World View: UK to Send Warships to South China Sea, as China’s Neighbors Militarize

UNSPECIFIED, CHINA - FEBRUARY UNDATED: Landing ships of the People's Liberation Army Navy's South Sea Fleet drill in mid-February, 2017 in China. 10 landing ships of the PLA South Sea Fleet practise formation movement, formation defense, live fire of naval gun, joint search and rescue, simulated replenishment, air cushion getting …

This morning’s key headlines from

  • UK to send warships to South China Sea as China’s neighbors militarize
  • South China Sea countries build larger navies, preparing for war with China

UK to send warships to South China Sea, as China’s neighbors militarize

Britain's 'colossal' new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth (Guardian)
Britain’s ‘colossal’ new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth (Guardian)

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says that the first mission of the UK’s two brand new aircraft carriers will be to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea, something that will infuriate the Chinese. Speaking to an Australian audience, Johnson said:

One of the first things we will do with the two new colossal aircraft carriers that we have just built is send them on a freedom of navigation operation to this area, to vindicate our belief in the rules-based international system and in the freedom of navigation through those waterways which are absolutely vital for world trade.

The UK’s newest aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is the largest ship ever built for the Royal Navy. It is undergoing its maiden sea trials off the coast of Scotland and is expected to be accepted by the navy towards the end of the year. The second ship in the class, the HMS Prince of Wales, is being fitted out in the Rosyth dock and will be officially named in September.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop responded to Johnson by reaffirming the close relationship between Britain and Australia:

In a volatile and unpredictable world it is more important than ever to nurture the friendships that we know best and that matter to us the most and with people we trust the most.

We had a long discussion about the Pacific and the opportunities for deeper British engagement in our part of the world. … We also see the United Kingdom as being a natural partner with us in the development and security of the Pacific.

Boris Johnson’s announcement comes at a particularly bad time for China’s president Xi Jinping, because he is trying to strengthen his political position in the bloody back-stabbing leadership of the Chinese Communist Party ahead of the Party Congress that begins in October. Thus, Xi may feel pressured to take some kind of action or make some kind of threat in response to the UK announcement. Guardian (London) and Vice News

South China Sea countries build larger navies, preparing for war with China

China’s has always been following a “salami-slicing strategy” of lying about its intentions while building up a vast military naval power in the South China Sea, consisting of artificial islands and military bases that were originally claimed to be “environmental research projects.” The 2016 ruling by the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague completely eviscerated China’s so-called ‘Nine-Dash Line’ claims to the South China Sea and essentially made China an international criminal.

Each step in the salami-slicing strategy was supposed to be small enough not to raise alarms, but each has raised alarms in all of China’s neighbors. The result is that the entire region is militarizing, in preparation for war with China.

  • Vietnam has recently acquired six Russian Kilo-class submarines, specialized for missions in shallow waters and for defense against enemy ships and submarines. Vietnam has recently procured six Metal Shark patrol boats and a Hamilton-class cutter from the United States.
  • The BRP Gregorio del Pilar is the flagship of the Philippine Navy. It was a former US Coast Guard cutter acquired by the Philippines in 2012, and it has already been in a confrontation with China in Scarborough Shoal.
  • Singapore has put six Formidable-class stealth ships into service, all built in France.
  • Indonesia is buying new ships from the Netherlands, while Germany is supplying warships to Malaysia and Brunei.

Vietnam, in particular, has been going on a weapons shopping spree from Russia. Vietnam recently placed a huge order for 64 T-90 Main Battle Tanks, four S-400 Triumf Surface-to-Air missiles and new fighter jets, likely MIG-35s, to replace their now-retired MiG-21s.

At the same time, there have been recent reports that the Trump administration has changed America’s South China Sea strategy to one that is more assertive than the one that the Obama administration pursued. President Obama vetoed many “freedom of navigation operations” (FONOPS) in the South China Sea for fear of angering the Chinese. But President Trump will approve frequent FONOPS so that they will be pursued on a frequent basis. The result is that there have already recently been three such operations in the South China Sea, starting with one on May 24.

Hitler tried a salami-slicing strategy in Europe in 1939, first annexing Austria and then Czechoslovakia. Those victories emboldened Hitler, who thought he could get away with anything. But then when Hitler invaded Poland, WWII began.

China’s salami-slicing step by step Anschluss of the South China Sea has been very successful so far, but these successes have emboldened China, whose leaders think they can get away with anything. China is a highly militarized international criminal state but, at some point, they will go one step too far, and bring an enormous catastrophe on themselves and the world. Deutsche Welle (Berlin) and Raddington Report and South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and Times of India

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KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Britain, Boris Johnson, South China Sea, HMS Queen Elizabeth, HMS Prince of Wales, Australia, Julie Bishop, China, Xi Jinping, Salami-slicing strategy, nine-dash line United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration, PCA, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia
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