to Kim due to the autocratic nature of the DPRK and any successor would likely be considered a PRC puppet and usurper.  Subsequent destabilisation would result in the aforementioned humanitarian and security crisis’ posing a grave national security threat to the PRC.  Such action would be logistically and strategically difficult to accomplish, requiring multiple sections of the DPRK military and governmental apparatus being coordinated by a vast human intelligence network operated by the PRC.  As such, and due to pervasive North Korean surveillance even of its elites, a coup risks discovery long before execution.  United States and South Korean forces may see any attempt at regime change as an opportunity to launch their own military offensive or as evidence of PRC expansionism and a threat to the South.

Gain:  Replacing Kim Jong Un could lead to increased stability for the PRC’s regional development objectives.  The PRC could avoid total DPRK state collapse due to external pressure and avert the potential national security threats to the PRC mainland.  This option also raises the possibility of enhancing United States-PRC relations, buying the PRC the aforementioned political capital.  A new DPRK regime, allied with the PRC, that tempers its actions toward the United States, also raises the possibility of the removal of the United States’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defence system from South Korea, which the PRC views as a national security threat.  This option also presents the potential for the reduction of United States troop numbers in South Korea due to increased stability and a reduced threat from the DPRK.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Council on Foreign Relations, (2017) North Korea Crisis. Retrieved July 13, 2017 from https://www.cfr.org/global/global-conflict-tracker/p32137#!/conflict/north-korea-crisis

[2] Yan, X. (2014). From Keeping a Low Profile to Striving for Achievement. The Chinese Journal of International Politics,7(2), 153-184.

[3] Perlez, J. (2017, February 24). China and North Korea Reveal Sudden, and Deep, Cracks in Their Friendship. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/world/asia/china-north-korea-relations-kim-jong-un.html

[4] Pei, M. (2017, March 14). North Korea: What Is China Thinking? Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/03/china-north-korea-kim-jong-un-nuclear-beijing-pyongyang-thaad/519348/

[5] Weaver, M., Haas, B., & McCurry, J. (2017, April 03). Trump says US will act alone on North Korea if China fails to help. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/02/donald-trump-north-korea-china

[6] Sang-hun, C. (2017, February 23). North Korea Accuses China of ‘Mean Behavior’ After It Tightens Sanctions. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/world/asia/north-korea-china.html

[7] Aleem, Z. (2017, June 29). Why Trump just slapped new sanctions on Chinese banks. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.vox.com/world/2017/6/29/15894844/trump-sanctions-china-north-korea-bank

[8] Perlez, J., & Huang, Y. (2017, April 13). China Says Its Trade With North Korea Has Increased. Retrieved July 14, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/china-north-korea-trade-coal-nuclear.html 

[9] Reuters. (2017, February 28). China reacts with anger, threats after South Korean missile defense decision. Retrieved July 15, 2017, from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southkorea-usa-thaad-china-idUSKBN16709W

China (People's Republic of China) Leadership Change North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Option Papers Paul Butchard South Korea (Republic of Korea) United States

Options to Counter Piracy in the Horn of Africa

Captain Robert N. Hein (U.S. Navy, Retired) was a career Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.  He previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) and the USS Nitze (DDG-94).  He can be found on Twitter @the_sailor_dogClaude Berube teaches at the United States Naval Academy, was a 2004 Brookings Institution LEGIS Congressional Fellow and a 2010 Maritime Security Studies Fellow at The Heritage Foundation.  He can be found on Twitter @cgberube.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


National Security Situation:  After lying dormant for a few years, following a large international response, piracy off the Horn of Africa is again threatening the free flow of global commerce.

Date Originally Written:  May 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June 19, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Claude Berube has operated off the Horn of Africa, and has written extensively on piracy and private maritime security companies.  Bob Hein has hunted pirates off Somalia.  Bob’s final assignment was the Deputy Director of Strategy on the U.S. Navy Staff.

Background:  Somali piracy threatens major trade routes.  Over 30,000 ships transit the Gulf of Aden annually.  At its peak in 2007, the cost of Somali pirate attacks to the shipping industry was $7B.  The cost decreased to $1.3B in 2015, and climbed to $1.7B in 2016[1].  In May 2017, the Commander of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Marine Corps General Thomas Walderhauser, indicated as many as six piracy attacks occurred in the last month[2].  Given the expanse of unpatrolled waters in the region and opportunities for criminal and pirate networks to exploit maritime security gaps, there will inevitably be more attacks.

Significance:  Since the Romans and Carthaginians raised their Navies against each other in the Punic Wars, the purpose of Navies has been to protect the coast, and protect maritime commerce.  Prior to that, Thucydides mentions piracy in History of the Peloponnesian War.  The actions of pirates in Africa led to the establishment and deployment of the U.S. Navy in the early 19th century.  A resurgence in Somali piracy represents a renewed threat to global trade, and the stability of Somalia.

Option #1:  The U.S. cedes the constabulary role for counter-piracy activities to the People’s Republic of China (PRC) People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N)).  In April 2017 the PRC deployed its 26th anti-piracy flotilla to the Horn of Africa.  In that time, the PRC escorted 5,900 ships in the region[3], and established a base in nearby Djibouti to maintain a mission to not only protects the PRC’s “One Belt” initiative, but give PRC Naval Commanders experience operating far from home.

Risk:  Taking over this mission allows the PRC to gain experience in operating far from home, a key attribute for an historic land power seeking increased influence abroad.  Prior to its first anti-piracy flotilla in 2008, the PLA(N) had been largely absent in international waters for five centuries.  The PRC may also give a false sense of security to those areas where it does not have a direct interest.  By ceding additional maritime security missions to the PLA(N), the U.S. and its partners empower PLA(N) overseas capabilities and the possibility that regional powers will become more reliant on the PRC.  For example, in 2015 the PRC was able to evacuate its citizens from the growing crisis in Yemen due, in part, to their enhanced capabilities from long-range operations in the region and newer platforms[4].

Gain:  The PRC does provide a short-term solution with a modern navy.  It has the motivation to prove itself as a guarantor of maritime security, not just a consumer.  The PRC has the capability and the desire to contain and curtail piracy in the Horn of Africa if not to simply secure shipping then for longer-range operational and strategic goals.

Option #2:  The U.S. builds capacity in the Somali maritime forces, and trains nascent Somali governments with the tools required to ensure domestic maritime security.  Local Somali governments have had some recent success in counter-piracy activity, rescuing eight Indian mariners captured by Somali pirates[5].  Introducing counter-piracy training, maritime domain awareness and intelligence sharing would go far in allowing regions of Somalia to work together to stop what should be a Somali law enforcement issue.

Risk:  The threat of corruption is a major concern; also the responsibility for building maritime law enforcement capacity would be a political minefield for any host nation.

Gain:  Using the dictum of “Teach a man to fish,” places Somalia in a position to police its waterways will provide a permanent solution to the piracy problem.  It will also ensure illegal fishing or overfishing by other states does not further deplete local fishing grounds[6].  Piracy in Somalia was born of frustrated fisherman who had no recourse against foreign fishing boats poaching their grounds.  Giving Somalia the ability to not only deter piracy, but also police their waters against illegal fishing should provide a complete long-term solution.

Option #3:  The U.S. continues to enable Private Maritime Security Companies, (PMSCs), to provide on-board armed guards at the shipping companies’ discretion.  To date, no ship with an armed team aboard has been successfully taken by Somali pirates.

Risk:  PMSCs are subject to market fluctuations.  As piracy rose in 2006-2008, PMSCs proliferated providing a wide spectrum of cost, capabilities, and legitimacy.  Ceding full maritime security control to unregulated PMSCs or to PMSCs from non-partnered nations could have other consequences as well, such as future military operations employing a trained, unaligned and unregulated force.  Additionally, many of the smaller shipping companies, favored by pirates, cannot afford PMSCs thus potentially identifying the smaller shipping companies as soft targets.

Gain:  Working with shipping companies and PMSCs would ensure the U.S. and its partners contribute to regulation of legitimate and capable PMSCs and would deny the PLA(N) an opportunity to enhance its capabilities through gaining experience in counter-piracy operations.

Option #4:  Coalition operations in the region continue.  In addition to independent operations, Somali piracy resulted in the creation of several key partnerships including Combined Task Force 151, the European Union’s Operation ATALANTA, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Operation OCEAN SHIELD.

Risk:  Coalition investment of time, money, staff, and platforms for any operation takes away from other missions.  If other missions such as North Korea, Iran, and threats in the Mediterranean Sea have a higher immediate priority, then coalition ships might not be available if the pirate threat level is assessed as low.  In November 2016, for example, NATO concluded Operation OCEAN SHIELD as it shifted resources to the Baltic and Black Seas[7].

Gain:  Coalition operations enhance interoperability between traditional and new partners.  The larger the coalition, the fewer resources each nation has to contribute.  In most maritime operations, few countries can go it alone.

Other Comments:  While the options are limitless, the options presented here are those the authors assess as being the most feasible and acceptable.

Recommendation:  None


Endnotes:

[1]  CNBC Int’l, Luke Graham, “Somali Pirates are Back,” 03 May 2017

[2] The Trumpet, Anthony Chibarirwe, “Somali Pirates are Back,” 19 May 2017

[3]  The Diplomat, Ankit Panda, “As Somali Pirates Return, Chinese Navy Boasts of Anti-Piracy Operations,” 16 April 2017

[4]  The Diplomat, Kevin Wang, “Yemen Evacuation a Strategic Step Forward for China,” 10 April 2015

[5]  The New York Times, Hussein Mohamed, “8 Indians rescued from Somali Pirates, Officials say,” 12 April 2017

[6]  Asia Today, Hong Soon-Do, “Chinese Illegal Fishing Threatens World Waters,” May 2017

[7]  Reuters, Robin Emmott, “NATO Ends Counter-Piracy Mission as Focus Shifts to Mediterranean,” 23 November 2016

Bob Hein China (People's Republic of China) Claude Berube Horn of Africa Option Papers Piracy

U.S. Options to Address a Growing People’s Republic of China Army (Navy)

Thomas is a junior sailor in the United States Navy.  He can be found on Twitter @CTNope.  The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the official position of the United States Navy, the Department of Defense, or the United States Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Worrying trends in military shipbuilding by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Date Originally Written:  April, 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  June, 15, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that the current balance of naval forces, both qualitatively and quantitatively, between the U.S. and the PRC, must be examined or the U.S. will face severe policy consequences.  The article is written from the point of view of U.S. Navy (USN) leadership as they assess the growth of the People’s Liberation Army’s (Navy) (PLAN).  This article focuses on options that U.S. policymakers have in response to the trends in the PRC’s military shipbuilding, not the trends themselves.

Background:  Since the mid-2000’s the PRC’s economic situation has vastly improved, most evident as its GDP has grown from 1.2 billion to 11 billion over fifteen years, a growth of over 900 percent[1].  This growth has enabled the PRC to embark on a remarkable shipbuilding program, achieving vast strides in training, technology, capabilities, and actual hull count of modern vessels[3][2].  This growth is creating security challenges in the Pacific as well as igniting tensions between the U.S. and the PRC, as the disparity between the USN and the PLAN shrinks at an alarming rate[4].  These developments have been closely watched by both the U.S. and her Partners, challenging U.S. policymakers to address this new, rising maritime presence while maintaining security in the region.

Significance:  In the U.S. there is a growing bipartisan voice concerned about an assertive PRC[5], as halfway across the globe Asian nations wearily observe the PRC’s growth.  A more powerful PLAN allows greater flexibility for PRC officials to exert influence.  These impressive shipbuilding trends will embolden the PRC, as now they can brush aside actors that held credible deterrence when competing against an unmodernized PLAN.  If current trends in the capacity of PRC shipbuilding and technological advancement continue, the PLAN will be able to challenge the efforts of the USN and U.S. Partners to continue to keep sea lanes of communication open in the space around the disputed ‘nine-dash-line’ as well as other parts of the Pacific.  It is plausible that in the long-term the PLAN will emerge as a near-peer to the USN in the Pacific; as U.S. has to provide for its own security, the security of others, and the security of the Global Commons, while the PRC only has to provide security for itself and its interests.

Option #1:  Platform centric approach.  Review the current force structure of the USN to decide how large the force needs to be to satisfy U.S. policy goals and modify the fleet accordingly.

Risk:  Focusing too heavily on platforms could leave the USN without the tools needed to be on the technological forefront during the next conflict.  Also, a focus on building legacy systems could take resources away from initiatives that require them.

Gain:  An increased number of platforms would allow U.S. policymakers more flexibility in how they decide to most effectively use the USN.  Additionally, more hulls would not only contribute to the deterrence generated by the USN, but also improve the readiness of the USN as more ships can remain in port and undergo maintenance, while other ships conduct missions.  Option #1 maximizes readiness for the next conflict.

Option #2:  Modernization approach.  Focus on improving today’s platforms while additionally investing in the future with disruptive technologies, but do not undertake an extensive build up of hulls.  In this option the fleet would still expand in accordance with current programs, to include the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, and Virginia Class Submarines, but these production runs would be cut short to save funds.

Risk:  In the mid-term the USN might not have the hulls necessary to address global security concerns.  However, having fewer hulls does not mean that the USN can’t fight and win, instead, it will require that the USN’s leaders adapt.

Gain:  Investing in the future could yield powerful technologies that change the calculus on how the U.S. employs military forces.  Technologies like the railgun or unmanned systems change the way the USN fights by improving critical traits such as firepower and survivability.  Future technologies could create even greater offsets than previously discovered technologies, with the advent of artificial intelligence on the horizon, future applications appear limitless.  Option #2 increases the chance that the U.S. will continue to operate at the cutting edge of technology.

Option #3:  Balanced approach.  Modify the USN’s size, but not as broadly as the first option, instead providing additional funding towards Research and Development (R&D).

Risk:  This option could prove to be too little, too late.  The USN would benefit from the handful of additional hulls, but PRC shipbuilding pace might negate the benefit of the extra vessels.  The PRC could possibly out-build the USN by adding two new hulls for every one the USN commissions.  Likewise, the USN might need significantly more resources for R&D efforts.

Gain:  The USN would receive additional Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers, LCS Frigates, and Virginia Class Submarines.  In addition, this option would free up more funds to put into R&D to keep the USN ahead of the PLAN in terms of technology.  Overall, this would keep the USN on a balanced footing to be “ready to fight tonight” in the short to mid-term, yet still on a decent footing in the long-term, from R&D efforts.  Option #3 could turn out to be the best of both worlds, combining the increased readiness through hulls as well as continued technological innovation.

Other Comments:  The PLAN still has many issues, ranging from naval subsystems, to C4I, to training and manning[3], but they are correcting their deficiencies at an impressive rate. As such, there is a cost for the U.S. in terms of both omission and commission.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  The World Bank Statistics. Retrieved from: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD?

[2]  Gabriel Collins and LCDR Michael Grubb, USN. “A Comprehensive Survey of China’s Dynamic Shipbuilding Industry, Commercial Development and Strategic Implications”.     Published August 2008. Retrieved from: https://www.usnwc.edu/Research—Gaming/China-Maritime-Studies-Institute/Publications/documents/CMS1_Collins-Grubb.aspx

[3]  Ronald O’Rourke . “China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress”. Retrieved from: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33153.pdf

[4]  Shannon Tiezzi with Andrew Erickson. “Chinese Naval Shipbuilding: Measuring the Waves”.  Retrieved from: http://thediplomat.com/2017/04/chinese-naval-shipbuilding-measuring-the-waves/

[5]  Various. “Hotspots Along China’s Maritime Periphery”.
Retrieved from: https://www.uscc.gov/Hearings/hotspots-along-china%E2%80%99s-maritime-periphery

Capacity / Capability Enhancement China (People's Republic of China) Maritime Option Papers Thomas United States

Options for Bougainville Independence

Iain Strutt has been involved in military, police and private security in Australia for over twenty years.  He is currently completing a Bachelor of Science (Security) degree with a minor in international relations at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organisation, or any group.  


Area_Map_Bougainville

National Security Situation:  Independence options for Bougainville Island, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

Date Originally Written:  March 26, 2016.

Date Originally Published:  May 4, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  While Bougainville may be a small Pacific Island and seem minor geopolitically, the author believes the outcome of the independence vote in 2019 will have regional implications.

Background:  Bougainville Island will hold a referendum on independence from PNG on June 15th, 2019.  Independence from PNG has been deliberated and defeated before[1].  Historically, Bougainville was administered first by Germany, then Britain.  After World War 2, Australia administered the territory as part of the United Nations Trust Territory of New Guinea.  With PNG independence from Australia in 1975, Bougainville became part of the new nation[2].  Bougainville was originally known as the North Solomons’, being as they were, part of the Solomon Islands.

Secessionists caused an insurrection in Bougainville in 1988 and it continued until the late 1990s.  The conflict succeeded in closing the giant Panguna copper mine in 1989, situated in the southern highlands.  Panguna was vital to the economy of PNG and Bougainville, as it has copper in abundance.  The two most prominent causes for the guerilla war on Bougainville can be traced back to the longstanding imbalance between ethnicity and financial reward.  Inadequate sharing of revenue with the traditional landowners of the copper mine has since been settled, with their involvement in future mining now a reality[3].

Following the ending of the guerilla war, agreement was reached by the secessionists and the PNG government in 2001, seeing Bougainville declared an autonomous region, governed by the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).  Both the ABG and PNG signed the Bougainville Peace Agreement, known as the Arawa Accord in 2001 which has three related processes: 

  1. Autonomy
  2. Referendum
  3. Weapons disposal plan[4]

Two of the three have been accomplished, although it is not known precisely how many weapons were cached or even in existence before or after the December 2001 disposal process, so questions remain over weapons numbers[5].  Of concern is that the independence votes’ outcome hinges upon its ratification by the PNG parliament as the “final decision-making authority[6].”  The state as a person in international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter relations with the other states[7].  Bougainville satisfies all criteria despite efforts to resist the breakup by PNG.

This region has previously been of strategic interest to the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) due to its resources[8].  Foreign powers attempt at influence is nothing new and it appears that the PRC is endeavoring to extend its influence past the so-called Second Island Chain.  The chain is a strategic line that stretches from Japan, to Guam, then to the “vicinity of New Guinea[9].”  Similarly, Australia has a profound strategic interest in South-East Asia, particularly PNG and the islands of the South Pacific[9].  Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) nations have fought wars and participated in peacekeeping missions in this area over the past 75 years and Bougainville lies within this region.

Financing the reopening of the Panguna mine is something that the PRC can afford, in keeping with its desire for infrastructure projects globally and commercial diplomacy[10].  To get the copper to market requires access from Panguna to Kieta port, with its adjacent airfield, on the east coast of Bougainville.  The strategic importance of Bougainville should therefore not be overlooked as the island is in a sound position to monitor the western Pacific.

Bougainville_Neighbourhood

Significance:  The recent visit to Australia by PRC Premier Li Keqinang has led to the increased warming of the bilateral relationship between the PRC and Australia.  Although Australia is still a firm ANZUS partner, U.S. foreign policy is now inward looking, prompting a refocus by the ANZUS partners.  Australian foreign policy can now act as a positive influence over the PRC in this region, with a “non-provocative, pragmatic diplomatic stance[11].”

Option #1:  Bougainville achieves independence in 2019 and ANZUS can assume defense duties in rotation on the island as there is no allowance for a defense force in the Bougainville constitution.

Risk:  Low.  This is the preferred outcome due to the minimal risk to regional stability.  It would give greater influence in the area to ANZUS nations.  The PNG military can benefit from cross training in keeping with Australia’s regional outlook.

Gain:  Positive.  Economic benefit for Bougainville.  The Panguna mine would reopen without PNG involvement with income provided to the local landowners.

Option #2:  The Bougainville referendum result is denied by the PNG government.  Bougainville declares sovereignty itself, following the examples of Bangladesh, Croatia, Georgia and Moldova (see Other Comments below).

Risk:  Moderate.  If PNG denies the result of the referendum to preserve its sovereignty over Bougainville, civil discontent is highly likely as Bougainville independence is preferred and has been over time.

Gain:  Negative.  An outcome regional partners would not want, due to the potential for violence and civil unrest.  Intervention requiring peacekeepers may occur, a situation the islanders have endured before.

Option #3:  Regardless of the result of the referendum, with closer relationships between Australia, the PRC and the ABG, a mining joint venture could commence at Panguna.  It is conceivable that this would involve the PRC as a partner in the joint venture with an Australian mining company.

Risk:  High.  Although PRC preference is for critical infrastructure projects globally, the risk would be high as there are elements within the ABG itself who have a definite preference not to deal with the PRC in any form.  Politically, this option would be impractical.

Gain:  Moderate.  Economically this would be of benefit to Bougainville for the life of the mine, which is expected to be twenty-five years.

Other Comments:  Bangladesh, Croatia, Georgia and Moldova, came to statehood in differing ways with one common denominator, at the time of their proclamation of independence there was no effective government in all four.  This differs from Bougainville, which has had effective governance for some time, elected officials, and its’ own administration separate from PNG.  Of the four nations mentioned above, Moldova is the most relative to Bougainville.  Moldova declared sovereignty on June 23, 1990, providing for the Moldovan constitution and laws to have primacy over those of the Soviet Union.  This was a proclamation of sovereignty and not independence but was a step towards it.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Jennings P. & Claxton K. (2013) A stitch in time. Preserving peace on Bougainville. Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited.  p.3.

[2]  Jennings P. & Claxton K. (2013) A stitch in time. Preserving peace on Bougainville. Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited.  p.15.

[3]  Bougainville Mining Act 2015. Autonomous Region of Bougainville (no.3 of 2015).

[4]  United Nations [UN] (2001) Bougainville Peace Agreement. Introduction and OutlineS/2001/988 Enclosure II Bougainville Peace Agreement.  23rd October 2001. p.8

[5]  Woodbury J. (2015) The Bougainville independence referendum: Assessing the risks and challenges before, during and after the referendum. Australian Defence College. Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. p.9.

[6]  Woodbury J. (2015) The Bougainville independence referendum: Assessing the risks and challenges before, during and after the referendum. Australian Defence College. Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies.  P.7

[7]  Raic D. (2002) Statehood and the Law of Self-Determination. Brill Academic Publishers. p.406.

[8]  Hegarty M. (2015) Chinas growing influence in the South-West Pacific: Australian policies that could respond to Chinese intentions and objectives. Australian Defence College, Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies. p. 8

[9]  Holmes J.R. (2011) Island Chain Defence. The Diplomat. Retrieved 27th March 2017. http://thediplomat.com/2011/04/island-chain-defense/

[10]  Frost E.L. (2007) Chinas Rise and the Balance of Influence in Asia. Edited by William W. Keller and Thomas G. Rawsky. Ch. 5. Chinas’ Commercial Diplomacy in Asia. University of Pittsburg  Press. p.95.

[11]  Carr. B. (2017) Canberra’s sensible South China Sea Stand is contingent on continual pragmatism in Beijing. The Weekend Australian. March 18-19, 2017, p.24. News Ltd. Sydney.

Australia Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty (ANZUS) Bougainville China (People's Republic of China) Iain Strutt New Zealand Option Papers Papua New Guinea Referendums United States

Options for Managing Xinjiang Uighur Ethnic Tensions

Daniel Urchick is a defense and foreign policy analyst.  Daniel tweets at @DanielUrchick.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Unrest and separatist tendencies amongst the Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC)

Date Originally Written:  March 08, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 27, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The article is written from the perspective of a PRC government official offering options for countering ethnic violence, separatism, and extremism amongst the Uighurs in Xinjiang. 

Background:  Turkic-speaking Muslim Uighurs comprise an estimated 42 percent of Xinjiang’s population of 19 million.  Uighur unrest was historically sporadic and easily suppressed but since 2008 Xinjiang has seen a slow, but noticeable rise in violent activity that appears to be aimed at local actors, such as the local government structure, state security forces, Han immigrants, and Uighur “collaborators,” rather than at the Chinese Central Government in Beijing.  Some Uighurs have called for total independence from the PRC due to cultural oppression.

Uighur terrorism has allegedly occurred across the PRC, including dual bombings in Yunnan Province in 2008, a bombing in Tiananmen Square in 2013, and a knife attack at Kunming Airport in Yunnan that killed 29 and injured 143 in early 2014.  In late February 2017, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) released a video of Uighur members who claimed they would shed rivers of blood in the PRC and avenge the oppressed[1].  This video marked the first time Uighur militants had officially been tied to ISIS[2].

The PRC has increasingly relied on a heavy-handed and repressive approach to security operations in Xinjiang.  The arrests and detention of protesters, even peaceful ones, are estimated to be well into the tens of thousands, with an estimated 1.8 executions occurring weekly in 2008[3].  Tens of thousands of PRC security components currently operate in Xinjiang[4].

Drivers of Uighur unrest may include being barred from 95 percent of the civil-service positions in Xinjiang[5], being forced to teach Mandarin in Uighur schools, and, until recently, anyone under 18 was prohibited from entering a mosque.  Despite efforts to placate the Uighurs with promises of foreign direct investment, increased employment opportunities, and modernization projects, the majority of these opportunities are still reserved for the Han Chinese.

Significance:  Xinjiang links the PRC to Central Asia and the greater Middle East geographically, ethnically, and religiously.  The problems of ethnic separatism and religious extremism in the Middle East and Central Asia flow into Xinjiang.  For this reason, in addition to poor administrative practices, there is a small, but growing problem with separatism and terrorism in the region.  Fear of an ISIS-like organization forming in Xinjiang, combined with a theoretical collapse of adjacent Tajikistan, has spurred the PRC into creating an entire security organization: the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Option #1:  The “Alaska” model— Reward the Uighurs with economic dividends based on exploiting Xinjiang’s resources.

Risk:  Economic dividends have historically been reserved for Han Chinese who may grow agitated with the loss of an exclusive “perk,” causing them to lash out at the local and Central Government.  Unhappy Han may direct their frustrations towards the Uighur population, who may respond to violence with greater violence, exacerbating the situation.

Gain:  Opening resource management to the Uighur population will co-opt Uighur elites and likely remove environmental concerns and wealth imbalances as a historical justification to protest resource exploitation in Xinjiang.  Option #1 places the onus of environmental degradation on the Uighur elites vice the local and Central Government.

Option #2:  The “Scotland” model— the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) maintains direct control of international and interprovincial trade, as well as military and police functions, but cultural autonomy exists in exchange for loyalty.

Risk:  This model allows the Uighur identity to grow unchecked, which may develop to a point of seeking greater separation from the rest of the PRC.  Misplaced faith in Uighur officials by the CCP could create Uighur opposition leaders in future periods of unrest and rising tensions.  The granting of such a high-level of autonomy to Xinjiang may spark calls for similar policies in other ethnic minority regions in the PRC.

Gain:  The PRC government maintains control of local security apparatus while receiving maximum economic benefit to be distributed as it sees fit.  True autonomy for the region reduces international and domestic criticism of PRC governance in the region.

Option #3:  The “Hawaii” model— Calls for the creation of an “indigenous people’s organization” to communicate with local officials about ongoing and future disputes with the government or Han population.

Risk:  The creation of the indigenous people’s organization could result in a legitimate alternative authority to the Central Government in Beijing, which, in turn, could eventually organize the Uighur population to formally challenge PRC government authority.  This organization may create avenues for Uighurs who support violent extremism to move into positions of authority.

Gain:  This indigenous people’s organization places an administrative barrier between the local government and Uighur population’s criticism and frustrations.  Both the Central Government and local government can use this organization as a scapegoat when tensions flair, while staffing it with vetted personnel. 

Option #4:  The “Australian” model— Special privileges are granted to minorities, such as no birth restrictions, tax exemptions, and assured education.

Risk:  Special privileges conferred to the Uighurs risk increasing resentment among the Han population towards the Uighurs, leading to increased hostility and even greater inter-ethnic violence.  Even more worrisome, the Han populace in Xinjiang, and around the PRC, may become resentful of the Central Government for withholding highly coveted privileges.

Gain:  Removing restrictions that apply to the rest of the country promotes a sense of exceptionalism in the Uighur population, encouraging loyalty to the PRC.  Assured education encourages educated Uighurs to become local elites and support the Central Government that supported them.

Option #5:  The “West Bank” model— Government promotion of cultural and Islamic tourism to Xinjiang Province.

Risk:  Exposes a larger portion of the PRC populace to Islam, increasing the potential for conversion to a religion that believes in an authority other than the Central Government in Beijing.  Islamic tourists to Xinjiang could bring ideas about Islam and its role in society and government that the PRC government views as destabilizing, further increasing tensions.

Gain:  Uighurs are potentially exposed to more moderate Islamic ideas on a wider scale, rather than radical Islamist ideas that proliferate under or due to government suppression.

Other Comments:  The models presented above can be found with greater detail in Dru Gladney’s 2003 paper “Responses to Chinese Rule in Xinjiang: Patterns of Cooperation and Opposition,” published in the Mongolian Journal of International Affairs (http://www.mongoliajol.info/index.php/MJIA/article/viewFile/122/123).

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Katie Hunt and Matt Rivers. “Xinjiang violence: Does China have a terror problem?,” CNN, December 02, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/02/asia/china-xinjiang-uyghurs/

[2]  Ryan Pickrell. “ISIS Vows To ‘Shed Blood Like Rivers’ In First Threat Against China,” Daily Caller, March 1, 2017. Retrieved from: http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/01/isis-vows-to-shed-blood-like-rivers-in-first-threat-against-china/

[3]  Drew Gladney. “Responses to Chinese Rule in Xinjiang: Patterns of Cooperation and Opposition,” The Mongolian Journal of International Affairs. Retrieved from: http://www.mongoliajol.info/index.php/MJIA/article/viewFile/122/123

[4]  “Xinjiang deploys over 10,000 armed police in latest show of force after terror attacks,” South China Morning Post, February 28, 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2074711/china-stages-another-huge-show-force-xinjiang-wake

[5]  Preeti Bhattacharji. “Uighurs and China’s Xinjiang Region,” Council on Foreign Relations, May 29, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.cfr.org/china/uighurs-chinas-xinjiang-region/p16870

China (People's Republic of China) Daniel Urchick Minority Populations Option Papers Uighur

America First Foreign Policy in the South China Sea

Captain Geoffrey Gage, U.S. Navy, is a Federal Executive Fellow at The Brookings Institution Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in Washington, DC.  The views expressed by the author are his own and do not reflect those of the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Navy.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization, or group.


National Security Situation:  People’s Republic of China (PRC) land reclamation and coercive maritime activity in the South China Sea (SCS) contradicts international law and threatens U.S. national interests while a nascent U.S. foreign policy and other strategic challenges limit U.S. options.

Date Originally Written:  February 10, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 10, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that current U.S. foreign policy, though limited in detail, provides a starting point for addressing the security situation in the SCS.

Background:  Among the competing claims in the SCS, the PRC considers most of the SCS sovereign territory.  Recent PRC maritime interference, land reclamation and fortification in the SCS constitute the most assertive claims and, despite international condemnation, have achieved de facto control of new territory.  More broadly, in dealing with SCS and other international relations issues, the PRC prefers bi-lateral problem solving in search of “win-win” outcomes, while prizing clout that derives from participation in multi-lateral fora, military exercises, and summit meetings[1].

Nascent U.S. foreign policy under the Trump administration, labeled “America First,” prioritizes defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and rebuilding the military.  “Embracing diplomacy” is a stated intention while better trade deals for the U.S. are a constant theme[2].  Administration statements and actions have generally supported these priorities, though the President’s fiscal year 2017 budget suggests fewer fiscal resources for diplomacy.  In the near term this adds up to an economy of force: military operations focused in the Middle East, managing security commitments elsewhere in order to rebuild readiness, and forging advantageous trade deals.

Significance:  The security situation in the SCS threatens regional stability and the security of sea lanes.  The SCS is the maritime crossroads for trillions of dollars in trade between globally dispersed producers and consumers.  The SCS is also important for U.S. naval forces operating between the Pacific and Indian Oceans in support of regional alliance commitments and, more generally, maintaining freedom of the seas[3].

The SCS is not a vital national interest for the U.S.  The SCS is not as critical to U.S. national security as the prospect of North Korean nuclear armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.  Nevertheless, the security situation in the SCS is very important to the U.S. because of its alliance commitments and the potential for military conflict, indirect economic harm, and degradation of international norms.

The PRC view of the “South Sea” as a vital national interest explains, though does not excuse, their actions.  In addition to vital trade flows, the SCS offers an extension of PRC military capability.  What’s more, Communist Party of China (CPC) legitimacy derives in part from SCS adventurism.  In advance of this year’s 19th CPC Congress, even the status quo gains in the SCS may be sufficient for the party—and President Xi—to claim success and retain tight control.

The April 2017 U.S.-PRC summit will likely focus on basic relationship building, North Korea and trade.  The SCS security situation, if left unaddressed, could be construed as tacit U.S. acceptance.  A reasonable near-term objective may be to maintain the status quo.  Given emerging “America First” foreign policy priorities, U.S. SCS options are captured in two distinct categories, Indirect and Direct.

Option #1:  Indirect Approach.  Leverage issues outside of the SCS to influence the PRC in the SCS.  For example, tie the conditions of trade agreements to PRC actions in the SCS.  Another option is greater U.S. patience on North Korea in exchange for the PRC’s cooperation in the SCS.  A less fraught military option would be to exclude the PRC from participation in combined exercises such as Rim of the Pacific subject to better behavior in the SCS.  This approach hinges on the U.S. “ask,” ranging from maintenance of the status quo to reversal of the PRC’s SCS island reclamation and fortification.

Risk:  Linking largely disparate issues may confuse U.S. priorities and further complicate relations with the PRC.  Option #1, in the case of North Korea, could be perceived by South Korea as a sell-out for a less important issue, creating acrimony between allies and further destabilizing the situation on the Korean peninsula.  Similarly, if the PRC perceives its position in the SCS as an existential one, it may refuse to “give” on trade agreements, sparking a trade war.

Gain:  Option #1 effectively makes the SCS more important to the U.S. from the PRC’s perspective.  Success of this option depends on limited objectives and reasonable demands.  If executed deftly, these indirect levers to stabilize the situation in the SCS could yield progress across a range of mutually important Asia-Pacific challenges while keeping the issue safely on the back burner.

Option #2:  Direct Approach. Focus efforts in the SCS region.  Sustain the long-standing policy of routine military presence, including U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS) near the contested land features.  Conducting FONOPs and other military operations in the region is an obvious lever, with the option to adjust the frequency and nature of those measures, including land-based exercises with local allied and partner nations.  Drawing “red lines” against further island reclamation or fortification is a logical consideration given past administration statements.  Targeted economic sanctions on PRC entities supporting SCS activities is another lever.  A novel and riskier measure would be to abandon U.S. neutrality with respect to claims in the SCS and endorse a solution—one that might include certain PRC claims.  Finally, the U.S. could tie maintenance of the One China policy to the security situation in the SCS—a direct measure because Taiwan is an SCS claimant whose nationalist forbearers conceived of the nine-dashed line[4].

Risk:  Option #2 presents an array of risks, not least being a military confrontation that could undermine broader U.S. strategic priorities.  In particular, drawing red lines in the SCS would dramatically increase the risk of confrontation, as would linking the One China policy to SCS issues.  Mitigating the risk of a direct approach is done through incremental steps that are mindful of the broader regional situation.

Gain:  Option #2 is unambiguous and reinforces U.S. commitment and resolve on the key issues of freedom of navigation, territorial integrity and treaty obligations.  The direct approach also contains the issue to the SCS, de-linking the matter from higher-priority issues facing the U.S. and the PRC.

Other Comments:  As the new U.S. administration develops a comprehensive national security strategy, foreign challenges and crises will not wait.  Every “environmental monitoring station,” surface-to-air missile site and high seas harassment in the international waters of the SCS constitutes a “win-lose” in the Sino-American relationship.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Foreign Ministry of PRC. (2017). China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation (http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/mfa_eng/zxxx_662805)

[2]  Trump, Donald J., President. (2017). America first foreign policy. https://www.whitehouse.gov/america-first-foreign-policy

[3]  Mission of the U.S. Navy. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/organization/org-top.asp

[4]  Fisher, M. (2012, November 26). Here’s the Chinese passport map that’s infuriating much of Asia. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2012/11/26/heres-the-chinese-passport-map-thats-infuriating-much-of-asia/

 

China (People's Republic of China) Geoffrey Gage Option Papers South China Sea Trump (U.S. President) United States

U.S. Options for the People’s Republic of China’s Maritime Militias

Blake Herzinger served in the United States Navy in Singapore, Japan, Italy, and exotic Jacksonville, Florida.  He is presently employed by Booz Allen Hamilton and assists the U.S. Pacific Fleet in implementation and execution of the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative.  His writing has appeared in Proceedings and The Diplomat.  He can be found on Twitter @BDHerzinger.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  People’s Republic of China (PRC) Maritime Militias operating in the East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  February 21, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 6, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author believes in freedom of navigation and maintenance of good order at sea in accordance with customary and written law of the sea.  The article is written from the point of view of U.S. sea services leadership toward countering PRC maritime irregulars at sea.

Background:  The PRC employs irregular militia forces at sea alongside naval and maritime law enforcement units.  By deploying these so-called “blue hulls” manned by un-uniformed (or selectively-uniformed) militiamen, the PRC presses its maritime claims and confronts foreign sea services within a “gray zone[1].”  In keeping with national traditions of People’s War, PRC Maritime Militias seek advantage through asymmetry, while opposing competitors whose rules of engagement are based on international law.  The PRC Maritime Militia participated in several of the most provocative PRC acts in the SCS, including the 2009 USNS Impeccable incident, the seizure of Scarborough Shoal in 2012, and the 2014 China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) 981 confrontation with Vietnam that also involved the smaller Vietnam Maritime Militia[2].

Significance:  On its surface, employing irregular forces may be an attractive option for a state facing a more powerful opponent, or for a state interested in “a less provocative means of promoting its strategic goal of regional hegemony” such as the PRC[3].  However, incorporating these irregular forces into a hybrid national strategy has deleterious impacts on the structure of the international legal system, particularly in maritime law and the laws of naval warfare[4].  PRC Maritime Militias’ use of “civilian” fishing vessels to support, and conduct, military operations distorts this legal structure by obfuscating the force’s identity and flaunting established international legal boundaries.

Option #1:  U.S. political and military leaders engage the PRC/People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLAN) directly and publicly on the existence and operations of the Maritime Militia, insist upon adherence to internationally-accepted legal identification of vessels and personnel[6], and convey what costs will be imposed on the PRC/PLAN if they do not change their behavior.

As an example, the Commander U.S. Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, has voiced his frustration with PLAN unwillingness to acknowledge the existence of the PRC Maritime Militia and its relationships with state law enforcement and military forces[5].  In the event that the PRC declines to engage in dialogue regarding the Maritime Militia, discontinuing PLAN participation in the Rim of the Pacific exercise is the suggested response.

Risk:  Without clearly attaching costs to continued use of militia forces in operations against the USN, Option #1 is unlikely to affect PRC behavior.  Conveying possible imposed costs carries risk of further-degrading relations between the U.S. and PRC, but it is precisely PRC perceptions of their behavior as costless that encourages the behaviors exhibited by the PRC’s Maritime Militia[7].

Gain:  Option #1 is an excellent opportunity for the U.S. to underline its commitment to good order at sea and a rules-based maritime order.  By encouraging the PRC to acknowledge the Maritime Militia and its associated command structure, the U.S. can cut through the ambiguity and civilian camouflage under which the Maritime Militia has operated unchallenged.  In the event that the PRC declines to engage, conveying the possible imposition of costs may serve as a warning that behavior negatively affecting good order at sea will not be tolerated indefinitely.

Option #2:  U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force West (JIATF-W) assists the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in developing and implementing an organic maritime domain awareness (MDA) capability with domestic, and international, interagency sharing and response capability.  For the purposes of this article, MDA will be understood to be a host-nation’s ability to “collect, fuse, analyze and disseminate maritime data, information and intelligence relating to potential threats to [its] security, safety, economy or environment[8].”

Risk:  Close to a score of abandoned information portals and sharing infrastructures have been tried and failed in Southeast Asia, a cautionary tale regarding the risk of wasted resources.  Building upon over 20 years of JIATF-W’s experience should help to mitigate this risk, so long as an MDA solution is developed cooperatively and not simply imposed upon ASEAN.

Gain:  By providing focused and long-term support to an ASEAN-led solution, the U.S. can make progress in an area where MDA has been plagued by reticence, and occasionally inability to share vital information across interagency and national borders.  Shared awareness and cooperation at sea will combat the ability of the PRC Maritime Militia to operate uncontested in the SCS by enabling more effective law enforcement and naval response by affected countries.  Working through existing regional institutions such as Singapore’s Information Fusion Centre would add increased value to Option #2.

Option #3:  Utilize U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to provide law enforcement and maritime safety training support to states bordering the ECS/SCS interested in creating their own maritime militias.

Risk:  Expanding a concept that is damaging the rules-based order may increase the rate of disintegration of good order at sea.  Any observable indication that the U.S. is encouraging the creation of irregular maritime forces would likely be viewed negatively by the PRC.  Option #3 carries risk of engendering diplomatic or military conflict between the U.S. and PRC, or between the PRC and U.S. partners.

Gain:  Option #3 might provide some level of parity for states facing PRC militia vessels.  Vietnam has already made the decision to pursue development of a maritime militia and others may follow in hopes of countering the PRC’s irregular capability.  USCG involvement in the organizational development and training of militias might provide some limited opportunities to shape their behavior and encourage responsible employment of militia forces.

Other Comments:  Encouragement for the expansion of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) is not addressed.  The CUES  was adopted during the 2014 Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) and provides a basis for communications, maritime safety, and maneuvering guidelines for use by ships and aircraft in unplanned encounters at sea.  CUES is not a legally binding document, but an agreed-upon protocol for managing potentially escalatory encounters in the Pacific[9].  This author believes coast guards adjoining the contested areas of the ECS and SCS will continue to resist CUES adoption in order to maintain operational latitude.  Given the reticence of coast guards to accede to the agreement, drawing PRC Maritime Militia into CUES seems an unrealistic possibility.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  The South China Sea’s Third Force: Understanding and Countering China’s Maritime Militia, Hearings on Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea, Before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, 114th Cong., 1 (2016)(Statement of Andrew S. Erickson, U.S. Naval War College). http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS28/20160921/105309/HHRG-114-AS28-Wstate-EricksonPhDA-20160921.pdf

[2]  Conor M. Kennedy and Andrew S. Erickson, “Model Maritime Militia: Tanmen’s Leading Role in the April 2012 Scarborough Shoal Incident,” CIMSEC, 21 April 2016, http://cimsec.org/model-maritime-militia-tanmens-leading-role-april-2012-scarborough-shoal-incident/24573

[3]  James Kraska and Michael Monti, “The Law of Naval Warfare and China’s Maritime Militia,” International Law Studies 91.450 (2015): 465, http://stockton.usnwc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi

[4]  Ibid.

[5]  Christopher Cavas, “China’s Maritime Militia a Growing Concern,” DefenseNews, November 21, 2016,  http://www.defensenews.com/articles/new-website-will-allow-marines-to-share-training-videos

[6]  The South China Sea’s Third Force: Understanding and Countering China’s Maritime Militia, Hearings on Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea Before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, 114th Cong., 1 (2016)(Statement of Andrew S. Erickson, U.S. Naval War College). http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS28/20160921/105309/HHRG-114-AS28-Wstate-EricksonPhDA-20160921.pdf

[7]  The Struggle for Law in the South China Sea, Hearings on Seapower and Projection Forces in the South China Sea Before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, 114th Cong., 1 (2016) (Statement of James Kraska, U.S. Naval War College).

[8]  Secretary of the Navy Approves Strategic Plan for Maritime Domain Awareness, U.S. Navy, Last updated 8 October 2015, http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp? story_id=91417

[9]  Document: Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, USNI News, Last updated 22 August 2016, https://news.usni.org/2014/06/17/document-conduct-unplanned-encounters-sea

Association of Southeast Asian Nations Blake Herzinger China (People's Republic of China) Irregular Forces Maritime Option Papers South China Sea United States

Options for the People’s Republic of China following the Taiwan Strait Crisis of 1996

Captain Robert N. Hein is a career Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.  He previously commanded the USS Gettysburg (CG-64) and the USS Nitze (DDG-94).  He can be found on Twitter @the_sailor_dog.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.  


“Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence, supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting, thus the highest form of generalship is to balk the enemy’s plans.”  -Sun Tzu  

National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is vying to establish itself as the Asian Hegemon.  What caused this rapid shift in the PRC’s foreign Policy?  Why, after decades of growth, where the PRC was ascribed the long view, has it rapidly accelerated military growth, reorganization, and a diplomatic and economic expansion across the world stage in a scale not seen since Zheng He’s voyages of the 15th century?

Date Originally Written:  February 2, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  April 3, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is taken from the point of view of the PRC toward the U.S in the two decades following the third Taiwan Straight crisis of 1996.

Background:  In 1995, Taiwan’s president visited the U.S. to attend his graduate school reunion at Cornell.  His visit, coupled with the U.S. sale of F-16s to Taiwan, incensed the PRC at what they viewed as possible changes in the U.S. and Taiwan view of the One China Policy.  The PRC commenced a series of missile tests near Taiwan.  The U.S. responded by sending two aircraft carriers to the vicinity of the Strait of Taiwan[1].  The PRC realized they could do little to respond to U.S. actions and needed a way to ensure they never experienced this humiliation again.

Significance:  The law of unintended consequences often applies to national security.  While U.S. action in 1996 was a clear demonstration of U.S. resolve, the PRC’s response has been to pursue a series of actions to reduce and possibly prevent the ability of the U.S. to influence events in Asia.

Option #1:  After viewing the U.S. way of war against Serbia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, whereby the U.S. consistently pushes its aircraft carriers close to the coast and launches strike fighters and tomahawk land attack missiles against targets ashore, the PRC must find a way to extend its borders out to sea into the ocean.  This can be accomplished by placing relatively cheap long-range anti-ship missile batteries along the shore, increasing the number of ships and submarines in the People’s Liberation Army Navy and, in a bold stroke, build islands in the South China Sea (SCS), and claim the surrounding waters as historical boundaries of the PRC.

Risk:  There is a real danger that the U.S. will react to the build-up of PRC forces and rebuild its navy to maintain global influence.  Previous U.S. administrations justified naval build ups to counter the Soviet threat however, by keeping activities below the threshold of armed conflict, we believe the U.S. will not be able to convince its public of the need for a large military buildup, especially following the years of conflict the U.S. has recently experience in the Middle East.  While Asian nations could turn to the U.S. out of fear, this can be mitigated through strong economic measures.  Asian nations may also attempt to challenge the PRC in the international courts, but the lack of enforcement measures in the international system removes this a real concern.

Gain:  Option #1 will prevent U.S. access to the waters they need to block the PRC from maneuvering against Taiwan.  Due to the proliferation of short-range fighters, and the lack of anti-surface capability of many U.S. warships, the ability of the U.S. to offer a timely response to a forcible re-unification of Taiwan could be prevented.

Option #2:  When we look back to Sun Tzu, and realize the best course of action is to attack the enemy’s strategy, we must determine what other strategy the enemy could impose.  While Option #1 will be effective in countering the U.S. ability to easily execute its traditional means of bombardment from the sea, another option is available to the U.S.; the long-range containment strategy used against the Soviet Union could possibly be executed with a long-range blockade.  By focusing on key choke points such as the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab Al-Mandeb from the Red Sea, an adversary could block much-needed commodities such as oil and rare earth elements needed in the PRC defense industry.  Just as the PRC invoked the historical nine-dash line to establish autonomy in the SCS, revitalizing the historical one belt one road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa will easily stop any means of isolating or containing the PRC.  By continuing investment throughout the world, especially in economically disenfranchised areas, the PRC can prevent the types of alliances used by the U.S. during the Cold War to isolate the Soviet Union.

Risk:  If the PRC moves out too quickly, it spreads itself too thin internationally, and risks alienating the very countries with whom it hopes to partner.  The drain on resources over time will become increasingly difficult.  The PRC’s ability to be a free rider on U.S. security will winnow as other countries will expect the same from the PRC.

Gain:  The PRC establishes itself as a both a regional hegemon, and a global power.  The PRC asserts influence over the global economy and geopolitics to rival the U.S. in a multi-polar world.  Option #2 removes the ability of the U.S. to polarize the eastern hemisphere against the PRC.

Other Comments:  Through a rapid economic development program centered on an export economy in a globalizing world, the PRC has embarked on a multitude of options, covering the diplomatic, informational, military and economic spectrum.  It has employed both above options, which have caused the world to react, often favorably to the PRC.  The question for the PRC now is how to maintain the momentum, solidify their role in a changing world order, and not show their hand too quickly lest they implode.  The question for the U.S. is whether it will continue to pursue the U.S. way of war that has been studied so ably by the PRC, or pursue other options as it both cooperates and competes with the PRC on a rapidly evolving world stage.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ross, Robert, International Security, Vol 25, No 2 (Fall 2000) p 87 The 1995-96 Taiwan Strait Confrontation

Bob Hein China (People's Republic of China) Containment Deterrence Option Papers South China Sea Taiwan

South China Sea Options: An Alternative Route

“The Black Swan” is an officer and a strategist in the U.S. Army.  He has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has been a company commander, and served at the battalion, brigade, division, and Army Command (ACOM) level staffs.  The opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization, or group.


National Security Situation:  Japan is one of the most stalwart allies of the United States (U.S.) in Asia.  The U.S. guarantees Japanese security and sovereignty.  Japan serves as one of the principal rivals of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Asia.  Japan is an island, however, and depends upon seaborne trade routes, especially those that transit through Southeast Asia.  PRC claims of sovereignty over virtually the entire South China Sea (SCS) pose a direct threat to Japanese security.

Date Originally Written:  January 29, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 30, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of Japan towards PRC claims in the SCS.

Background:  For the greater part of recorded history, Japan has been a rival of the PRC.  All Japanese attempts to dominate the Asian mainland however, have ended in failure.  The defeat of Japan during WWII decisively put an end to Japanese Imperial ambitions.  Since the end of the Allied post-WWII occupation in 1952, Japan has been one of the most stalwart allies of the U.S. in Asia, and a bastion of western values.  Japan is an economic powerhouse, a vibrant democracy, and possesses an extremely formidable military.  For those reasons, as well as historical animosity, Japan is one of, if not the main rival, of the PRC in Asia.

The lifeblood of Japan’s prosperity flows through the Straits of Malacca, and then northeast through the SCS en route to Japan.  The PRC has laid claim to the SCS as sovereign territory throughout modern history, as well as Taiwan, and Japan’s own Senkaku Islands.  Events in the 21st century have reached a culminating point.  While Japan and the U.S. have guaranteed the inviolability of Japan’s claims to the Senkaku Islands, the PRC has gained de facto sovereignty over the SCS.  The PRC has done so by the construction, improvement, and militarization of artificial islands.  The PRC has vowed to defend its claims, and no member of the international community has chosen to challenge them, beyond legal arbitration through the United Nations.  Recent PRC assertiveness has its roots in an impressive regimen of military modernization and diplomatic initiatives colloquially called the “rise of China”.

Significance:  The PRC control of virtually the entire SCS poses a direct threat to Japan.  The PRC could coerce or compel Japan in any number of ways by cutting or hindering maritime traffic to Japan as it transits out of the Straits of Malacca.  In the event of war, Japan would be at a distinct disadvantage for the aforementioned reasons, to say nothing of its close proximity to the PRC.

Option #1:  Japan diverts inbound maritime traffic immediately until such a time as the issue of the SCS reaches an acceptable resolution.  Maritime traffic exiting the Straits of Malacca/Singapore would transit through the Java to Celebes to Philippine Sea route.  Simultaneously, Japan invests in improving Indonesian and Philippine port facilities/infrastructure along the proposed route.

Risk:  Cost and time.  The current route through the SCS is the shortest route and therefore the cheapest.  Option #1 entails a significant increase in the cost of shipping.  Furthermore, it will be a significant diplomatic effort for Japan to induce the Indonesian government to allow transit on this scale through its territorial waters.  Option #1 will require further diplomatic and economic effort to induce the Indonesian and Philippine governments to allow investment in the type of upgrades to their facilities that would be necessary to sustain such traffic.  Also, this option may embolden the PRC and result in a loss of face for Japan, as it will be perceived that the PRC is driving Japan out of the SCS.

Gain:  Safety for shipping bound for Japan.  This option completely skirts all PRC territorial claims.  Option #1 entails the cultivation of alliances with several Southeast Asian nations.  Furthermore, Option #1 establishes a buffer zone by placing multiple nations, and miles of blue water ocean, between the PRC’s navy and Japanese shipping.  In the event of war between the PRC and Japan, this route would be most difficult to interdict.

Option #2:  Japan immediately begins regular freedom of navigation patrols with its maritime self-defense force (M-SDF) through the SCS, with the option to provide armed escorts to critical maritime traffic.  Simultaneously, Japan seeks military cooperation with SCS claimants other than the PRC (e.g. Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines) to protect maritime traffic.

Risk:  The regular deployment of M-SDF ships to the SCS would be viewed as an escalation by the PRC, and an infringement on its sovereignty.  The likelihood of a stand-off at sea would be high (especially if this is a coalition of Southeast Asian nations), with the correlating risk of miscalculation in the use of force becoming casus belli.  Additionally, the more M-SDF ships that are deployed away from the home islands are the more ships that are unavailable to defend the Japanese mainland.

Gain:  This option would establish Japan as the leader against PRC encroachment.  The operational experience and partnerships gained would be invaluable.  Most importantly, this option virtually guarantees U.S. support, if Japan is perceived to be burden-sharing, but especially if Japan is threatened or attacked.  Practically, beginning and sustaining such patrols early on gives the PRC the flexibility to adjust to a new status quo without a loss of face.

Other Comments:  It has been well established here, but is a refrain of paramount importance – Japan must have access to maritime shipping to survive.  Japan can rely on U.S. support, but must stand ready to safeguard its own interests.  Both options presented here have cooperation and alliances with other nations as a common theme.  Operationalizing that theme is the best way for Japan to weather events in the SCS.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

None.

China (People's Republic of China) Japan Maritime Option Papers South China Sea The Black Swan

U.S. Partnership Options in the South China Sea

Brett Wessley is an officer in the U.S. Navy, currently assigned to U.S. Pacific Command.  The contents of this paper reflect his own personal views and are not necessarily endorsed by U.S. Pacific Command, Department of the Navy or Department of Defense.  Connect with him on Twitter @Brett_Wessley.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  January 21, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 27, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a U.S. Naval Officer serving on staff duty at U.S. Pacific Command.  The article is written from the point of view of U.S. policymakers weighing options in Southeast Asia and the SCS.

Background:  Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to table the Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration June 2016 ruling was a strategic setback for the U.S.[1].  While the Hague’s ruling legally invalidated the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “Nine Dash Line” under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), Duterte’s increased ties to the PRC and deteriorating relationship with the U.S. have led to a potential “fait accompli” in the SCS.  Instead of pressing their claims through international engagement, the Philippines has decided to engage the PRC solely through bilateral forums, and the status quo of the PRC occupying and building islands in the SCS will continue unopposed by the principal aggrieved party.

Significance:  The SCS represents a strategic point of friction between the PRC and the international community, particularly with the U.S.  While territorial disputes in the Senkaku Islands and Taiwan involve major military powers and treaty alliances with the U.S., the international environment in the SCS is more permissive to incremental PRC actions to acquire territory (aka “salami slicing”)[2].  The Philippines is the only regional treaty ally to the U.S., and Duterte’s sidelining of the Hague’s ruling imperils regional neighbors like Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia – all of whom have territorial disputes with the PRC’s Nine Dash Line.  The danger for the U.S. is that the PRC may militarize its expansive holdings in the SCS and expand the People’s Liberation Army’s defensive perimeter to the south, thus reinforcing the PRC’s counter-intervention capabilities.

Option #1:  The U.S. repairs relations with Duterte and restore the alliance with the Philippines.

Risk:  Duterte has pushed numerous controversial policies within the Philippines during his short tenure as President, namely the extrajudicial killings of drug-related criminals[3].  Duterte’s rhetoric has been alienating and crude, particularly when involving the U.S. and the previous Obama Administration.  Duterte’s strong feelings about the U.S. are deeply rooted within his personal life and Philippine history, and this bias may be insurmountable through diplomacy.  Furthermore, the PRC has offered Duterte significant economic development and loans, all of which were aimed at dissuading him from aggressively pursuing the Hague’s ruling and improving relations with the U.S.

Even if the U.S. was successful in repairing the relationship with Duterte and the Philippines, doing so may create a perception that the U.S. will accept undermining the rule of law in return for strategic concessions.  This messaging is contrary to the U.S.’ position on the SCS and territorial disputes, in addition to open governance and a rules-based international system.  The greatest risk is that in persuading Duterte to move forward with the Philippine’s legal case against the PRC, the U.S. may be forced to abandon the international principles driving its foreign policy.

Gain:  Improved relations with Duterte and the Philippines would restore the U.S.’ foothold in the SCS for promoting a rules-based international system.  The Philippines is a treaty ally and historical partner of the U.S., and it is unlikely that a closer relationship could be formed with other SCS nations.  Additionally, the Philippines successful legal case against the PRC provides legitimacy to its territorial claims – namely against the illegal PRC seizures of several reefs and fishing grounds in the SCS[4].  Although the weakness of the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard has prevented aggressive patrols of its territorial waters, partnership with the U.S. would provide avenues for equipment and training, in addition to opportunities for intelligence sharing and improved maritime domain awareness.

Option #2:  The U.S. pivots diplomatic and military engagement to Vietnam in the SCS.

Risk:  Although the PRC more recently fought Vietnam during the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, the bitter history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War will complicate relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.  The nominally communist government of Vietnam, and its rejection of democratic governance in favor of one party rule, will likely be domestically unpopular in the U.S. compared to partnership with the Philippines.  Additionally, Vietnam’s historical partnership with Russia may impede meaningful intelligence sharing with the U.S.

Gain:  When compared to the other SCS claimants competing with the PRC, Vietnam’s investment in maritime defensive capabilities is outstanding.  The legacy of Soviet sea-denial strategies has led to Vietnamese investment in coastal defense cruise missiles, integrated air defense systems, submarines, and patrol craft to defend its SCS territories.  Vietnam has militarized its holdings in the SCS in ways the Philippines and other claimants have been unable or unwilling to do. Vietnam’s geography near the major PRC naval bases on Hainan Island, and its holdings throughout the Spratley Islands, would put PRC military assets at asymmetric risk in any regional conflict [5].

If the U.S. was able to gain basing rights from Vietnam, its ability to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations would be assisted by a Vietnamese Navy and Coast Guard capable of maintaining a presence in contested waters.  As a military partner to the U.S., the deterrent value of Vietnamese military capabilities in the SCS would be a credible improvement over the status quo.  U.S. pursuit of imposing cost on aggressive PRC expansion in the SCS would be uniquely complimented by Vietnamese military capabilities.

Other Comments:  It is important that the U.S. maintains a regional ally in the SCS with territorial holdings.  As an outside power, the U.S.’ goal of maintaining freedom of navigation in international waters can only be supported by partnership with a legitimate claimant.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Ben Blanchard and Reuters, “Duterte says U.S. has lost, aligns Philippines with China,” CNN Philippines, October 21, 2017.  http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/10/20/duterte-cuts-us-ties-aligns-with-china.html

[2]  Robert Haddick, “America Has No Answer to China’s Salami-Slicing,” War on the Rocks, February 06, 2014.  https://warontherocks.com/2014/02/america-has-no-answer-to-chinas-salami-slicing/

[3]  James Hookway, “Rodrigo Duterte Ushers Manila Into a New Era,” The Wallstreet Journal, January 16, 2017.  https://www.wsj.com/articles/outsider-ushers-manila-into-new-era-1484560813

[4]  Jaime Laude, “China takes Philippine atoll,” The Philippine Star, March 02, 2016.  http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/03/02/1558682/china-takes-philippine-atoll

[5]  Shang-su Wu, “The Development of Vietnam’s Sea-Denial Strategy,” The Naval War College Review, Winter 2017. https://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/8756f6bf-78d0-4955-b1c6-ce8ee678f5c0/The-Development-of-Vietnams-Sea-Denial-Strategy.aspx

Allies & Partners Brett Wessley China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers Philippines South China Sea United States Vietnam

Options for the Philippines in the South China Sea

Joshua Urness is an officer in the United States Army who has served both in combat and strategic studies roles.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Sovereign Rights of Economic Exclusion Zones (EEZ)[1] in the South China Sea (SCS) and the legitimacy of the international system to enforce them.

Date Originally Written:  January 18, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 23, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active duty officer in the U.S. Army.  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. towards the Philippines, with a desire to ensure the legitimacy of the international system.

Background:  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is occupying and developing islands in the SCS based on the historical claim of its nine-dashed line.  These occupations have resulted in the direct challenge of the Philippine EEZ, an internationally recognized right of sovereignty, which fully includes the disputed Spratly Islands (Mischief Reef).  In 2016, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) ruled that the Spratly Islands are technically rocks, and upheld that they are wholly within the Filipino EEZ.  Therefore, the PRC is in a “state of unlawful occupation[2].”  Countries especially impacted by the PRC’s expansion in the SCS, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam, do not currently possess the military or political capability to challenge the PRC’s actions independently.

Significance:  The stability of security and diplomatic relations in the SCS is important because of the economic trade routes which pass through the waterway, and the potential value of natural resources in the region.  The PRC’s willingness to ignore the UNCLOS ruling on the sovereignty of the Filipino EEZ is an affront to the legitimacy and credibility of the international system and the security status quo.  Further unchecked aggression by the PRC could embolden other states, creating further instability in other parts of the world.  The PRC’s disregard for the ruling, along with their military modernization and investment in power projection capabilities, will enable them to continue to challenge the sovereignty of EEZs throughout the first island chain.  Because the international system cannot enforce its decision, and the Philippines cannot enforce its own EEZ, the credibility of both international and state authorities will be questioned.

Option #1:  The U.S. facilitates Filipino acquisition of low-cost defensive capabilities which will enable them to enforce their own EEZ.  Examples of low-cost defensive capabilities include anti-ship missiles such as the RBS-16 which has a 100-200 nm range, coast guard equipment, and sensors.

Risk:  If the U.S. is not directly involved in the continued procurement and operations of the weapons given to the Filipinos, there may be an increased risk of mistakes or miscalculations being made by untrained and inexperienced Filipino weapons operators.  This includes the integration of sensors and shooters into an organized system in which commanders, with the authority to decide whether or not to fire a system, have enough information and time to make a good decision.  Because of the potential presence of Filipino Islamist or communist insurgents in areas likely to be chosen for weapon system employment, the security of the weapon sites must be emphasized.  If weapons are stolen or obtained by such actors with malign interests, this could destabilize the regions crucial shipping lanes and local maritime economies.  Additionally, inability or lack of political will on the part of the Philippines to use the capability to protect its citizens, or enforce EEZ claims, may perpetuate internal destabilization of the state.  Also, given the PRC’s positioning of military forces on these islands, the provision of weapons to the Philippines risks war over sea lanes through which 25% of global trade passes.

Gain:  Enforcement of the EEZ would enhance the legitimacy of the international system, even if the Filipinos themselves enforced it, as opposed to an internationally sanctioned coalition.  Option #1 would change the cost/risk calculation for the burgeoning PRC navy that may result in a deterrent effect.  Such a capability may also enable the Filipino government to protect its fishermen and economic interests in the EEZ from harassment from the PRC’s maritime militia.  This option would allow the Filipinos to demonstrate resolve, garnering regional and internal credibility, if they decisively utilize these capabilities to deter or defend.  Land based anti-ship missiles are easily maneuverable and concealable, therefore adding to the survivability and resilience of a force that could be in place for a long time.

Option #2:  A U.S.-led coalition defense strategy composed of states surrounding the SCS that is supported by U.S. foreign military funding centered on facilitating procurement, training and information sharing.

Risk:  A U.S. led coalition of SCS states could polarize the region and lead to a less effective Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN).  This coalition may also stimulate a regional arms race that would be expensive over time for the U.S., despite the somewhat low-cost of capabilities involved.  The cost of building partner capacity could also be expensive over time where countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, not accustomed to working with the U.S., would require courtship.  Direct U.S. involvement and partnership in mission command and the integration of sensors and shooters into an organized system would require increases in the forward presence of U.S. forces.  This would expose the U.S. to a higher diplomatic commitment than previously held.  This higher level of presence would be necessary to mitigate the risk of mistakes in the use of the capability, as well as the security and posture of the systems.

Gain:  The primary advantages of a U.S.-led coalition are two-fold; it would ensure the credibility of the international system to assist in the enforcement of edicts (though the U.S. is not a signatory of UNCLOS, it does have a vested interest in the stability of the international system), and it would build a broader foundation of deterrence against further PRC expansion in the SCS.  If the U.S. used a strategy similar to the one for which the RAND Corporation advocates, in their report titled Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific[3], coalition states could work towards building the capacity for a “far blockade” of the first island chain.  This would significantly increase the PRC’s naval risk when operating within firing range of any coalition state, challenging the cost imposition and aggression paradigm, while also building capacity and knowledge that may be useful in future conflict.  Similarly, the U.S. could use such partnerships to develop its own capacity and institutional knowledge in land-based maritime denial systems.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:  

[1]  China and the Philippines have both signed and ratified the UNCLOS. Part five of the convention, article 55 through 75, cover economic exclusion zones. UNCLOS Part V, Article 56, which can be found at http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf, states that; ” In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;

(b) Jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

(i) The establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(ii) Marine scientific research;

(iii) The protection and preservation of the marine environment;

[2]  Graham, E. (2016, August 18). The Hague Tribunal’s South China Sea Ruling: Empty Provocation or Slow-Burning Influence? Retrieved January 07, 2017, from http://www.cfr.org/councilofcouncils/global_memos/p38227

[3]  Kelly, T., Atler, A., Nichols, T., & Thrall, L. (2013). Employing Land-Based Anti-Ship Missiles in the Western Pacific. Retrieved January 07, 2017, from http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR1321.html

Allies & Partners China (People's Republic of China) Joshua Urness Maritime Option Papers Philippines South China Sea

U.S. Options Towards a Rising People’s Republic of China

Captain Brian T. Molloy has served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan and various posts around the U.S.  He presently works as a Project Manager at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh, PA.  The opinions expressed in this article are his alone and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  U.S. options towards the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as it continues to rise and increase its influence in the region surrounding the South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  January, 26, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 20, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author is an active duty U.S. Army Officer.  Author believes in the use of force as a last resort and where possible, diplomacy should be the primary lever in influencing foreign powers.

Background:  The U.S. and the PRC are currently playing out a classic dyadic relationship according to power transition theory[1].  This power transition theory is playing out in the SCS with the rising PRC asserting itself militarily and the declining U.S. attempting to reassert control of the region by addressing such military action with “balancing” actions.  Recently U.S. balancing actions have utilized the military instrument of power with the Pacific Pivot[2] and freedom of navigation missions as the most visible.  This U.S. response is playing directly into the beginning stages of a conflict spiral that so often follows with a power transition[3].  The idea of a military deterrent is often floated as the logical alternative to war.  In this case, however, both of the major powers are already a nuclear power with a nuclear deterrent in place.  This nuclear deterrent works to ensure that a direct conflict between the two would be unlikely, however, as we saw in the Cold War, this deterrent does not keep the powers from fighting through proxy wars.  The options presented in this article assume rising influence of the PRC and a declining influence of the U.S., both militarily and economically, in the region.  The SCS has become a potential flash point between the two powers as the PRC uses it’s military to claim land that is also claimed by longtime U.S. Allies in the region.

Significance:  In an increasingly multi-polar global environment, regional powers such as the PRC are becoming a larger threat to U.S. interests throughout the world.  The potential for conflict in the SCS represents the opportunity for the U.S. to either assert influence in the region or cede that influence to a rising PRC.  Control of the SCS is essentially a trade-driven power move by the PRC towards its neighbors.  As such, trade could be the primary focus of the response from the U.S.towards the PRC vice a more dangerous military confrontation.

Option #1:  The U.S. and the PRC seek a strong bi-lateral trade agreement to replace the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the U.S. leverages negotiations on this trade agreement to provide security guarantees to allies in the SCS region.

With the downfall of the TPP the option to enter into a strong bi-lateral trade deal with the PRC is now open.  Negotiating this deal requires nuance and the ability to intertwine defense and trade into an agreement that is both beneficial to all economically, but also sets limits on military actions seen to be provocative to the U.S. and its Allies in the region.  Precedent for this sort of diplomatic economic deterrent action can be seen in post WWII Western Europe with the European Steel and Coal Community (ECSC)[4].  When complete, Option #1 would be an economic deterrent to conflict in the region.  This economic deterrent will utilize trade agreements to ensure the U.S. and the PRC are entwined economically to the point that a military conflict, even a proxy conflict, would be too costly to both sides.  This economic deterrent could be the action that needs to be taken in order rebalance power in the region.

Risk:  The largest risk in entertaining this approach is that it opens the U.S. to the risk of an economic catastrophe if the approach fails.  This risk would likely be unpalatable to the U.S. public and would have to be crafted carefully.  Additionally, under the current administration, a trade deal similar to this could be difficult due to the ongoing rhetoric coming from the White House.  Finally, this approach risks leaving long-time U.S. Allies no way to dispute their claims in the SCS.

Gain:  This agreement gains the lessened risk of a conflict between the U.S. and the PRC and also has the potential for large economic growth for both sides.  A mutually beneficial trade agreement between two of the largest economies in the world has the potential to remove the risk of conflict and simultaneously improve quality of life domestically.

Option #2:  The U.S. can use its trade power to balance PRC influence in the region through encouraging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to trade as a bloc.  This is essentially an Asian version of the European Union which can build multilateral trade agreements and also leverage economic sanctions to assert power in the region.  Building ASEAN to be able to handle this would require a more inclusive membership of some of the more powerful Asian countries, Japan, and the Republic of Korea among them.  This effort would require a radical overhaul of the ASEAN bloc but would benefit much smaller countries as they try to address the influence of the PRC.

Risk:  The U.S., particularly under the current administration, is not a proponent of supranational organizations.  In order for Option #2 to work the U.S. must have a stake in the game.  Additionally, the U.S. risks losing influence in the region to the newly formed ASEAN economic power.  There is the possibility that the newly formed ASEAN could forge close ties with the PRC and other trading partners and leave the U.S. out.  Finally, the SCS is fraught with competing claims not only between the PRC and ASEAN members, but among ASEAN members themselves.  Those conflicts must be worked out before the ASEAN bloc could effectively manage the PRC.

Gain:  This option allows the U.S. to leverage the comparative power of an ASEAN bloc of mostly friendly countries to impose sanctions on the PRC on its behalf.  In this way the U.S. is pushing regional allies take care of their own backyard while still maintaining influence in the region.  The U.S. also benefits as it is able to trade effectively with a large number of Asian countries without entering into a free trade agreement like the TPP.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Garnett, J. (2010). The Causes of War and the Conditions of Peace, in John Baylis et al, Strategy in the Contemporary World: An Introduction to Strategic Studies’ (3rd Edition OUP 2010), (pp. 19–42). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 3rd Edition

[2]  Panetta, L. E., & Obama, B. (2012). Sustaining U.S. global leadership: priorities for 21st century defense. (pp. 2). Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Defense.

[3]  Cashman, G. & Robinson L. (2007). An Introduction to the Causes of War. Patterns of Interstate Conflict from World War I to Iraq. (pp. 1–25). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc

[4]  Alter, K, & Steinberg, D. (2007). The Theory and Reality of the European Coal and Steel Community.  Buffet Center for International and Comparative Studies, working paper No. 07-001

Association of Southeast Asian Nations Brian T. Molloy China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors Option Papers South China Sea United States

South China Sea Options: The Road to Taiwan

“The Black Swan” is an officer and a strategist in the U.S. Army.  He has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  He has been a company commander, and served at the battalion, brigade, division, and Army Command (ACOM) level staffs.  The opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, organization, or group.


National Security Situation:  The Republic of China (Taiwan) exists in a singular position in world affairs.  Taiwan is viewed as a breakaway province by the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC), who controls the Chinese mainland.  However, Taiwan possesses its own government, economy, and institutions, and its nominal independence has been assured by the United States (U.S.) since 1949.  However, the PRC views any move toward actual independence as casus belli under its “One China” policy, which has been in place for decades.  Recognition or even acknowledgement of Taiwanese positions is a veritable geopolitical and diplomatic taboo.

The recent election of Donald Trump as president of the United States (POTUS) potentially undermines the previous order that has been in place since the Nixon Administration.  Campaigning as a change agent, and one to defy convention, President Trump has suggested the U.S. rethink the “One China” policy.  POTUS’ reception of overtures from Taiwan and hard rhetoric towards the PRC brings the question of Taiwan’s status and future to the forefront of geopolitics once again.

Date Originally Written:  January 28, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 16, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of Taiwan towards PRC claims in the South China Sea (SCS).

Background:  The communist victory during the Chinese Civil War caused the Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-Shek, with 2 million of its supporters, to flee from the Chinese mainland to the island of Taiwan.  The gradual transition of the island to a democratic form of government, its industrialized, capitalist economy, and its reliance on western benefactors for defense established it as a bulwark of western influence in Asia.  As a result of Cold War rivalries and competing ideologies, the independence of Taiwan has been assured in all but name for more than 65 years by the U.S.  A series of crises, most recently in 1996, demonstrated the inability of the PRC to project military force against Taiwan, and the willingness of the U.S. to ensure Taiwan’s independence.  Today, though the PRC is internationally recognized as the government of China, and the “One China” policy is a globally accepted norm, Taiwan still maintains de facto independence.

Events since the onset of the 21st century have caused the balance of power to shift ever more in favor towards the PRC.  Impressive military expansion and diplomatic initiatives on the part of the PRC have emboldened it to challenge U.S. hegemony in Asia, and defy United Nations (UN) mandates.  The most overt of these initiatives has been the PRC’s assertion of sovereignty over the SCS, and the seeming unwillingness of the international community to overtly challenge PRC claims, beyond referring them to legal arbitration.  The emerging policies of the newly elected POTUS may further exacerbate the situation in the SCS, even as they may provide opportunities to assure the continued independence of Taiwan.

Significance:  Taiwan is a democracy, with a dynamic capitalist economy.  It has diplomatic and military ties to the U.S., and other countries, through arms sales and informal partnerships.  It is strategically positioned along major oceanic trade routes from Southwest Asia to Japan and South Korea.  The issue of Taiwanese independence is a global flash point due to PRC adherence to the “One China” policy.  If the U.S. were to abandon Taiwan, it would effectively terminate the notional independence of the island, and end any hopes of preventing the PRC from becoming the regional hegemon.

Option #1:  Taiwan rejects all PRC claims to the SCS, beyond its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and supports the rulings of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration, with the goal of gaining international support, especially from the new U.S. administration.

Risk:  The PRC maintains sovereignty over all Chinese affairs.  Such an act would undoubtedly result in a forceful response from the PRC.  The PRC may move militarily to isolate Taiwan and/or attempt to force a change in government through any means necessary.  Depending on the perceived international response, the PRC may resort to war in order to conquer Taiwan.

Gain:  Taiwan must break its diplomatic isolation if it is to survive as an independent state.  This means currying favor with the UN, regional powers such as Japan and South Korea, and other regional nations such as Vietnam and the Philippines.  Moreover, given the new POTUS’ perceived willingness to break from the “One China” policy, there is a chance to induce greater commitment from the U.S. by ensuring Taiwan’s policies match those of the U.S.

Option #2:  Taiwan maintains the status quo and adheres to the “One China” policy, even in the face of tough U.S. rhetoric.

Risk:  If the PRC’s ambitions are not curbed, the status quo will no longer be enough for PRC leaders.  The creation and subsequent defense of artificial islands in the SCS is a relatively low risk activity.  If the response of the international community is found wanting, then it will only embolden the PRC to seek bigger game.  The ultimate conquest of Taiwan, while by no means an easy task, is a logical step in fulfilling the PRC’s regional ambitions.  Conversely, standing with the PRC may infuriate the new POTUS, and result in the withdrawal of U.S. support.

Gain:  The PRC has successfully integrated other economic and governmental systems into its own system before, under the “One Party, Two Systems” policy.  While this led to a loss of political freedom for Macau and Hong Kong, the two former enclaves still maintain their capitalist systems, and enjoy very high standards of living.  Furthermore, Taiwan is culturally and economically closer to the PRC than to any other nation.

Other Comments:  Any conflict between the PRC and Taiwan would be devastating to the island.  The PRC is simply too large and too close.  However, Taiwan has been nominally independent for more than 65 years.  Its people are the descendants of the generations that fought the communists, and stood firm during the Cold War, events that are still in living memory.  Independence from the mainland is the legacy of the island, and is worth fighting for.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

None.

China (People's Republic of China) Option Papers South China Sea Taiwan The Black Swan

Options for Singapore in the South China Sea

Blake Herzinger served in the United States Navy in Singapore, Japan, Italy, and exotic Jacksonville, Florida.  He is presently employed by Booz Allen Hamilton and assists the U.S. Pacific Fleet in implementation and execution of the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative.  His writing has appeared in Proceedings and The Diplomat.  He can be found on Twitter @BDHerzinger. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of any official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group. 


National Security Situation:  Singapore’s outlook on the South China Sea (SCS) dispute.

Date Originally Written:  January 13, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 13, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  Author believes in freedom of navigation and maintenance of good order at sea in accordance with the customary and written law of the sea.  This article is written from the point of view of Singapore toward the SCS dispute.

Background:  Conflicting territorial claims, as well as opposing interpretations of entitlements provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), have heightened tensions throughout the SCS.  The maritime order protected by decades of U.S. Navy engagement is being actively challenged by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), which seeks a reorganization of the order without U.S. primacy.  Singapore sits astride the most critical sea-lane in Asia leading into the partially-enclosed SCS, but is not itself a claimant state in the myriad of disputes.  Singapore does have a vested interest in the peaceful and successful rise of its leading trade partner, the PRC, as well as a critical interest in continued deep engagement in the Pacific by its closest defense partner, the U.S.  Although Singapore’s population is nearly 75% ethnic Chinese, the microstate has made every effort to chart an independent, pragmatic course in foreign policy.  However, the PRC has recently increased pressure on Singapore to stay out of the debate on the SCS[1].

Significance:  Freedom of the seas is an “economically existential issue” for Singapore[2].  The rules-based order underpinned by freedom of navigation, and adherence to the UNCLOS, provided decades of economic growth and success in the region, particularly for Singapore.  However, the PRC’s desire to force a reorganization of the maritime order is directly resulting in erosion of accepted international maritime law and the PRC’s resultant conflicts with the U.S. and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) casts a shadow of doubt over the economic future of the region.  For Singapore, the outcome of the SCS dispute(s) may determine its entire economic future.

Option #1:  Singapore continues advocacy for freedom of navigation and pursuit of friendly relations with the U.S. and the PRC, while maintaining a policy of non-alignment.

Risk:  An increasingly powerful PRC constricts the diplomatic space for middle powers trapped between itself and the U.S., as evidenced in the PRC’s behavior toward Singapore over the past year.  The seizure of Singaporean Armed Forces Terrex vehicles in Hong Kong, recent inflammatory language published in China’s Global Times, and ominous warnings by the PRC that smaller states “need not and should not take sides among big countries,” are overt signaling to Singapore to avoid any position contrary to Chinese interests in the SCS[3][4][5].  More plainly, Singapore will suffer consequences if it is seen to side with the U.S.  Despite efforts to balance diplomatically, Singapore’s reliance on freedom of navigation will inevitably lead to confrontation regarding PRC activities in the SCS and, without a Great Power ally, Singapore may be left vulnerable to PRC pressure.

Gain:  In 51 years of statehood Singapore has achieved both the strongest economy in Southeast Asia and the most advanced military.  In this option’s best-case scenario, Singapore would continue to reap the benefits of partnership with both the PRC and the U.S. without either side trying to force the microstate to the sidelines, or into opposition with the other.

Option #2:  Singapore directs support for the PRC’s positions in the SCS.  Singapore could decouple itself from its defense relationship with the U.S. and effectively capitulate to Chinese demands.

Risk:  The opacity of the PRC’s goals for the SCS is the largest risk.  If the PRC succeeds in becoming the dominant power in the area, will freedom of navigation and free trade be protected, or restricted?  Unless Singapore knows the answer to this question, the existential risk posed to Singapore’s future would be catastrophic in scale.  Even if the PRC encourages free trade, by aligning itself with the PRC Singapore stands to lose its reputation for independence, undermining its trusted position as an honest broker and neutral place of business.

Domestic repercussions would be equally damaging.  Singapore’s population may be predominantly Chinese, but it is a multiethnic society with codified policies of racial equality, with the stated ideal that citizens see themselves as Singaporean rather than identifying by their ethic group.  Minority groups would almost certainly interpret a swing toward the PRC as the end of the meticulously guarded Singaporean identity standing as a bulwark against the racial discord that spurred race riots in Singapore’s infancy[6].

As a small, predominantly Chinese state between two large Muslim states historically suspicious of its defense policies, Singapore would also be inviting new friction with Malaysia and Indonesia by appearing to swing toward the PRC.  Furthermore, Singapore would likely lose high-level military training opportunities with the U.S., as well as unilateral training opportunities its forces enjoy on U.S. soil.

Siding with the PRC would significantly degrade the ASEAN structure by departing from the official non-alignment of the organization.  This would be a significant victory for Beijing, which has previously succeeded in driving wedges through ASEAN, but not with a country as vital to the group as Singapore.

Gain:  In the short-term, the PRC would likely reward Singapore for its obedience, possibly in the form of cessation of public castigation, as well as increased economic cooperation.  Should the PRC’s goals include regulation and control of the SCS, Singapore might find itself a beneficiary of PRC largesse as a state that did not block its ambitions.

Option #3:  Singapore begins actively participating in freedom of navigation operations, either unilaterally or multilaterally.

Risk:  Option #3 is the most likely to elicit retaliatory measures from the PRC, where the government would almost certainly interpret the action as siding with the U.S..

Gain:  Option #3 would first and foremost provide reinforcement to the freedom of navigation upon which Singapore itself depends.  Additionally, it could serve to combat the Chinese narrative of U.S. containment, instead highlighting the fact that the PRC’s unilateral actions have taken place “against the rights and freedoms of the international community [7].”

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  United States Central Intelligence Agency (2017). The World Factbook – Singapore. Retrieved 15 January, 2017, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/ geos/sn.html

[2]  Sim, W. (2015, March 5). Freedom of navigation vital to S’pore. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/freedom-of-navigation-key-to-spore-shanmugam

[3]  Ping, C.K. (2016, November 25). China comments on Singapore armored vehicles. The Straits Times. Retrieved from http://www.thejakartapost.com/seasia/ 2016/11/25/ china-comments-on-singapore-armored-vehicles-and-equipment-seized.html

[4]  Loh, S. (2016). Full Text of Ambassador Stanley Loh’s Letter to Global Times Editor-In-Chief Hu Xijin, in response to an article by Global Times (Chinese) dated 21 September 2016. Retrieved from Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs website: https://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/mfa/media_centre/press_room/ pr/2016/ 201609/full-text-of-ambassador-stanley-loh-s-letter-to-global-times-edi.html

[5]  The State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China. (2017). China’s Policies on Asia-Pacific Security Cooperation. Retrieved from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2017-01/11/c_135973695.htm

[6]  Han, J (n.d.). Communal riots of 1964. In Singapore Infopedia. Retrieved from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_45_2005-01-06.html

[7]  The Struggle for Law in the South China Sea: Hearings before the Seapower and Projection Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, House of Representatives, 114th Cong. 11 (2016) (Testimony of James Kraska).

Blake Herzinger China (People's Republic of China) Maritime Option Papers Singapore South China Sea

Anti-Access / Area Denial Options in the South China Sea

Ryan Kort is a Strategic Plans and Policy Officer (Functional Area 59) in the U.S. Army.  He currently serves as the Chief of the Strategy Branch at U.S. Army Africa / Southern European Task Force in Vicenza Italy.  He is on Twitter @kort_ryan36.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The People’s Republic of China (PRC) creation of islands and militarization of reclaimed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

Date Originally Written:  February 9, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 9, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:   This article, written from the point of view of a U.S. national security staffer, aims to provide both a collective security and an Anti-Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) deterrent option to the U.S. National Security Advisor.

Background:   The PRC adopted a policy of island building over shallow shoals in the SCS.  The PRC forcibly evicted and continues to harass commercial and naval vessels from other SCS claimants such as the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia through use of fisherman ‘militias’ as naval proxies and other means of gray-zone or ‘hybrid’ warfare[1].  The PRC continues the rapid transformation of many of these semi-submerged reefs into islands replete with hard surface runways for strike aircraft and long-range air defense and fires (both tube and missile) capabilities, which pose an A2/AD threat to any actors the PRC may seek to keep out of its claimed ‘9 dash line’ area[2].  

Significance:  Other nations that border the SCS view the PRC’s actions as destabilizing, illegitimate, and threatening to their important national security and economic interests.  Several reclaimed islands are within the Exclusive Economic Zones recognized by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas[3].  The SCS is a critical economic transit route, which approximately 30 percent of all annual maritime trade passes through, including $1.2 Trillion worth of goods destined for U.S. markets[4].  In times of crisis, the People’s Liberation Army, Navy and Airforce could disrupt the free movement of commerce through the area and coerce other nations in the region to recognize PRC dominion over the SCS.

Option #1:  Utilize diplomatic efforts to contain the PRC through the creation of a collective security organization, similar to the now defunct Southeast Asian Treaty Organization also known as SEATO.  This treaty organization would provide a deterrent option aimed at containing PRC adventurism and change PRC strategic calculation on future island building.  

Risk:  The PRC will view this diplomatic effort to isolate their nation as overt containment and respond in a variety of ways with multiple means[5].  At the greatest risk will be those nations the PRC deems vulnerable to coercion that it could peel away from the organization and undermine U.S. legitimacy.  Additionally, this option risks immediate failure if those partners critical to the success of the collective security organization do not join- specifically Australia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia.  This option also may become obsolete if the PRC completes the construction and garrisoning of the islands it needs to assert complete dominance over the SCS before an alliance to balance against it is in place[6].  

Gain:  The U.S. checks the rise of a regional and potential global peer competitor.  The U.S. stands to gain increased security cooperation and economic ties with the nations in the collective security organization.   

Option #2:  Utilizing a multi-domain concept, the U.S. and select allies create an A2AD challenge for the PRC along both the ‘first’ and ‘second’ island chains in order to negate some of the operational and tactical advantages of PRC bases in the region.  The entire coastline of the PRC is vulnerable to area denial.  A strong foundation of U.S. Army maneuver, fires, and sustainment capabilities would enable the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to operate more effectively within the region, while presenting the additional dilemma of embarked U.S. Marine Expeditionary Forces capable of striking critical facilities.  An archipelagic defense through deterrence by denial would need expanded access to existing bases in Japan, with new footprints in the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia[7].  The U.S. could employ a mixture of permanent or rotational forces in the region to demonstrate U.S. capability and resolve.  Additionally, the U.S. must have sufficient forces in the region capable of blockading PRC transit through the Strait of Malacca if required.

Risk:  The key risk associated with this option is vertical and horizontal escalation.  A minor incident could intensify quickly and impact other theaters in the U.S. Pacific Command area of responsibility, such as Korea.  Another risk is loss of or initial refusal to allow access to bases in the nations mentioned earlier, which would unhinge this option.  Additionally, resourcing this A2/AD effort with sufficient forces would commit limited U.S. resources, such as air defense and long-range joint fires, to this single problem set.

Gain:  The U.S. deters conflict through placing PRC assets at risk in both the SCS and across the majority of the Chinese seaboard.  Additionally, this option presents the PRC with a dilemma if it should attempt to utilize hybrid or militia forces due to the increased presence of U.S. and allied forces capable of deterring such ‘hybrid’ aggression at the tactical and operational level.     

Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.  


Endnotes:

[1]  De Luce, Dan and McLeary, Paul, In South China Sea, a Tougher U.S. Stance, Foreign Policy, 02 October, 2015, accessed 09 February, 2017  http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/10/02/in-south-china-sea-a-tougher-u-s-stance/

[2]   Kennedy, Connor and Erickson, Andrew, (21 April 2016). Model Maritime Militia- Tanmen’s leading role in the Scarborough Shoal Incident,  Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), accessed 06 January, 2017, http://www.andrewerickson.com/2016/04/model-maritime-militia-tanmens-leading-role-in-the-april-2012-scarborough-shoal-incident/

[3]  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2016;  page 7

[4]  Corr, Anders, How the US can help the Philippines Counter China’s occupation of Mischief Reef, Forbes Magazine Online, 28 January 2017, accessed 09 February 2017. http://www.forbes.com/sites/anderscorr/2017/01/28/is-war-against-china-justified/#5066ccc774fb

[5]  Lieberthal, Kenneth and Jisi, Wang, Addressing U.S- China Strategic Distrust, March 2012, Brookings Institute.  Washington’s security ties with other nations in the region and other actions viewed by China as efforts to constrain China.

[6]  Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2016;  Page i

[7]  Krepinevich, Andrew, Foreign Affairs, Volume 94, Number 2,  How to Deter China- The Case for Archipelagic Defense, pp 78-86, March/April 2015  

A2AD (Anti Access and Area Denial) Allies & Partners China (People's Republic of China) Deterrence Option Papers Ryan Kort South China Sea United States

South China Sea: Continuous U.S. Presence or a new Law of the Sea Treaty 

David Mattingly serves on the board of directors for the Naval Intelligence Professionals and is also a member of the Military Writers Guild.  The views reflected are his own and do not represents the United States Government of any of its agencies.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The United Nations Convention for the Law of Sea (UNCLOS III) has failed to adequately define a nation’s territorial waters and to create a body which can enforce its judgements on nations involved in arbitration.

Date Originally Written:  February 7, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  March 6, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  David Mattingly is retired from the U.S. Navy and has sailed with U.S. Navy Carrier Task Groups in the South China Sea (SCS).  He holds a Masters of Arts in National Security Studies where he studied the geopolitics of the SCS and authored “The South China Sea Geopolitics: Controversy and Confrontation.”

Background:  Over the centuries, a few countries with strong navies controlled the world’s oceans.  The outcome of many conflicts fought on land often had a strong maritime element.  Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius first addressed the Law of Sea in his 1609 treatise Mare Liberum in which he established the idea of the freedom of the seas[1].  After  World War II and the emergence of the United Nations, the first Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) concluded with four treaties being signed: Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone (CTS); Convention on the High Seas (CHS); Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas (CFCLR); and Convention on the Continental Shelf (CCS); as well as the Optional Protocol of Signature concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes (OPSD)[2].  UNCLOS II convened in Malta to discuss territorial seas and fishery limits, however, the convention ended without agreeing upon a new treaty[3].  Today, UNCLOS III has been accepted by 167 nations and the European Union, however, although the U.S. has agreed in principle to the convention, it has not been ratified by the U.S.[4].  In the last attempt for ratification in 2012, it failed due to the “breadth and ambiguity” of the treaty and because it was not in the “national interest of the United States” to give sovereignty to an international body.  Ratification was overwhelmingly supported by the Department of Defense and the U.S. shipping industry[5][6].

Traditionally, a nation’s territorial boundary was established as a three-mile belt along its coastline based on the distance that a cannon could shoot a projectile.  All waters beyond the three-mile limit were considered international territory.

Today, the SCS is a possible flash point for confrontation over unresolved issues of the UNCLOS III between the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), its neighboring states which have joined to form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the U.S.  The islands in the SCS remained largely uninhabited until the mid-1970s when the PRC began to lay claim to a number islands and shoals which were claimed during the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty in 1405 and later claimed by the PRC in what has come to be known as the “Nine-dash line[7].”  A map which was produced after World War II extended the PRC’s territorial waters claim deep into the SCS.  France challenged the PRC’s claim in 1931 by claiming the Parcel Islands and the Spratley Islands as territory of French-Indo China which then passed to the government of Vietnam after the Franco-Indo China War ended in 1954[8].

To understand UNCLOS III, it is important to first understand the definitions of terms such as the differences between an island and a rock.  The PRC began an aggressive land reclamation program where soil was dredged from the ocean bottom to create islands, which have standing under UNCLOS III, unlike rocks and shoals which are not recognized.  The islands created by the PRC can support military garrisons, home porting of both military and fishing ships, and extend the PRC’s territorial limits under the “archipelagos concept[9].”  Within UNCLOS III, this concept furthers a nation’s territorial rights by considering the seas between the mainland and the islands claimed by a nation as a connecting, rather than separating, element.  The PRC could therefore declare an emergency and suspend the “right of innocent passage” for its self-protection.

Significance:  Merchant shipping between Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas transverse the SCS and a PRC declaration of emergency which suspended the “right of innocent passage” would have major impact in global shipping.

Option #1:  The U.S. and coalition naval forces create a continuous presence in the SCS and actively challenge PRC naval activities and construction of and on islands and rocks in dispute.

Risk:  The PRC has openly harassed and attacked ships and aircraft of the U.S. and ASEAN member nations.  The PRC has established the SCS as its home waters and had several years to construct military garrisons on the islands which it created.  It is possible that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has placed surface to air missiles on the larger islands.  Additionally, the PLAN has aggressively modernized its ships and aircraft to include launching its first aircraft carrier.  As such, Option #1 may increase the possibility of a naval confrontation between the U.S. and the PRC.

Gain:  A naval coalition could provide protection for fishing and merchant shipping in the SCS and shape the narrative that the international community will not idly allow the PRC to control one of the most important sea lines of commerce.

Option #2   The U.S. and other nations could call for UNCLOS IV.  As evidenced by recent events in the SCS, UNCLOS III left many gray areas that are open for arbitration and the decisions lack the power of enforcement.  UNCLOS IV would address these gray areas and establish an enforcement framework.

Risk:  Major powers agreeing to a new UNCLOS could perceive that they have lost sovereign rights.  The UN lacks the ability to enforce treaties unless the major powers are onboard thus the text of a new UNCLOS would have to be carefully worded.

Gain:  In creating an agreement that is recognized by the international community, confrontation between the U.S., the PRC, and ASEAN may be avoided.

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Harrison, James. July 5, 2007. Evolution of the law of the sea: developments in law -making in the wake of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention.

[2]  Treves, Tullio. 1958 Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea. United Nations.  http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/gclos/gclos.html

[3]  Second United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 17 March – 26 April 1960 Geneva, Switzerland. , January 8, 2017. Washington School of Law, American University. http://wcl.american.libguides.com/c.php?

[4]  The Convention of the Law of Sea. U.S. Navy Judge Advocate Corps. http://www.jag.navy.mil/organization/code_10_law_of_the_sea.htm

[5]  Patrick, Stewart M, June 10, 2012. (Almost) Everyone Agrees: The U.S. Should Ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/06/-almost-everyone-agrees-the-us-should-ratify-the-law-of-the-sea-treaty/258301/

[6]  Senators Portman and Ayotte Sink Law of the Sea. July 16, 2012. Portman Senate Office, Washington, DC.

[7]  Tsirbas, Marina. , June 2, 2016. What Does the Nine-Dash Line Actually Mean? The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2016/06/what-does-the-nine-dash-line-actually-mean/

[8]  Bautista, Lowell B. 2011.  Philippine Territorial Boundaries: Internal tensions, colonial baggage, ambivalent conformity.  University of Wollongong. New South Wales, http://jati-dseas.um.edu.my/filebank/published_article/3162/035 053%20Lowell%20B.%20Bautista-
 Philippine%20Territorial,%20JATI%20VOL16,%202011-%20new.pdf

[9]  Katchen, Martin H. 1976. The Spratly Islands and the Law of the Sea: “Dangerous ground” for Asian Peace. Presented at the Association of Asian Studies, Pacific Area Conference.  June.  Revised and published in the Asian Survey. 

China (People's Republic of China) David Mattingly Maritime Option Papers South China Sea Treaties and Agreements United States

Syria Options: Involving China as a Major Broker in Syria Peace Talks

Evanna Hu is a countering violent extremism expert and technologist, having lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan.  She is presently a partner at Omelas, a US and EU firm at the intersection of technology and CVE/CT and has consulted and facilitated for various U.S. government agencies.  She can be found at evannahu.com and occasionally tweets @evannahu.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Since the start of the ongoing Syrian Civil War, Russia, Iran, and the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition led by the U.S. are viewed as the most prominent external powerbrokers, backing either the Bashar al-Assad regime or the many rebel coalitions on the ground.  Indeed, Syria has become the proxy battleground for the powers of the world who are caught in between ambitions of regional hegemony and balance of power.  China’s role in the country, however, has been murky and underreported.  Yet, due to China’s escalating presence in Syria, its seat on the UN Security Council, and most importantly, the definitive shift Syria represents in China’s foreign policy, it is worth paying close attention to its rising influence and its broader significance.

Date Originally Written:  December 9, 2016.

Date Originally Published:  December 29, 2016.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  As a technologist in countering-violent extremism working in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the author took China’s role in Syria much more seriously in spring 2014, when a sudden surge in jihadist propaganda on the plight of the Uighurs flooded websites and social media[1].  A year later, ISIL named China as a part of the enemy coalition and ramped up its recruitment of Chinese Muslims[2][3].  The author, from her facilitation background, believes that inclusivity of actors is the first critical step to solving a complex issue.  This article is written from the perspective of U.S. national security.

Background:  China’s involvement in Syria can be broken down into three phases.  From the five decades leading up to 2013, China’s foreign policy was guided by “the principle of non-interference in internal affairs” of other countries[4].  China made profits selling weapons, including biological, to the Assad government, but China firmly believed that the Syrian Civil War was a Syrian problem.  Based on this belief, China vetoed every Western resolution relating to Syria in the UN Security Council[5].  However, between 2013-2015, China began reconsidering its hands-off political policy.  Thousands of Uighurs joined Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly the al-Nusra Front, and at least 113 joined ISIL[6][7].  China started to see an increase in violence in Xinjiang, a result, it claims, of returnee fighters[8].  Moreover, as China became more concerned with the “U.S. hegemony in the region,” it coordinated military operations in Syria with Russia and continued to sell weapons to Assad. 

In December 2015, China passed a groundbreaking antiterrorism law.  For the first time, the national military can be stationed in other countries, beginning with a permanent base in Djibouti, leading to a break with China’s traditional non-interference principle[9].  The new policy centers around a counterbalance “for a fair and just world order,” according to the state-run news agency, Xinhua[10].  In Syria, the new principle has manifested itself in further cooperation with Russian military operations, expansion of the security delegation at the Chinese Embassy in Damascus, and high-level military-political discussions with Assad rather than going through Russian counterparts[11].  More telling of China’s involvement is the fact that starting in August 2016, it is sending military advisors to Assad to “improve personnel training and training Syrian soldiers how to use Chinese made weapons[12].  In the long-run, an Eastern-facing Syria is a key component to China’s grand strategy of the new Silk Road Initiative, history’s largest infrastructure project.  The terminus hub of the ancient Silk Road, Damascus, serves as both symbolic and literal representation of China’s ambition to be, once again, a world leader[13].

Significance:  Historically, Syria is the turning point and is setting the precedent for China’s future involvement in global affairs beyond the first island chain.  China’s decision-making process leading to the reversal of its foreign policy should be further examined, while its future movements need to be examined as clues to its (re)actions and policies not only about Syria and the Middle East, but also elsewhere in the world.  China’s “proactive diplomacy” (zhudong shi waijiao) is in direct competition with U.S. interests in the Middle East and globally.

Option #1:  Increase China’s role in the peace talks taking place to end the Syrian Civil War.  While China has been a participant in peace talks including the Vienna talks, it has not been given a considerable voice on Syria-related matters.

Risk:  Option #1 validates and formalizes China’s role on the world stage, which the U.S. needs to be careful about, as this could be seen as a U.S. admission that China is a superpower.

Gain:  With China’s increased role in the peace talks taking place to end the Syrian Civil War,  a potential compromise is easier, as China, much like the U.S., still wants a political solution rather than an extensive military campaign.  As a significant seller of weapons to Assad,  China has Assad’s ears, but at the same time, the short-term profit China gains from these weapons sales is outweighed by the grand strategy of the Silk Road initiative.  Presently, China has the leverage to push Assad towards a political compromise.  In the sense that China can help catalyze the process to a peaceful end, giving China a voice at the table has a relatively low opportunity cost.  Furthermore, by keeping China close, the U.S. can reap insights as to how it would act in the future in various foreign policy scenarios.

Option #2:  Maintain China’s current passive participation in the peace talks taking place to end the Syrian Civil War.

Risk:  Refusing China to be a main player in the Syrian peace talks can have disastrous consequences. Firstly, it confirms to China, along with Russia and Iran, that the U.S. wants hegemony in the region, leading to a potential confrontation not unlike the Cold War.  This potential confrontation could spur China to further arm Assad.  Not only would the further arming of Assad discredit the U.S. as more civilians die and the humanitarian disaster further deteriorates, but it also lengthens the Syrian Civil War for much longer than the U.S. public will tolerate.  The longer the U.S. is involved in the Syrian Civil War, the more resources are drawn away from other foreign and domestic issues.

Gain:  Option #2 shows the rest of the world that China is in fact not a force beyond the first island chain nor a superpower.  Option #2 leaves China the burden to demonstrate that its prowess can match its ambition.

Other Comments:  China has made Syria into a proxy dance with the U.S.  With the incoming administration, it will be interesting to watch how the carefully choreographed dance of the past will pass the test of time.  But make no mistake, China has embraced a new era of proactive diplomacy.  It has the domestic stability and monetary resources to carry out its wishes, against U.S. national interests.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Philipp, Josh. “Al-Qaeda Calls for Caliphate in China’s Xinjiang”. October 26, 2014. The Epoch Times. http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1043863-al-qaeda-calls-for-caliphate-in-chinas-xinjiang/

[2]  ISIS/ Daesh. Al-Hayat Media Center. Dabiq. Issue No. 4.

[3]  Wong, Edward & Wu, Adam. “ISIS Extends Recruitment Efforts to China with New Chant”. December 8, 2016. The New York Times. www.nytimes.com/2015/12/09/world/asia/isis-china-recruitment-chant-mandarin.html

[4]  The Chinese Embassy in Nigeria. “Two Stories of Confucius: an Eye into China’s Principle of ‘Non-interference in Internal Affairs’”. August 7, 2012. Daily Trust. http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/zflt/eng/zfgx/rwjl/t958839.htm

[5]  Volodzko, David. “China’s Role in the Syria Crisis Revisited”. September 28, 2015. The Diplomat. http://thediplomat.com/2015/09/chinas-role-in-the-syria-crisis-revisited/

[6]  Ali, Mohanad Hage. “China’s Proxy War in Syria: Revealing the Role of Uighur Fighters”. March 2, 2016. Al- Arabiya. https://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/analysis/2016/03/02/China-s-proxy-war-in-Syria-Revealing-the-role-of-Uighur-fighters-.html

[7]  Rosenblatt, Nate. All Jihad is Local: What ISIS’ Files Tell Us about Its Fighters. New America Foundation. July 2016. https://na-production.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/ISIS-Files.pdf

[8]  Xinhua News Agency. “Syria’ FM Highlights Relations with China”. December 8, 2016. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-12/08/c_135888529.htm

[9]  Blanchard, Ben. “China Passes Controversial Counter-terrorism Law”. December 28, 2015. Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-security-idUSKBN0UA07220151228

[10]  Xinhua News Agency. “Interview: Russia-China Partnership Crucial in Helping Maintain World Order: Russian Analyst”. November 5, 2016. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-11/05/c_135808251.htm

[11]  Xinhua News Agency. “Syria’ FM Highlights Relations with China”. December 8, 2016. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2016-12/08/c_135888529.htm

[12]  The Telegraph. “China Steps Up Military Cooperation with Assad”. August 11, 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/18/china-steps-up-military-cooperation-with-assad-as-top-admiral-vi/

[13]  Lin, Christina. “Syria in China’s New Silk Road Initiative”. China Brief. The Jamestown Foundation. Vol.10; issue 8. April 16, 2010. https://jamestown.org/program/syria-in-chinas-new-silk-road-strategy/

China (People's Republic of China) Civil War Evanna Hu Option Papers Syria