Wednesday, May 20, 2015

• China warns U.S. surveillance plane By Jim Sciutto

Above the South China Sea (CNN)The Chinese navy issued warnings eight times as a U.S. surveillance plane on Wednesday swooped over islands that Beijing is using to extend its zone of influence.


Seeking to further challenge China's military build-up in the South China Sea, the plane conducted a reconnaissance mission over a contested military installation being constructed on a manmade series of islands.

A CNN team was given exclusive access to fly onboard the P8-A Poseidon, America's most advanced surveillance and submarine-hunting aircraft, as it flew over the islands.

The U.S. is considering flying such surveillance missions even closer over the islands and sailing U.S. warships within miles of them as part of a new, more robust U.S. military response to make clear the U.S. does not recognize China's territorial claims.

This is the first time the U.S. has allowed journalists on board an operational mission of the P8 over the contested waters, and the first time it has declassified video of China's building activity and audio of Chinese challenges of a U.S. aircraft.

In response to the American surveillance presence, a voice in English could be heard crackling through the radio of the aircraft in which CNN was present.

"This is the Chinese navy ... This is the Chinese navy ... Please go away ... to avoid misunderstanding," said a voice in English.

Soon after the Chinese communication was heard, its source appeared on the horizon seemingly out of nowhere: an island made by China some 600 miles from its coastline.

The U.S. plane was on a mission to monitor Chinese activities on the island and two others like it, reefs that months ago barely peaked above the waves but now are massive construction projects that the U.S. fears will soon be fully functioning military installations.

China's alarming creation of entirely new territory in the South China Sea is one part of a broader military push that some fear is intended to challenge U.S. dominance in the region. Beijing is sailing its first aircraft carrier; equipping its nuclear missiles with multiple warheads; developing missiles to destroy us warships; and, now, building military bases far from its shores.

"I'm scratching my head like everyone else as to what's the (Chinese) end game here. We have seen increased activity even recently on what appears to be the building of military infrastructure," Capt. Mike Parker, commander of the fleet of P8 and P3 surveillance aircraft deployed to Asia, told CNN aboard the P8.

 The evolution of American surveillance planes 7 photos

"We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy, and I'm highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here," Parker said of the Chinese message for the U.S. plane to move away, as he pointed to an early warning radar station on an expanded Fiery Cross Reef.

In just two years, China has expanded these islands by 2,000 acres -- the equivalent of 1,500 football fields -- and counting, an engineering marvel in waters as deep as 300 feet.

In video filmed by the P8's surveillance cameras, we see that in addition to early warning radar, Fiery Cross Reef is now home to military barracks, a lofty lookout tower and a runway long enough to handle every aircraft in the Chinese military. Some call it China's "unsinkable aircraft carrier."

In a sign of just how valuable China views these islands to be, the new islands are already well protected.

From the cockpit, Lt. Cmdr Matt Newman told CNN, "There's obviously a lot of surface traffic down there: Chinese warships, Chinese coast guard ships. They have air search radars, so there's a pretty good bet they're tracking us."

The proof was loud and clear. The Chinese navy ordered the P8 out of the airspace eight times on this mission alone.

Each time, the American pilots told them calmly and uniformly that the P8 was flying through international airspace.

That answer sometimes frustrated the Chinese radio operator on the other end. Once he responds with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"

This is a military-to-military stand-off in the skies, but civilian aircraft can find themselves in the middle.

As was heard on the first of several Chinese warning on the radio, the pilot of a Delta flight in the area spoke on the same frequency, quickly identifying himself as commercial. The voice on the radio then identified himself as "the Chinese Navy" and the Delta flight went on its way.

The more China builds, U.S. commanders told CNN, the more frequently and aggressively the Chinese navy warns away U.S. military aircraft.

Over Fiery Cross Reef and, later, Mischief Reef, fleets of dozens of dredgers could be seen hard at work, sucking sand off the bottom of the sea and blowing it in huge plumes to create new land above the surface, while digging deep harbors below.

"We see this every day," Parker said. "I think they work weekends on this because we see it all the time."

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 Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee
 By Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

"We’d like to have our allies know that we are very much on their side against these provocative actions." -- Ben Cardin

Pentagon plans to consider military patrols near disputed islands claimed by China in the South China Sea have won the approval of a top Democratic senator.

US patrols within 12 nautical miles of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly Island chain would be a “positive step” that would help protect vital marine commerce lanes, said Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee

He said China would be less likely to react aggressively to US military patrols than similar efforts by its southeast Asian neighbours.

What it is doing is preventing an incident or a provocative action from China,” said Mr Cardin.
If it were China versus one of the countries where it has territorial disputes, it is more likely that China would take action, but if it is the United States then I think it is less likely that they would take action”.

Beijing has reacted angrily to signs that the Pentagon was considering patrols, which would come after several years of Southeast Asian countries urging the US to take a more visible role. 

China has taken a more assertive stance in the South China Sea in recent years, with concerns among its neighbours intensifying as it has reclaimed land around contested reefs and built new installations.

“I think that it is actually less provocative that the United States is raising its flag. I don’t think that China wants to create a problem with the United States,” Mr Cardin said at aChristian Science Monitor event.

In the Senate last week, Daniel Russel, the top US diplomat for East Asia, urged Mr Cardin not to give up on diplomacy after he said the US appeared to be letting Chinese actions in the South China Sea go unchallenged.

We’re not really showing any response to these type of provocative actions, other than issuing a press release,” Mr Cardin told Mr Russel.
And I think we’d like to do more. And we’d like to have our allies know that we are very much on their side against these provocative actions.”

President Barack Obama launched a “pivot” to Asia in 2012 that was aimed at deploying a greater proportion of US naval assets in the Pacific to help counter the rise of the Chinese military. 

But many countries in South East Asia, and particularly the Philippines, have complained that the “pivot” has been more talk than action.

Critics point to 2012 when a month-long stand-off between Chinese and Philippines naval vessels at Scarborough Shoal — a reef 120 nautical miles from the Philippines that is claimed by both countries — did not result in the US sending any navy ships to the area.
The US opted not to send ships as it was worried about escalating tensions with China. 

But some experts believe that move signalled to China that its more assertive stance would not be met with a challenge.
The US and China attempted to publicly defuse some tensions at the weekend during a visit by John Kerry, secretary of state, to Beijing. 

But Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, stressed that China’s determination to protect its “sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock”.
The South China Sea issue has also entered the US presidential race. 

Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American senator running for the Repblican presidential nomination, last week said the US needed to take a more assertive stance towards China, including in the South China Sea.

“Gone will be the days of debating where a ship is flagged or whether it is our place to criticise territorial expansionism,” he told the Council on Foreign Relations.
"In this century, businesses must have the freedom to operate around the world with confidence.”

Speaking in Indonesia on Wednesday, Anthony Blinken, the US deputy secretary of state, said Chinese actions in the South China Sea were creating more unstable environment for commerce.

As China seeks to make sovereign land out of sandcastles and redraw maritime boundaries, it is eroding regional trust and undermining investor confidence,” Mr Blinken was cited as saying by Reuters.


In the 21st century China and the United States will square off and fight to become the champion among nations.
Something that as recently as a decade ago was almost never discussed in polite company—the prospect for a prolonged geopolitical struggle between the United States and China (Cold War 2.0)—is now Topic A in the foreign policy salons of both Washington and Beijing.

In the United States, the centrist Council on Foreign Relations issued a lengthy report calling for the U.S. to “revise” its “grand strategy” toward China.

In Beijing, Liu Mingfu, a colonel in the People’s Liberation Army and one of its most influential strategists, wrote in his recent book, The China Dream, “In the 21st century China and the United States will square off and fight to become the champion among nations.’’

The current tension in the South China Sea, where Beijing is building artificial islands in the Spratlys, a contested chain claimed by six countries, certainly sounds like a Cold War in the making.

The U.S. Defense Department let it be known in mid-May that it was considering sending surveillance aircraft and warships to within 12 nautical miles of the chain, as a signal to Beijing to back off.

The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry immediately condemned Washington for even thinking about it.
Meanwhile, nine Chinese and Russian warships came together for joint exercises in the Mediterranean Sea—the most recent evidence of the warmer ties between the two historical antagonists.

A month earlier, Vietnam, deeply distrustful of Beijing, hosted a dozen U.S. defense contractors for meetings in Hanoi.
They came just eight days before celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of Vietnam’s defeat of the United States.
War games, prospective weapons sales, a war of words over contested real estate in some far-flung part of the world.
That’s all pretty much standard Cold War fare, familiar to anyone in Moscow or Washington who fought the last one.
But a Washington vs. Beijing Cold War 2.0—should it prove to be unavoidable—would be very different from its predecessor.

The fundamental, obvious difference is that Beijing would bring far more economic power to the contest than the Soviet Union ever did.

Indeed, for Soviet citizens, the enduring image from the last days of Communism is empty shelves at the food store.
And pretty much everywhere the Soviets exerted their influence—from Eastern Europe to Africa to Latin America—economic calamity ensued.
The command and control, state-dominated form of economic management didn’t work, and that—more than how many nuclear weapons Moscow possessed—was what mattered in the end.

Contrast that with China.
Already the second-largest economy in the world, it may well surpass the United States as the biggest in a decade or so.
While the state controls the commanding heights of the economy—banking, telecommunications, energy—it tries to do so in a market-friendly way, and it allows unfettered private enterprise in a range of industries (including, critically, high technology) that have helped drive China’s extraordinary three-decade-long ascent from poverty.

Alibaba is but one recent example of a private Chinese company with an increasingly global footprint.
Remember all those great Soviet companies with initial public offerings of billions of dollars on the Nasdaq or the New York Stock Exchange?

Right. You don’t.
Because there weren’t any.
China is in the business of deploying its economic power abroad in a big way.
It invests heavily in infrastructure projects in Africa.
It uses its massive foreign exchange reserves to buy up resources—oil, gas and minerals—throughout Africa and Latin America.

This is often—inaccurately—described as “soft” power.
Economic power is not the same as soft power.
Soft power has to do with lots of things—the form of government, the transparency of government, the accountability of elites to the broad citizenry, what a country stands for and stands against.
The projection of economic power means the ability to put money in local pockets.

Beijing is doing that aggressively, and, given its enormous accumulation of foreign exchange reserves, it is in a position to continue to do so for quite some time, even as its frantic economic growth now slows.

The United States, in the view of many analysts, is in a different and arguably more difficult place.
Its hard power—its military assets—still dwarfs China’s, even though Beijing has rapidly increased its defense spending in recent years.

But the prospect of a Cold War between the two countries was—and to a certain extent still is—dismissed by many China hands in the U.S. because, as former National Security Council staffer Aaron Friedberg wrote last year in his book A Contest for Supremacy, “the enormous advantages the United States now enjoys are the product of its long-standing lead in the development and deployment of new technologies, and the unmatched ability of its huge and dynamic economy to carry the costs of military primacy.”
Is the United States still more technologically advanced than China? Absolutely.

Is it still more innovative. Yes.
But those leads are narrowing, and the U.S. plainly faces a host of domestic economic issues—from debt to demographics to an economy seemingly stuck at stall speed—that are daunting.

As Friedberg wrote, “Whether the United States will continue to enjoy its economic advantages in a long-term strategic rivalry with China is by no means obvious.”

The other critical difference between Cold War 1.0 and the Cold War 2.0 that now looms is the simple fact that China is the most important market in the world for the Fortune 500.
By contrast, the Soviet Union, for 99.5 percent of America’s biggest companies, simply didn’t exist. Beijing can use access to its market as leverage in geopolitical disputes, and in so doing will be playing to a core establishment constituency in the United States: big business.

As long as China avoids an economic crisis that upends the current economic reality, that reality is going to be difficult for Washington to finesse as geopolitical competition intensifies.
There is, of course, tremendous irony in that.

For decades, U.S. policy was to help China succeed economically.
We had convinced ourselves that through trade and prosperity, political change would come in Beijing (just as it had in South Korea and Taiwan, former authoritarian economic success stories turned vibrant democracies).
That notion is now long gone.

The Chinese Communist Party, and its one-party rule, doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

It’s also playing a long game; its military is just a regional player now, but by 2049, when the party expects to celebrate its 100th anniversary in power, it may well be able to project force globally. That, anyway, is the intention of the more hawkish elements of the party and its military.

Washington had earnestly hoped that the days of a global struggle against a powerful adversary were gone, the stuff of history books.

That it’s now waking up and acknowledging a different reality is step one in what Liu Mingfu calls the central “fight” for the 21st century.

Asia's rising power China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

(Reuters) - The Chinese navy warned a U.S. surveillance plane flying over artificial islands that Beijing is creating in the disputed South China Sea to leave the area eight times, according to CNN, which was on board the flight on Wednesday.

At one stage, after the American pilots responded by saying the plane was flying through international airspace, a Chinese radio operator said with exasperation: "This is the Chinese navy ... You go!"

The P8-A Poseidon, the U.S. military's most advanced surveillance aircraft, flew at 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) at its lowest point, CNN said.

The incident, along with recent Chinese warnings to Philippine military aircraft to leave areas around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea, suggests Beijing is trying to enforce a military exclusion zone above its new islands.

Some security experts worry about the risk of confrontation, especially after a U.S. official said last week the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.

Footage taken by the P8-A Poseidon and aired by CNN showed a hive of construction and dredging activity on the new islands the plane flew over, as well as Chinese navy ships nearby.

CNN said it was the first time the Pentagon had declassified video of China's building activity and audio of challenges to a U.S. aircraft. 

 REUTERS/Edgar SuA Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) navy personnel looks out of their Jiangkai II class vessel, CNS Yulin, during a display of warships ahead of the IMDEX Asia maritime defence exhibition at Changi Naval Base in Singapore May 18, 2015.

"We were just challenged 30 minutes ago and the challenge came from the Chinese navy," Captain Mike Parker, commander of U.S. surveillance aircraft deployed to Asia, told CNN aboard the flight.

"I'm highly confident it came from ashore, this facility here," Parker said, pointing to an early warning radar station on Fiery Cross Reef.

Military facilities on Fiery Cross Reef, including a 3,000-metre (10,000-foot) runway, could be operational by year's end, one U.S. commander recently told Reuters.

Asia's rising power China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. 

 CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS/IHS: 1535921

Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week asserted Beijing's sovereignty to reclaim the reefs, saying China's determination to protect its interests was "as hard as a rock".

China has also said it had every right to set up an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea but that current conditions did not warrant one.

ADIZs are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception.

During the P8-A mission, the pilot of a Delta Air Line flight in the area spoke on the same frequency after hearing the Chinese challenges, and identified himself as commercial. The Chinese voice reassured the pilot and the Delta flight went on its way, CNN said.

(Editing by Paul Tait)