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Messages - dr demented

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Thread Indices / Re: Where in the world are the WHECs?
« on: July 17, 2020, 10:19:18 AM »

USCGC Midgett went into "in commission - special status" as of March 31, 2020.  (source:

USCGC Mellon will decommission on August 20, 2020 according to various FB group pages for the ship's alumni.  The decommissioning ceremony will be closed, though the coast guard is reportedly looking into live streaming the ceremony.

Both ships will reportedly be turned over to Vietnam.


U.S. Position on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea

Press Statement

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

July 13, 2020

The United States champions a free and open Indo-Pacific. Today we are strengthening U.S. policy in a vital, contentious part of that region — the South China Sea. We are making clear: Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them.

In the South China Sea, we seek to preserve peace and stability, uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes. We share these deep and abiding interests with our many allies and partners who have long endorsed a rules-based international order.

These shared interests have come under unprecedented threat from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Beijing uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with “might makes right.” Beijing’s approach has been clear for years. In 2010, then-PRC Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told his ASEAN counterparts that “China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact.” The PRC’s predatory world view has no place in the 21st century.

The PRC has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since formally announcing it in 2009. In a unanimous decision on July 12, 2016, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention – to which the PRC is a state party – rejected the PRC’s maritime claims as having no basis in international law. The Tribunal sided squarely with the Philippines, which brought the arbitration case, on almost all claims.

As the United States has previously stated, and as specifically provided in the Convention, the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision is final and legally binding on both parties. Today we are aligning the U.S. position on the PRC’s maritime claims in the SCS with the Tribunal’s decision. Specifically:

    The PRC cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf. Beijing’s harassment of Philippine fisheries and offshore energy development within those areas is unlawful, as are any unilateral PRC actions to exploit those resources. In line with the Tribunal’s legally binding decision, the PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to Mischief Reef or Second Thomas Shoal, both of which fall fully under the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction, nor does Beijing have any territorial or maritime claims generated from these features.

    As Beijing has failed to put forth a lawful, coherent maritime claim in the South China Sea, the United States rejects any PRC claim to waters beyond a 12-nautical mile territorial sea derived from islands it claims in the Spratly Islands (without prejudice to other states’ sovereignty claims over such islands). As such, the United States rejects any PRC maritime claim in the waters surrounding Vanguard Bank (off Vietnam), Luconia Shoals (off Malaysia), waters in Brunei’s EEZ, and Natuna Besar (off Indonesia). Any PRC action to harass other states’ fishing or hydrocarbon development in these waters – or to carry out such activities unilaterally – is unlawful.

    The PRC has no lawful territorial or maritime claim to (or derived from) James Shoal, an entirely submerged feature only 50 nautical miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China’s coast. James Shoal is often cited in PRC propaganda as the “southernmost territory of China.” International law is clear: An underwater feature like James Shoal cannot be claimed by any state and is incapable of generating maritime zones. James Shoal (roughly 20 meters below the surface) is not and never was PRC territory, nor can Beijing assert any lawful maritime rights from it.

The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose “might makes right” in the South China Sea or the wider region.


Populism Blindsided: America, Duterte, and the Philippine Military

Despite his best efforts, the Philippines’ president hasn’t been able to cut ties between the U.S. and the Philippine defense establishment.
By Mesrob Vartavarian
June 11, 2020

After four years in office, President Rodrigo Duterte has been unable to sever ties between the United States and the Philippine defense establishment. These linkages persist against Duterte’s wishes despite his thorough consolidation of power via political patronage and populist demagogy.

Duterte’s February 11 note to abolish the Philippines-United States Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) by August 2020 could have triggered seismic changes in the Asia-Pacific’s geostrategic landscape. The VFA, which took effect in 1999, is the keystone of U.S.-Philippine defense cooperation in the post-Cold War era. Its termination would endanger the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and 2014’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which promotes maritime security in the South China Sea and interoperability between U.S. and Philippine military forces. Most importantly, the EDCA allows American troops, warships, and planes temporary access to a series of Philippine military installations from which they can coordinate appropriate responses to Chinese infringements on Philippine maritime sovereignty. Duterte hoped to engage China in a quid pro quo, whereby his expulsion of the American military would result in substantial Chinese economic investments, particularly across his political base on the island of Mindanao.

It appears Duterte’s intention to nix the VFA was an impulsive decision made without close consultation with senior officials, and there was opposition to the move. Having received senatorial ascension in 1999, certain establishment figures contended the VFA could not be discarded without wider debate. More serious problems arose as the growing COVID-19 pandemic manifested itself across the Philippine archipelago. Stringent quarantine regulations resulted in severe economic contraction and cast doubt on future investments. Chinese investors are hardly eager to accelerate business venutres in a country having difficultly containing contagion. To do so would only precipitate further COVID outbreaks back home. Plus, Beijing’s constriction of strategic sea lanes without appropriate compensation during an economic downturn served Manila no purpose. As a result, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced on June 1 that Duterte had ordered the suspension of the VFA’s termination due to recent political and economic developments. Yet there is more to this reversal than commercial considerations.

Leaving aside their formal acceptance of Duterte’s initial decision, the principal opposition to the VFA’s termination has come from the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is loyal to Duterte on most fronts, including his controversial war on drugs. However, the AFP insists on maintaining its special relationship with Washington, regardless of their commander-in-chief’s open hostility to American military involvement in the archipelago. Current pressures to turn away from old alliances have thus far been deflected.

This present reality has emerged from a complex past. The modern Philippine military was originally established as an American colonial institution geared toward pacifying insurgent bands resisting the imposition of foreign domination. From 1901 onward internal pacification increasingly became the duty of an insular constabulary under civilian jurisdiction. Regular soldiers, by contrast, turned their guns outward to guard national sovereignty. After Cold War tensions spread to Asia in 1950, the United States assumed the Philippines’ external defense burden and merged the constabulary with the regular army to conduct a protracted counterinsurgency campaign against armed agrarian bands striving for structural socioeconomic reform. A heretofore largely professional army experienced creeping politicization as it became involved in internal policing, local elections, and civic action programs. AFP politicization underwent an exponential increase during Ferdinand Marcos’s two decades in power. Upon proclaiming martial law in 1972, Marcos relied on the military as his regime’s principle enforcement agency.

Simultaneously, American policymakers became ever more committed to maintaining control over sprawling air and naval installations at Clark Field and Subic Bay. These bases provided crucial logistical, refurbishment, and repair services during the Vietnam War. Washington’s interest in Clark and Subic only deepened after the fall of Saigon as planners formulated a Pacific rim strategy deploying naval and air forces to contain expanding Soviet influence in a united communist Vietnam. In the Philippines, nationalist critics, heavily concentrated in elite intellectual circles, viewed the bases as a manifestation of American neo-colonial control. As fixed territorial installations utilized to serve the strategic interests of a foreign power, Clark and Subic did indeed infringe on Philippine sovereignty.

American attachment to the bases came to override all other concerns. As Marcos began to lose control of the country to communist insurgents in the 1980s, American officials cast about for ways to retain their strategic foothold without a dictatorial regime. By that point, forces calling for democratic change were too strong to be denied. Beneath the dramatic events that led to the 1986 People Power revolution, however, quieter steps were taken to guarantee established Philippine-American military linkages. The Pentagon and State Department lent extensive support to an AFP faction led by General Fidel Ramos. This faction aligned with President Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) to beat back a series of attempted coups led by more radical officers throughout the 1980s. Direct military rule through a national junta did not serve its interests. The Ramos group exercised AFP prerogatives indirectly through an extensive network that drew support from associates in Washington, Manila, and various Philippine provinces. As AFP chief of staff (1986-1988), secretary of national defense (1988-1991), and president (1992-1998), Ramos established greater coherence over the military and lessened its proclivities for extraconstitutional change. A combination of nationalist sentiment and declining U.S. interest led to the closure of American bases in the Philippines by 1992, but Ramos was instrumental in initiating the negotiations that led to 1999’s VFA. Continual training, joint exercises, and weapons transfers institutionalized AFP-U.S. efforts to maintain interoperability. Efforts at interoperability were further consolidated during the Arroyo (2001-2010) and Aquino III (2010-2016) administrations.

Duterte has been blindsided by these realities. During his first year in office, Duterte directed most of his energies toward prosecuting, and building popular support for, a securitized drug war. His neglect of campaign promises to devolve greater autonomy to Muslim areas of the southern Philippines contributed to the 2017 siege of Marawi city. AFP commanders requested U.S. assistance without informing the president of their intention to do so beforehand. Navy SEAL operators soon deployed to provide advice and technical assistance. Most recently, Duterte’s efforts to build popular support by scrapping the VFA and attacking establishment oligarchs diverted attention away from dealing with COVID-19. He has had to back down yet again.

U.S.-AFP linkages are firm, yet they require careful management. Massive and indefinite deployment of American military forces to the Philippines is not a sustainable proposition given understandable nationalist sentiments. Greater emphasis must be placed on temporary rotational deployments that can be backed up by greater intervention should the need arise. In addition, the cultivation of human relationships and personal connections between Philippine commanders and their American counterparts are essential. Although the Philippines does not possess the financial wherewithal to purchase advanced American weaponry, the U.S. defense establishment surely possesses the means to train more Filipino officers. This must not be construed as a neo-colonial relationship wherein Philippine forces are viewed as an appendage to American power. Such interactions should be presented as an outside power modernizing and supplementing the defensive capabilities of a medium-sized state eager to preserve its territorial integrity. Beneath the volatile pronouncements that typify electoral political systems, policy-level initiatives on both sides must remain consistent and predictable.

Mesrob Vartavarian holds a B.A. and M.A. in history from UCLA and a Ph.D. in history from Cambridge. He has published numerous articles in academic journals and is a regular contributor to Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia (FORSEA). Vartavarian is currently a visiting fellow at Cornell University’s Southeast Asia Program.

(Note:  modified version of a comment I posted in the FB honeypot -- reposted here for discussion purposes.)

The Jose Rizal Class Frigates and the Data Link Controversy:  To Accept or Not To Accept

As pointed out in recent articles, the newly built BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) is schedule to depart Ulsan, South Korea bound for Subic Bay, and is scheduled to arrive on May 23, 2020.

The project has been surrounded by controversy, much of it centered on whether the ship's data link system is what was agreed upon when the contract was signed with Hyundai Heavy Industries.  Many in the Philippine defense community have charged that the data link system which has been installed on the ships are substandard and is in violation of the terms of the contract.  Some have called for the ships not to be accepted.

While these issues are serious and must be dealt with, the practical realities of the defense of the nation, including defense against Chinese incursions and sovereignty violations in the West Philippine Sea, are the major factor which will determine the disposition of these ships.  Like it or not, the brutal truth is that the Philippine Navy is desperate for hulls, and that more than anything dictates that the two frigates of the Jose Rizal class would have to be accepted.

As I've pointed out in previous posts, with two of the three GDPs on the shelf, the only long range, extended duration patrol assets left between the PN and the PCG are the BRP Andres Bonifacio, BRP Conrado Yap, and the PCGs BRP Gabriela Silang. Beyond that are the handful of remaining WW2 assets, but those are likely to be retired in short order. Everything else in the inventory of the PN and PCG have the necessary range, but can't stay out to sea for very long. Go out, then come back after a few days.......not very conducive to maintaining presence not just in the WPS (which is a very vast area all by itself), but also other hotspots like the Sulu Sea, Bashi Channel, Benham Rise, etc........

I hate to say this, but it is what it is. Whatever you feel about them, two additional hulls is still two additional hulls. If those ships are accepted, then it is doesn't end there. If there is an issue with the data link, then the PN needs to continue to work to fix that issue even after those ships have been accepted and enter service.

But as I've said before.........when this whole thing started, I kept my expectations low........very low. Specifications before hiring a consultant that's supposed to develop the specifications, small budget for two frigates but we wanted all the bells and whistles, FFBNW........a whole lot of contradictions which cause you to want to impossibilities to happen at the same time. And it's taken them since 2012-2013 to get to this point?

Just hope that they learn from their mistakes after this. It shouldn't take 7 or 8 years to get this done, with a fair amount of the process being a clusterf@#k of epic proportions.

Some of you feel that we should flat out junk this project, not accept these frigates, and move on to the corvette project. But it isn't as simple as that. It sends a bad signal to other shipyards who might jump in. Both the Philippine government and HHI would end up eating the massive losses for the JRCF project. This would particularly hurt HHI, which has been on life-support the past few years due to the worldwide shipbuilding downturn (more so now with a general worldwide economic downturn on top of that). Other shipyards would worry that they may similarly be put in that position, given that we do have a track record of being flaky (just ask the Italians). What we don't want is the perception that we are "not worth the risk". We have improved our reputation and are beginning to be seen as a potential good customer. It was certainly enough for Austal, which wanted nothing to do with the JRCF project, to now jump in to offer to build 6 OPVs in Cebu. They're not going to do that if we are seen as risk exposure.

But it still comes back to needing hulls in the water, which we seem to have a very difficult time dealing with. Ask yourself this: if this deal was jacked up, do you trust the same clowns that jacked up this deal to come up with a better deal and not take 7 or 8 years to get it right? And are you willing to go without those 2 extra hulls in the meantime?

Sometimes if you screw up, it's just better to be forced to live with your mistakes for all to see. Maybe we learn our lessons as a result.

First posts / Re: Thought exercise: OFW repatriation from "Skrewedupistan"
« on: February 07, 2020, 08:48:45 AM »
Let's see........departed the Philippines on January 15, arrived in Oman on February 6.  22 days.  Pretty close to our prediction of 3 weeks.  And that included 3 days refueling in Sri Lanka.

PH naval contingent for Mideast evacuation now in Oman

By Priam Nepomuceno February 6, 2020, 10:56 am

MANILA -- The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday said the strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) and offshore patrol ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS-16), which are tasked to evacuate Filipino overseas workers in the Middle East, finally arrived and docked off Muscat, Oman Wednesday afternoon.

Lt. Commander Maria Christina Roxas, PN public affairs office chief, said the two ships carrying the contingent of Naval Task Force (NTF) 82 safely arrived at the Sultan Qaboos Port in Muscat.

Mission head Marine Col. Noel Beleran, along with the commanding officers of the two PN ships, immediately made a courtesy call on Philippine Ambassador to Oman Narciso Castañeda.

Roxas said the two ships will serve as a sea-based platform for the government to process and facilitate the repatriation of displaced OFWs.

"Specifics and other details about the repatriation are expected to be finalized after the scheduled joint AFP-PNP command conference to be presided by the Commander-In-Chief, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Malacañang on which NTF 82 will take part via video teleconferencing together with Ambassador Castañeda," she said.

Beleran said the PN contingent is "all safe and sound" upon arriving in Oman.

The contingent left Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last January 13 and made refueling and reprovisioning stop in Sri Lanka last week before heading for Oman.

"The troops are very happy and in high spirits, since this event serves as another milestone for our Navy that we can already transcend across the deep waters of the Indian Ocean or the Arabian Sea," he added.

Beleran said the sailors and marines "are ready to assist and support the government's effort in repatriating our unsung heroes, the OFWs in this Middle East conflict".

Roxas added that the safe arrival of the PN contingent in Oman signified the tangible means of the government's effort to ensure that OFWs will be safely repatriated to the Philippines, aside from showcasing the preparedness of Filipino navy ships in overseas deployment. (PNA)

Another concept which dates from the defense of the Philippines during WW2 is the use of minefields.  During the invasion of 1941-1942, these were employed in the defense of Manila and Subic Bays.  Contact mines were planted off Fort Wint (Grande Island) at the entrance of Subic Bay.  They were also planted by the US Navy between Corregidor and Fort Frank (Carabao Island) and between the navy base at Mariveles and La Monja Island.

The army planted controlled mines between Corregidor and Bataan.  Rather than exploding on contact, the mines were set off electrically from a mine casemate on the northside of Corregidor.

The problem with such a concept for Sibutu Channel is that the channel is too wide at 40km to completely close with mines.  However, mines can be strategically placed in order to "funnel" the movements of enemy warships into certain areas.  This would force enemy warships to have to move into areas where they would be exposed to maximum fire from shore-based positions, or even fire from our warships deployed in a classic "crossing the T" formation.

The concept of defending/closing strategic waterways and channels within Philippine internal waters is not an entirely new one.

In the early 1940s, the USAFFE developed the "Inland Seas Defense Project".  The whole idea was to emplace mobile artillery (a combination of 8 inch M1888 and 155mm GFP guns) to cover strategic channels which led into the interior waters of the Sibuyan and Visayan Seas.  The object was to secure those interior sea lines of communication in order to allow USAFFE forces in Luzon (where the expected decisive battles with the Japanese were expected to take place) to be reinforced by units from the Visayas and Mindanano.

The following locations were pre-surveyed by USAFFE engineers and determined to be the most strategic sites to cover key channels.  Panama mounts for the guns were to be constructed, along with observation stations, fire control stations, and barracks.

The following locations were selected:
1.  Cape Santiago, Batangas (to cover the Verde Island Passage across from Mindoro)
2.  Mananao, Mindoro (also covering the Verde Island Passage)
3.  Southern tip of Mindoro
4.  Seminara Island (between Mindoro and Panay)
5.  Caluya Island (also between Mindoro and Panay)
6.  Pucio Point, Panay
7.  Nampulugan Island (in the Guimaras Strait between Guimaras Island and Negros)
8.  Santander (on the southern tip of Cebu across the Tanon Strait from Dumaguete)
9.  Panglao Island (off the coast of Bohol)
10.  Maasin, Leyte (to cover the Canigao Channel between Leyte and Bohol)
11.  Allen, Samar (to cover the San Bernardino Strait between Leyte and Samar)
12.  Southern tip of Luzon (also to cover the San Bernardino Strait).

Note:  Sibutu Strait was not one of the passages covered by the Inland Seas Defense Project

General Discussion / Re: Keeping an eye on Panatag
« on: June 11, 2019, 08:48:58 PM »

South China Sea: Philippine Coast Guard Spots PLAN Warship Off Scarborough Shoal
The warship was accompanied by China Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels.

 By Ankit Panda
June 10, 2019

 A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy warship has been seen near  Scarborough Shoal, a disputed feature in the South China Sea claimed by  the Philippines and China.

According to Cmd. Armand Balilo, a spokesperson for the Philippine  Coast Guard, on Monday, a PLAN vessel was seen within 7 to 12 nautical  miles of Scarborough Shoal. Since a 2012 standoff between Beijing and  Manila, China has maintained a constant presence at the disputed shoal,  mainly in the form of maritime law enforcement vessels.

On Monday, Philippine Coast Guard personnel on board BRP Malabrigo spotted  the Chinese vessel, alongside two China Coast Guard vessels, and two  Chinese boats with the so-called maritime militia — irregular forces,  usually in the form of fishing vessels.

The latest sighting of a PLAN warship near Scarborough Shoal comes  after the intensification of China Coast Guard and maritime militia  activity near Pag-asa Island, the site of the Philippines’ largest  outpost in the South China Sea, in April and May.

President Rodrigo Duterte warned China to “lay off Pag-asa” in April,  warning that the island belonged to the Philippines. Duterte’s warning  came shortly after a visit to Manila by U.S. Secretary of State Mike  Pompeo in March. Pompeo clarified that the U.S.-Philippine Mutual  Defense Treaty would cover Philippine-administered features in the South  China Sea.

Scarborough Shoal is located in the South China Sea, 120 nautical  miles off the Philippines’ island of Luzon. In 2016, a Hague-based  arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration decided in  Manila’s favor regarding fishing rights at the shoal.

In 2013, the Philippines under the previous government of President Benigno Aquino III filed a case at the tribunal alleging that China had  pressed excessive maritime claims at Scarborough Shoal and in the Spratly Islands, where the two countries also have overlapping claims.

The tribunal decided that China had “through the operation of its  official vessels at Scarborough Shoal from May 2012 onwards, unlawfully  prevented Filipino fishermen from engaging in traditional fishing at  Scarborough Shoal.” The tribunal made no finding on the sovereignty of  the feature, however.
The Chinese government disregarded the tribunal’s award, which was  delivered in July 2016. Beijing did not formally participate in the  legal proceedings. Since July 2016, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines has not pressed the 2016 arbitral tribunal  award and instead pursued economic and diplomatic rapprochement with  Beijing.

China also calls Scarborough Shoal Huangyan Dao. The shoal is also  known by the Filipino names Panatag Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

Thread Indices / Re: Where in the world are the WHECs?
« on: April 25, 2019, 01:13:11 PM »
US Coast Guard recently solicited a contract for work on Midgett's joint expansion.

No indication that this is being done either on behalf of a foreign government or in preparation for decommissioning.

United States of America / Re: USCGC Midgett (WHEC-726)
« on: April 25, 2019, 10:46:22 AM »
Looks like Midgett is having some work done on her expansion joint.

No word on decommissioning, but between the solicitation for this work, the lack of a decommissioning announcement, and the lack of a line item in the FY 2019 budget for decommissioning any of the WHECs, it doesn't look like Midgett is going to be made available anytime soon.


Notice Type: Combine Solicitation

Posted Date: 19-MAR-19

Office Address: Department of Homeland Security; United States Coast Guard (USCG); USCG Surface Forces Logistics Center (SFLC); 2401 Hawkins Point RoadBuilding 31, Mail Stop 26 Baltimore MD 21226-5000


Classification Code: J - Maintenance, repair & rebuilding of equipment

Solicitation Number: 70Z085-19-Q-P45B0800

Contact: Pablo J. Rosa-Perez, SK2, Phone 5106375901, Email - Megan Carter, SK2, Phone 5106375968, Email

Setaside: Total Small BusinessTotal Small Business

Place of Performance (address): USCGC JOHN MIDGETT1519 ALASKAN WAY SOUTH SEATTLE, WA

Place of Performance (zipcode): 98134

Place of Performance Country: US

Description: Department of Homeland Security

United States Coast Guard (USCG)

USCG Surface Forces Logistics Center (SFLC)

This is a combined synopsis/solicitation for commercial items prepared in accordance with the format in FAR Subpart 12.6 as supplemented with additional information included in this notice. Request for Quotations number is 70Z085-19-Q-P45B0800 and is issued as a request for quotations (RFQ). This announcement constitutes the only solicitation; quotations are being requested and a written solicitation will not be issued. This Request for Quotations incorporates provisions and clauses in effect through Federal Acquisition Circular 2005-84 dated Nov 1, 2015. The NAICS Code is 336611. This is for Full and Open Competition. All responsible sources may submit proposals that will be considered by the agency. The contract will be awarded on a firm-fixed-price basis using simplified acquisition procedures in accordance with FAR Part 13.5.

** For purposes of evaluation and award, Past Performance is considered to be more important than Price.

The United States Coast Guard Surface Force Logistics Center has a requirement for the following:


DESCRIPTION: Contractor to perform expansion joint renewal as per the statement of work.

Requested Period of Performance: From 04/22/2019 to 04/26/2019 (POP cannot be extended)


1519 Alaskan Way South

Seattle, WA 98134


The following labor hour rate shall be used in pricing all contract changes in accordance with the ADDENDA clause (21) entitled "COMPOSITE LABOR HOUR RATE."


! $__________ ! per hour ! 40 Hours ! $________________ !

! ! ! ! !


It’s Time to Rethink Philippine Policies on China

By examining the underlying assumptions, it’s clear a rethink of Philippine China policies is needed.
By Rej Cortez Torrecampo
April 23, 2019

Reactions in social media depict a growing frustration among the general Filipino public regarding the political will of the current administration to secure the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty in relation to the South China Sea (referred to in the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea). With the fast approaching midterm elections in the Philippines, the Duterte administration’s low-key approach toward security concerns in the sea could be a major issue that the opposition could underscore in their campaign. Still, regardless of one’s political conviction or inclination, the country cannot simply escape the reality that its security is undermined by the lack of national consensus on how to deal with China.

In order to contribute to the current discussion on the Philippines’ foreign policy toward China and its national security imperative, the following policy assumptions need to be evaluated: first, the Philippines must seize the opportunities from an economically powerful China, and, second, without an actual threat of a military attack from China, the government should have nothing to worry about in dealing with Beijing. These assumptions are derived from closely examining the pronouncements and statements of key officials, who in one way or another, influence and drive the country’s foreign policy. Understanding these assumptions and identifying negations allows one to transcend discussions from the usual policy dichotomy of confrontation or engagement.

On the first assumption, there is little to debate on the economic weight and importance of China in international affairs and the opportunities low and medium-income economies can reap from China’s economic growth. As a developing state, the Philippines is obviously drawn to this idea. House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stated that China’s development model is something to consider and that it “has given us [the Philippines] the lesson that there is just not one path for development.” She also argued that with China’s participation in key government projects, Beijing should be regarded as a partner in development, not a threat. This sentiment is shared by many in the private sector. There are those who believe that the administration’s approach to improve relations with China is “a big push to its own Philippine Development Plan.” Further, despite the security risks raised by the United States against Huawei, leading telecommunication companies in the Philippines are steadfast to continue their partnership with Huawei. The Huawei’s 5G technology is considered ahead of the technology of its Western competitors, which is why Philippine telecom company, Globe, is seeking Huawei’s technology for their 5G services.

These considerations may strengthen the case that the Philippines should consider China more as an economic partner than a threat to national security. But while the Philippines could certainly gain from engaging with China, these opportunities and gains also have their drawbacks.

First, Chinese investments are strategic rather than benevolent, and thus, the primary objective is not to aid the Philippines in its development, but rather to improve China’s position in achieving its own objectives and protecting its interests. For instance, its infrastructure development projects with developing countries including the Philippines, which is now considered by many as coinciding with the administration’s Build, Build, Build program, is driven by its overcapacity problem back home. Also, China’s inclination to support the development of the Philippine government media agency through training and donations is guided by Beijing’s storytelling approach to influence the international narrative on China. This means that benefiting from China’s growth is not a decision solely made by those seeking to benefit, but rather, is dependent on China’s interests, objectives, and willingness to share the opportunities with other countries. This view allows us to examine China’s duality : an economic partner and also a risk for national development and security.

Second, allowing China, through its associates, to participate in investments on critical industries and infrastructure hands them a clear leverage in any dispute or conflict that may arise between China and the Philippines. The economic clout built carefully by Beijing can be used as a tool to push the Philippines into submission even before conflict erupts or to prevent the latter from countering the former. In short, China does not need to fire a single shot to win a war; all they need is for the Philippines to cooperate. Without a strong foundation of trust and confidence, the issue that needs focus from defense and security planners is not a question of intention but of China’s capacity to cause disruption through the technologies it has shared with the Philippines.

Last, while China may exploit natural resources and dominate investments in the Philippines, one cannot deny the role of governance in this situation. Recipient states such as the Philippines have the responsibility of ensuring that the inflow of capital and technology from foreign sources, in this case China, are distributed for the benefit of the people and not just a few, and are transparent and efficient. Notably, China’s FDI and foreign assistance to developing states are inherently different from that of the West since Beijing does not consider good governance or other political issues as a prerequisite for its financial support. This runs the risk of colluding with corrupt officials and of handing more benefits to Chinese companies rather than to Filipino businesses. As Elizabeth Economy and Michael Levi examine in their book By All Means Necessary: How China’s Resource Quest is Changing the World, China’s investment in resource-rich countries are either transformative — having positive political and social effects — or destructive — making domestic conditions worse. The outcome is therefore likely dependent on the recipient states and their government, and not on China.

On the second assumption, it touches on the pitfalls of identifying new security risks and challenges. While many China scholars have argued that firing the first shot is not in Beijing’s military playbook, such a claim does not disprove the skepticism that China is using other means to advance its position — at the expense of other states including the Philippines. This is most glaring in the maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China’s use of non-military vessels to increase presence in the sea has previously been considered a security challenge for both military operators and international law experts, something that was shared with the public. It has also used tactics and approaches that most Western scholars regard as “gray zone” strategy or tactics. Since this particular strategy adopts an incremental approach to achieve its objectives and desired conditions, the larger defense and security community has failed to identify how China’s seemingly singular and isolated actions in the political, economic, social, and technological realms actually build up into a strong claim and control in the South China Sea.

Further, the improved relations between China and the Philippines was made possible by setting aside political disagreements, particularly on the South China Sea, and proceeding with non-controversial issues such as economic and technological partnership. With this, the compartmentalization of bilateral issues between Manila and Beijing has led the former to be more cautious not to disrupt its relations with the latter especially over hard to resolve issues such as the South China Sea disputes. For instance, the recent news of Chinese militia swarming Pag-asa Island was initially received mildly by Malacanang, saying that Chinese fisherfolks accessing the resources in the area can stay while militias should leave, if proven to be present. Later, the government argued that the Philippines has no capacity to win a war against China, and that Beijing has only given assistance to the Philippines thus far without asking for favors especially in relation to yielding territories. These messages effectively translate into the assumption that so long as China does not use force or invade the Philippines, there is nothing to worry about when engaging with China.

This narrow view of security, focusing on a military attack or invasion, cripples the ability of government to recognize new security threats and multi-domain challenges that have security and military implications. Further, these new security threats may not even have a military implication, but nonetheless they may still expose the vulnerability of the Philippines and its population, which is why it makes it all the more difficult to lobby for greater national security consciousness. To illustrate, one may think of Huawei’s technology as non-threatening and a welcomed development for the Philippines’ poor and lagging Information and Communications Technology (ICT). However, the possibility of espionage and indiscriminate surveillance of users is definitely a risk for data privacy and national security. But instead of choosing between the false dichotomy of accepting Chinese technology and rejecting them all together, the government should consider investing on building its capabilities to detect threats and malicious activities in data collection and acquisition, data storage, processing, transmission, and delivery. This way, it could benefit from this technology while reducing the risk of exposure to future attacks and disruptions.

Rethinking security to move beyond the narrow view of military security has the highest potential of expanding the policy options of the government, thereby allowing it to look at issues and decisions both from a development and security standpoint. The future of national security is largely determined by how current policy-makers and planners view conditions of the future; these views are framed and driven by what assumptions are adopted and considered today.

Rej Cortez Torrecampo is the Senior Research Specialist of the Philippine Center of Excellence in Defense, Development, and Security. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Center


US Secretary of State Criticizes China’s South China Sea Practices

Mike Pompeo also criticized China’s “debt trap” diplomacy.

By Ankit Panda
March 14, 2019

China has pushed back on a speech made earlier this week by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the country’s international practices, including its behavior in the South China Sea and use of debt as a tool of statecraft.

“By blocking development in the South China Sea through coercive means, China prevents ASEAN members from accessing more than $2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves,” the U.S. secretary of state said, speaking in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday.

“To contrast, the United States Government promotes energy security for those Southeast Asian nations. We want countries in the region to have access to their own energy,” Pompeo added.
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“We want to help them. We want to create partnerships. We want transparent transactions, not debt traps. We explore responsibly.”

“China doesn’t play by that same set of rules. Its values are simply different,” Pompeo underscored.

In the South China Sea, China, along with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan, has competing claims. Beijing has clashed with Vietnam in particular over hydrocarbon exploration rights in disputed waters.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs hit back at Pompeo’s remarks, describing them as “irresponsible.” Lu Kang, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “Nations in the region are capable of resolving and managing the disputes in their own ways.”

Echoing longstanding warnings from China for the United States to stay out of regional disputes, including in the South China Sea, Lu said that “Nations outside the region should refrain from stirring up trouble and disrupting the harmonious situation.”

Building on months of U.S. criticism of China’s overseas financing practices, Pompeo also took aim at what the U.S. has called “debt trap” diplomacy.

“[China is] using the debt trap … to put these countries in a place where it isn’t a commercial transaction. It’s a political transaction designed to bring harm and political influence in the country in which they’re operating,” Pompeo added, calling on the audience of primarily oil industry leaders to work with the U.S. government to push back on these practices.

“We need to roll up our sleeves and compete by facilitating investments all across the world and encouraging partners to buy from us, and by punishing the bad actors,” Pompeo noted.

The Trump administration has identified China as a great power competitor of the United States and has pursued a “free and open” Indo-Pacific strategy to push back on what it sees as growing Chinese influence in the region.


The Chinese Navy’s Marine Corps, Part 1: Expansion and Reorganization
February 27, 2019

By Dennis J. Blasko and Roderick Lee

Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a two-part article discussing organizational reforms and evolving missions for the PLA Navy (PLAN) Marine Corps. The first part focuses on the growing order of battle for the PLAN Marines. The second part, which will appear will focus on the creation of a service headquarters for the PLAN Marines, and their expanding training for expeditionary warfare and other missions. Taken as a whole, this two-part article provides significant new information and analysis to update the December 3, 2010 China Brief article titled “China’s Marines: Less is More.”


On August 16, 2018, the Department of Defense Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2018, reported that “One of the most significant PLAN structural changes in 2017 was the expansion of the PLAN Marine Corps (PLANMC).” The PLA Marine Corps (中国人民解放军海军陆战队) has historically been limited in terms of personnel, geography, and mission—with a primary service focus on amphibious assault, and the defense of outposts in the South China Sea. However, under currently estimated plans for service expansion, “by 2020, the PLANMC will consist of 7 brigades, may have more than 30,000 personnel, and will expand its mission to include expeditionary operations on foreign soil.”1

The expansion of the PLANMC, which commenced in April 2017, is an important element of reforms to the PLA’s operational forces. For the past two decades, the Marine Corps consisted of only two brigades, the 1st and 164th Marine Brigades (each estimated to number from 5,000 – 6,000 personnel) assigned to the South Sea Fleet stationed in Zhanjiang, Guangdong. After recent reforms, the number of brigades now amounts to a total of eight, with four new Marine combined arms brigades, a Special Operations Forces (SOF) brigade, and the core of a shipborne aviation (helicopter) brigade added to the previously existing two brigades. The four new combined arms brigades were formed out of units transferred from the Army, while the SOF and helicopter brigades were created from standing Navy units. A corps-level headquarters for the Marine Corps also has been identified. Though the Chinese government has not officially explained these developments, this new structure probably amounts to a total of up to approximately 40,000 personnel distributed among eight brigades at full strength.

The expanded Marine Corps, supported by Navy long-range sealift, likely will become the core of the PLA’s future expeditionary force. Training that began in 2014 further indicates that the eventual objective for the Marine Corps is to be capable of conducting operations in many types of terrain and climates – ranging beyond the PLANMC’s former, and continuing, focus on islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The manner by which the force has expanded, however, suggests that the PLA leadership was not motivated by an immediate need for a larger amphibious capability; rather, it appears to be consistent with several new missions undertaken by the Chinese military over the past decade that have provided impetus for the addition of new Marine units. It will likely take several years for all of the Marine Corps’ new units to reach full operational readiness as measured by personnel, equipment, and training.

Expanded Order of Battle

After “below the neck” reforms and restructuring implemented throughout PLA in 2017, Marine units are now found along China’s eastern seaboard from Shandong in the north, to Fujian and Guangdong in the east opposite Taiwan, to Hainan in the South China Sea. In northern Shandong, a former Army motorized infantry brigade of the old 26th Group Army has been transformed into a new Marine brigade (Jiefangjun Bao Online, September 30 2017). On Shandong’s southern coast, a second new brigade has been formed from what likely was a former Army coastal defense regiment located near Qingdao (Qingdao Television, February 12 2018). Further south, an Army coastal defense division stationed around Jinjiang, Fujian was the basis for a third new brigade that remains in that same locale; and may also have provided manpower and resources for a fourth new brigade that recently moved to Jieyang in eastern Guangdong province  (Anxi, Fujian Government website, August 1 2017; Jieyang News, August 17 2018). Although the PLA has not widely publicized either the creation of these new brigades or their true unit designators, the emergence of photos and new military unit cover designators associated with the Marine brigades both suggest a 1st through 6th brigade numbering scheme.2

As the new Marine brigades are being organized and equipped for their new missions, the two previously existing brigades also appear to have been reorganized. Most significantly, to streamline their chain of command, the former amphibious armored regiment headquarters appear to have been eliminated: command is now passed directly from brigade level to the newly established combined arms battalions (similar to the Army’s brigade command structure). Marine combined arms battalions are distinguished between amphibious mechanized and light mechanized combined arms battalions. Some, if not all, Marine brigades also have, or will likely have, units trained for air assault operations (Jiefangjun Bao Online, December 10 2017), and will be reinforced by operational support battalions.3

It is likely that in coming years older equipment will be retired and all Marine units will be issued new amphibious vehicles—such as the tracked ZBD05 Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV), tracked ZTD05 Assault Vehicle, PLZ07 122mm Self-Propelled Howitzer, the eight-wheeled ZBL09 IFV, the eight-wheeled ZTL11 assault vehicle, and the Mengshi Assault Vehicle. (The latter three vehicles have been observed deployed to the Djibouti Support Base). Some reconnaissance units are also receiving light 8×8 all-terrain-vehicles for terrain that is inaccessible to larger vehicles (, April 9, 2018).

In total, the Army probably transferred over 20,000 personnel to the Navy’s new Marine units, while retaining its own amphibious capability. The Army’s two former amphibious infantry divisions—one previously stationed in the Nanjing Military Region near Hangzhou and the other in the Guangdong Military Region near Huizhou—were both transformed into two combined arms brigades each, while keeping their amphibious weapons and capabilities. A fifth former amphibious armored brigade also was converted into a new Army combined arms brigade located in Fujian. The decision to maintain these amphibious units in the Army reflects that service’s continued role in building capabilities to deter further steps toward Taiwan independence—one of the missions of foremost importance to the PLA.

Had the senior PLA leadership perceived the need to increase rapidly the Navy’s amphibious capacity, it could have decided to transfer to the Marine Corps those existing Army amphibious units, all of which were equipped and trained for assault from the sea. But by transforming a motorized infantry brigade and multiple coastal defense units—none of which were outfitted with amphibious equipment, nor trained extensively in amphibious operations—the PLA leadership understood that it would take multiple years for these units to be equipped, and even more annual training cycles before they would be fully trained to undertake amphibious operations. So, while the Marine Corps has been expanded in size, its actual amphibious capabilities will increase gradually over the next several years.

The new Marine special operations force (SOF) brigade has been formed out of the Navy’s existing SOF Regiment stationed in Hainan, which includes the Jiaolong (“Dragon”) commando unit (China Central Television, December 12 2017). The former Navy SOF Regiment’s missions and capabilities overlapped with that of the Marine Corps, and therefore their transfer is a logical evolution as the Marine Corps expands. Eventually, the new brigade will likely number approximately one thousand personnel more than the old regiment (estimated to have been about 2,000 strong). Some of those personnel may have been transferred from the 1st and 164th Marine Brigades’ structure, each of which probably included SOF elements in their former reconnaissance battalions. Of all the new Marine units within the expanded force structure, the SOF Brigade currently is the most combat ready.

The 2018 DOD report on the Chinese military also noted the creation of an independent aviation capability for the PLA Marines, stating that the expanding PLANMC “may also incorporate an aviation brigade, which could provide an organic helicopter transport and attack capability, increasing its amphibious and expeditionary warfare capabilities.”4 The new Marine Shipborne Aviation (helicopter) Brigade apparently has been built out of elements from all three PLAN independent air regiments (Weibo, January 27 2018). These regiments have been busy since 2009, provided the aircraft for 15 of 30 of the Navy’s deployments to the Gulf of Aden escort mission (PLA Daily, July 16 2018).

Currently, the new Marine helicopter unit likely has considerably less than a full contingent of aircraft compared to an Army Aviation Brigade, which when fully equipped probably consists of over 70 helicopters. The Military Balance 2018 estimates the Navy’s entire helicopter fleet at slightly over 100 aircraft, with about half being transport helicopters—while the others are anti-submarine warfare, early warning, and search and rescue aircraft needed to support the rest of the Navy’s operations.5 Heretofore the Navy apparently has experimented with only a few armed Z-9 helicopters (People’s Navy, July 31 2012). Until additional attack helicopters are added to the force, as a stop gap measure it would be possible for the Army to temporarily assign a few of its attack helicopters to the Marines to assist in training and doctrine development for amphibious operations. Thus, it is likely that it will take several more years to add additional transport and attack helicopters and train the pilots and crews before the new Marine helicopter brigade is at full strength and combat ready.

This article will continue in the next issue of China Brief, with “The Chinese Navy’s Marine Corps, Part 2: Chain-of-Command Reforms and Evolving Training.”

Dennis J. Blasko, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), was an army attaché in Beijing and in Hong Kong from 1992-1996 and is the author of The Chinese Army Today: Tradition and Transformation for the 21st Century, second edition (Routledge, 2012).

Roderick Lee is an analyst with the United States Navy. His work focuses on Chinese maritime forces and strategy. He earned his Master of Arts degree from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

General Discussion / Re: Freedom of navigation exercises in the WPS
« on: March 02, 2019, 12:20:29 PM »
Article in the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative written by a retired PLA Navy captain:

How China Can Resolve the FONOP Deadlock in the South China Sea
By Liu Xiaobo | March 1, 2019
AMTI Update   

Since 2017, the U.S. Navy has performed freedom of navigation operations (FONOPs) in the South China Sea routinely, on a basis of about every two months. In response to each operation, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) customarily dispatches air and surface units to carry out verification and identification, and to warn the U.S. warships to steer away. Though now routine, these exercises continue to spark fierce debate in the academic circles and media of both countries. Chinese observers repeat official diplomatic statements, deny the legality of the operations, and overwhelmingly denounce the U.S. actions, while seldom giving voice to feasible ways of resolving the dispute. The U.S. FONOP program in the South China Sea has turned into a political battlefield with a legal façade between the two nations. It is not realistic for China to ask the United States to abandon its FONOPs, and it is just as unrealistic for the United States to ask China to simply drop its excessive maritime claims. The three policy options offered to China in this analysis, grounded in a realist perspective, could help define a path for escaping the deadlock.

1. Maintaining the status quo: if U.S. warships continue to perform FONOPs routinely, and China continues to respond in the same way, the United States will win out.

Thus far, U.S. FONOPs in the South China Sea have always occurred at times and locations decided unilaterally, giving Washington the upper hand over Beijing. By sticking to its routine, the United States asserts its right to free navigation in the South China Sea in direct opposition to the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone and the Declaration of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Baselines of the Territorial Sea, and in so doing undermines the authority of the Chinese government on its maritime rights of the South China Sea. By maintaining this course of action over time, the United States shapes international custom and consensus, strengthening international recognition of its freedom of navigation concept (which differs from that of China in regard to sovereignty, jurisdiction and historical rights).

Every time the United States engages in a FONOP, the Chinese side waits to react. Each U.S. FONOP is usually followed by representations and protests lodged repeatedly by Chinese spokespersons in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Southern Theater, reiterating China’s policy of taking necessary measures to defend national sovereignty and security. However, these statements do nothing to stop the next FONOP. The Chinese side also sends warships and military aircraft, with a stated goal of verifying and warning off the U.S. warships. But according to reports from media aboard the U.S. ships, the Chinese warships and military aircraft only follow the U.S. ships and monitor them from a safe distance, calling from time to time via radio to warn them off to no effect. China has largely stuck to this course of action for more than three years and such a response has failed entirely at stopping U.S. FONOPs. It stands to reason that if China continues this style of response, further FONOPs will continue to undermine China’s national credibility.

On September 30, 2018, the USS Decatur was forced to change course during a FONOP near Nanxun Reefs (Gaven Reefs), when the PLAN destroyer Lanzhou tried to intercept the U.S. destroyer. This is probably the only actual interception made by China’s navy on a FONOP since 2015. However, neither of the subsequent statements by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of National Defense said anything about the interception attempt or the forced course correction, giving up the opportunity to publicize what could be called a successful eviction. The low profile adopted by Beijing may be a clue that top Chinese officials did not approve the action, or that they are worried about its negative impact. In a Chinese military command system that emphasizes highly centralized and unified leadership, it is hard to imagine seeing another such interception by sea/air operating forces (if that was indeed the situation).

2. Responding harshly: even if China meets U.S. FONOPs with force including dangerous approaches, collisions, or even a minor conflict, it is unlikely to stop FONOPs.

If China take a tough line, will it force the United States to stop FONOPs? This ultimately comes down to a comparison between the military might of China and the United States, and whether the United States has sufficient confidence in a military confrontation with China in the South China Sea.

Based on the current U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, the United States is unlikely to make concessions to Chinese military pressure. As far as FONOPs go, the United States has always pursued an unforgiving policy backed by military strength, and has never been intimidated by an adversary into halting FONOPs. In the 1980s, during the Cold War, even though the Soviet Navy dominated in some areas, the U.S. Navy insisted on carrying out FONOPs in the Soviet Union’s territorial seas. Despite intentionally colliding with U.S. ships exercising innocent passage in the Black Sea in February 1988, the Soviet Union ultimately yielded to the U.S. position that innocent passage does not require approval from the coastal state. Considering the relative strength of Chinese and U.S. forces today, it is hard to believe that a tough response from China would be any more effective in forcing the United States to stop FONOPs.

The global and longstanding practice of FONOPs by the United States over the past three decades also makes it less likely to be deterred from operations in the South China Sea. Since 1991, the United States has challenged the excessive maritime claims of nearly 60 countries around the world, and convinced at least nine countries and areas to revise domestic legislation on innocent passage, including the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Vietnam, Latvia, Sweden, Denmark, Indonesia, Finland, and Chinese Taiwan.

Moreover, though the two countries have agreed on avoiding incidents and conflict in the air and at sea, this does not mean that the two nuclear power are not prepared for small-scale conflicts. If China takes tough measures to intercept or collide with U.S. warships, the United States is less likely to suffer in potential air and sea small-scale conflicts because of its military superiority in the region. Even in a “tie” scenario, the heightened tensions in the South China Sea would create opportunities for the United States and its allies to reinforce their presence in the region. As a result, China would lose relative strength in the security order of the South China Sea.

3. To seek mutual compromise: China and the United States can maximize common gain by consulting on, and compromising mutually over, maritime laws relevant to freedom of navigation.

At the technical level, U.S. FONOPs in the South China Sea mainly target China’s excessive maritime claims, which include:

a) excessive straight baselines;

b) requiring warships to obtain prior approval before entering a territorial sea;

c) security control in the contiguous zone;

d) jurisdiction over foreign military activities in the exclusive economic zone, including surveillance and reconnaissance;

e) jurisdiction over the airspace above the exclusive economic zone; and

f) the artificial islands in Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands), and their claimed territorial seas.

Setting aside the last point, which China considers a matter of territorial sovereignty, the disputes stem from different understanding and interpretations of the rules of contemporary international law of the sea. These divergences are rooted in the different perceptions of ocean values ​​between China, a traditional continental country, and the United States, a country with a longstanding connection to its two adjacent oceans. But as China’s increasing global influence, driven by projects like the Belt and Road Initiative, will benefit from coordinated development of land and sea, Beijing may realize the benefits accrued to its long-term maritime interests from the freedom of navigation concept. That may allow some room for China and the United States to negotiate on the disputes over FONOPs.


Compared with China’s other maritime disputes, which involve territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation in the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea, the issue underpinning disputes over freedom of navigation is more of a theoretical debate. Rather than centering on irreconcilable claims of ownership that run against China’s core interests of national unity, territorial integrity and development, the dispute is instead one of how the sea should be utilized and how it should be governed. There is space for consultation between China and the United States here. As China’s relative strength vis-à-vis its neighbors grows in the South China Sea, maintaining stability is a top priority. Keeping a low profile and avoiding conflict between China and the United States in the South China Sea should be China’s long-term policy. Resolving divergent opinions over freedom of navigation through careful negotiation, and amending domestic laws and policies on innocent passage or military use of the EEZ, while seeming on their face to be concessions, would indeed be a path of major progress toward oceanic power for China.

Captain Liu Xiaobo (Ret.) is an associate research fellow and director of the World Navy Research Center, National Institute for South China Sea Studies (NISCSS), in Haikou, China. His research focuses on national maritime security policy, sea power, and the Law of the Sea. Prior to joining the NISCSS, Capt. Liu served in the Chinese navy for 25 years, working as a navigation officer aboard the PLAN destroyer Harbin and later as a research associate in the Naval Research Institute.

Hoping for Japanese destroyers and other equipment?  Not so fast.

Why Shinzo Abe faces an uphill battle to revise Japan’s constitution

By Adam P. Liff and
Ko Maeda
December 12, 2018

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) last week abandoned its widely anticipated plan to present a formal proposal to revise the 1947 constitution to the current session of the Diet, Japan’s legislature. Revising the constitution is a longtime ambition of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the longest-serving Japanese prime minister in 50 years. With Abe likely to serve through 2021, Abe and his conservative allies appear determined to try again next year.

Will this revision effort succeed? It’s an open question.

Part of the LDP proposal is to modify the constitution’s Article 9 “peace clause,” in which Japan renounces war and the maintenance of “war potential.” This means the success/failure of the revision push carries significant implications for Japan and its U.S. ally. Depending on the wording, a revision could enable new military platforms, roles and missions for Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

In a regional security environment increasingly shaped by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and expanding Chinese military and paramilitary activities, Abe and his allies see Article 9 as restraining Japan’s national defense capacity — and an obstacle to expanded efforts to contribute to regional security.

Despite these ambitions and Abe and his LDP’s widely-asserted dominance of Japanese politics since 2012, revising the constitution won’t be easy. Period. On their terms, it’s near impossible. Here are three major reasons why:

1. Amending Japan’s constitution is difficult

Democracies protect their constitutions by setting a high procedural bar for any amendments. Japan is no exception, and its 71-year-old constitution has never been amended. In fact, revision has never been formally attempted, despite longstanding demands from conservative politicians and the LDP itself putting forward an ambitious full-text draft revision in 2012. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Diet. After that, the final step involves a national referendum, where a simple majority is required.

To be sure, Abe’s LDP is by far Japan’s most powerful political party, with a single-party majority in both houses. Many commentators note the party could cobble together an ad-hoc coalition of “pro-revision forces” from other parties and independents, and thus surpass the two-thirds threshold. But the fact that Abe’s LDP does not independently control two-thirds of the seats is significant for any revision proposal’s prospects.

2. Japan’s public remains ambivalent

Even if a supra-partisan grouping of pro-revision Diet members could reach a consensus on a concrete amendment proposal, especially on Article 9 — the most controversial aspect of contemporary debates about revision — opinion polls show a sharply divided public.

The reasons for this ambivalence run the gamut from pacifism in reaction to Japan’s pre-1945 militaristic past, to concerns about entrapment in a U.S.-initiated war far away from Japan. But Japanese also seem ambivalent about any revision, not just Article 9. An April 2018 survey suggests that only 29 percent of the public thinks constitutional revision is necessary — 27 percent think it is not and the rest answered “not sure.”

These findings suggest that even if a proposal reaches a public referendum — for which there is no postwar precedent — the result is uncertain. A vocal minority passionately opposed to revision may turn out in force. Japan also faces a packed political calendar next year, including the abdication of Emperor Akihito. Abe and the LDP have reason to tread carefully.

3. The LDP rules in coalition… and its junior partner’s support base is largely pacifistic

Though much of the public (and media) discourse, especially outside Japan, focuses exclusively on Abe and his LDP, the most direct obstacle to their Article 9 ambitions is hiding in plain sight. Since 1999, the LDP has cooperated in every national election with a much smaller junior partner and ideologically strange bedfellow: Komeito. This smaller party enjoys a de facto veto over Abe and the LDP on matters highly salient to its pacifist support base — especially Article 9 and other defense policy-related matters.

Since the LDP controls about 90 percent of the coalition’s parliamentary seats, Komeito’s leverage seems puzzling. But when it comes to constitutional revision, our new article explains the spoiler role Komeito is able to play, and how. The two parties have developed an odd mutual dependency that enables Komeito to punch significantly above its weight in intra-coalition policy debates.

Our analysis exposes the structural roots of the LDP’s remarkable electoral dependence on its junior partner, and demonstrates the implications for LDP Diet seat totals and, by extension, Komeito’s disproportionate influence in coalition policy decision-making. Because Komeito’s primary support base is politically active and pacifistic adherents of Soka Gakkai, a lay Buddhist movement, fundamentally revising Article 9’s existing clauses is anathema.

What is the source of Komeito’s leverage? Under Japan’s mixed electoral system, the main battleground of general elections is single-member districts (SMDs). Since 2003, the LDP and Komeito have avoided fielding competing candidates in all of them. Typically, the LDP stands down in the 8 to 10 SMDs where Komeito fields a candidate — who usually wins. In exchange, Komeito mobilizes its supporters to vote for LDP candidates everywhere else. These mutual “stand down” agreements give each party greater representation in the Diet than they would have otherwise.

Our research shows that so many LDP incumbents rely on Komeito supporters nowadays that the LDP would probably lose its single party majority in the Lower House without Komeito support. Both parties know this, which explains why the LDP tolerates such significant concessions, even on core policy concerns affecting national security.

We thus conclude in our article that Komeito is a significant source of Abe and the LDP’s current Diet strength. But this also leaves the majority party politically vulnerable. The same mechanism that explains the LDP-Komeito coalition’s remarkable durability is also likely to frustrate the LDP’s efforts to revise the constitution. Thus, even if a historic Article 9 revision goes through on Abe’s watch — which is by no means guaranteed — the actual substance is likely to fall far short of the LDP’s ambitions.

Adam P. Liff is an assistant professor of East Asian international relations at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. He is also a Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Ko Maeda is an associate professor of political science at the University of North Texas.

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