The United States Navy is going to steam into the Yellow Sea and blow up some Korean warships. But friendly, like, and for fun. Points will be scored, and trophies (of a sort) will be awarded. Younger people might think of it as an Xbox simulation with live ammunition.
These kinds of war games in the Northern Pacific and vicinity have been going on ever since Japan lost the war and the States has taken over funding their self defense. China, upon whom some of these waters in which the games occur impinge, has grumbled about the contests before, but never especially loudly.
But that’s changed according to the Wall Street Journal. Chinese military officials are saying such things as, “There’s a real danger [this war game] could get out of control—and that would be a real threat for China’s national security.”
These are harsh words in diplo-speak, words which are backed up with a Navy base within spittin’ distance of the war games. It wouldn’t be difficult for China to have one it’s older diesel attack submarines “accidentally” cruise through war-game waters, just to “see what happens.”
Similar ominous threats have arisen from other members of the Chinese military. But none—as yet—from the senior leadership of the Chinese oligarchy. This is significant, because, in a way, if the Communist party chiefs don’t say it’s happening, then it isn’t happening. However, the low-level spokesmen who have been talking must have been doing so by the express permission and direction of that leadership.
China, therefore, is bluffing: at least, there is a reasonable probability that this is so. They have seen Mr Obama’s bowing and blinking tour across the world, and they are testing which combinations of vague and non-specific threats will cause him to call off the war games. If he does—and who doesn’t believe it could happen?—China will have scored a major victory.
And then, it’s goodbye Taiwan. That beautiful island, origin of a substantial proportion of electronics, a delightful cuisine, a happy and free people, and independent country that China covets and would just kill to get, literally.
We—as in the USA—just sold some military doodads to Taiwan, but only a handful. Not only was this the right thing to do, but we had to do it because we signed a piece of paper swearing that we would.
Before the transaction, China trotted out the same batch of flunkies to speak of “destabilization” and “security”, but this had no effect. Mr Obama considered the possibilities, read the treaty, and went ahead with the sale. I like to think it was the lawyer in him.
The arms given to Taiwan are, on the scale of global war, the equivalent of an extra box of shotgun shells to a deer hunter. Nice, but not crucial. This is made clear in the Pentagon’s 2010 report on the Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic (pdf). About Taiwan, it summarizes:
China’s military build-up opposite the island continued unabated. The PLA is developing the capability to deter Taiwan independence or influence Taiwan to settle the dispute on Beijing’s terms while simultaneously attempting to deter, delay, or deny any possible U.S. support for the island in case of conflict. The balance of cross-Strait military forces continues to shift in the mainland’s favor.
A decade ago, the Red Masters of Beijing sufficed themselves on secondhand ships sold at Russian Navy rummage sales. Since then, they have been building their own assiduously. Just as we have as earnestly been paring back. In the Days of Reagan, our Navy had 600 ships. We’re now at half that and dwindling fast; perhaps soon at an accelerated pace, if Secretary Gate’s recent words have any meaning.
China now has, according to the Pentagon report, 274 ships. However, many of these are diesel, mere coastal patrol boats, or are otherwise past their prime. Taiwan has 109, similarly constituted; although they have no nuclear-powered vessels. The contrast with each country’s Air Force is about the same.
It’s likely the next war will start here, in the Taiwan strait. The real reason China wants Taiwan is not land or access to sea lanes (of which they have plenty), nor is it economic (China’s economy already dwarfs Taiwan’s). It’s because the communist masters in China still smart from the insult of Chiang Kai-Shek (è”£ä¸æ£) escaping from Mao’s murderous clutches after the end of WWII.
Chiang took what meager forces he had left after the Soviets and Mao had ganged up against him, and set up on Taiwan. This would have been fine, except Chiang had the temerity to claim that China belonged to Taiwan. Worse for the Chinese, Chiang convinced the USA that this was so to the extent that the Taiwan-USA relationship was sealed with a treaty.
The treaty which led to the recent (and past) arms sales. Ah, history.