Weak USA Emboldens China – S. China Sea World Court Case

Editor’s Note – Recently, Stand Up America US Far East/Asia Advisor, Col. John Paul Spickelmier sent us the following article while in Binh Duong Province, Viet Nam that thoroughly describes the curious claims that China is making in its pursuit to expand in the South China Sea.

This very scholarly and well documented article shows how important this subject is for the people of Viet Nam and the Philippines, the major neighbors with claims over the same sets of islands in the South China Sea.

Of course, anyone who views a map of the region can readily see how preposterous China’s claims are (‘U-Shaped Line’), but it will take international judges to sort through the entire history of the region. SUA has reported many times on the subject since 2009, but in 2011 we started to see the hard charge China was making to secure the island chains in question.

In recent years, it became clear that China saw how weak the Obama administration really was all along and is taking advantage at break neck speed and the countries most affected are fighting back. America stands to lose much if China is to be allowed to continue along with our allies, including Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan.

We encourage you to read the fascinating history because China is establishing itself in locations to which no sane person would ever believe they have a rightful claim. Japan is also paying close attention to this most important set of sea lanes that can affect world commerce as well.

We embedded two important maps for you to examine, especially over the resources in the area. China’s aggression cannot be permitted.

The importance of evidence: Fact, fiction and the South China Sea

By Bill Hayton – Thanh Nien News

In just a few weeks, international judges will begin to consider the legality of China’s ‘U-shaped line’ claim in the South China Sea. The venue will be the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and the Court’s first step – during deliberations in July – will be to consider whether it should even consider the case. China’s best hope is that the judges will rule themselves out of order because if they don’t, and the Philippines’ case proceeds, it’s highly likely that China will suffer a major embarrassment.

The Philippines wants the Court to rule that, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), China can only claim sovereignty and the rights to resources in the sea within certain distances of land territory. If the court agrees, it will have the effect of shrinking the vast ‘U-shaped line’ to a few circles no more than 24 nautical miles (about 50km) in diameter.

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China is not formally participating in the case but it has submitted its arguments indirectly, particularly through a ‘Position Paper’ it published last December. The Paper argued that the Court shouldn’t hear the Philippines’ case until another court had made a ruling on all the competing territorial claims to the different islands, rocks and reefs. This is the issue that the judges will have to consider first.
China’s strategy in the ‘lawfare’ over the South China Sea is to deploy historical arguments in order to outflank arguments based on UNCLOS. China increasingly seems to regard [UNCLOS] not as a neutral means of resolving disputes but as a partisan weapon wielded by other states in order to deny China its natural rights.

But there is a major problem for China in using these historical arguments. There’s hardly any evidence for them.

This isn’t the impression the casual reader would get from reading most of the journalistic articles or think-tank reports written about the South China Sea disputes in recent years. That’s because almost all of these articles and reports rely for their historical background on a very small number of papers and books. Worryingly, a detailed examination of those works suggests they use unreliable bases from which to write reliable histories.

This is a significant obstacle to resolving the disputes because China’s misreading of the historical evidence is the single largest destabilizing factor in the current round of tension. After decades of mis-education, the Chinese population and leadership seem convinced that China is the rightful owner of every feature in the Sea – and possibly of all the water in between. This view is simply not supported by the evidence from the 20th century.

Who controls the past, controls the future

The problem for the region is that this mis-education is not limited to China. Unreliable evidence is clouding the international discourse on the South China Sea disputes. It is skewing assessments of the dispute at high levels of government – both in Southeast Asia and in the United States. I will use three recent publications illustrate my point: two 2014 ‘Commentary’ papers for the Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore written by a Chinese academic Li Dexia and a Singaporean Tan Keng Tat , a 2015 presentation by the former US Deputy-Ambassador to China, Charles Freeman at Brown University and a 2014 paper for the US-based Center for Naval Analyses.

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What is striking about these recent works – and they are just exemplars of a much wider literature – is their reliance on historical accounts published many years ago: a small number of papers published in the 1970s, notably one by Hungdah Chiu and Choon‐Ho Park; Marwyn Samuels’ 1982 book, Contest for the South China Sea; Greg Austin’s 1998 book China’s Ocean Frontier and two papers by Jianming Shen published in 1997 and 2002 .

These writings have come to form the ‘conventional wisdom’ about the disputes. Google Scholar calculates that Chiu and Park’s paper is cited by 73 others, and Samuels’ book by 143. Works that quote these authors include one by Brian Murphy from 1994 and those by Jianming Shen from 1997 and 2002 – which are, in turn, quoted by 34 and 35 others respectively and by Chi-kin Lo, whose 1989 book is cited by 111 other works. Lo explicitly relies on Samuels for most of his historical explanation, indeed praises him for his “meticulous handling of historical data” (p.16). Admiral (ret) Michael McDevitt, who wrote the forward to the CNA paper, noted that Contest for the South China, “holds up very well some 40 years later”.

These works were the first attempts to explain the history of the disputes to English-speaking audiences. They share some common features:

  • They were written by specialists in international law or political science rather than by maritime historians of the region.
  • They generally lacked references to primary source material
  • They tended to rely on Chinese media sources that contained no references to original evidence or on works that refer to these sources
  • They tended to quote newspaper articles from many years later as proof of fact
  • They generally lacked historical contextualizing information
  • They were written by authors with strong links to China

The early works on the disputes

English-language writing on the South China Sea disputes emerged in the immediate aftermath of the ‘Battle of the Paracels’ in January 1974, when PRC forces evicted Republic of Vietnam (‘South Vietnam’) forces from the western half of the islands.

The first analyses were journalistic, including one by Cheng Huan, then a Chinese-Malaysian law student in London now a senior legal figure in Hong Kong, in the following month’s edition of the Far Eastern Economic Review.11  In it, he opined that, “China’s historical claim [to the Paracels] is so well documented and for so many years back into the very ancient past, that it would be well nigh impossible for any other country to make a meaningful counter claim.” This judgement by a fresh-faced student was approvingly quoted in Chi-Kin Lo’s 1989 book ‘China’s Policy Towards Territorial Disputes’.12

The first academic works appeared the following year. They included a paper by Tao Cheng for the Texas International Law Journal13  and another by Hungdah Chiu and Choon‐Ho Park for Ocean Development & International Law.14 The following year, the Institute for Asian Studies in Hamburg published a monograph by the German academic, Dieter Heinzig, entitled ‘‪Disputed islands in the South China Sea’.15 ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬ These were pioneering papers but their content – and therefore their analysis – was far from neutral.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Undated photo of ships of the China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012
Undated photo of ships of the China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012

Cheng’s paper relied primarily upon Chinese sources with additional information from American news media. The main Chinese sources were commercial magazines from the 1930s notably editions of the Shanghai-based Wai Jiao Ping Lun [Wai Chiao Ping Lun] (Foreign Affairs Review) from 1933 and 1934 and Xin Ya Xiya yue kan [Hsin-ya-hsi-ya yueh kan] (New Asia Monthly) from 1935. These were supplemented by material from the Hong Kong-based news magazine Ming Pao Monthly from 1973 and 1974. Other newspapers quoted included Kuo Wen Chou Pao (National News Weekly), published in Shanghai between 1924 and 1937,Renmin Ribao [Jen Ming Jih Pao](People’s Daily) and the New York Times. Cheng didn’t reference any French, Vietnamese or Philippine sources with the exception of a 1933 article from La Geographie that had been translated and reprinted in Wai Jiao Ping Lun.

The paper by Hungdah Chiu and Choon‐Ho Park relied upon similar sources. In crucial sections it quotes evidence based upon articles published in 1933 in Wai Jiao Ping Lun16  and Wai Jiao Yue Bao [Wai-chiao yüeh-pao] (Diplomacy monthly),17 and Fan-chih yüeh-k’an [Geography monthly] from 193418  as well as Kuo-wen Chou Pao [National news weekly] from 1933 and the Chinese government’s own Wai-chiao-pu kung-pao, [Gazette of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs].19  It supplements this information with material gathered from a 1948 Shanghai publication by Cheng Tzu-yüeh, Nan-hai chu-tao ti-li chih-lūeh (General records on the geography of southern islands)20  and Republic of China government statements from 195621 and 197422.

Chiu and Park do use some Vietnamese references, notably eight press releases or fact sheets provided by the Embassy of the Republic of Vietnam in Washington. They also refer to some, “unpublished material in the possession of the authors”. However, the vast majority of their sources are from the Chinese media.

Writing a year later, Dieter Heinzig relied, in particular, on editions of two Hong Kong-based publications Ch’i-shih nien-tai (Seventies Monthly) and Ming Pao Monthly23  published in March and May 1974 respectively.

What is significant is that all these foundational papers used as their basic references Chinese media articles that were published at times when discussion about the South China Sea was highly politicised. 1933 was the year that France formally annexed features in the Spratly Islands – provoking widespread anger in China, 1956 was when a Philippine businessman, Tomas Cloma, claimed most of the Spratlys for his own independent country of ‘Freedomland’ – provoking counterclaims by the RoC, PRC and Republic of Vietnam; and 1974 was the year of the Paracels battle.

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Newspaper articles published during these three periods cannot be assumed to be neutral and dispassionate sources of factual evidence. Rather, they should be expected to be partisan advocates of particular national viewpoints. This is not to say they are automatically incorrect but it would be prudent to verify their claims with primary sources. This is not something that the authors did.

The pattern set by Cheng, Chiu and Park and Heinzig was then repeated in Marwyn Samuels’ book Contest for the South China Sea.24  Samuels himself acknowledges the Chinese bias of his sources in the book’s Introduction, when he states “this is not a study primarily either in Vietnamese or Philippine maritime history, ocean policy or interests in the South China Sea. Rather, even as the various claims and counterclaims are treated at length, the ultimate concern here is with the changing character of Chinese ocean policy.” Compounding the issues, Samuels acknowledges that his Asian research was primarily in Taiwanese archives. However, crucial records relating to the RoC’s actions in the South China Sea in the early 20th Century were only declassified in 2008/9, long after his work was published.25

US: Kerry to leave Beijing in 'no doubt' over South China Sea expansion
US: Kerry to leave Beijing in ‘no doubt’ over South China Sea expansion – hardly stopping anything.

There was another burst of history-writing in the late 1990s. The former US State Department Geographer turned oil-sector consultant Daniel Dzurek wrote a paper for the International Boundaries Research Unit of the University of Durham in 1996 and a book by an Australian analyst Greg Austin was published in 1998. Austin’s historical sections reference Samuels’ book, the paper by Chiu and Park, a document published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry in January 1980 entitled ‘China’s indisputable sovereignty over the Xisha and Nansha islands’26  and an article by Lin Jinzhi in the People’s Daily.27  Dzurek’s are similar.

The next major contributor to the narrative was a Chinese-American law professor, Jianming Shen based at St. John’s University School of Law in New York. In 1997 he published a key article in the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review. Like the Texas International Law Journal, the Review is a student-edited publication. It hardly needs saying that an editorial board comprised of law students may not be the best body to oversee works of Asian maritime history. Shen followed this article with a second in a more prestigious journal, the Chinese Journal of International Law – although in many sections it simply referenced the first article.

It seems more than ironic that material produced by the State Oceanic Administration and the Chinese legal establishment has … become part of the Pentagon’s understanding of the history of the South China Sea.

Shen’s two articles have been particularly influential – the 2014 CNA paper references them at least 170 times, for example. However, an examination of their sources shows them to be just as suspect as their predecessors. The historical sections that provide the evidence for his 1997 paper rely in large part on two sources. One is a book edited by Duanmu Zheng entitled Guoji Fa (International Law) published by Peking University Press in 1989 (referenced at least 18 times).28  The following year Duanmu became the PRC’s second-highest ranking legal official – Vice President of the PRC’s Supreme People’s Court – and was later one of the drafters of the Hong Kong Basic Law.29  In other words, he was a senior Chinese state official.

Shen’s other main historical source is a collection of papers from a Symposium On The South China Sea Islands organised by the Institute for Marine Development Strategy, part of the Chinese State Oceanic Administration, in 1992 (referenced at least 11 times). It seems more than ironic that material produced by the State Oceanic Administration and the Chinese legal establishment has subsequently been processed through the writings of Professor Shen and then the Center for Naval Analyses and now become part of the Pentagon’s understanding of the history of the South China Sea.

Major shipping lanes in the South China Seas
Major shipping lanes in the South China Seas

None of the writers mentioned so far were specialists in the maritime history of the South China Sea. Instead they were political scientists (Cheng and Samuels), lawyers (Chiu and Park and Shen) or international relations specialists (Heinzig and Austin). As a rule their works don’t examine the integrity of the texts that they quote, nor do they discuss the contexts in which they were produced. In particular Cheng and Chiu and Park incorporate anachronistic categories – such as ‘country’ to describe pre-modern relations between political entities around the South China Sea – for periods when political relations were quite different from those that exist today.

It’s also worth noting that Cheng, Chiu and Shen were Chinese-born. Cheng and Shen both graduated with LLBs from Peking University. Chiu graduated from National Taiwan University. While this does not, of course, automatically make them biased, it is reasonable to assume they were more familiar with Chinese documents and the Chinese point of view. Both Samuels and Heinzig were scholars of China.

Flawed evidence

It is hardly surprising that the first English-language writings on the disputes, written as they were by Chinese authors and based upon Chinese sources, come down on the Chinese side of the argument. Cheng’s judgement (p277) was that, “it is probably safe to say that the Chinese position in the South China Sea islands dispute is a “superior claim”. Chiu and Park (p.20) concluded that “China has a stronger claim to the sovereignty of the Paracels and the Spratlies [sic] than does Vietnam”. Shen’s point of view is obvious from the titles of his papers: ‘International Law Rules and Historical Evidence Supporting China’s Title to the South China Sea Islands’ and ‘China’s Sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands’.

These verdicts are still influential today: they were quoted in Li and Tan’s 2014 papers, for example. Yet a closer examination of the evidence upon which they are based suggests they are deeply flawed. Those magazine articles from 1933, 1956 and 1974 should not be regarded as neutral evidence but as partisan readings of a contested history.

There isn’t space here to cover all the claims the writers make about events before the 19th Century. In summary, the accounts by Cheng, Chiu and Park, Samuels and Shen all share the common assumption: that China has always been the dominant naval, trading and fishing power in the South China Sea. Cheng, for example puts it like this, “It has been an important part of the sea route from Europe to the Orient since the 16th century, a haven for fishermen from the Hainan Island, and the gateway for Chinese merchants from south China to Southeast Asia since earlier times” (p.266).

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More empirically-based histories of the Sea suggest the situation was much more complex. Works by the historians Leonard Blussé, Derek Heng, Pierre-Yves Manguin, Roderich Ptak, Angela Schottenhammer, Li Tana, Nicholas Tarling and Geoff Wade have revealed a much more heterogeneous usage of the sea in the pre-modern period. Chinese vessels and merchants played almost no role in seaborne trade till the 10th century and even after that were never dominant but shared the sea with Malays, Indians, Arabs and Europeans. Research by François-Xavier Bonnet30, Ulises Granados31  and Stein Tonnesson32  show how similar patterns persisted into the 20th century.

Accounts from the early 20th century demonstrate that the Chinese state had great trouble even controlling its own coast, and was completely unable to project authority to islands hundreds of miles offshore. For example, two articles in The Times of London from January 1908 describe the inability of the Chinese authorities to control ‘piracy’ in the West River – inland from Canton/Guangzhou.33  A 1909 article by the Australian newspaper, The Examinertells us that foreigners (“two Germans, one Japanese, and several Malays”) had begun mining operations on Hainan Island without the authorities finding out until much later.34

What these contemporary accounts reveal is a South China Sea that until the mid 20th century was essentially ungoverned, except for the occasional interventions of foreign powers against piracy. It was only in 1909, following the scandal surrounding the occupation of Pratas Island by a Japanese guano entrepreneur Nishizawa Yoshiji, that the Chinese authorities became interested in the offshore islands.35

Protests against German surveys

Samuels (p52), however, argues that an implicit Chinese claim to the Spratly Islands might be dated to 1883 when – according to his account – the Qing government officially protested against a German state-sponsored expedition to the Spratly Islands. The assertion is sourced to the May 1974 edition of the Hong Kong-based magazine Ming Pao Monthly without other corroborating evidence. Chiu and Park (in footnote 47) ascribe it to an article published 50 years after the alleged events in question in the September 1933 edition of Wai Jiao Yue Bao (Wai-chiao yüeh-pao) [Diplomacy monthly],36  Heinzig quotes the same edition of Ming Pao that Samuels relies on to state that the 1883 German expedition actually withdrew following the Chinese protest.

This claim seems highly unlikely because the German surveyors mapped theParacel Islands (not the Spratlys) between 1881 and 1883, finished their work and subsequently published a chart. A French edition was published in 1885.37
The 1887 Sino-Tonkin convention
Samuels argues that the 1887 Sino-Tonkin convention negotiated by the French government, nominally on behalf of Tonkin, amounted to an international agreement allocating the islands to China (p52). Article 3 of the Convention does indeed allocate islands east of the Paris meridian 105°43’ to China. But Samuels and the other authors failed to notice that the Convention applied to Tonkin – the northernmost area of what is now Vietnam and therefore can only relate to islands in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Paracels and Spratlys lie much further south in what were then the realms of Annam and Cochinchina, not covered by the Convention.

The mystery of the 1902 voyage

There also appears to be some confusion about the date of the first visit by Chinese officials to the Paracel Islands. Samuels (p.53), on the strength of the 1974 Ming Pao Monthly article, puts it in 1902 with a return visit in 1908. Austin and Dzurek follow Samuels in this. Li and Tan (2014) also assert the 1902 claim, along with one of a separate expedition in 1907. Cheng dates it to 1907, based on several 1933 references38  as do Chiu and Park who make reference to a 1933 edition of Kuo-wen chou-pao.39  However, in contrast to these accounts, written 26 and 72 years after the events they supposedly describe, a survey of contemporaneous newspapers makes it quite clear that the voyage took place in 1909.

There is good reason for the confusion about the 1902 expedition. In June 1937 the chief of Chinese Administrative Region Number 9, Huang Qiang, was sent on a secret mission to the Paracels – partly to check if there was Japanese activity in the islands.
But he had another role too – which a secret annex to his report makes clear. An excerpt of the annex was published in Chinese in 1987 by the Committee of Place Names of Guangdong Province.40  His boat was loaded with 30 stone markers – some dated 1902, others 1912 and others 1921. On North Island, they buried two markers from 1902 and four from 1912; on Lincoln Island, the team buried one marker from 1902, one from 1912 and one from 1921 and on Woody Island, two markers from 1921. Finally, on Rocky Island, they deposited a single marker, dated 1912.

The markers were forgotten until 1974 when, after the battle of the Paracels, they were found and the ‘discovery’ was trumpeted in Hong Kong newspapers – such as Ming Pao Monthly. The non-existent 1902 expedition then entered the history books. Only now has it been debunked by the Manila-based French geographer Francois-Xavier Bonnet.41

The island names

In his 1997 paper Shen claims the RoC Government “reviewed the names of the islands in the South China Sea” in 1932. In fact that government committee simply translated or transliterated the existing British or international names. As a result several of the Chinese names continue to honour the British surveyors that first mapped the features. In the Paracels, Líng yang Jiao – Antelope Reef – is named after a British survey vessel, the Antelope. Jīn yín Dǎo – Money Island – is not named after notes and coins – but after William Taylor Money, the Superintendent of the Bombay Marine – the navy of the East India Company.

1933 diplomatic protest?

One argument that is key to China’s claim to the Spratlys is the oft-repeated assertion that the Republic of China made a formal protest to the Government of France following the latter’s formal annexation of several features in the Spratly Islands on 26 July 1933. It’s certainly true that the annexation provoked consternation in government and nationalist anger among the public. But was a formal protest ever lodged?
Tao Cheng, in his 1975 paper, references an article in Xin Ya Xi Ya Yue Kan [Hsin-ya-hsi-ya yueh kan] (New Asia Monthly), from two years later, 1935.42  Chiu and Park state in a footnote that, “there is proof that China also protested”. They reference an article in Wai-chiao yüeh-pao [Diplomacy monthly] by Cho Min43, and a 1948 book by Cheng Tzu-yüeh Nan-hai chu-tao ti-li chih-lūeh [General records on the geography of southern islands].44

However, they concede that, “The date of the Chinese note was not reported in Cheng’s book, nor is it mentioned in the ‘Memorandum on Four Large Archipelagoes of the Republic of China in South Sea,’ issued by the ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs in February 1974. See Lien-ho-pao [United daily news], overseas edition, February 25, 1974, p. 3.”

This claim appears in Ambassador Freeman’s presentation and in the CNA paper – which quoted Shen. In his 1997 paper Shen quotes two sources: Cheng and Chiu and Park – but as we have just seen – they do not provide any references for their claim. In his 2002 paper, Shen references papers from the State Oceanic Administration’s symposium.45  These papers are not available outside China but there is good evidence that all of these works are simply wrong.

The RoC decided that it had no claim in the Spratly Islands in 1933.

Francois-Xavier Bonnet has found American records showing that immediately after the French announcement the Chinese government had to ask its consul in Manila, Mr Kuan-ling Kwong to ask the American colonial authorities there for a map showing their location. Only then was the government in Nanjing able to understand that these islands were not in the Paracels and then decide not to issue any formal protest.46

According to Bonnet, the reason is evident from minutes of a meeting of the Republic of China’s Military Council on 1 September 1933, “All our professional geographers say that Triton Island [in the Paracels] is the southernmost island of our territory.”47  The RoC decided that it had no claim in the Spratly Islands at that point and therefore had nothing to protest against.

Research by Chris Chung, a Canadian PhD student, has found that by 1946, RoC files were referring to China’s formal protest in 1933 as if it were fact. This then became the Chinese justification to ‘reclaim’ the islands from Japan after the Second World War.48

In summary, what seems to have happened is that over the 13 years after the French annexation a different understanding of what had happened in 1933 took hold in RoC governing circles. My hypothesis is that Chinese officials confused a real 1932 protest to the French about activity in the Paracels with a non-existent 1933 protest about the Spratlys.

1930s surveys

In his 2002 paper, Shen claims the RoC, “organized three rounds of large-scale survey and renaming activities respectively in 1932, 1935 and 1947” (p.107) but there was no surveying work done in the Spratly Islands, just copying from international maps. This seems to be why the RoC mistranslated the name of the James Shoal – initially calling it Zengmu Tan. Zeng-mu is simply the transliteration of James. Tan means sandbank, when in fact the shoal is underwater. By this simple mis-translation a piece of seabed became an island and to this day is regarded as China’s southernmost territory – even though it doesn’t exist! The names were revised by the RoC in 1947 (at which point Zengmu Tan becameZengmu Ansha – reef) and the again by the PRC in 1983.49

The Cairo Declaration

The Cairo Declaration does not indicate that these [South China Sea islands] would be returned to China.

Shen (2002 p139) and Xi and Tan (2014) follow the PRC foreign ministry in arguing that, under the 1943 Cairo Declaration, the wartime allies awarded the South China Sea islands to China. The CAN paper discusses this claim and explicitly rejects it on the grounds that,
“The Cairo Declaration, as reinforced by the Potsdam Proclamation, only provides that China would recover Manchuria, Formosa [Taiwan], and the Pescadores [Penghu Islands] after the war. The next sentence simply provides that Japan would be expelled from “other territories” which it had taken by violence, but it does not indicate that these “other territories” would be returned to China. Although not specifically stated, the only logical conclusion is that these “other territories” included the Spratly and Paracel Islands, which were seized by violence from France, not China.” (p97)

Freeman (2015), however, argues that, because the Japanese authorities incorporated the Paracels and Spratlys into their province of Taiwan, the Cairo Declaration returns them, along with the rest of ‘Taiwan Province’ to China. But the Declaration doesn’t mention the word ‘Taiwan’, it talks about Formosa and the Pescadores. The logical conclusion is that the allies only agreed that these particular islands should be returned to China.

The surrender of the Japanese garrisons in the Paracels and Spratlys

The CNA paper and Ambassador Freeman’s presentation both carry claims that Chinese forces received the surrender of the Japanese garrisons in the Paracels and Spratlys at the end of the Second World War. Freeman has argued that the US Navy actually transported Chinese forces to the islands for this purpose. In personal communication with the author he has not been able to provide any corroborating evidence for the assertion.

Based upon evidence from US and Australian military archives, the claim seems very unlikely to be true. During the war Japan had military bases on Woody and Pattle islands in the Paracels and Itu Aba in the Spratlys. Woody Island was shelled by the submarine USS Pargo on 6 February 194550  and on 8 March American aircraft bombed both it and Pattle Island.51  When another submarine, the USS Cabrilla, visited Woody Island on 2 July, the French tricolour was flying, but this time with a white flag above it.52

Itu Aba was napalmed by US planes on 1 May 1945. Six months later, the US Navy sent a reconnaissance mission to Itu Aba, It landed on 20 November 1945 and found the island unoccupied – the Japanese had fled.

It wasn’t until more than a year later – December 1946 that a Chinese landing party – using second-hand American warships just transferred to the RoC Navy – was able to reach the island. (The French had arrived two months before and reclaimed the island but that’s rarely mentioned in Chinese sources.) The Chinese name for Itu Aba is Taiping Dao, named after the warship that carried the landing party. The Taiping was previously the USS Decker. The irony is that if the US had not supplied those warships China would have no claim in the Spratly Islands today!

The Chinese state’s interest in [islands in the South China Sea] only dates from the 20th century.

Conclusion

A review of the verifiable evidence tells a different history about the islands in the South China Sea than that found in the most of the commonly used reference texts. The Chinese state’s interest in them only dates from the 20th century. There’s no evidence yet put forward for any Chinese state official visiting the Paracel Islands before 6 June 1909. It was only in 1933 that national attention was turned to the Spratly Islands – and at that time the Republic of China decided not to press a claim to them. Attention was revived immediately after the Second World War, based on misunderstandings about what happened in 1933 and for the first time ever, a Chinese official landed in the Spratly Islands on 12 December 1946.

In 1933, 1956, 1974 and again today histories of the islands were written and rewritten. During each crisis advocates of the Chinese position published new versions of history that often recycled earlier mistakes and sometimes added in more of their own. By the time these accounts leapt the language barrier into English in the mid-1970s their shaky foundations appeared solid to those exploring the history for the first time. They were printed in western academic journals and ‘became fact’. But a review of their sources reveals their inherent weakness.

It is no longer good enough for advocates of the Chinese claim to base their arguments on such baseless evidence. It is time that a concerted effort was made to re-examine the primary sources for many of the assertions put forward by these writers and reassess their accuracy. The resolution of the disputes depends on it – both in the courtrooms of The Hague and in the waters of the South China Sea.


This article was originally published by Asia Sentinel at http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/fact-fiction-south-china-sea/. Reposted with permission.

Former BBC correspondent Bill Hayton is the author of ‘The South China Sea: the struggle for power in Asia,’ called “the first book to make clear sense of the South Sea disputes.”


Notes: 
1. Li Dexia and Tan Keng Tat, South China Sea Disputes: China Has Evidence of Historical Claims. RSIS Commentary 165 dated 15 August 2014 Available at http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/CO14165.pdf. See also Li Dexia, Xisha (Paracel) Islands: Why China’s Sovereignty is ‘Indisputable’. RSIS Commentary 116 dated 20 June 2014. Available at http://www.rsis.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/CO14116.pdf

2. Charles Freeman, Diplomacy on the rocks. Remarks at a Seminar of the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University 10 April 2015. http://chasfreeman.net/diplomacy-on-the-rocks-china-and-other-claimants-in-the-south-china-sea/

3. Pete Pedrozo, China versus Vietnam: An Analysis of the Competing Claims in the South China Sea, Center for Naval Analyses, August 2014. Available at http://www.cna.org/sites/default/files/research/IOP-2014-U-008433.pdf

4. Hungdah Chiu & Choon‐Ho Park (1975): Legal status of the Paracel and Spratly Islands, Ocean Development & International Law, 3:1, 1-28

5. Marwyn S. Samuels, Contest for the South China Sea, Methuen New York, 1982.

6. Greg Austin, China’s Ocean Frontier: International Law, Military Force, and National Development. ‪Allen & Unwin, 1998‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

7. Jianming Shen, International Law Rules and Historical Evidence Supporting China’s Title to the South China Sea Islands, 21 Hastings International and Comparative Law Review. 1‐75 (1997‐1998)

8. Jianming Shen, China’s Sovereignty over the South China Sea Islands: A Historical Perspective, CHINESE JIL (2002), pp. 94‐157

9. Brian K. Murphy, Dangerous Ground: the Spratly Islandss and International Law, Ocean and Coastal L.J. (1994), pp. 187-212

10. Chi-kin Lo, China’s Policy Towards Territorial Disputess: The Case of the South China Sea Islands. Routledge 1989

11. Cheng Huan, A matter of legality. Far Eastern Economic Review. February 1974

12. Chi-Kin Lo, China’s Policy Towards Territorial Disputes. Routledge, London. 1989

13. Tao Cheng, Dispute over the South China Sea Islands, Texas International Law Journal 265 (1975)

14. Chiu & Park (1975) ibid

15. Dieter Heinzig. ‘‪Disputed islands in the South China Sea: ‪Paracels, Spratlys, Pratas, Macclesfield Bank‬’ Institut für Asienkunde (Hamburg). 1976‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

16. Wai-chiao p’ing-lun [The foreign affairs review], Shanghai, vol. 2, no. 10 (October 1933), pp. 64-65

17. Wai-chiao yüeh-pao [Diplomacy monthly], vol 3, no. 3 (Peiping [Peking], September 15, 1933), p. 78

18. Fan-chih yüeh-k’an [Geography monthly], vol. 7, no. 4 (Nanking, April 1, 1934), p. 2.

19. Wai-chiao-pu kung-pao, [Gazette of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] vol 6, no. 3 (July-September 1933), p. 208

20. Cheng Tzu-yüeh, Nan-hai chu-tao ti-li chih-lūeh [General records on the geography of southern islands] (Shanghai: Shang-wu ying-shu-kuan, 1948).

21. Statement made by the ROC Foreign Ministry on June 10, 1956, summarized in “Vietnamese Claim of Sovereignty Refuted,” Free China Weekly, June 26, 1956, p. 3;Chung-yang jih-pao, June 11, 1956, p. 6; Shao Hsun-cheng, “Chinese Islands in the South China Sea,” People’s China, no. 13 (Peking, 1956)
 Foreign Languages Press

22. Lien-ho-pao [United daily news], overseas edition, February 25, 1974, p. 3; “Memorandum on Four Large Archipelagoes,” ROC Ministry of Foreign Affairs (February 1974).

13. Ming Pao (yüeh-k’an) No. 101 May 1974

24. Marwyn S. Samuels, Contest for the South China Sea’, Methuen, New York. 1982

25. Chris P.C. Chung, “Since Time Immemorial”:
 China’s Historical Claim in the South China Sea. MA Thesis, University of Calgary, September 2013. p8

26. PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs, China’s indisputable sovereignty over the Xisha and Nansha islands, Beijing Review Vol. 23 No.7 1980 pp15-24

27. Lin Jinzhi, Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) 7 April 1980. FBIS-PRC-80-085 30 April 1980 p.E6

28. Duanmu Zheng ed. Guoji Fa (International Law) Peking University Press, Beijing 1989

29. Interestingly Duanmu was not a member of the Communist Party, but of the China Democratic League. Colin Mackerras, The New Cambridge Handbook of Contemporary China. ‪Cambridge University Press, 2001 ‬p85.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

30. Bonnet, Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal. Discussion Paper #14. IRASEC (Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia), Bangkok. November 2012

31. Ulises Granados, As China Meets the Southern Sea Frontier: Ocean Identity in the Making, 1902-1937. Pacific Affairs Vol. 78, No. 3 (Fall, 2005), pp. 443-461

32. See, in particular, Stein Tonnesson, The South China Sea in the Age of European Decline. Modern Asian Studies. Vol 40, Issue 01. February 2006, pp 1-57 and An International History of the Dispute in the South China Sea, East Asia Institute Working Paper No. 71 (2001)

33. The Times “Chinese foreign relations” Jan 18, 1908; pg. 5; The Times “The recent piracy in Canton waters”. Jan 25, 1908; pg. 5;

34. The Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) “China and her islands-keeping an eye on foreign nations” Saturday 12 June 1909 p 8

35. See Granados (2005) above

36. This was disclosed by the Kuangtung Provincial government in 1933. See Cho Min, “The Triangular Relationship Among China, France and Japan and the Question of Nine Islands in South Sea,” Wai-chiao yüeh-pao [Diplomacy monthly], Vol 3, no. 3 (Peiping [Peking], September 15, 1933); p. 82, note 4.

37. Hydrographic Office, The Admiralty, The China Sea Directory, Vol. 2, London, 1889, p.103. Quoted in Bonnet 2012. See also David Hancox and Victor Prescott, A Geographical Description of the Spratly Islands and an Account of Hydrographic Surveys Amongst Those Islands, Maritime Briefing Vol1 No6, International Boundaries Research Unit, University of Durham 1995 p36

38. Cheng references: Saix, Iles Paracels, La Geographie (Nov.-Dec. 1933), reprinted in 3 Wai Chiao Ping Lun (Foreign Affairs Review), No. 5 (Hu Huan-Yung Chinese transl. May 1934), at 65-72;, at 67; Hu, Fa-jen Mou-tuo Hsi-Sha Ch’ün-tao [The French Plot to Snatch the Paracel Islands], 3 Wai Chiao Ping Lun (Foreign Affairs Review), No. 4 (April 1934), at 92.

39. “On Li Chun’s Patrol of the Sea” Kuo-wen chou-pao [National news weekly], vol. 10, no. 33 (August 21, 1933), p. 6.

40. Committee of Place Names of the Guangdong Province [Guangdong sheng di ming wei yuan hui], Compilation of references of the names of all the South Sea islands [Nan Hai zhu dao di ming zi liao hui bian], Guangdong Map Publishing Company [Guangdong sheng di tu chu ban she], 1987, p.289

41. Paper presented by Francois-Xavier Bonnet at the Southeast Asia Sea conference, Ateneo Law Center, Makati, Manila. March 27 2015. (Reported here: http://opinion.inquirer.net/84307/a-chinese-strategy-manipulating-the-record)

42. Lu, Hsi-sha Ch’iin-tao Chih-yao [A Brief Note on the Paracel Islands], 9 Hsin Ya Hsi Ya Yueh Kan No. 6 (June 1935), at 50-54.

43. Cho Min, “The Triangular Relationship Among China, France and Japan and the Question of Nine Islands in South Sea,” Wai-chiao yüeh-pao [Diplomacy monthly], vol 3, no. 3 (Peiping [Peking], September 15, 1933), p. 78;

44. Cheng Tzu-yüeh, Nan-hai chu-tao ti-li chih-lūeh [General records on the geography of southern islands] (Shanghai: Shang-wu ying-shu-kuan, 1948), p.80

45. Jianming Shen, International Law Rules and Historical Evidence Supporting China’s Title to the South China Sea Islands, 21 Hastings International and Comparative Law Review. 1‐75 (1997) footnote 160.

46. François-Xavier Bonnet, Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal, IRASEC Discussion Papers #14, Bangkok November 2012.

47. Wai Jiao bu nan hai zhu dao dang an hui bian [Compilation by the Department of Foreign Affairs of all the records concerning the islands in the South Sea], Vol. 1, Taipeh, 1995, p. 47-49.
Quoted in François-Xavier Bonnet, Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal. Discussion Paper #14. IRASEC (Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia), Bangkok. November 2012

48. See Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Nansha Qundao [南沙群島, or the “Spratly Archipelago”],” The Historical Archives of the Department of Modern History in the Academia Sinica [Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan Jindaishi Yanjiusuo Dang’an Guancang 中央研究院近代史研究所檔案館藏], file series 019.3/0012, file 031. This ROC official telegram is dated August 24, 1946. AND Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Nansha Qundao [南沙群島, or the “Spratly Archipelago”],” The Historical Archives of the Department of Modern History in the Academia Sinica [Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan Jindaishi Yanjiusuo Dang’an Guancang 中央研究院近代史研究所檔案館藏], file series 019.3/0012, file 145-146. This ROC official telegram is also dated to 1946. The month is unclear.

49. Chen Keqin, Zhong guo nan hai zhu dao (China’s south sea islands) Hainan International Press and Publication Center, Haikou 1996

50. A.B. Feuer, Australian Commandos: Their Secret War Against the Japanese in World War II (Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2006), Chapter 6.

51. US Navy Patrol Bombing Squadron 117 (VPB–117), Aircraft Action Report No. 92, available at .

52. US Navy, USS Cabrilla Report of 8th War Patrol, available at http://www.fold3.com/ image/#300365402

Air Supremacy? Are We Still the Best? Most Expensive Fighter

Editor’s Note – With the most expensive fighter in history, the F-35, is our Air Force still the dominant force across the globe? Is the F-35 really the leading edge? What about the F-22 Raptor? Is Russia or China that far behind, or are we falling behind?

If you watched the interview Shepard Smith of Fox News had with Chief-of-Staff of the USAF, General Mark A. Welsh III, you would wave flags and declare that, yes, we still are the best and will be ahead of all other air forces for decades to come. (Video of that interview follows the post below by National Review’s Mike Fredenburg.)

Screen shot of interview conducted by Fox News' Shepard Smith with USAF Chief-of-Staff Gen. Welsh
Screen shot of interview conducted by Fox News’ Shepard Smith with USAF Chief-of-Staff Gen. Welsh

In his article, Fredenburg examines the question more deeply; sans the jingoism of Gen. Welsh. Fredenburg is focused on the Russian SU-35 “Flanker” and its capabilities along with our changing fleet of attack fighters, and the rollout of the controversial F-35; the very expensive and technological wonder it is proving to be, or is it?

Not only do we have to answer these question he raises, but we also need to examine the Chinese who boast of their own sueriority they believe they have over the F-35:

A J-31 stealth fighter (background) of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force lands on a runway after a flying performance at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, Nov. 11, 2014. Reuters/ Alex Lee
A J-31 stealth fighter (background) of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force lands on a runway after a flying performance at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, Nov. 11, 2014. Reuters/ Alex Lee

China is flexing its newest addition to the country’s growing military fleet, a fourth generation J-31 fighter jet. According to the president of the Chinese company that was commissioned for the project, the J-31 jet can “take down” its American counterpart, the Lockheed Martin F-35.

In an interview with Chinese Central Television, Lin Zuoming, the president of the Aviation Industry Corp. of China, the company that developed the newest jet, is confident the Chinese-developed aircraft can outperform the American version.

“When it takes to the sky, it could definitely take down the F-35,” Lin said. “It’s a certainty.”

But Lin has his sights set on more than just outdoing the F-35. He wants to propel the Chinese company to be global supplier to governments to which the U.S. refuses to sell or those that can’t afford to buy a fleet of F-35 jets, which reportedly cost more than the Chinese models. (Read more here at the International Business Times from last December.)

So just where does the truth lie? Is the USAF selling us ‘rose colored glass’ propaganda, or is Gen. Welsh correct? We hope you read on here and watch that interview at the bottom, especially past the midpoint where he really focuses on the future with the high technology helmets and the F-35.

Also ask yourselves about the Indian Air Force with the SU30 MKI supplied in a joint venture with Russia, and others like Pakistan who we supply with F-104 Starfighter as everyone appears to be gearing up quickly and in great volume. Just who else is selling their fighters? The French are supplying Egypt with the Dussault Rafale…and on it goes.

Can we keep up, especially as expensive as are the F-22s and F-35s? Then ask yourself about who will be supplying whom regarding those countries we will not do business with like Iran, North Korea, and other ne’er-do’wells?

Air supremacy, superiority, or are we kidding ourselves?

What if the World’s Most Expensive Fighter Planes Can’t Defeat Our Enemies?

By Mike Fredenburg – National Review

On April 15, 1953, North Korean Po-2 biplanes strafed a U.S. Army tent on Chodo Island, off the Korean mainland. The attack killed two U.S. servicemen.

Remarkably, that night, more than 60 years ago, was the last time a U.S. soldier lost his life to fire from enemy aircraft. Since the Korean War, U.S. air power has played a critical role in virtually every conflict, and the U.S. has enjoyed near-total air supremacy in every battle it’s fought.

But that streak isn’t going to continue automatically. Despite lavish spending on our air forces; flawed procurement priorities and strategic doctrine, driven by contractors, has put the future of U.S. air power at risk.

Russian SU-35 "Flanker"
Russian SU-35 “Flanker”

Take the new F-22 fighter. It’s the most expensive fighter in the air today, but as a recent story in The National Interest by long-time United States Naval Institute writer Dave Majumdar points out, even its missiles will have a hard time getting past the ability of Russia’s truly fearsome Su-35S Flanker E to jam radars and other sensors.

The F-22 is very stealthy while the Su-35S is not, but a senior U.S. Air Force official tells Majumdar that the F-22 will have a hard time killing the Su-35Ss. These new Flankers are already in service with the Russian Air Force, and independent air analysts see this same plane achieving lopsided kill ratios against the U.S.’s other next-generation fighter, the F-35.

F-15's over the Baltic
F-15 “Eagles”

A FLAWED AIR-POWER STRATEGY

How did we end up with such pricey, brand-new fighters being unable to decisively defeat their opponents? United States air-power doctrine after the Korean War has emphasized “beyond visual range” (BVR) engagements. The idea: With sufficiently sophisticated missile technology, we can destroy enemy fighters from more than five miles away, long before the enemy can engage our aircraft.

The cornerstone of BVR technology, large complex radars, required much bigger fighters to handle the aerodynamic challenges that bulky BVR radars present, as well as huge increases in power and cooling requirements. These larger fighters led to skyrocketing acquisition and maintenance costs. With the advent of stealth, the vision was expanded to include destroying enemy planes from behind a cloak, and costs skyrocketed again.

Visions are not always realized, and recent advances in countermeasures, like the capabilities in the Su-35S, are just another chapter in a long history of BVR missiles not living up to the hype. Expecting BVR capabilities to deliver lopsided results against peer competitors now looks more like wishful thinking than a sound strategy.

So why have billions of dollars of investments into BVR capabilities delivered such disappointing results? There are two main causes:

FEAR OF FRIENDLY FIRE

First, identify-friend-or-foe (IFF) technology — systems that enable forces to identify friendly platforms among potential targets — has not been reliable enough to allow our pilots to fire at blips on their radar screen without fear of committing fratricide. In other words, no matter how good our BVR technology, pilots still needed to get within visual distance before taking a shot. Progress has been made in IFF technology, in part because of better capabilities on our support aircraft, but it remains a problem.

CONTRACTORS OVERPROMISE, UNDERDELIVER

The second issue is that BVR missile technology has consistently failed to live up to the promises made by vendors and senior military leadership. On entering Vietnam, military leaders assured Congress that the radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow carried by the complex and costly F-4 Phantom would give our pilots a 70 percent probability of a kill per missile fired. Instead, the much hyped Raytheon missile ended up with a BVR kill rate of less than 1 percent. Somewhat chastened, senior military leaders were forced to retrofit guns to the F-4 Phantom.

Our cutting-edge missile technology has consistently failed to live up to the promises made by vendors and senior military leadership.

The problems continued after Vietnam. In “Promise and Reality: Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air-To-Air Combat” a 2005 paper done for the Air War College, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Higby (now General Higby) shows in great detail that from Vietnam up to Desert Storm the billions invested BVR missile technology contributed almost nothing to the United States’ domination of the skies.

Combining data from Israeli and American missions, he finds that out of 632 shots taken with BVR-capable missiles, only four resulted in kills from beyond visual range — a scant 0.6 percent. During this same period, 528 air-to-air kills were made at closer range — 144 with guns and 384 with missiles fired at opponents within visual range.

BVR HAS ALMOST NEVER WORKED

Starting with Desert Storm, there was an uptick in the number of kills achieved using the newer AMRAAM missiles, which are designed for relatively long range kills, but because neither the number of missiles used nor the range at which the BVR-capable missiles notched kills was recorded, it’s hard to reach any firm conclusions.

We do have anecdotal evidence: In 1999, when two MiG-25s violated the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, U.S. fighters fired six of our most sophisticated BVR missiles at them. All six missiles missed and the MiG-25s escaped to fight another day. While pervasive coverage by AWACS surveillance and control planes has given our pilots much better friend-or-foe recognition, allowing more BVR shots to be taken, true BVR kills against competent opponents are rare.

Future battles will continue to involve close-range dogfights — where superior numbers of smaller affordable fighters are better than inferior numbers of heavier, less agile, less reliable BVR-focused fighters.

A 2011 RAND report noted that enemies successfully engaged beyond visible range after 1991 “were fleeing, non-maneuvering, and did not employ countermeasures.” “In Operation Allied Force,” the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, RAND notes, “the Serbian MiG-29s that were shot down did not even have functioning radars.”

In other words, we might now be achieving BVR kills against third-rate vastly outnumbered opponents while enjoying pervasive AWACS coverage. But that is a far cry from getting kills against equally skilled peer competitors in contested air space where we may be outnumbered in terms of both planes and missiles.

Historically, our pilots’ superior skills have allowed our big BVR fighters to dominate dogfights despite their large size, but those same pilots flying smaller, less-expensive fighters would still have dominated. In other words, the billions invested in large expensive BVR-focused planes and missiles, while highly correlated with U.S air dominance, was not the cause of that dominance.

Going forward, assuming huge kill ratios predicated on BVR missile technology looks even less wise: We have no record of successfully using such technology against peer competitors with the training and technology to dramatically reduce BVR missile effectiveness (like, say, the Russians’ Su-35S).

Both the United States and its competitors will continue to make large investments to improve BVR missiles and BVR-missile countermeasures. Since neither effort is likely to gain a decisive advantage, future battles will continue to involve close-range dogfights — where superior numbers of smaller affordable fighters are better than inferior numbers of heavier, less agile, less reliable BVR-focused fighters.

QUANTITY OVER QUALITY

It’s unrealistic to expect heavily outnumbered U.S. planes to consistently take down large numbers of enemy fighters at long ranges. The large technology lead the United States once held over other major air powers has nearly evaporated, and regaining our post-WWII lead is well-nigh impossible.

Moreover, other air powers have studied and adopted U.S pilot-training methods, and that gap, once large, has narrowed as well. In 2004, for instance, U.S. F-15 pilots were unpleasantly surprised to find themselves on the wrong side of a 9-to-1 loss ratio in exercises with Indian Air Force pilots flying Russian-designed planes, including small but formidable MiG-21s. We should plan on Chinese and Russian pilots being equally competent.

There are other major problems with large BVR fighters. One such problem is that the cost per hour to fly them is now so great that some of our pilots are only getting about ten hours per month of actual flight time — not nearly enough to maintain superior skills. Further, these fighters’ huge maintenance requirements mean they spend less time in the air than other aircraft.

The F-22 and F-15 can fly far fewer sorties per day than smaller, more reliable fighters such as the F-16. In other words: Large, higher priced, maintenance-intensive BVR-focused planes will often end up delivering less sustained combat power.

F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base
F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base

STEALTH: ANOTHER PRICEY, UNPROVEN INVESTMENT

BVR’s kissing cousin, stealth, is also not the silver bullet it was portrayed to be 20-plus years ago, when development began on the Joint Strike Fighter (the F-35). In fact, counter-stealth technology is advancing and proliferating much more quickly than stealth technology. Recognizing this, the U.S. Navy is wisely hedging its bets by not being too reliant on stealth.

Earlier this year, chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert noted the inevitable limits of stealth: “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules, and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable.”

With the rapid proliferation of integrated air defenses capable of seeing and targeting stealthy airplanes, the decades-old vision of flying into the teeth of the integrated air defenses of our top competitors and attacking them with impunity is a fast-fading fantasy. A modest premium for cost-effective stealth probably makes sense, but a huge premium for maintenance-intensive stealth doesn’t.

Mathematical battle models, such as the Lanchester-square model, show numerical superiority rapidly swamps quality, meaning larger forces of less-capable planes can sweep opposing forces from the sky while suffering surprisingly small losses. And there’s certainly a good chance we’ll be facing more-numerous forces: Scenarios for defending Taiwan, for instance, have our pilots going up against Chinese pilots that could outnumber us by three to ten times.

The RAND Corporation has done an instructive analysis: Even assuming we have unhittable planes with perfectly accurate missiles and opponents lining up to be shot down like sitting ducks, our forces cede airspace control over Taiwan to China while taking crippling losses in terms of support aircraft. More realistic assumptions have us losing many of our F-22s as well.

Being on the wrong side of projections for these kind of scenarios is a bad place to be for our pilots. Getting to the right side of the equation will not be achieved by the fielding small numbers of $200-million-plus fighters whose core capabilities are inferior to most advanced fighters.

The Air Force wants to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt
The Air Force wants to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt

FANCIER TECH DOESN’T ALWAYS WIN

Advanced technology will always play a critical role in ensuring the success of our fighter aircraft, but we should also remember that quantity, tactics, and training can overcome technology. Ultimately, trying to maintain air-power dominance built on bleeding-edge technology that busts the budget, takes forever to develop, and delivers severely diminishing returns is a losing strategy in a world where technology rapidly diffuses.

Better reliability, while not sexy, facilitates more sorties, puts more planes in the air, and enables better pilot training. In a world where firing up powerful active sensors makes you a target, it might make sense to field smaller fighters that rely more on networked, passive sensors. Traditional fighter performance metrics such as instantaneous turn rate, sustained turn rate, and thrust-to-weight ratio still matter.

Our air-superiority fighters need to deliver unparalleled performance in the air, and they’re not. The USAF even acknowledges that the backbone of our future fighter corps, the F-35, isn’t designed to be an air-superiority fighter. Yet, along with air-superiority missions, the Air Force is counting on this strike fighter to perform close air-support missions that the inexpensive A-10 already does so much better.

These compromises aren’t necessary. For the cost of one F-35, we can buy several air-superiority and close–air-support planes that will deliver far more bang for the buck. Sadly, contractors and top military brass gravitate to the fanciest, most expensive fighters possible with little regard for affordability and maintainability. It’s time to bring back the procurement discipline necessary to buy fighters with the right mix of capabilities and cost.

That kind of strategy will allow us to field them in the numbers needed to maintain the air dominance our armed forces have been able to count on for the past 60 years.


Mike Fredenburg is a past contributor to National Review, the California Political Review, and the San Diego Union Tribune, and was the founding president of the Adam Smith Institute of San Diego, a conservative think tank and PAC.


Fox News interview with Gen. Welsh, USAF Chief-of-Staff by Shepard Smith:

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Saudi King Spurns Summit, US Before US Human Rights Body

Editor’s Note – The ‘chickens are coming home to roost’ because of the collective failures of the Obama/Clinton/Kerry foreign policy failures. Putin is flexing Russia’s muscles and he is now cozy with China, and the entire Middle East is in complete disarray.

Perhaps an example of how bad it is, now the Obama Administration is laying prostrate before the U.N. Human Rights Council, and the new Saudi king has spurned Obama’s invitation to attend the big Camp David Summit with Arab Leaders and a one-on-one with Obama himself:

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, escort President Barack Obama to his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat Khuraim, Saudi Arabia, Friday, March 28, 2014. Rawdat Khuraim is a green oasis located 62 miles northwest of the capital city of Riyadh and King Abdullah's private desert encampment is located within Rawdat Khuraim. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, escort President Barack Obama to his meeting with Saudi King Abdullah at Rawdat Khuraim, Saudi Arabia. The meeting did not happen.

In a statement, al-Jubeir said the summit Thursday coincides with a humanitarian cease-fire in the conflict in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Shiite rebels known as Houthis. He said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is also interior minister, would lead the Saudi delegation and the king’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is defense minister, will also attend.

President Barack Obama had planned to meet Salman one-on-one a day before the gathering of leaders at the presidential retreat but the White House did not take his decision to skip the summit as a sign of any substantial disagreement with the U.S.

The king, who took power in January after his brother King Abdullah died, has not traveled abroad since his ascension to the throne.

At the summit, leaders of Gulf nations will be looking for assurance that Obama has their support when the region feels under siege from Islamic extremists and Syria, Iraq and Yemen are in various states of chaos. Arab allies also feel threatened by Iran’s rising influence and worry the nuclear pact taking shape with the U.S., Iran and other nations may embolden Tehran to intrude more aggressively in countries of the region. (From the AP in Riyadh.)

The excuse sounds valid, but the King could be much more productive for his country and the Yemen/Iran issues by attending the summit – so the excuse to us is basically a snub; an insult! This is not the first time King Salman spurned Obama. Back in March when Obama was in Saudi Arabia, a meeting was supposed to be held on the 28th; it never happened.

The bigger insult, among many others, is having to explain our ‘policing’ issues here in the USA to the U.N. human rights body. When we see who sits in that body, the insult grows ever larger. Recently a statement about how best to hide your human rights abuses is to sit on that body. Hide in plain sight.

This is also the second time the US has been reviewed since 2010 – during the tenure of the man who had the best position in US history to advance race relations in this country. Instead, it is now ‘open season’ on our police, Guantanamo is still open, and Obama still bows everywhere. Embarrassing!

US Defends Record Before Top UN Human Rights Body

BY GEIR MOULSON – ASSOCIATED PRESS, Berlin, Germany

The United States heard widespread concern Monday over excessive use of force by law-enforcement officials against minorities as it faced the U.N.’s main human rights body for a review of its record.

Washington also faced calls to work toward abolishing the death penalty, push ahead with closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and ensure effective safeguards against abuses of Internet surveillance. Its appearance before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva is the second review of the U.S. rights record, following the first in 2010.

AP Photo/Alexander ZemlianichenkoRussian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Chinese President Xi Jinping watching the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe.
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko – Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, and Chinese President Xi Jinping watching the Victory Parade marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in Europe.

A string of countries ranging from Malaysia to Mexico pressed the U.S. to redouble efforts to prevent police using excessive force against minorities.

“We must rededicate ourselves to ensuring that our civil-rights laws live up to their promise,” Justice Department official James Cadogan told delegates, adding that that is particularly important in the area of police practices and pointing to recent high-profile cases of officers killing unarmed black residents.

“These events challenge us to do better and to work harder for progress through both dialogue and action,” he said at the session’s opening. He added that the government has the authority to prosecute officials who “wilfully use excessive force,” and that criminal charges have been brought against more than 400 law-enforcement officials in the past six years.

Several countries, including Brazil and Kenya, voiced concern over the extent of U.S. surveillance in the light of reports about the National Security Agency’s activities.

David Bitkower, a deputy assistant attorney general, responded that “U.S. intelligence collection programs and activities are subject to stringent and multilayered oversight mechanisms.” He added that the country doesn’t collect intelligence to suppress dissent or to give U.S. businesses a competitive advantage, and that there is “extensive and effective oversight to prevent abuse.”

Faced with widespread calls for a moratorium on executions and a move to scrap the death penalty, Bitkower noted that it is an issue of “extensive debate and controversy” within the U.S. He pointed to “heightened procedural safeguards” for defendants prosecuted for capital offenses.

Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, the legal counsel to the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, told the council that President Barack Obama has said closing Guantanamo – in which he has been thwarted by Congress – is “a national imperative.” The remaining detainees are detained lawfully, he said.

The so-called Universal Periodic Reviews of U.N. member nations’ human rights records started in 2008. Each country’s record is reviewed roughly every four years.

Greek Tragedies, Bursting Bubbles, China and the AIIF

Editor’s Note – Is another Greek Tragedy about to rock the European Union? Has the United States lost its ‘Superpower’ status in the universe of global economics? Is there another bubble about to burst in the U.S. stock Market?

If you say yes to all three, we have much more than a Greek Tragedy; we could have a melt-down of epic proportions say several leading economic voices. In Greece, they have a hefty payment due Thursday to the International Monetary Fund that may cause another political crisis in their government:

The worsening Greek debt crisis has reanimated talk within the ruling Syriza party of a snap general election if discussions with creditors fail, as the country faces a Thursday deadline to repay a €450m (£330m) loan to the International Monetary Fund.

The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, during a parliamentary session in Athens on Thursday. He was scheduled to meet the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, in Washington DC on Sunday. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, during a parliamentary session in Athens on Thursday. He was scheduled to meet the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, in Washington DC on Sunday. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

The Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, held informal talks with the IMF’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, in Washington DC on Sunday, and Lagarde said he confirmed that the repayment would be made on Thursday.

Meanwhile, warnings of early elections underscored the political unrest in Athens. (Read more here at the Guardian.)

Their decisions and negotiations could ripple across the globe just as a bubble is about to burst here and some are calling it inevitable.

In addition, Larry Summers, the person once considered to take the job now held by Janet Yellin is telling us that he believes the U.S. has been surpassed by the likes of China already.

In his recent article entitled: “Time US Leadership Woke Up To New Economic Era,” he explains why he thinks the left and the right, and collectively all in Washington have really isolated the U.S. from global economic system and the ability to sway policy:

This past month may be remembered as the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system. True, there have been any number of periods of frustration for the US before, and times when American behaviour was hardly multilateralist, such as the 1971 Nixon shock, ending the convertibility of the dollar into gold.

Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton and former President of Harvard is now the President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University
Larry Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury under Bill Clinton and former President of Harvard is now the President Emeritus and Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard University

But I can think of no event since Bretton Woods comparable to the combination of China’s effort to establish a major new institution and the failure of the US to persuade dozens of its traditional allies, starting with Britain, to stay out of it.

This failure of strategy and tactics was a long time coming, and it should lead to a comprehensive review of the US approach to global economics.

With China’s economic size rivalling America’s and emerging markets accounting for at least half of world output, the global economic architecture needs substantial adjustment.

Political pressures from all sides in the US have rendered it increasingly dysfunctional.

Largely because of resistance from the right, the US stands alone in the world in failing to approve the International Monetary Fund governance reforms that Washington itself pushed for in 2009. By supplementing IMF resources, this change would have bolstered confidence in the global economy. More important, it would come closer to giving countries such as China and India a share of IMF votes commensurate with their new economic heft.

Meanwhile, pressures from the left have led to pervasive restrictions on infrastructure projects financed through existing development banks, which consequently have receded as funders, even as many developing countries now see infrastructure finance as their principle external funding need. (Read more here at Zero Hedge.)

Now read this take on that darn bubble:

Disaster Is Inevitable When The Two Decade-Old Stock Bubble Bursts

By Jesse Colombo – Forbes

Six years after the Global Financial Crisis, the U.S. stock market continues to soar to new heights with nary a pullback or correction. In this piece, I will explain why the stock market is experiencing a new bubble that is actually another wave of the bubble that has existed since the mid-1990s.

A two-decade old bubble? Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Most people will consider this assertion preposterous, but the facts don’t lie. Though the U.S. stock market has been experiencing a bubble for two decades, it will not last forever. I believe that the ultimate popping of this bubble will have terrifying consequences for both investors and the global economy that is tied so closely to the stock market.

The SP500 stock index has more than tripled since its low in 2009, but that doesn’t mean that we are out of the woods. On the contrary, this is the calm before the storm.

BubbleCoveryChart1

Source: St. Louis Fed

Since the mid-1990s, the U.S. economy and stock market has experienced three different bubbles: the 1990s Dot-com bubble, the mid-2000s housing bubble, and now another bubble that includes stocks, bonds, tech startups, certain segments of the housing market, higher education, and much more. I believe that this new bubble is creating what I call a “Bubblecovery” or a bubble-driven temporary economic recovery that will end in another crisis.

The U.S. Federal Reserve also created a Bubblecovery in the early-2000s to recover from the Dot-com bust, which led to the housing bubble. After the housing bubble burst, the Fed inflated the post-2009 Bubblecovery. After each bubble/Bubblecovery ends, the Fed simply inflates another bubble to recover from the last one. In essence, the U.S. economy and stock market has been in a bubble cycle for the past two decades. Each time, the bubble gets larger, and the Fed has to keep re-inflating it to avoid the economic Depression that would occur if asset prices were allowed to find their true value.

The incessant push to inflate our economy and financial markets has created an unprecedented situation in which stocks have been trading at overvalued levels for a record length of time. Nearly every stock market valuation indicator is giving the same reading: stocks are currently at levels that preceded other major historic busts.

For example, look at the Cyclically Adjusted P/E Ratio (CAPE), or the price-to-earnings ratio based on average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years. The 1929 Stock Market Crash and 1970s stagnation occurred after the CAPE rose over 20 – a level that indicates stock market overvaluation. Incredibly, the CAPE has remained over 20 for much of the past two decades, aside from a few short months during the Global Financial Crisis. Without constant Fed intervention, there is no doubt that the U.S. stock market would have corrected violently like it has in the past.

BubbleCoveryChart2

 

Source: VectorGrader.com

Venezuela Flexes Military Muscle in Response to Obama EO

Editor’s Note – As we approach the deadline in the P5+1 talks with Iran, we see their global connections and influence grow. Regardless of the now infamous letter to the Iranians from the Republican Senators, Iran has no intention slowing any of its intentions and goals down.

For years they have been in concert with Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and Cuba, to name just two of many, and as Venezuela turns even further into the Iranian and Cuban sphere of influence, they become increasingly more dangerous to the United States.

Just recently tensions have boile and a former General in the Chavez regime is trumpeting the danger:

Antonio Rivero, a retired army general who was close to President Hugo Chavez and has denounced the Cuban military presence in strategic areas of the Armed Forces. (Miguel Gutierrez/AFP/Getty Images) (2010 AFP)
Antonio Rivero, a retired army general who was close to President Hugo Chavez and has denounced the Cuban military presence in strategic areas of the Armed Forces. (Miguel Gutierrez/AFP/Getty Images) (2010 AFP)

The Venezuelan government’s close ties to Cuba and Iran pose a real threat to its sovereignty, and to the security of the hemisphere, retired Brig. Gen. Antonio Rivero, a former insider in the government of Hugo Chávez, told Fox News Latino during a visit to Washington, D.C., this week.

Rivero held high-profile positions under Chávez – from 2003 to 2008, he was the director of the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief agency – until he refused to chant “Socialism, Fatherland or Death,” a pledge emblematic of the Cuban Revolution that was imposed unexpectedly as part of the official military salute. (Exclusive from Fox News Latino, read more here.)

Obama had first imposed sanctions last December when Congress approved the measure on Venezuela accusing Maduro officials of violating protesters rights and was quickly rebuffed by Maduro:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused Obama of hypocrisy for enabling the sanctions a day after announcing an effort to normalize relations with Communist-run Cuba, which has been under U.S. trade sanctions for decades.

Then, last Monday, he signed an Executive Order increasing those sanctions by identifying seven individuals in Madura’s government and declaring Venezuela to be a national security threat to the United States:

“Venezuelan officials past and present who violate the human rights of Venezuelan citizens and engage in acts of public corruption will not be welcome here, and we now have the tools to block their assets and their use of U.S. financial systems,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez told reporters that Caracas would respond to the U.S. move soon. Mr. Maduro said last week that he wouldn’t “accept” U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. is Venezuela’s top trading partner, and last year Venezuela was the fourth-largest supplier of crude to the U.S. at an average of 733,000 barrels per day — despite a decade long effort by Caracas to reduce its dependence on the U.S. by exporting more oil to China and India. (Read more here at the Washington Times.)

Antonio Rivero also told Fox News Latino that he knew the people named in Obama’s order and that he believes they were not initially “Chavistas”:

He explained that none of the military officers sanctioned by the U.S. had ideological ties to the chavista movement before assuming public offices in the government.

“Many of these officers were initially good professionals, who became victims of the system,” Rivero said, “but were not really part of the hard line of military command. They simply followed orders, betrayed their principals, kissed up to their superiors, and got promoted.”

This raises many puzzling questions, not the least of which is one of Maduro’s accusations that on one hand Obama cozies up to Cuba at a time it chastises one of our biggest trading partners in this hemisphere, especially in oil.

We at SUA certainly are not admirers of Maduro and his socialist ways, nor his close relationship and almost puppet-like obedience to Cuba and Iran, but it appears that Obama’s foreign policies seem to puzzle everyone. However, we do agree that Venezuela is a growing menace.

In response to Obama’s Executive Order, Venezuelan President Madura is flexing his military muscle supplied by the likes of Iran, Russia, and China. The bloc against the USA just grew tighter.

The region is also responding negatively to Obama:

La Paz is striking back at Washington in defense of Caracas, after Bolivian President Evo Morales earlier this week signaled his support for Maduro. In a Thursday document the Foreign Ministry expressed its“regret” at Obama’s stance, saying “Bolivia rejects these interventionist actions of the US government to violate the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people. These undemocratic actions of President Barack Obama threaten the peace and security of all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. (Read more here.)

You be the judge:

Venezuela holds massive military maneuvers amid new US sanctions

From Yahoo News/AFP

Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela begins a week and a half of military exercises on Saturday, amid rising tensions with the United States over sanctions imposed on officials accused of an opposition crackdown.

About 80,000 troops were due to take part in the massive display of weaponry, as Caracas shows off its Chinese amphibian weapons, Russian-built missiles and other military hardware.

A Russian-made S-125 Neva/Pechora (SA-3 GOA) surface-to-air missile vehicle carrier remains idle in a military base in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 14, 2015 (AFP Photo/Juan Barreto)
A Russian-made S-125 Neva/Pechora (SA-3 GOA) surface-to-air missile vehicle carrier remains idle in a military base in Caracas, Venezuela, on March 14, 2015 (AFP Photo/Juan Barreto)

The exercises will last 10 days and will enlist the participation of 20,000 civilians, in addition to the troops, officials said.

The manuevers come at a time of heightened tensions with the United States, which has clashed repeatedly with the leftist-led South American country over the years.

Relations hit a new low on Monday, when US President Barack Obama slapped new sanctions on the regime, calling the oil-rich Venezuela “an extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States.

After Obama made the move, which targeted senior Venezuelan officials for cracking down on the opposition, Caracas angrily recalled its envoy to Washington and ramped up its military preparedness.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia's President Evo Morales (Reuters)
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro and Bolivia’s President Evo Morales (Reuters)

The country’s defense minister, General Vladimir Padrino Lopez, said Saturday that the maneuvers, many of which were to be held in the south of Caracas, were meant to prepare soldiers for “their mission, their goal, and with the will to be victorious.”

Other maneuvers will focus on Venezuela’s oil-producing areas, including the Caribbean coast and an oil field some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the west of Caracas.

Military officials said they will also test the nation’s air defenses and will ensure that its anti-aircraft systems are ready to be deployed if needed.

President Nicolas Maduro has accused Washington of backing an alleged opposition plot to overthrow him. He is seeking extraordinary powers from the legislature that would allow him to rule by decree.

Maduro’s popularity has sunk in the past year amid an economic crisis, galloping inflation and huge lines outside supermarkets plagued by drastic food shortages.

Elected to succeed his late mentor Hugo Chavez in April 2013, Maduro had obtained one-year-long powers to impose economic laws by decree later that same year.

Communist Cuba rallied behind Maduro this week, pledging “unconditional support” to Caracas. Another ally, Ecuador’s leftist President Rafael Correa, denounced the US sanctions as “grotesque” and a “sick joke.”