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Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Feb.27.2017
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Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Feb.17.2017
| Koh Swee Lean Collin |
The Vietnam People’s Navy is shifting from sea denial to counter-intervention.
(Image: Gepard-class frigate. Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons/Detmar Modes)
In 1287, Gen. Omar Khan of the Yuan Dynasty led a sizeable invasion force, including numerous war junks, against Dai Viet (present day Vietnam). With battle-hardened Mongols forming the vanguard, it seemed as if the campaign would be a walkover for China. But a naval battle the following year proved otherwise. In the estuary of the Bach Dang River near Ha Long Bay, Dai Viet general Tran Hung Dao repeated the feat accomplished by the earlier, celebrated general Ngo Quyen against the Southern Han Chinese invaders, back in the year 938.
Following Ngo’s approach, Tran planted iron-tipped stakes in the river’s northern distributaries—Chanh, Kenh and Rut—and waited until high tide to lure the Mongol fleet into the shallow waters. When the tide turned, those Mongol war junks were impaled upon those stakes. The much smaller Dai Viet war canoes then swarmed around the trapped Mongol fleet and their crews hurled “mud oil” grenades—little ceramic bottles filled with naphtha and sealed with betel-nut husk, which also acted as a fuse when lit—at the immobile war junks, setting them and their hapless crews ablaze. The Battle of Bach Dang saw grievous losses to the Yuan invasion fleet.
But unlike the battle in 938, which contributed to the end of the first Chinese domination over Dai Viet, the naval victory in 1288 did not alter the bilateral relationship—the Tran Dynasty accepted Yuan suzerainty until the latter’s demise.
The two naval battles at Bach Dang, and contemporary examples in the French Indochina Wars and the Vietnam War, as well as the brief but bloody Sino-Vietnamese border war in the late 1970s, highlighted Vietnamese ingenuity in conducting asymmetric warfare against a stronger foe. Yet the Battle of Bach Dang constituted a rare example of how the Vietnamese could pull off what were essentially land-based tactics in the maritime realm. Also of note is the fact that the naval battles at Bach Dang were fought in shallow waters close to the Vietnamese shores, instead of the open waters of the South China Sea, where Mongol war junks could optimize their combat performance.
No wonder, then, that in March 1988 the Vietnamese suffered a defeat at Chinese hands during a clash in the open waters of the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese navy proved more than a match for the Vietnamese, unaccustomed to fighting naval battles in the open waters, who found themselves outnumbered and outgunned. That battle was an attempt to stop the Chinese from encroaching upon what Hanoi claimed as sovereign territory in the Spratlys, and with the Vietnamese forces extended so far from the Vietnamese coast and shorn of quick and substantial reinforcements, the outcome of that battle was quick and decisive. Retaking those features, forcibly snatched from Vietnamese hands following the naval skirmish, was out of the question for Hanoi’s political and military leaders.
The Vietnamese were cognizant of their naval limitations. There was no way they could repeat their ancestors’ feat at Bach Dang against the Chinese. Hence, it has been taken for granted—almost by conventional wisdom—that in view of the gaping and still growing naval asymmetry between the Chinese and Vietnamese, Hanoi must adhere to a sea-denial strategy. Essentially, sea denial envisages denying or disrupting the adversary’s access to maritime areas of interest, while denying the one practicing this strategy free use of the same space. Wu Shang-su, for instance, has argued that Vietnam, standing little chance against Chinese military aggression, has no choice but to adopt a sea denial strategy. Furthermore, he added, a sea-denial strategy fits well within the broader ambit of Hanoi’s post–Cold War policy, emphasizing such principles as independence, non-alliance and defensive defense.
There is also a fiscal imperative, given that Vietnam continues to prioritize its socioeconomic development set in motion under the “Doi Moi” (Renovation) reforms, under way since the early 1990s (also a time that saw a downsizing in the manpower of the People’s Army of Vietnam). “The state budget is still limited while we have to invest in many significant areas such as transport infrastructure, resources for socio-economic development, welfare for the people who served the country well, healthcare and education,” said then defense minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh in December 2014, who added, “so investment in defense should be taken gradually and be suited to our capabilities. We have two parallel tasks: protecting and building the country. We do not underestimate any of them but if we focus too many resources on defense, we will lack investment in development. Because of a lack of investment in development, we will lack future resources for investment in defense.”
Yet it would be misleading to view the Vietnamese as fatalistic. They have long recognized the limits of a traditional sea-denial approach, and thus have sought to enhance their strategy to forestall Chinese military aggression in the South China Sea.
As Hanoi’s navy has just received its final Russian-built Kilo-class diesel-electric submarine, and is on the cusp of operationalizing a complete submarine squadron within 2017, the image of a sea-denial-centered Vietnamese naval strategy is still in place. While it is true that a submarine, especially a conventionally powered one, is commonly associated with sea denial, it is necessary to look beyond this attribute in the Vietnamese case. All six boats are not only equipped for sea denial in the traditional sense—torpedoes and mines, for example—but they also possess Russian-made Klub-S sea-launched land-attack cruise missiles (SLCM) that can hit targets as far away as three hundred kilometers—well within the Missile Technology Control Regime, which places restrictions on exports of certain offensive missile systems to non-signatory states.
Long-time Vietnam military watcher Carlyle Thayer has opined that Vietnam’s SLCMs would be employed against Chinese ports and airfields, such as the Sanya naval base on Hainan Island, rather than cities arrayed along the southern Chinese mainland coast. This counterforce role would still fit well within Hanoi’s strategically defensive deterrent strategy, but acquiring such an offensive capability would certainly depart from a sea-denial approach. There is no way the Vietnamese can hope to forestall Chinese aggression without the means to raise the costs for Beijing—the potential destruction wreaked upon its forward-deployed naval forces in Sanya being one such instance.
If anything, Russia’s feat during its campaign in Syria in late 2015 demonstrated that it is feasible for small naval forces to conduct limited, expeditionary force projection. The Kilo boat Rostov-on-Don became the first conventionally powered submarine to launch SLCMs in deep, inland penetration strikes. However, the Russians could manage this by leveraging on their extensive command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities, such as GLONASS satellite navigation, to allow the missiles to fly smoothly over wide swathes of the Middle Eastern land mass. The Vietnamese has a fledgling C4ISR program, focusing on unmanned aerial vehicles and remote-sensing microsatellites. Its current satellite-based targeting capability relies on commercially obtained satellite imagery—far from useful to carry out inland strikes.
Nonetheless, this shortfall would not hamper Vietnam’s counterforce ability against coastal targets. Without the strategic depth and naturally formed terrestrial features to shield it, China’s Sanya naval base is exposed to overwater missile strikes, which do not require C4ISR targeting capabilities like those for deep penetration attacks. And Hanoi is only keen to enhance the ability to punish Beijing and raise the costs of its aggression, beyond those submarines it has acquired. Referring to the Kilos, back in September 2014 a military official in Hanoi remarked that “they are not our sole weapon, but part of a number of weapons we are developing to better protect our sovereignty.”
So, to that end, Vietnam has made further moves to put into effect a more robust counter-intervention strategy that signals a departure from a traditional sea-denial approach. For example, its marines have trained for “island recapture” in the Spratlys—unthinkable back in 1988. In May 2016, Vietnam was reportedly negotiating with Russia the purchase of a third pair of Gepard 3.9–class light guided-missile frigates. What is so special about this purchase is that Hanoi wants these new ships to be armed with the Klub SLCMs. One recalls that the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla corvettes—in the same size category as the Gepard 3.9s—along with the submarine Rostov-on-Don had proven that small surface warships are capable of launching SLCM attacks. Hanoi apparently caught on, and became inspired by Moscow’s feat.
The Vietnamese may not be oblivious to the fact that, like the battle of Bach Dang in 1288, any foreseeable war in the South China Sea with Beijing would result in a preordained strategic victory for the latter. But Hanoi has gradually shifted away from a traditional sea-denial strategy to one that would raise the cost of Chinese aggression. The completion of its submarine squadron in 2017 is just the first major step towards this direction. Vietnam’s modern-day versions of war canoes and “mud oil” incendiary antiship weapons now carries a wholly new significance.
Koh Swee Lean Collin is research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, based in Singapore. He specializes in research on Southeast Asian naval affairs. He would like to thank Robert Haddick, Visiting Research Fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, for his comments and suggestions.
Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Dec.17.2016
| CHRISTOPHER BODEEN,|
BEIJING (AP) — China said Saturday that its military seized a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater glider in the South China Sea to ensure the "safe navigation of passing ships," in one of the most serious incidents between the two militaries in years.
The Chinese navy on Thursday seized the drone, which the Pentagon said was being operated by civilian contractors to conduct oceanic research. The U.S. said it issued a formal diplomatic complaint over the seizure and demanded the drone's return.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement late Saturday saying that a Chinese navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea on Thursday. "In order to prevent this device from posing a danger to the safe navigation of passing ships and personnel, the Chinese lifeboat adopted a professional and responsible attitude in investigating and verifying the device," Yang said.
The statement said that after verifying that the device was an American unmanned submerged device, "China decided to transfer it to the U.S. through appropriate means."
The statement also accused the U.S. of long deploying ships "in China's presence" to conduct "military surveying."
"China is resolutely opposed to this and requests the U.S. stop such activities," it said. "China will continue to maintain vigilance against the relevant U.S. activities and will take necessary measures to deal with them."
Earlier Saturday, China's foreign ministry said the country's military was in contact with its American counterparts on "appropriately handling" the incident, though it offered no details on what discussions were underway.
The drone was seized while collecting unclassified scientific data about 92 kilometers (57 miles) northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday.
"It is ours. It's clearly marked as ours. We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again," Davis told reporters. He said the drone costs about $150,000 and is largely commercial, off-the-shelf technology.
The USNS Bowditch, which is not a combat ship, was stopped in international waters Thursday afternoon and recovering two of the gliders when the Chinese ship approached, Davis said. The two vessels were within about 450 meters (500 yards) of each other. He said that the USNS Bowditch carries some small arms, but that no shots were fired.
According to the Pentagon, as the Chinese ship left with the drone, which is about 3 meters (10 feet) long, its only radio response to the U.S. vessel was, "We are returning to normal operations."
President-elect Donald Trump blasted the seizure. Apparently misspelling "unprecedented," he tweeted Saturday: "China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters - rips it out of water and takes it to China in unpresidented act."
He later reissued the tweet, correcting the spelling to "unprecedented."
Last weekend, Trump was criticized on social media for bad spelling in a tweet in which he accused CNN of reporting "rediculous" fake news. Hours later, he put out a fresh tweet correcting the spelling to "ridiculous."
Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the seizure of the glider occurred inside the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, not China, and appeared to be a violation of international law.
China delineates its South China Sea claims with a roughly drawn sea border known as the "nine-dash line" that runs along the west coast of the Philippines. However, it hasn't explicitly said whether it considers those waters as sovereign territory, and says it doesn't disrupt the passage of other nations' shipping through the area. The U.S. doesn't take a position on sovereignty claims, but insists on freedom of navigation, including the right of its naval vessels to conduct training and other operations in the sea.
Davis said that the incident could be the first time in recent history that China has taken a U.S. naval vessel. Some observers have called it the most significant dispute between the sides' militaries since the April 2001 mid-air collision between a U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and a Chinese fighter jet about 110 kilometers (70 miles) from China's Hainan island that led to the death of a Chinese pilot.
Whatever the outcome, the incident is likely to fray the already tense relations between U.S. and China. Beijing was angered by Trump's decision to talk by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 2, and by his later comments that he did not feel "bound by a one-China policy" regarding the status of Taiwan, unless the U.S. could gain trade or other benefits from China. China considers the self-governing island its own territory to be recovered by force if it deems necessary.
There also have been increased tensions over Beijing's ongoing military buildup in the South China Sea, mainly the development and militarization of man-made shoals and islands aimed at extending China's reach in the strategically vital area, through which about $5 trillion in global trade passes annually.
In one of the few reports in state media about the drone's seizure, a newspaper published by China's ruling Communist Party cited an unidentified military official as saying that a "smooth resolution" to the matter is expected.
A Chinese navy ship discovered an "unidentified device" Thursday and was checking on it for the sake of maritime safety, the Global Times quoted the official as saying.
"China has received the U.S. request to return the device, communication is open between the relevant departments of the two sides and I believe this matter will obtain a smooth resolution," the official was quoted as saying.
In a separate report, the paper quoted retired Chinese admiral Yang Yi as saying China considered itself well within its rights to seize the drone.
"If China needs to take it, we'll take it. (America) can't block us," Yang was quoted as saying.
Yang said he was unsure of the purpose of seizing the drone, but didn't think the matter qualified as a "military conflict." However, he added that the chances of a confrontation had risen following Trump's recent comments, which were seen as testing China's bottom line on Taiwan and other sensitive issues.
"It's natural for us to take possession of and research for a bit these types of things that America sends to our doorstep," Yang said. "The louder they shout, the more their protests ring hollow."
Tácgiả: dchph gởiđăng vàongày Dec.2.2016
| JOHNSON LAI|
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2016, file photo, Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen delivers a speech during National Day celebrations in front of the Presidential Building in Taipei, Taiwan. President-elect Donald Trump spoke Dec. 2, with the president of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979. It is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a Taiwanese leader and will be sure to anger China. Washington has pursued a so-called “one China” policy since 1979 when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government in Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying, File)
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump spoke Friday with the president of Taiwan, a move that will be sure to anger China.
It is highly unusual, probably unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a leader of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979.
Washington has pursued a so-called "one China" policy since 1979, when it shifted diplomatic recognition of China from the government in Taiwan to the communist government on the mainland. Under that policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as representing China but retains unofficial ties with Taiwan.
A statement from Trump's transition team said he spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who offered her congratulations.
"During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties ... between Taiwan and the United States. President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year," the statement said.
Trump tweeted later: "The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!"
The Taiwanese presidential office issued a statement early Saturday saying Trump and Tsai discussed issues affecting Asia and the future of U.S. relations with Taiwan.
"The (Taiwanese) president is looking forward to strengthening bilateral interactions and contacts as well as setting up closer cooperative relations," the statement said.
"The president also told U.S. President-elect Trump that she hopes the U.S. will continue to support Taiwan's efforts in having more opportunities to participate in and contribute to international affairs in the future," Tsai's office said.
It said the two also "shared ideas and concepts" on "promoting domestic economic development and strengthening national defense" to improve the lives of ordinary people.
The White House learned of the conversation after it had taken place, said a senior Obama administration official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic relations involved.
China's embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Friday's call is the starkest example yet of how Trump has flouted diplomatic conventions since he won the Nov. 8 election. He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily lent by the State Department, which oversees U.S. diplomacy.
Tsai was democratically elected in January and took office in May. The traditional independence-leaning policies of her party have strained relations with Beijing.
Over the decades, the status of Taiwan has been one of the most sensitive issues in U.S.-China relations. China regards Taiwan as part of its territory to be retaken by force, if necessary, if it seeks independence. It would regard any recognition of a Taiwanese leader as a head of state as unacceptable.
Taiwan split from the Chinese mainland amid civil war in 1949. The U.S. policy acknowledges the Chinese view over sovereignty, but considers Taiwan's status as unsettled.
Although the U.S. does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, it has close unofficial ties. Taiwan's government has a representative office in Washington and other U.S. cities. The U.S. also has legal commitments to help Taiwan maintain the ability to defend itself.
Taiwan is separated from China by the 110-mile-wide Taiwan Strait. The island counts the U.S. as its most important security partner and source of arms, but it is increasingly outgunned by China.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said Trump's conversation does not signal any change to long-standing U.S. policy on "cross-strait" issues.
"We remain firmly committed to our 'one China' policy," Price said. "Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations."
The NSC stressed that every president has benefited from the "expertise and counsel" of the State Department on matters like this, which suggested that the White House was frustrated by Trump's conversation with the Taiwanese leader.
Still, the White House said Obama remains committed to a smooth transition to the new administration.
Diplomatic protocol dictates that Taiwanese presidents can transit through the U.S. but not visit Washington.
Douglas Paal, who served as head of the American Institute in Taiwan during the George W. Bush administration, said that to his knowledge the call was unprecedented. He said he expected Beijing to issue a verbal warning that there's no space to change the rules over Taiwan relations.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Lemire in New York and Matthew Pennington and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.