Reading some media reports, one would have surmised the US military ran away from its warfighting Pacific duties like frightened little girls, with carriers in port over Covid fears and B-52 BUFFs abandoning Guam.
Like Chicken Little warning the sky is falling, the truth is rather more punctuated, to the tune of the USS Ronald Reagan carrier force underway to the region, and in particular, B-1 Lancer bombers laden with gifts — each one carrying a belly full of stealth cruise missiles capable of decapitating an enemy force in minutes.
The “Bone,” as they call the B1, is back on the island of Guam and it has brought with it the ability to deliver up to two dozen stealthy AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs), Tyler Rogoway of The War Zone reported.
It’s now abundantly clear that the Pentagon wants to make sure that friend and foe alike are aware of that fact, based on the pictures the service just posted. In other words, Uncle Sam is in your face China, like it or not.
The photos show one of the B-1Bs currently calling Guam home having one of its three cavernous weapons bays stuffed with live JASSMs, the War Zone reported.
The images showcase the fact that the B-1B can put even a peer state’s most defended targets at risk from a standoff distance.
The JASSM has a declared range of around 230 miles, while its enhanced successor, the JASSM-ER, can reach out and touch targets nearly 600 miles from its point of launch, the War Zone reported.
Since the departure of the B-52s bombers from Guam on April 17, the Air Force has made its B-1s quite visible in the region and that has included missions that were flown from bases in the continental US.
That included a 32-hour flight from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to the South China Sea and back, while earlier in April two B-1s were sent from South Dakota on a 30-hour round trip flight to Japan, where the bombers were joined by US F-16s along with Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) F-15 and F-2 fighters in a joint training exercise, The National Interest reported.
What underpins this new strategy is a Pentagon buzzword called “dynamic force employment.”
Basically, it entails going from being fairly predictable with the movements of strategic assets to being far less predictable in those deployments, albeit at the cost of persistence in a particular area of operations, The War Zone reported.
Meanwhile, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet announced that the Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8) and the Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) conducted presence operations in international waters and airspace near Panamanian flagged drill ship, West Capella, The National Interest reported.
The Panamanian vessel was conducting surveying operations in Malaysia’s exclusive economic zone for the Malaysian state oil company Petronas. It has been drawing attention from Chinese fishing vessels and Chinese Coast Guard ships for the past two months.
The Washington-Beijing tit-for-tat is growing on a number of fronts, but has the potential for direct conflict in the South China Sea, where both countries are busy flexing, also on the heels of accusations and counter charges over the COVID-19 pandemic's origins and cover-up.
Fox's Lucas Tomlinson reports Thursday, "One month after U.S. guided-missile destroyer Mustin harassed by Chinese warship from a carrier strike group, the Mustin cruises by contested islands in move likely to irk China."
Specifically the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer sailed near the Paracel Islands in a contested area of the South China Sea.
As the Fox correspondent further reports, the US Navy has dispatched a pair of additional warships to the East China Sea, namely USS New Orleans out of Japan and the guided-missile destroyer Rafael Peralta, the latter also based in the Western Pacific region as part of the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group.
It goes without saying that US-China relations have reached their lowest point in decades, with a former Trump administration trade official recently warning the spike in tensions brought on by the corona-crisis on the heels of the trade war has marked "the start of a new Cold War".
This has been demonstrated especially with the Pentagon's significant ramping up of B-1 bomber flyovers of contested waters near China over the past weeks.
Two days before U.S. Navy warship sailed by contested islands in South China Sea, U.S. B-1 bombers flew over same area from Guam while a separate pair flew to Sea of Japan for training with 16 Japanese fighter jets
For example, since the start of April there's been no less than 15 US military aircraft flights approaching Taiwan's contested borders, with at least three bomber approaches since the start of May.
Meanwhile, Chinese state media confirmed the US warship presence in the South China Sea, claiming its PLA forces "expelled" an American ship for "trespassing" in China's territorial waters.
As a state-funded Global Times report claimed:
The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday expelled a US warship that trespassed into Chinese territorial waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea, and the US operation amid the COVID-19 pandemic showed the US is the source that sabotages peace and stability in the South China Sea, a Chinese military spokesperson said on Thursday.
Citing military sources to assert it's part of a long recent history of US violations of Chinese sovereignty, GT stated further, "The PLA Southern Theater Command organized naval and aerial forces to follow the US guided missile destroyer USS Mustin when it illegally trespassed into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands on Thursday without authorization from the Chinese government, said Senior Colonel Li Huamin, a spokesperson of the PLA Southern Theater Command, on Tuesday."
Of course the US Navy saw things very differently:
"On May 28 (local time), USS Mustin (DDG 89) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the Paracel Islands, consistent with international law," Lt. Anthony Junco, a spokesperson for the US Navy's 7th Fleet, said in a statement."By conducting this operation, the United States demonstrated that these waters are beyond what China can lawfully claim as its territorial sea," the statement added.
In the past two months there's been a very noticeable and dangerous uptick in both American battleships entering contested waters near China's coast and around Taiwan, as well as long-range bomber activity essentially right on the Communist country's doorstep.
Though the trade war and more recent coronavirus blame-game remains but heated rhetoric with occasional mutual expelling of foreign journalists and students, the potential for a direct military 'incident' or 'accident' in the region could be a concrete outlet for boiling tensions and combustible mix leading to violent regional conflict.
When you’ve got a house full of sick people you don’t usually go out looking for a fight. But Chinese leader Xi Jinping isn’t most people. Like a high stakes gambler he has rolled the dice – while the Covid-19 epidemic rages – to see what the People’s Republic of China (PRC) can win on the defense front.
PRC muscle flexing during Covid-19 is impressive: China continues sinking Vietnamese fishing vessels. A People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy ship locked its fire control radar onto a Philippine Navy ship. And there are exercises to intimidate and develop specific skills needed to invade Taiwan.
Recently Chinese Premier Li Keqiang left out the usual word “peaceful” when speaking about China’s goal of “reunification” with Taiwan.Farther afield, a PRC flotilla of maritime militia, Coast Guard and PLA Navy harassed a Malaysian survey ship down at the far southern end of the South China Sea. Chinese fishing vessels also elbowed in on Indonesian fishing grounds near the Natuna islands.
At the same time, PRC-Japan relations are supposedly on an upswing. Yet, Chinese naval incursions in Japanese administered areas of the East China Sea are at record levels. Chinese Coast Guard ships recently chased a Japanese fishing vessel near the Senkaku islands in Japanese waters.
In an underreported case, a Chinese fishing vessel collided with a Japan Marine Special Defense Force (MSDF) destroyer in international waters off the coast of Shanghai. Initial damage reports suggested the Chinese craft rammed the Japanese ship.
Farther west, the PLA is encroaching on three points on India’s land boundaries, digging in and going well beyond the usual jostling on the border.
At the same time, despite the epidemic, China still churns out ships and aircraft while PLA training is going all-out. Military spending will increase 6.6% this year while the Chinese economy contracts. This despite the fact that China purports to have no enemies.
The Chinese may not be keen to shoot just yet, but they have shifted the benchmark for their behavior. So expect to see more Chinese ships and aircraft (and even ground forces) doing more things in more places more often and likely with a chip on their shoulder.
Meanwhile, Chinese diplomatic muscle-flexing worldwide has become equal parts insults and threats. This so-called “Wolf Warrior” diplomacy won’t make friends – and China knows it. But perhaps that’s the point.
The Chinese are playing increasingly rough, and practically daring anyone to do something about it. It’s easy to dismiss all this as acting out. But it might just work to the PRC’s advantage to be seen as the obnoxious, muscular, tattooed guy nobody else in the trailer park wants to take on.
Post a Comment