Tag Archives: China

China Syndrome: Why the PRC Won’t Get Sucked Into a Pointless War with the United States

By Mike Whitney
June 24, 2015
CounterPunch

 

Asia_US_“China is reaching deep within the world island in an attempt to thoroughly reshape the geopolitical fundamentals of global power…… Its two-step plan is designed to build a transcontinental infrastructure for the economic integration of the world island from within, while mobilizing military forces to surgically slice through Washington’s encircling containment…….If China succeeds in linking its rising industries to the vast natural resources of the Eurasian heartland, then quite possibly…. “the empire of the world would be in sight.” — Alfred McCoy, The Geopolitics of American Global DeclineThe Unz Review

“The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.” — Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton,  “America’s Pacific Century”,  Foreign Policy magazine.

China’s meteoric rise has Washington worried, not because China is a threat to its neighbors or to US national security, but because China’s influence is expanding across the region. It’s creating the institutions it needs to finance its own development (AIIB and New BRICS Bank),  it’s building the infrastructure needed to connect the continents with state-of-the-art high-speed rail (New Silk Road), and its attracting allies and trading partners who want to participate in its plan for growth and prosperity. This is why Washington is worried; it’s because China has transformed itself into an economic powerhouse that doesn’t conform to the neoliberal model of punitive austerity, pernicious privatization,  and madcap asset inflation.  China has slipped out of the empire’s orbit and charted its own course, which is why Washington wants to provoke Beijing over its negligible land reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Washington thinks it can succeed militarily where it has failed economically and politically. Case in point; check this out from Bloomberg News:

“The U.S. and Japan are conducting separate military drills with the Philippines near the disputed South China Sea,…The annual CARAT Philippines joint exercise started Monday off the east coast of Palawan island and will run until June 26, according to U.S. Navy spokesman Arlo Abrahamson. The Philippine and Japanese navies are holding drills around the same island through June 27, Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force said last week.

The U.S. has backed Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines as tensions escalate with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea, while Japan is providing patrol vessels to the Philippine coast guard….The drill includes a sea phase with the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth, diving and salvage ship USNS Safeguard and a P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft and at least one Philippine frigate, according to the U.S. Navy….

Japan’s exercises with the Philippines will take place adjacent to the Spratly Islands, where China has created more than 2,000 acres of land in waters also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia. Japan will send a P-3C anti-submarine, maritime surveillance aircraft and 20 personnel.”  (“U.S., Japan Join Philippines in Navy Drills Near South China Sea”, Bloomberg)

The “show of force” drills are designed to harass and intimidate China. They have no other purpose.  The US wants to force China to succumb to its diktats, to abandon its commitment to new institutions, to open its markets to US corporations and Wall Street, and to allow the US a free-hand in writing trade rules.   That’s what Washington really wants and that’s why the moderate Chuck Hagel was dumped for the combative Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense. US powerbrokers wanted a scrappy taskmaster who’d bloody China’s nose and show them who’s boss. Carter fit the bill to a “T”, an icy bureaucratic leg-breaker who fancies himself the “smartest guy in the room”.  Peter Lee provides an interesting insight on Carter in a recent blog-post at China Matters. He says:

“…assertive Ash Carter is not playing bad cop to Obama/Kerry’s good cop; he’s the whole show, which will delight fans of military control of foreign policy everywhere.”

We’re glad that others are beginning to see that the Pentagon has taken over US foreign policy. Carter is clearly calling the shots in Asia and Europe.

Lee seems to believe that Carter will outlast Obama’s time in office if Madame Clinton is elected president. Which is not surprising, since it was Clinton who first introduced “pivot” to the strategic lexicon in a speech she gave in 2010 titled  “America’s Pacific Century”.  Clinton’s presentation laid out the basic themes that would later become America’s “top priority”, the rebalancing of US power to the Asia Pacific. Here’s an excerpt from the speech that appeared in Foreign Policymagazine:

 “As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment — diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise — in the Asia-Pacific region…

Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia…

The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia…and our investment opportunities in Asia’s dynamic markets.” (“America’s Pacific Century”, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton”, Foreign Policy Magazine, 2011)

Repeat: “Harnessing Asia’s growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests…. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology…..American firms (need) to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia.”

There it is in a nutshell. Having reduced the great American middle class to a lifeless, rotting corpse incapable of sustaining even meager demand or growth, US elites are packing the boats and heading for China, the shining corporate Valhalla on the hill. Clinton seems to think it should be pretty easy to penetrate these bustling Asian markets provided we back up our crackbrain aspirations with a strong dose of gunboat diplomacy–which is where Boss-man Carter comes in.

It’s worth noting that Clinton did not conjure up the pivot on her own, but was briefed on the theory by pivot mastermind Kurt M. Campbell. Campbell is Co-Founder and former CEO of the Center for a New American Security.  According to the Center for a New American Security website: “From 2009 to 2013, he served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, where he is widely credited as being a key architect of the “pivot to Asia.” In this capacity, Dr. Campbell advanced a comprehensive U.S. strategy that took him to every corner of the Asia-Pacific region where he was a tireless advocate for American interests, particularly the promotion of trade and investment.”

In a recent video interview with neocon Robert Kagan,  Campbell regurgitates the same rhetoric that appears in Clinton’s speech. He opines: “Most of the history of the 21 century is going to be in the Asia Pacific region….It is in our best national interest to show that we are going to play a central role in that drama just as we have in the 20th century….(There is  bipartisan)… recognition that our military presence is our ticket to the big game in the Asia Pacific.”  (See entire interviewhere.)

There seems to be a growing consensus that the US military is the right tool for persuading China to cave in, but is it?

The last thing the Obama administration wants is a shooting war with China, mainly because China has the ability to strike back, and not just militarily either.  Let me explain: According to political scientist Pang Zhongying, “The current relationship between China and the US is one that has never existed in the history of international relations…..The level of interdependence between China and the US is unprecedented in history. Before the 1970s, no one could possibly imagine or predict that these two countries would be interdependent to the extent of today. At that time, interdependence existed only between the US and Europe, or among the G7 at the most. The level of interdependence today did not exist between the US and China.”

In other words, the two countries need each other and are bound together in a complex web of economic and financial ties, including China’s massive holding of US debt which amounts to an eyewatering $1.3 trillion.  This interdependence means that the US cannot abuse China in the same way it has Russia without putting itself at risk.   So, while the US still maintains the dominant position economically and militarily, it can’t simply throw caution to the wind by imposing sanctions or escalating hostilities beyond a certain point without jeopardizing its own security. China knows this, which is why it will continue to pursue its own agenda aggressively while deflecting US belligerence and hostility as best as it can.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is still committed to “peaceful development”. US antagonism is just one of the many hurtles that China will have to overcome to actualize its plan for integrating the Eurasian landmass into the world’s largest and most prosperous trading bloc. Check out this excerpt from Alfred McCoy’s seminal piece “The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”:

“China’s leadership began collaborating with surrounding states on a massive project to integrate the country’s national rail network into a transcontinental grid. Starting in 2008, the Germans and Russians joined with the Chinese in launching the “Eurasian Land Bridge.” Two east-west routes, the old Trans-Siberian in the north and a new southern route along the ancient Silk Road through Kazakhstan are meant to bind all of Eurasia together….

In April, President Xi Jinping announced construction of that massive road-rail-pipeline corridor direct from western China to its new port at Gwadar, Pakistan, creating the logistics for future naval deployments in the energy-rich Arabian Sea….. By building the infrastructure for military bases in the South China and Arabian seas, Beijing is forging the future capacity to surgically and strategically impair U.S. military containment. …

In a decade or two….China will be ready to surgically slice through Washington’s continental encirclement at a few strategic points without having to confront the full global might of the U.S. military, potentially rendering the vast American armada of carriers, cruisers, drones, fighters, and submarines redundant….. If China succeeds in linking its rising industries to the vast natural resources of the Eurasian heartland, then quite possibly…. “the empire of the world would be in sight.” (“The Geopolitics of American Global Decline”, Alfred McCoy, The Unz Review)

There it is, eh? The end of one empire and the beginning of another.

China’s leaders aren’t going to blow their big chance by getting sucked into a costly and pointless war with the United States.  That’s ridiculous. They’re going to keep plugging away until the Silk Road becomes a reality.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

Who’s Behind Asia-Pacific’s Growing Tensions?

By Tony Cartalucci
June 18, 2015
New Eastern Outlook

 

F201307020907394598748414Increasing tension in the Asia-Pacific between China and nations surrounding its territory, appears to be an unstoppable and inevitable lead-up to regional conflict and perhaps even global war.

In reality, for those who have studied history, this is a familiar rerun. Change the characters and place current events in the context of the early 1900’s and we see the lead up to World War II and more specifically, the events that set the stage for the fighting in the Pacific.

Some may believe this is a rerun of when Japan was the sole aggressor in the region, expanding beyond its means before finally meeting its match. Predicated on this misconception, these same people would believe that China has now traded places with Imperial Japan, and is expanding recklessly at the expense of regional and global peace and stability.

However, this is indeed a misconception.

World War II: Setting the Record Straight

To make this clear, we must consider the words of a contemporary of the period before World War II and the words of warning he offered regarding the true nature of tensions at that time. He was United State Marine Corps General Smedley Butler, two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor, and a man who fought America’s wars on multiple continents throughout his entire adult life and part of his childhood – he lied about his age to enlist in the Marine Corps early.

In his seminal writing “War is a Racket,” he speaks specifically of tensions in the Asia-Pacific at the time and offered advice on how to avoid what would be a catastrophic war (emphasis added):

At each session of Congress the question of further naval appropriations comes up. The swivel-chair admirals of Washington (and there are always a lot of them) are very adroit lobbyists. And they are smart. They don’t shout that “We need a lot of battleships to war on this nation or that nation.” Oh no. First of all, they let it be known that America is menaced by a great naval power. Almost any day, these admirals will tell you, the great fleet of this supposed enemy will strike suddenly and annihilate 125,000,000 people. Just like that. Then they begin to cry for a larger navy. For what? To fight the enemy? Oh my, no. Oh, no. For defense purposes only.

Then, incidentally, they announce maneuvers in the Pacific. For defense. Uh, huh.

The Pacific is a great big ocean. We have a tremendous coastline on the Pacific. Will the maneuvers be off the coast, two or three hundred miles? Oh, no. The maneuvers will be two thousand, yes, perhaps even thirty-five hundred miles, off the coast.

The Japanese, a proud people, of course will be pleased beyond expression to see the United States fleet so close to Nippon’s shores. Even as pleased as would be the residents of California were they to dimly discern through the morning mist, the Japanese fleet playing at war games off Los Angeles.


The ships of our navy, it can be seen, should be specifically limited, by law, to within 200 miles of our coastline. Had that been the law in 1898 the Maine would never have gone to Havana Harbor. She never would have been blown up. There would have been no war with Spain with its attendant loss of life. Two hundred miles is ample, in the opinion of experts, for defense purposes. Our nation cannot start an offensive war if its ships can’t go further than 200 miles from the coastline. Planes might be permitted to go as far as 500 miles from the coast for purposes of reconnaissance. And the army should never leave the territorial limits of our nation.

General Butler alludes to the fact that America’s posture in Asia-Pacific would inevitably provoke war. To answer why precisely the United States was conducting naval maneuvers off Japan’s shores before the outbreak of World War II, one must consider America’s openly imperialist “Manifest Destiny” which saw the seizure and occupation of islands across the Pacific, up to and including the Philippines which still to this day suffers the effects of constant US military, political, and economic meddling – but at the time the island nation was literally occupied as a conquered territory by the US.

The Pacific theater of World War II was then, not a battle between good and evil nor between democracy and empire – it was a battle between two empires who sought to impose their will upon lands beyond their borders.

One could argue though, that Japan’s actions may have been driven more by a need to counterbalance long-standing Western hegemony in the Pacific, rather than a desire to conquer the planet. While certainly the Japanese sought empire, much of what precipitated World War II was an attempt by the Japanese to push out Western imperialism that surrounded Japan and openly sought to eventually impose its rule upon Japan itself.

China Today

We can see something similar today in Asia Pacific. The stated goal of US foreign policy, particularly the “Pivot to Asia” is to reestablish American preeminence in the Pacific region, thousands of miles from American shores. There exists policy papers drafted from corporate-financier funded think tanks that openly call for the encirclement and isolation of China to thwart its rise as a regional economic and military power.

This is not because the United States fears Chinese troops storming the beaches of California, but because they fear China challenging and displacing American influence where it shouldn’t be in the first place.

The term “String of Pearls,” taken from the 2006 Strategic Studies Institute’s report “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral,” refers to a “string” of geopolitically important ports, pipelines, and other installations China is building stretching from the Middle East and North Arfica (MENA), past Pakistan, India, and Myanmar, and all the way back to China’s shores in the South China Sea.

The SSI report openly lays out plans to disrupt Chinese interests along this “string,” a strategy in 2006 that would tangibly manifest itself beginning with the US-engineered “Arab Spring” in 2011which saw extremists eventually pushed Chinese interests out of the MENA region, to various conflicts today regarding destabilization in Myanmar and Pakistan, as well as “island disputes” in the South China Sea.

In virtually every point along the “string” the SSI report covered, we now see concerted violence and political chaos whose source stems from US State Department-funded nongovernmental organizations and movements everywhere from the Middle East, to Baluchistan, Pakistan, to Myanmar, and of course to the governments of Japan and the Philippines, subservient to US interests since the end of the Second World War.

The SSI report would conclude by stating the following carefully coded wording:

The United States, through its diplomacy, economic policies, and military strategy has an unprecedented opportunity to shape and influence China’s future direction. Overcoming the potential challenges posed by the “String of Pearls” and the successful integration of China as a responsible stakeholder in the international system are necessary for the future prosperity and security of states in the region and across the globe.

Of course, by “international system,” SSI means that which Wall Street, Washington, London, and Brussels created, controls, and are the sole benefactors of. To ensure clarity on this point, an earlier paper written in 1997 by US policymaker Robert Kagan titled “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment,” on the same subject of “integrating China” into the existing “international order” states (emphasis added):

The present world order serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it. And it is poorly suited to the needs of a Chinese dictatorship trying to maintain power at home and increase its clout abroad. Chinese leaders chafe at the constraints on them and worry that they must change the rules of the international system before the international system changes them.

New Tensions Same as the Old Tensions 

It’s very clear then that tensions in Asia Pacific, amid which the US attempts to pose as an indispensable mediator of, are in fact the intentional, premeditated consequences of long-standing, well-documented US foreign policy. It is clear that a rising China was not the cause of the last World War, nor will it be the cause of the next. The cause is rather the same tiresome special interests which have driven all of the World Wars – those centered in the West unable to accept regional influence and a multi-polar world, and those interests who will only settle for global hegemony.With the true perpetrators of rising tensions in the Pacific identified, and the consequences well-studied of when last these perpetrators stoked such tensions, those nations faced with the choice of playing proxies for Wall Street and Washington or readjusting and even profiting from the rise of China, have one last chance amid a closing window of opportunity to ensure history does not tragically repeat itself, yet again.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.

US media escalate anti-China propaganda over alleged hacking

By Thomas Gaist
June 6, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

After receiving a quiet go-ahead from the Obama administration this week, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the US television networks trumpeted unsubstantiated accusations that Chinese hackers have stolen personal data on millions of government employees from US government servers.

The alleged cyberattacks, which the corporate media strongly suggests have originated with the Chinese government, supposedly involved lifting files on some 4 million federal workers from servers of the Office of Personnel Management.

While the Obama administration has stopped short of directly accusing the Chinese government of involvement in the hacking, belligerent voices in the media and political establishment are already speaking as if Beijing’s involvement is certain.

None of the media reports is based on actual journalism. Instead, the reporters involved, whether at the major daily newspapers or the television networks, are taking their cues from the White House, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

The report by the New York Times, for example, “Chinese Hacking of US Data May Extend to Insurance Companies,” has all the appearances of a semi-official US government press release. It lays out, not demonstrable facts, but rather an argument that serves the political aims of the US ruling class.

In the upside down, war-mongering narrative advanced by the Times, a growing wave of Chinese cyberattacks has been launched against the US, in spite of supposed efforts by the Obama administration to de-escalate cyber-tensions between the two governments.

“The intrusions also suggest that President Obama’s efforts over the past three years to engage China’s leadership in a dialogue that would limit cyberattacks has failed. The pace of the attacks is unabated, and the scope has grown,” the Times warned.

Painting the alleged hacks in grandiose and ominous terms, the Times proclaimed that the world is facing a “new era in cyberespionage,” in which the US population at large will face cyberattacks similar to those allegedly launched against US business and state institutions in recent years.

“Spies are no longer stealing just American corporate and military trade secrets, but also personal information for some later purpose,” the newspaper warned. “The attackers seem to be amassing huge databases of personal information about Americans.”

Readers should perhaps stop now to rub their eyes in disbelief. Only a few days ago, the main news story in the United States was the effort of the US National Security Agency to “amass huge databases of personal information about Americans.”

Moreover, this was accomplished, not by a murky hacking operation, but by a massively funded government program, authorized at the highest levels, that seized all telecommunications and Internet data generated by all telecoms, ISPs and corporations like Google and Yahoo!

The legislation signed into law by Obama Tuesday, and hailed by the Times as a breakthrough for civil liberties, only changed one aspect of this massive surveillance operation—described by the NSA internally as an effort to “capture it all”—by shifting responsibility for collecting telephone metadata from the NSA to the telecoms. All other NSA programs to spy on the American people and the population of the world continue entirely as before.

The media attack on China thus serves two purposes: to distract attention from the real and growing threat to democratic rights and privacy in the United States, which comes from Washington, not Beijing, and to further the campaign of anti-Chinese provocation and saber-rattling which the Obama administration calls its “pivot to Asia.”

Whatever the reality of the latest hacking allegations, the attribution to China is extremely dodgy and unsubstantiated. While the Times assured readers that there is “little doubt among federal officials” that the attacks were launched from China, it acknowledged that the White House has declined to publicly finger the Chinese state as the source “because of a broader diplomatic strategy.”

In part, the unwillingness of the White House to publicly stand behind the accusations against the Chinese government, even as the American corporate media screams them at the top of its lungs, is a demonstration of the extremely inflammatory nature of the charges, which verge on declaring that China is at war with the United States.

Even as it orchestrates a military, political and media campaign aiming to intimidate China and whip up public support for military action in the Far East, the Obama administration wishes to preserve its ability to maneuver diplomatically and extract concessions from Beijing through political and diplomatic pressure.

The announcement that discussion on cyberwarfare will be central to the upcoming meeting between US and Chinese officials on “Economic and Strategic Dialogues” indicates that the issue is being used to bully China.

In April, the US Defense Department issued a report claiming that China launched a wave of hacks against US military information networks during 2014.

It cannot go unremarked that the hysterical condemnations of alleged Chinese cyberattacks by the US establishment have been steadily escalated even as the US has developed massive data mining operations against the Chinese government and military.

NSA internal documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden showed that the spy agency has implanted “persistent” forms of malware technology on Chinese servers. Once embedded, the advanced malware technology used by the NSA can remain concealed indefinitely while transmitting data back to its controllers, performing manipulations of infected systems, and replicating itself on other networked computers.

There is little doubt that China conducts cyberespionage against the US government and military. But such efforts are dwarfed by the massive resources employed by the Pentagon, CIA and other US government agencies.

This week’s events make clear that the alleged hacking will provide occasion for expanded use of similar technologies within the US. In response to supposed cyberthreats, the NSA demanded authority this week to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance against US-based Internet users and networks.

Previously, the National Security Agency has technically only enjoyed legal authorization to conduct dragnet electronic surveillance against servers and networks located overseas, despite the fact that the distinction between “overseas data” and “US data” has been rendered largely meaningless by the globalization of production and the revolution in communications and information technology that has unfolded since the 1970s.

“Nuclear War our Likely Future”: Russia and China won’t accept US Hegemony, Paul Craig Roberts

By RT
June 3, 2015
RT

 

25a0a-war-looms-for-obama-in-iran-syria-and-north-korea-img_The White House is determined to block the rise of the key nuclear-armed nations, Russia and China, neither of whom will join the “world’s acceptance of Washington’s hegemony,” says head of the Institute for Political Economy, Paul Craig Roberts.

The former US assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy, Dr Paul Craig Roberts, has written on his blog that Beijing is currently “confronted with the Pivot to Asia and the construction of new US naval and air bases to ensure Washington’s control of the South China Sea, now defined as an area of American National Interests.”

Roberts writes that Washington’s commitment to contain Russia is the reason “for the crisis that Washington has created in Ukraine and for its use as anti-Russian propaganda.”

The author of several books, “How America Was Lost” among the latest titles, says that US “aggression and blatant propaganda have convinced Russia and China that Washington intends war, and this realization has drawn the two countries into a strategic alliance.”

Dr Roberts believes that neither Russia, nor China will meanwhile accept the so-called“vassalage status accepted by the UK, Germany, France and the rest of Europe, Canada, Japan and Australia.” According to the political analyst, the “price of world peace is the world’s acceptance of Washington’s hegemony.”

“On the foreign policy front, the hubris and arrogance of America’s self-image as the ‘exceptional, indispensable’ country with hegemonic rights over other countries means that the world is primed for war,” Roberts writes.

He gives a gloomy political forecast in his column saying that “unless the dollar and with it US power collapses or Europe finds the courage to break with Washington and to pursue an independent foreign policy, saying good-bye to NATO, nuclear war is our likely future.”

Russia’s far-reaching May 9 Victory Day celebration was meanwhile a “historical turning point,” according to Roberts who says that while Western politicians chose to boycott the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, “the Chinese were there in their place,” China’s president sitting next to President Putin during the military parade on Red Square in Moscow.

A recent poll targeting over 3,000 people in France, Germany and the UK has recently revealed that as little as 13 percent of Europeans think the Soviet Army played the leading role in liberating Europe from Nazism during WW2. The majority of respondents – 43 percent – said the US Army played the main role in liberating Europe.

“Russian casualties compared to the combined casualties of the US, UK, and France make it completely clear that it was Russia that defeated Hitler,” Roberts points out, adding that “in the Orwellian West, the latest rewriting of history leaves out of the story the Red Army’s destruction of the Wehrmacht.”

The head of the presidential administration, Sergey Ivanov, told RT earlier this month that attempts to diminish the role played by Russia in defeating Nazi Germany through rewriting history by some Western countries are part of the ongoing campaign to isolate and alienate Russia.

Dr Roberts has also stated in his column that while the US president only mentioned US forces in his remarks on the 70th anniversary of the victory, President Putin in contrast“expressed gratitude to ‘the peoples of Great Britain, France and the United States of America for their contribution to the victory.’”

The political analyst notes that America along with its allies “do not hear when Russia says ‘don’t push us this hard, we are not your enemy. We want to be your partners.’”

While Moscow and Beijing have “finally realized that their choice is vassalage or war,” Washington “made the mistake that could be fateful for humanity,” according to Dr Roberts.

Australian government “actively considering” dangerous provocation in South China Sea

By Peter Symonds
June 2, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

A pair of P-3 maritime reconnaissance aircraft over the Pacific. The Australian government is considering flying such an aircraft within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-claimed territory. Source: US Department of Defense

Amid escalating tensions between the US and China over the South China Sea, the Australian government is “actively considering conducting its own ‘freedom of navigation’ exercises near artificial islands built by China in disputed territory,” according to a front-page article featured in today’s Australian.

Written by the newspaper’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan, who is well-connected in defence circles in Washington and Canberra, the article revealed that what is under discussion is far more provocative than recent US military operations close to Chinese-controlled atolls. “The Royal Australian Air Force aircraft would fly within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) of an artificial island build by the Chinese, with Beijing certain to react,” Sheridan stated.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that the Pentagon was drawing up plans for warships or military aircraft to enter the 12-mile territorial zone around a Chinese islet. The Australian article makes clear that Washington could be contracting out this reckless venture to Canberra, which has a track record of functioning as an attack dog for the US on foreign policy in the Middle East and Ukraine.

According to the Australian, the plans involve a P-3 surveillance aircraft that could possibly take off from the Butterworth air force base in Malaysia. Alternatively, “within a few months” an Australian warship on a port visit to the Philippines or Vietnam could “incidentally” breach “what Beijing considers its territorial waters.” Although the Australian warship HMAS Perth is currently in the South China Sea, the P-3 flight “is likely to happen more quickly … as it is much easier to arrange at short notice.”

The article claimed that Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government had made no decision, but “such an exercise … is considered very likely.” While unlikely to be, formally at least, a US-led operation, Washington is obviously heavily involved. Canberra has been in close dialogue with Washington over the South China Sea and was informed in advance of last month’s much-publicised US flight with a CNN news crew near Chinese-administered reefs.

The Obama administration may well prefer Australia or another ally to intrude within the 12-mile limit and risk a miscalculation or error leading to an open clash or other forms of Chinese retaliation. Moreover, unlike Australia, the United States, although denouncing China’s actions in the South China Sea as illegitimate, has not ratified the relevant international treaty—the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The dangers of war with China are now being discussed openly. In a Time article entitled, “The next step toward possible conflict in the South China Sea,” retired US navy captain Bernard Cole said the chance of shots being fired stood at “better than 50-50.” He suggested that the initial volley would more likely come from the Philippines or Vietnam—or, one could add, Australia.

The detailed behind-the-scenes planning reflects the aggressive stance taken by the US, Australia and other allies against China at last weekend’s Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore. Echoing US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, Australian Defence Minister Kevin Andrews on Sunday called for a halt to all land reclamation activities in the South China Sea, highlighting China’s “large-scale” activity in particular.

Andrews told the Wall Street Journal that Australia would directly challenge any declaration by China of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea. An ADIZ is not a territorial claim, but requires aircraft to give advance warning before entering the zone. The US responded to China’s 2013 announcement of an ADIZ in the East China Sea by provocatively flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers into the area unannounced.

Andrews indicated that the Australian air force would ignore an ADIZ and proceed with flights in the South China Sea. “We’ve been doing it for decades, we’re doing it currently … and we’ll continue to do it in the future,” he said. The Wall Street Journal reported that “top US Navy and Marine commanders in the Pacific have been urging close ally Australia since last year to consider joining multilateral naval policing missions in the South China Sea,” alongside Japan and the US.

In recent weeks, a drumbeat of condemnation of China has been rising throughout the Australian media and political establishment. Opposition Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek urged caution so as not to further inflame tensions in the South China Sea. Nevertheless, she declared today that “it is important to have freedom of navigation and freedom of flight through an area that is an extremely busy trading route.”

Commentary in Murdoch’s Australian has been matched in the Fairfax Media by international editor Peter Hartcher, who entitled his article today, “South China Sea: The tiny islands that could lead to war.” After referring to “a persistent idea” that it is not worth risking war between the US and China over “nothing more than tiny islands and useless reefs,” Hartcher proceeded to argue that far more is at stake—key shipping routes, large undersea oil and gas deposits, and above all US supremacy.

“The US Seventh Fleet has been unchallenged ruler of the Pacific since World War Two. A fast rising China is now challenging,” Hartcher wrote. “On the level of global governance, it’s about whether there are any rules governing countries, or whether a country can get its way through use of force.” He concluded by applauding Washington’s provocative actions, saying: “The good news is that China’s creeping invasion of the region is now being openly challenged for the first time by a country with the power to do something about it.”

What is really at stake in the South China Sea is Washington’s determination to maintain its unchallenged hegemony throughout Asia—now central to global manufacturing and economy. Confronted with China’s economic expansion, the Obama administration initiated the “pivot to Asia”—an all-encompassing diplomatic, economic and military strategy aimed at subordinating China and the region to American interests.

If there is any force in the world that has wantonly and criminally sought to “get its way through the use of force,” it is US imperialism, which has waged one war after another during the past two decades to advance its ambitions. Now amid the deepening breakdown of world capitalism, the US, in league with its allies, is willing to risk war with nuclear-armed China to maintain its global dominance.

US brinkmanship with China over South China Sea

By Peter Symonds
June 1, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Asia_US_It does not require a great deal of imagination to work out how the United States would respond to China sending its aircraft carrier into the Gulf of Mexico to assert its “right” to “freedom of navigation”, or Russia dispatching military reconnaissance aircraft just outside the 12-mile territorial limit off the coast of New York State.

Such actions would immediately be denounced as flagrant aggression, if not acts of war. US warships and aircraft would—at the very least—closely shadow the “intruders”. And, a clamour would erupt in the media demanding American retaliation and preparations for war.

Yet that is exactly what the US is doing thousands of kilometres from the nearest American territory. State-of-the-art surveillance aircraft now routinely patrol close to Chinese-controlled islands in the South China Sea. Last month the littoral combat ship, the USS Fort Worth, prowled around the same atolls. Now the Pentagon is provocatively preparing to directly challenge China’s territorial claims by sailing or flying within the 12-mile limit.

These reckless military actions are being accompanied by a mounting propaganda campaign in the American and international press branding China’s land reclamation in the South China Sea as illegal, aggressive and aimed at securing control of the strategic waters. The United States is transforming “freedom of navigation” into a casus belli for war with China.

US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter exploited last weekend’s Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore—a security forum originally established to ease regional tensions—to condemn China for being “out of step with international rules and norms” and to solicit further participation from other Asian countries in the massive US military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Carter declared that he was “personally committed” to the next phase of the US military “rebalance” aimed at encircling China. The Defence Department, he said, “will deepen longstanding alliances and partnerships, diversify America’s force posture, and make new investments in key capabilities and platforms.”

He continued, “The Department is investing in the technologies that are most relevant to this complex security environment, such as new unmanned systems for the air and sea, a new long-range bomber, and other technologies like the electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones.”

Carter emphasised that the US would “bring the best platforms and people forward to the Asia-Pacific.” These include “the latest Virginia-class [nuclear] submarines, the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft, the newest stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt, and brand-new carrier-based E-2D Hawkeye early-warning-and-control aircraft.”

Having outlined this vast array of military might, Carter went on with a straight face to declare that the US opposed “any further militarisation of disputed features” in the South China Sea—a reference to two small mobile artillery guns that Washington claims China has placed on one of the islets.

While Carter declared that “there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes,” the US has exploited these same disputes to secure new military basing and access arrangements with countries directly adjacent to its waters—the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam.

US imperialism is now actively preparing for war with China. It is not China that threatens “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea, but the United States. Central to the Pentagon’s war strategy against China are plans to cripple its economy by imposing a naval blockade to sever shipping routes on which it heavily relies for energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East.

The Obama administration has made clear that it is willing to threaten, risk and provoke war in order to ensure its untrammelled domination in Asia in general and over China in particular. The historic decline of US imperialism during the past two decades has been matched by the eruption of American militarism in the Middle East, the Balkans and Central Asia. Now Washington is engaged in increasingly reckless brinkmanship in Asia in its efforts to force Beijing to back down.

An editorial in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Kaiser Xi’s Navy” ominously drew a parallel with the situation in Europe immediately prior to World War I, comparing China to Germany and Chinese President Xi Jinping to the German Kaiser. Its false depiction of China as an aggressive imperialist power was aimed at justifying the call for a vast US naval expansion “to convince Beijing that a naval race is unwinnable and not worth running.”

The US is setting itself on a collision course with China whose strategic and economic interests are directly threatened by the aggressive American intrusion into the South China Sea. Beijing is well aware that any concessions to Washington will be quickly followed by more strident demands. Admiral Sun Jianguo, head of the Chinese delegation in Singapore, rejected US condemnations of China’s activities and calls for a halt to land reclamation.

The implications of escalating geo-political tensions were obviously heavy in the air at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Calling for a diplomatic resolution to territorial disputes, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein warned: “If we are not careful it would escalate into one of the deadliest conflicts of our time, if not our history.”

American imperialism’s provocations against a nuclear-armed power do indeed threaten to plunge humanity into another, even deadlier world war that will not be stopped by diplomacy or appeals to reason. The only social force capable of preventing such a disaster is the international working class, through a unified struggle to put an end to its root cause—the bankrupt profit system and its outmoded division of the world into rival nation states.

 

 

US defence secretary challenges China at Singapore security forum

By Peter Symonds
May 31, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Asia_US_At the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore this morning, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter provocatively threw down the gauntlet to China, demanding “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation” in the South China Sea. “We also oppose the further militarisation of disputed features,” he said.

While his remarks were addressed to “all claimants” in the South China Sea, Carter was unmistakeably targeting China. He blamed its “unprecedented” land reclamation for making these waters “the source of tension in the region and front-page news around the world.” The United States, he declared, had “deep concerns about any party that attempts to undermine the status quo and generate instability, whether by force, coercion, or simply creating irreversible facts on the ground, in the air, or in the water.”

In reality, the US has deliberately stoked tensions in the South China Sea by directly intervening in longstanding maritime disputes and encouraging China’s neighbours, including the Philippines and Vietnam, to more aggressively assert their claims against Beijing. The Obama administration has exploited the issue as part of its “pivot to Asia” to undermine Chinese influence and justify a US military build-up and the strengthening of alliances throughout the region.

In the lead-up to the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Pentagon ensured that the South China Sea would be “front-page news” by allowing a CNN news crew to join a US navy surveillance flight close to Chinese-controlled atolls. Yesterday the US claimed further evidence of China’s “militarisation” of the sea, citing the presence of two mobile artillery vehicles on one of China’s islets. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, a US official acknowledged there was “no military threat,” but said “it is about symbolism.”

The Pentagon’s moves have been accompanied by inflammatory statements by US officials, as well as in the American and international press, magnifying the “threat” posed by China and indicating further military provocations. After last month denouncing China’s land reclamation as building “a great wall of sand,” Admiral Harry Harris, the newly installed head of the US Pacific Command, on Wednesday dismissed Beijing’s territorial claims as “preposterous.”

In what can only be interpreted as a threat to China, Harris declared there would be “no shortage of challenges that confront us. If called upon, we will fight tonight to defend American interests in the vast Indo-Asia-Pacific. This is not aspirational. It is in our DNA. Our nation deserves no less.”

In today’s speech, Defence Secretary Carter reaffirmed that the US would continue to challenge China’s claims through “freedom of navigation” operations in the South China Sea. “There should be no mistake,” he said. “The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as US forces do around the world.”

Carter has reportedly ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for US warships or aircraft to enter the 12-mile territorial limit around Chinese-controlled reefs, actions that risk a clash leading to an escalating conflict with China’s armed forces.

While asserting the “right” to freedom of navigation and overflight of territory claimed by China, the US routinely denounces similar activities by China in the East China Sea near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands administered by Japan as “provocative” and unjustified. Indeed, US President Obama has publicly pledged to back Japan in any war with China over the rocky, uninhabited outcrops.

Carter’s main pitch was an appeal for regional cooperation to ensure “peace and stability.” Nothing could be further from the truth. As outlined in his speech, the US has for the past five years engaged in a comprehensive military build-up and strengthening of strategic partnerships directed against China throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Carter’s long list of “cooperative” arrangements focussed on stronger military ties with Japan, South Korea, Australia and India. He noted that the navy’s state-of-the-art littoral warship, the USS Fort Worth, which has just completed a “freedom of navigation” operation in the South China Sea, is based in Singapore. Carter foreshadowed the signing of a new operational cooperation agreement with Vietnam and a new US-India Defence Framework when he visits those two countries this week.

To underscore Washington’s commitment to its Asian allies, Carter declared that the US Defence Department would “continue to bring the best [weapons] platforms and people forward to the Asia Pacific, such as the latest Virginia-class [nuclear] submarines, the Navy’s P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft, the newest stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt, and brand-new carrier-based E-2D Hawkeye early warning-and-control aircraft.”

Carter announced a Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative, which is clearly centred on the South China Sea. The US Senate Armed Services Committee has just approved the measure, which will provide $425 million over the next five years to help train and equip the armed forces of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The committee chairman, right-wing Republican Senator John McCain, is at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Yesterday he added his voice to the denunciations of China. He highlighted the Pentagon’s claim that China had placed artillery on one island, describing it as a “disturbing and escalatory development.” Indicating his support for US military provocations, McCain declared that the US needed to “take certain measures which will be a disincentive to China to continue these types of activities.”

The sharp escalation of tensions in the South China Sea in recent months is generating growing concern in Asian capitals about the danger of war, even among closer supporters the US “pivot.”

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who delivered the keynote opening address to the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday, declared that without cooperation the Pacific Ocean could be divided between the US and China, “each with its own sphere of influence, circumscribing options for other countries, and increasing the risk of rivalry and conflict between two power blocs.”

Lee called for China and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to conclude a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as soon as possible, “so as to break the vicious cycle and not let disputes sour the broader relationship.” He warned: “On the other hand, if a physical clash occurs, which escalates into a wider tension or conflict, either by design or more likely by accident, that would be very bad. But even if we avoid a physical clash, if the outcome is determined on the basis of might is right, that will set a bad precedent.”

During question time following Carter’s speech, People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhuo challenged Carter’s criticisms of China, calling them “groundless and not constructive.” He pointed out that “freedom of navigation and overflight” had never been at issue in the South China Sea and insisted that China’s land reclamation was “legitimate” and justified. Zhao questioned Washington’s “harsh criticism” and military reconnaissance.

Carter brushed aside these comments, falsely declaring that the US was doing nothing new in the South China Sea. The exchange presages further verbal clashes over the weekend between China and the US and its allies, including Japan, Australia and the Philippines, whose defence ministers are present. Several Chinese officers are slated to speak, including the head of the Chinese delegation, Admiral Sun Jianguo, a PLA deputy chief, who is due to address the forum tomorrow.

Pivot Insanity: Why is Obama Goading China?

By Michael Whitney
May 30, 2015
CounterPunch

 

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is willing to risk a war with China in order to defend  “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii on Wednesday, Carter issued his “most forceful” warning yet, demanding “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation” by China in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Carter said:   “There should be no mistake: The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.” He also added that the United States intended to remain “the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.”

In order to show Chinese leaders “who’s the boss”, Carter has threatened to deploy US warships and surveillance aircraft to within twelve miles of the islands that China claims are within their territorial waters. Not surprisingly, the US is challenging China under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,  a document the US has stubbornly refused to ratify.  But that’s neither here nor there for the bellicose Carter whose insatiable appetite for confrontation makes him the most reckless Sec-Def since Donald Rumsfeld.

So what’s this really all about?  Why does Washington care so much about a couple hundred yards of sand piled up on reefs reefs in the South China Sea? What danger does that pose to US national security? And, haven’t Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines all engaged in similar “land reclamation” activities without raising hackles in DC?

Of course, they have. The whole thing is a joke. Just like Carter’s claim that he’s defending the lofty principal of “freedom of navigation” is a joke. China has never blocked shipping lanes or seized boats sailing in international waters. Never.  The same cannot be said of the United States that just  recently blocked an Iranian ship loaded with humanitarian relief–food, water and critical medical supplies–headed to starving refugees in Yemen. Of course, when the US does it, it’s okay.

The point is, Washington doesn’t give a hoot about the Spratly Islands; it’s just a pretext to slap China around and show them who’s running the show in their own backyard. Carter even admits as much in his statement above when he says that the US plans to be “the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.” China knows what that means. It means “This is our planet, so you’d better shape up or you’re going to find yourself in a world of hurt.” That’s exactly what it means.

So let’s cut to the chase and try to explain what’s really going on, because pretty soon no one is going to be talking about Ukraine, Syria or Yemen because all eyes are going to be focused on China where our madhatter Secretary of Defense is trying to start a third world war.

Here’s the scoop: Washington has abandoned its China policy of “containment” and moved on to Plan B:  Isolation, intimidation and confrontation. In my opinion, this is why the powerbrokers behind Obama dumped Hagel. Hagel just wasn’t hawkish enough for the job. They wanted a died-in-the-wool, warmongering neocon, like Carter, who is, quite likely, the most dangerous man in the world.

Carter’s assignment is to implement the belligerent new policy of incitement and conflict. His actions will prove to the skeptics that Washington is no longer interested in integrating China into the US-led system. Rather, China has become a the biggest threat to Washington’s plan to pivot to Asia. And, just to remind readers how important the pivot is to America’s future, here’s an Obama quote I lifted up from Tom Engelhardt’s latest titled “Superpower in Distress”:

“After a decade in which we fought two wars that cost us dearly, in blood and treasure, the United States is turning our attention to the vast potential of the Asia Pacific region….As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority.”

The so called pivot is Washington’s “top priority”, which means that China’s unprecedented ascendency must be slowed and its regional influence curtailed. Thus, the dust up over the Spratly Islands will be used in the same way the US has used other incidents, that is, by demonizing China’s leaders in the media, by assembling a coalition that will publicly oppose China’s activities, by implementing harsh economic sanctions, by launching asymmetrical attacks on China’s currency and financial markets, by excluding China from critical trade agreements, and by inciting social unrest (color-coded revolution) through the support of dissidents living in China. These are the all-too-familiar signs of US meddling directed at “emerging rivals” who threaten US global hegemony. China now finds itself at the top of the list.

US powerbrokers know that bullying China involves significant risks for themselves and the world. Even so, they have decided to pursue this new policy and force a confrontation. Why? Why would they embark on a strategy so fraught with danger?

The answer is: They don’t see any way around it. They’ve tried containment and it hasn’t worked.  China’s growing like crazy and its regional influence threatens to leave the US on the outside looking in. Carter even admitted as much in a recent speech he gave at the McCain Institute at Arizona State University. He said: “We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets…forging many separate trade agreements in recent years, some based on pressure and special arrangements…. Agreements that…..leave us on the sidelines.  That risks America’s access to these growing markets. We must all decide if we are going to let that happen.  If we’re going to help boost our exports and our economy…and cement our influence and leadership in the fastest-growing region in the world; or if, instead, we’re going to take ourselves out of the game.”

See? It’s all about markets. It’s all about money. Here’s more from Carter’s speech:  (The) ” Asia-Pacific…is the defining region for our nation’s future”… “Half of humanity will live there by 2050″ and that “more than half of the global middle class and its accompanying consumption will come from that region.”….”There are already more than 525 million middle class consumers in Asia, and we expect there to be 3.2 billion in the region by 2030…President Obama and I want to ensure that… businesses can successfully compete for all these potential customers. ….Over the next century, no region will matter more… for American prosperity.”

This is why the Obama administration is making a general nuisance of itself in the South China Sea. It’s so the big US mega-corporations will have new customers for their IPADs and toaster ovens.

For that, they are willing to risk a nuclear war.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

 

Global tensions surge as NATO, Russia hold rival military exercises

By Alex Lantier
May 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Militaries throughout Eurasia and North America are on high alert as NATO and Russian forces hold rival military exercises within Russia and along its borders.

Moscow responded to the beginning of large-scale, two-week-long air exercises by the NATO powers in the Arctic on Monday by launching its own air defense maneuvers. Roughly 250 Russian aircraft and 12,000 servicemen were mobilized in the Urals and western Siberia as 100 NATO aircraft and 4,000 servicemen from Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States operated in the Arctic.

NATO’s Arctic exercises, code-named Arctic Challenge, will continue until June 4. The day after, the annual exercises held by NATO in the Baltic Sea region will begin, bringing 4,500 troops from 17 NATO member-states to Russia’s northwestern border.

The Russian Defense Ministry called its operations a “massive surprise inspection” of Russian air defense capabilities. According to Russian media, the maneuvers are meant to train Russian forces to respond to large-scale air attacks from abroad. Beginning last Monday and running until Thursday, their purpose is to prepare the Russian armed forces for a larger military drill, Center 2015, to be held in September.

Yesterday, 10 Russian warships supported by naval aircraft carried out exercises in the Barents Sea, a part of the Arctic Ocean largely consisting of Russian territorial waters.

Meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday in Washington, President Obama denounced Russia for holding its military drills, calling the Kremlin’s posture “increasingly aggressive.”

Stoltenberg, for his part, criticized Russia for not being “more transparent” in holding its military exercises. “We urge the Russians not to… do these kinds of snap exercises,” he told CBS News. “Every nation has a right to exercise its forces, also Russia,” he continued, “but they should do it in a more transparent and predictable way in order to avoid any misunderstandings.”

The denunciations from Obama and Stoltenberg are hypocritical and absurd. It is NATO, not Russia, that is driving the explosive military standoff around Russia’s borders. Having provoked a military crisis by toppling a pro-Russian Ukrainian regime in Kiev in a far-right putsch last year, then launching a proxy war against pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, NATO is now methodically surrounding Russia with hostile military exercises.

According to Russia’s envoy to the NATO alliance, Aleksandr Grushko, the number of NATO exercises close to the Russian border has doubled over the past year, to over 3,000. NATO is also doubling to 30,000 men the size of its European rapid reaction force, which is designed to quickly prepare for combat with Russia in Eastern Europe.

Britain is sending its biggest warship, the HMS Ocean, to the Baltic Sea this week to deploy a unit of Royal Marines in Poland and join naval drills off Russia’s coast at Kaliningrad.

US and Canadian airmen and military aircraft are jointly carrying out NORAD’s annual “Amalgam Dart” exercises in the Arctic. These are billed as operations to train NORAD forces to detect and respond to potentially hostile flights into North America from across the Arctic Ocean and the North Pole—that is, from Russia.

In recent weeks, US forces have also held joint military exercises with Romania and Bulgaria in the Balkans, and with Georgia in the Caucasus. Last month, US troops began training fighters from far-right militias inside Ukraine itself for combat against pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

With international tensions at the breaking point, NATO’s decision to hold multiple military exercises on Russia’s periphery is utterly reckless. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that early in the Ukraine crisis he had placed the Russian military, including its nuclear forces, on alert.

A report last November by the European Leadership Network (ELN) think tank in London found that since the February 2014 putsch in Kiev, 40 “near miss” incidents had almost led to military clashes between Russian and NATO forces. That danger has since been heightened, with armies across Europe on a hair trigger, and thousands of NATO aircraft and military units surrounding Russia. A few collisions or miscalculations could lead to a clash with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Russia and China recently concluded their first joint naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, operating out of the Crimean port of Sevastopol, a region of Ukraine that chose to rejoin Russia after the Kiev putsch in a move that was denounced by the NATO powers. Russian and Chinese warships carried out multiple operations, including live-fire exercises, in the eastern Mediterranean. For the Chinese navy, this exercise was by far the most far removed from its home base in China it has ever held.

The holding of military exercises preparing for large-scale conflict demonstrates that the major capitalist powers, above all Washington and its imperialist allies in Europe and the Asia-Pacific, are gearing up for a Third World War. This is the outcome of decades of US-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia that followed the dissolution of the USSR, and more recently the Ukraine crisis and Washington’s anti-Chinese “pivot to Asia.”

As wars surge across the Middle East in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and the standoff escalates between the United States and China in the South China Sea, NATO’s confrontation with Russia completes the picture of a Eurasian landmass beset by bloodshed and the imminent danger of war. Under the pressure of a crisis of global capitalism, masses of workers worldwide are being dragged into a horrendous conflict in which they have no interest, and which is developing largely behind their backs.

The critical task facing the international working class is to mobilize itself politically in struggle against capitalism and war. It cannot give any support to the maneuvers of the Putin regime in Moscow or its Chinese counterpart, collections of corrupt business oligarchs which emerged from the restoration of capitalism and which are incapable of appealing to anti-war sentiment in the working class. They oscillate between attempts to work out a deal with imperialism and military bluster that only increases political and military tensions.

US-China tensions escalate over South China Sea

By Peter Symonds
May 27, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Asia_US_Tensions between the US and China are continuing to escalate after Beijing lodged a formal protest with Washington on Monday over a highly-publicised US military surveillance aircraft flight near Chinese-controlled territory in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands.

An editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post yesterday continued the drumbeat of US denunciations of China’s land reclamation activities in the South China Sea and called for action by the Obama administration. “While it probably cannot be stopped, the project should be fully exposed—and China’s attempts to restrict air and sea traffic near its installations decisively rejected,” the newspaper declared.

The editorial’s language, condemning “the brazenness” of China’s territorial claims and its land reclamation as “a dangerous provocation,” has become standard fare for the US and its allies. In reality, the stepped-up actions of the US, thousands of kilometres from any American territory, have recklessly inflamed long-festering regional maritime disputes and are posing the danger of war.

Washington’s calls for “freedom of navigation” are nothing but a pretext for a military build-up in these strategically-sensitive waters and steadily escalating provocations, such as last week’s reconnaissance flight. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has called for the Pentagon to prepare plans for American military aircraft and/or warships to directly challenge Chinese sovereignty by entering airspace and waters within the 12-mile territorial limit around its islets and reefs in the South China Sea.

The US is clearly aiming to provoke a Chinese response that can be exploited to dramatically escalate the diplomatic and military pressure on Beijing in order to extract major concessions, even if that precipitates an open clash and conflict between two nuclear-armed powers.

The Washington Post editorial encouraged the Obama administration to step up the war of words against China at the annual top-level Shangri La Dialogue starting Friday in Singapore, where Defence Secretary Carter will undoubtedly use the opportunity to confront senior Chinese officials. The US and China’s neighbours, it declared, should “push back against the [Chinese] sandcastles in the Spratlys.”

In a similar vein, China’s announcement yesterday that it was constructing two lighthouses on reefs in the Spratlys was also portrayed in the US and international media as part of China’s supposedly menacing build-up in the South China Sea.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spokesman Yang Yujun hit back yesterday against the US, declaring that “outside powers” were trying to “tarnish the Chinese military’s reputation and create an atmosphere of exaggerated tension.” Referring to China’s land reclamation, he said: “There has been a lot of hype surrounding this news. Is it because the South China Sea has shrunk and become more crowded?”

Alluding to the danger of further US military provocations, Yang declared: “We cannot eliminate the possibility that this is to create excuses for the actions that certain countries may be planning to take. This is not a new trick and has been used many times in the past.”

Yang was speaking at the launch of China’s new Defence White Paper, which lays out, in broad terms, the PLA’s strategy and objectives. After painting a fantastic picture of a world in which “peace, development, cooperation and mutual benefit have become an irresistible tide of the times,” it proceeded to warn of “new threats from hegemonism, power politics and neo-interventionism.” It continued: “International competition for the redistribution of power, rights and interests is tending to intensify.”

The document explicitly pointed to China’s concerns about the US military build-up in the region and Japanese remilitarisation. “As the world economic and strategic centre of gravity is shifting ever more rapidly to the Asia Pacific region, the US carries on its ‘rebalancing’ strategy and enhances its military presence and military alliances in this region. Japan is sparing no effort to dodge the post-war mechanism, overhauling its military and security policies.”

The White Paper made clear that China is turning toward Russia, which is likewise being aggressively confronted by the US and its allies in Eastern Europe. China’s armed forces, the document emphasised, “will further their exchanges and cooperation with the Russian military within the framework of the comprehensive strategic partnership” between the two countries.

The White Paper highlighted the mounting tensions in the South China Sea, stating that some of China’s neighbours had taken provocative actions and reinforced their military presence on reefs claimed by China. “Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs; a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China,” it declared.

China’s military build-up, along with its reclamation work in the South China Sea, is aimed at countering US threats to its interests. While Washington denounces China’s land reclamation as a grab for control of the South China Sea, the US actions are directed at securing its own dominance. Since 2010, Washington has exploited the maritime disputes to drive a wedge between Beijing and its neighbours, and enhance the US military presence. The US now has basing arrangements with Singapore and the Philippines, directly adjacent to the South China Sea, and is seeking similar arrangements with Vietnam.

It is not China, but the US, that is threatening “freedom of navigation” through the South China Sea. China depends heavily on the key sea lanes through these waters for energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East, as well as for its global exports. A key element of the Pentagon’s strategic planning for war against China is to impose an economic blockade of the Chinese mainland by severing these shipping routes.

The defence shifts outlined in China’s White Paper are primarily aimed at preventing the US navy and air force from mounting such a blockade. The document calls for a gradual shift from the PLA navy’s current focus on “offshore waters defence” to include “open seas protection.” The White Paper also foreshadows a change in focus for the PLA air force, from territorial air defence to both defence and offence.

The danger of a catastrophic war between China and the US is being increasingly discussed in ruling circles. In comments last Friday, billionaire investor George Soros made an appeal for the US to make a “major concession” to China by allowing the yuan to join the International Monetary Fund’s basket of currencies and binding the two economies together more closely.

“Without it,” Soros said, “there is a real danger that China will align itself with Russia politically and militarily, and then the threat of third world war becomes real, so it is worth trying.” Like all of those who claim that international economic integration will prevent world war, Soros ignores the lessons of history—economic interdependence did not halt the slide into World War I or World War II.

The real driving force behind the eruption of US militarism and the growing dangers of war is the worsening breakdown of world capitalism following the 2008 global financial crisis. The only means for halting this drive to war is the revolutionary overthrow of the bankrupt profit system by the international working class.