October 2, 2009
Poor Sino-US Links Are A Risk, Says Admiral
By Tom Mitchell and Demetri Sevastopulo
The senior US military -commander for the Pacific yesterday warned that persistent poor communications between the Chinese and US militaries increased the risk that occasional friction between their two navies could escalate into more serious incidents.
Admiral Timothy Keating, who assumed his position in March 2007, said he still did not have direct phone contacts for his -counterparts in China's People's Liberation Army, increasing the potential for misunderstanding and even conflict.
He said the only time he tended to speak to them was in dealing with disaster relief and humanitarian assistance.
"I don't know that I'd be able to get hold of [them] in the same fashion in a very timely manner if there was some conflict [we] could perhaps address and forestall unpleasantries that might follow," Admiral Keating, who is approaching the end of his 42-year military career, told the Financial Times.
"I don't have their [senior Chinese military officials'] phone number. I can't pick up the phone and wish them happy birthday. I don't mean to be glib about it . . . [But] we don't enjoy the sort of communication that I have with almost every other military leader in Asia."
Admiral Keating was speaking from his headquarters in Hawaii, just before celebrations in Beijing to mark the anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.
While the US remains the dominant military power in the Pacific, it faces an increasingly assertive PLA navy, especially in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. The 110-mile strait separates China and Taiwan, the self-governed island which Beijing claims as its own.
The US and China recently resumed an official military dialogue, which Beijing suspended last year after the George W. Bush administration announced arm sales to Taiwan.
The admiral welcomed a recent warming in cross-strait relations after the election of Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan's president last year, but warned that he had yet to see any relaxation of China's military deployments in the area.
"The Chinese have not made dramatic reductions in their military posture on their side of the strait," he said.
"It has remained an issue for us that we watch carefully. We applaud the decline in tension and hope for more."
Taiwan's premier yesterday reinforced the need for his country's efforts towards more peaceful ties with Beijing to be backed by a strong defence.
"Taiwan needs to ensure it has strong defence [against China], so it is necessary to continue to procure weapons to achieve that goal," Wu Den-yih said. "The mainland also has to acknowledge the fact that the two sides are governed separately to allow bilateral ties to progress peacefully."
The most serious recent Sino-US military encounter occurred in April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US navy surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea. More recently, Chinese ships harassed a navy surveillance vessel, the USNS Impeccable, in waters off Hainan in March.
"Whether we do [reduce surveillance activities] or not will be our decision . . [and] not due to any pressure from China," said Admiral Keating."
Sydney Morning Herald
October 2, 2009
China Sets Its Sights On US Navy, Admiral Warns
By Peter Hartcher, International Editor
AS CHINA celebrated 60 years of communist rule with a parade of military hardware, a senior US commander expressed concern that it was shaping to challenge the US militarily.
The commander of the Seventh Fleet, Vice-Admiral John Bird, said in Sydney yesterday that China's naval capability "has grown much faster than any of our predictions''.
Of China's new capabilities, "many are intended to counter a navy such as the US Navy," with weapons systems "targeted to our carriers and larger ships."
He suggested that China aimed ultimately to displace the US in the Pacific: "I think the Chinese would like to see less of the Seventh Fleet in this part of the world.
"I think their track record is pretty clear - the Chinese will continue to expand their maritime area of operations further in the future," he told reporters aboard his command vessel, the USS Blue Ridge.
And with at least four US Navy vessels steaming to provide help after this week's earthquakes, Admiral Bird said that "it would be good to see the Chinese deploying some of their strength in disaster relief". He pointed out that China had not offered any such help after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
The purpose of the Chinese build-up was clouded: "Their intentions are unclear. I would like to see more transparency."
Admiral Bird commands two aircraft carriers, a flotilla of about 50 other vessels, 200 aircraft and 40,000 personnel.
He said the incident in March where Chinese vessels had jostled a US ship in the South China Sea had been followed by other, lesser incidents but had not been repeated with the same intensity.
"I would like to believe China learnt from that but, to be truthful, at any time they could do that again … They have made it clear they consider the South China Sea to be more or less theirs."
Admiral Bird said China's progress in developing an anti-ship ballistic missile could force the US to adapt: "Challenged with that threat you might adjust your approach, but that's a far cry from making carriers obsolete."
And China's capability, without yet any operating aircraft carriers, remained "a far cry" from America's 11 nuclear-powered carriers, he said.
South China Morning Post
October 2, 2009
PLA Shows Off Slimmer, Hi-Tech Fighting Force
By Minnie Chan
Beijing unveiled a slimmer but, it says, more capable fighting force yesterday – an indication of the future direction of the world’s largest army.
More than 8,000 soldiers marched on foot and rode in armed vehicles on Changan Avenue in front of current and former state leaders and foreign dignitaries, while 12 air echelons flew overhead. The number of soldiers was 2,000 fewer than took part in the parade in 1999, but the number of mechanised phalanxes and air echelons was noticeably higher.
Observers of the army say the new display is in line with the development strategy of the People’s Liberation Army as it seeks to become a sleek, modern and diversified force capable of rapid deployment and long-distance projection.
“Today’s parade showed us that the PLA has turned into an efficient modern army after nearly two decades,” said Professor Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, from the Graduate Institute of International Affairs and Strategic Studies at Tamkang University in Taipei. “It was a very comprehensive parade as it covered every aspect, from the smartly cut new military uniforms to the weapons systems they presented. Even the armed police and logistics units are completely re-equipped.”
In the past two decades, the PLA has abandoned the Maoist war approach that relied on sheer troop numbers and turned to mobility, technology and training.
Another PLA watcher pointed out that while yesterday’s military parade was impressive, it could not be used to gauge the military’s real strength. The mainland had held back some of its most advanced weapons, such as the JuLang 2 submarine-launched ballistic missile and the Zhi-10 armed helicopters.
“We can make no conclusions about the tactical abilities of the troops or the capabilities of the equipment,” Dennis Blasko, a former US military attaché to China, said. “The fact that nothing broke down en route and all marchers completed the parade is admirable, but does not speak of tactical capabilities.”
The variety of weapons platforms featured in the parade did show that the PLA is now more capable of conducting a co-ordinated operation.
New weapons such as the KJ-2000 early warning aircraft, long-distance cruise missiles, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and the new generation of jet fighters mean the PLA now has greater power projection than 10 years ago. Most of these weapons systems are domestic designs.
“We also saw modern logistical and engineering equipment in the parade. It means the PLA’s mobility has improved a lot,” Huang said.
Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canadian-based Kanwa Defence Review, said it was impossible for outsiders to know whether the PLA had shown its full capabilities. “But the 52 types of weapons systems [showcased in the parade] prove its military strength is superior to those of the surrounding countries. It tells us that as a global power, Beijing is more capable of safeguarding its ‘interest frontier’ around the world.
Professor Ni Lexiong, a Shanghai-based PLA specialist at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, agreed that the PLA had not revealed its full arsenal.
“ The PLA would keep its most powerful weapons in the dark,” Ni said.
He said one of the objectives of the parade was to deter the “three forces” of separatism, terrorism and extremism at home and abroad.
“I think the challenge of the three forces in Xinjiang and Tibet is the biggest headache for Beijing,” Ni said. “Territorial disputes come only second.”