US Loses Key Ally in South Asia: Screwed Up in Muslim World

US Loses Key Ally in South Asia: Screwed Up in Muslim World

ALEX GORKA | 22.01.2018 | WORLD / ASIA PACIFIC

US Loses Key Ally in South Asia: Screwed Up in Muslim World

So, the US has lost another major ally. President Trump does not shy away from openly chiding Pakistan in his tweets using harsh words. On January 1, he said Pakistan was a “safe haven to the terrorists”. National Security Advisor HR McMaster chimed in saying Pakistan would become North Korea if it does not stop nuclear blackmail. Nikki Haley, US permanent representative to the UN, believes that “Pakistan has played a double game for years.” According to her, Pakistan is involved in state-sponsored terrorism. This is the reason why the United States withholds $255m of military aid. In addition, Washington suspended some $900 million in Coalition Support Funds. For comparison, the entire defense budget of Pakistan amounts to roughly $8 billion. So, the US deprived the country of more than one tenth of its defense expenditure.

In return, Islamabad has suspended all military and intelligence cooperation with Washington. Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said his country was no longer a US ally. Nevertheless, the supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan would not be closed.

The relationship has always been extremely complex and turbulent. It was rather a marriage of convenience than an alliance. Mistrust and suspicion have always clouded the bilateral ties.

It’s not the problem of fighting terrorism. The US itself has been many times rebuked for clandestinely backing terrorist groups. The United States has taken an extremely hostile stance toward Iran – the country which enjoys friendly relations with Pakistan. There are many reasons for that. Good relations with Iran help Pakistan to avoid unrest in its common border region predominantly populated by ethnic Baluchis. Despite being a Sunni Muslim country, Pakistan does not belong to the Saudi Arabia-led anti-Iran coalition. It does not go against Iran’s interests. For instance, it does not oppose the Iran’s involvement in Yemen.

Islamabad has been increasingly looking to China recently while turning away from the United States. The two powers have historically maintained good neighborly relations. Pakistan pins great hopes on the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a to boost Pakistan’s economy. The CPEC is part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative expanding across the entire world. Special economic zones are part of the plans.

Pakistan’s strategically located Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, located 180 nautical miles from the Strait of Hormuz, features prominently in the CPEC. A network of road, rail and pipelines will be built to link Xinjiang in far-western China to Pakistan’s port. Chinese naval ships will be anchored at Gwadar to provide security and protect sea lanes, if need be. A joint task force of four to six ships will be deployed, with Chinese Marines guarding the port area.

China’s authorization to Pakistan to produce all kinds of missiles as well as main battle tanks is being discussed. Beijing wants to scale up its defense cooperation with Islamabad in near future. Its assistance to Islamabad’s nuclear program has been critical. China has become more important for Pakistan than America. It is seen by Islamabad as a real friend unlike the US, which was described by Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif as“a friend who always betrays.”

The relations between Moscow and Islamabad have never been better. Military cooperation is thriving. “Druzhba” military exercise is held annually to boost interaction between the armed forces. It’s not the only joint training event held regularly. Pakistan is considering the possibility of purchasing more weapons from Russia, including Su-35 fighter jets.

Talks on the construction of the ‘North-South’ gas pipeline (from Karachi to Lahore), with the Russian investment of $2 billion, are underway. Pakistan can provide a convenient international route to Russian goods via the CPEC.

Last year, Pakistan joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a full-fledged member. The SCO membership presupposes security cooperation in Central Asia and regular summits allowing the leaders of Russia and Pakistan to meet on regular basis. The organization is on the way to set up an economic integration union, including the creation of a free trade zone, bank and a development fund. Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that linking the SCO with the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), of which Russia is a leading member, the China’s One Road, One Belt and the economic projects implemented by Association of Southeast Asian Nations could build the foundation for a larger Eurasian partnership.” Pakistan has approved a Russian request for using the Gwadar Port and is interested in joining a free trade agreement with the EEU.

Too many serious problems beset the US-Turkey relationship to call Ankara an ally of Washington. Iraq is gradually moving away from the United States to diversify its foreign policy priorities. The decision to recognize Jerusalem has deteriorated the relationship with Jordan. There are other examples of the US credibility undermined in the Muslim world. Now America has lost Pakistan, the fifth-most populous nation with a population exceeding 210 million people. This is a part of a broader picture as the US influence in the region is diminishing globally while the clout of Russia and China is growing.

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Trump’s Pakistan Policy Is a Disaster

Trump’s Pakistan Policy Is a Disaster

Trump’s Pakistan Policy Is a Disaster

International fame, at last! Pakistan hit the headlines because it was the subject of Donald Trump’s first tweet of 2018. The country will have a small but everlasting place in history.

You know Trump: he’s the man who, immediately after being elected US President was reported by the BBC as having telephoned the then prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif to say Pakistan is “a fantastic country, fantastic place” and “amazing with tremendous opportunities.” He ended with the jovial request to “Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people.”

It is unlikely that Mr Trump knows any Pakistanis, but it seemed his attitude to Pakistan was positive. And so it continued until New Year’s Day 2018 when Trump tweeted

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

He meant that the Pakistan army, which has had 6,687 soldiers killed fighting terrorists since 2001 when the US invaded Afghanistan, is helping terrorists based in Pakistan.

Since the US attack on Afghanistan, and subsequent expansion of Islamic terrorist groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Pakistan has suffered 468 suicide bombing attacks, in which 7,230 of its citizens were killed. Before 2001 there was one such attack, in 1995 by a crazy Egyptian who drove a bomb-laden lorry into the Egyptian Embassy’s gates.

When Trump tweeted his message Pakistan had ended a year in which, as recorded by India’s South Asia Terrorism Portal, it suffered 3,001 civilian deaths from terrorism, and 676 of its soldiers were killed in fighting against terrorists, while 1,702 terrorists were killed. It was quite a year, but not as bad as 2009, for example, at the height of the US “surge” in Afghanistan, when almost a thousand Pakistani soldiers were killed while conducting operations against terrorists in their strongholds in the Tribal Areas.

Pakistan army soldiers fighting through Mirali town in North Waziristan in 2014. Five were killed in this anti-terrorist operation

It may be remembered that in 2009 Afghanistan’s President Karzai said there was “an urgent need” for direct negotiations with the Taliban and made it clear that the US government opposed any such approach. Meanwhile, there was indeed increased movement of terrorists between the countries, made less difficult for them because the Afghan government refused to permit erection of any sort of border barrier.

Eleven years ago, Carlotta Gall of the New York Times wrote that the Afghan President “voiced strong opposition on [December 28, 2006] to Pakistan’s announcement that it would lay mines and erect fences along its border with Afghanistan. He said the moves would only hurt the people living in the region and would not stem cross-border terrorism.”

This was nonsense, because natural or man-made barriers can dissuade or even prevent illegal movement. And when covered by observation and fire (as all armies agree they must be), they can verge on the impenetrable. It is essential to have frequent and irregular patrols by troops, surveillance on the ground and from the air (so what have all these US drones been doing?), and artillery in positions from which fire can be directed onto those attempting cross-border forays.

It can be catastrophic if an obstacle is unguarded. During the Vietnam War the Australian army planted an enormous minefield around a mountain occupied by bands of Viet Cong guerrillas but had to withdraw patrolling troops as there was an emergency elsewhere, and the predictable result was that the Viet Cong picked up all the mines — thousands of them — and over the following years used them to kill Australians.

But if minefields had been planted at appropriate places along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, on both sides, as proposed by the Pakistan government, and patrolled aggressively by the armies of both countries, nobody could claim that illegal crossings would have been easy. If the Afghan army had been ordered to cooperate with their opposite numbers across the border, and if there had been coordinated surveillance and foot patrols — as wanted by the Pakistan military — then it would have been very difficult indeed for insurgents to cross in either direction. The US did not approve Pakistan’s proposal for fencing and minefields and did not supply any assistance for the project. So the barrier was not erected.

It is ironic that Trump is cancelling military security aid to Pakistan, because this cash assists Pakistan’s security forces to combat terrorists. In January the Pakistani media reported that

“Pakistan has spent more than Rs 67.3 billion ($605 million) during the last one and a half years in its efforts to stop infiltration of terrorists operating in Afghanistan and securing vital installations, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, from cross-border attacks.”

But all was not quite what it seemed. Or perhaps it was, because nobody knows exactly how foreign policy is devised in Trump Washington. Anyway : after the Trump tweet against Pakistan his Defence Secretary, General Mattis, “vowed to continue working with the Pakistan government to defeat terrorism in south Asia despite the United States stopping nearly all its financial aid to the country.” He did not, of course, ask Pakistan if it wanted to continue working with the United States on anything at all, but that’s the way overseas relations are handled in the era of Trump.

Trump was supported by Senator Rand Paul who tweeted

“I’m introducing a bill to end aid to Pakistan in the coming days. My bill will take the money that would have gone to Pakistan and put it in an infrastructure fund to build roads and bridges here at home.”

This was greeted by a Trump tweet saying “Good idea, Rand!” But at the same time a “senior administration official” said “I just want to be clear that it’s been suspended. Nothing has been reappropriated. We’re hopeful that we can lift the suspension and the aid will be able to go forward.” So what is the real policy? Nobody knows.

All this leaves Pakistan with some problems. It can live without the US money, of course, although there’s no doubt it has been most useful and much appreciated, but as time goes by its air force will have difficulty in continuing to operate its F-16 aircraft because the US will probably refuse to sell it replacement parts. Its orders for US attack helicopters may also be affected. But the US is not the only source of defence equipment, and there is little doubt that China, Russia and Turkey will move to plug any gaps. And there are other factors that Washington would do well to contemplate.

One most positive effect of Trump’s insulting tweet has been to unite Pakistanis. It appears that no matter their political leanings they have joined in strong rejection of US policy. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said bluntly that the US

“carried out 57,800 attacks on Afghanistan from our bases. Your forces were supplied arms and explosives through our soil. Thousands of our civilians and soldiers became victims of the war initiated by you.”

And his sentiments were echoed by the prominent opposition politician, Imran Khan, who said

“Despite Pakistan clearing up North Waziristan, still half of Afghanistan is in Taliban hands. So, who is responsible for this? To make Pakistan the scapegoat of a failed strategy in Afghanistan is not just a travesty of justice, it is deeply insulting and humiliating.”

Quite so. And this is probably going to be the way ahead for Pakistan. To my certain knowledge, Pakistan has provided intelligence about potential terrorist-related activities in America (and the UK). So why should they continue such cooperation? And as the New York Times pointed out on January 5, “the US “has always relied on Pakistani air and ground routes for supplies to the troops in Afghanistan” — so why should Pakistan continue to offer such facilities? It could cut them off in a moment.

Trump failed to understand that insulting North Korea’s leader would result in such strong reaction to his immature jibes. His anti-Iran diatribes are entirely counter-productive. And he’s playing the same tune again. Trump’s anti-Pakistan policy is a disaster.

NYT: Trump’s Twitter Threats Put US Credibility on the Line

08-01-2018 | 13:24


US President Donald Trump has begun 2018 where he left off. Since the first of the year, he has attacked a variety of countries in Twitter posts, urging protesters to overthrow the Iranian government, threatening to blow up North Korea and calling for cuts in aid to the Palestinians.

Us President Donald Trump

Two things stand out about the foreign policy messages Trump has posted on Twitter since taking office: How far they veer from the traditional ways American presidents express themselves, let alone handle diplomacy. And how rarely Trump has followed through on his words.

Indeed, nearly a year after he entered the White House, the rest of the world is trying to figure out whether Trump is more mouth than fist, more paper tiger than the real thing.

Countries are unsure whether to take his words as policy pronouncements, or whether they can be safely ignored. If Trump’s threats are seen as hollow, what does that do to American credibility?

In a series of Twitter posts on Saturday, Trump reacted to questions about his mental fitness by calling himself a “very stable genius.”

Even if there is a recognition that Trump’s tweets may be largely intended to let off steam or reassure his domestic base, there is an increasing sense that the credibility of the administration, and the presidency itself, is being eroded.

However, Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, said the words of the US president matter, he added in a Twitter message: “That is why so many of this president’s tweets alarm. The issue is not just questionable policy on occasion but questionable judgment and discipline.”

The bottom line, Haass said, is that Twitter posts should be handled as seriously as any other White House statement, lest the currency of what the president says comes to be devalued.

But the Twitter posts have already devalued the president’s words, argues R. Nicholas Burns, a former career diplomat and ambassador to NATO.

“Even when Mr. Trump is right, … there’s always some excess or some objectionable statement that undermines American credibility, and it’s hard to win that back,” he said. “Allies and opponents invest in your judgment and common sense.”

He pointed to Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds [Jerusalem], however delayed or symbolic. That broke with years of international policy consensus, which called for the status of al-Quds to be settled in so-called “peace” talks.

“When you give away the status of Jerusalem [al-Quds] unilaterally and get nothing from ‘Israel’ and anger the Palestinians and challenge the world and then you lose, it’s a disastrous example of lack of US credibility,” Burns said.

The decision infuriated the Palestinians and the Europeans. Then, Trump and his United Nations envoy, Nikki R. Haley, threatened to cut off aid to any country that opposed the new US position in a vote in the General Assembly.

In the end, the vote was a humiliating rebuke of the US, 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions. Most European allies voted against the US, and even European allies in Central Europe, who consider Washington a key guarantor against Russia, did not vote with Washington but abstained.

A senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly, called the al-Quds episode destabilizing and said it had come when the Middle East and the world did not need it.

As much as the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has annoyed Trump with his criticism of the al-Quds move, saying that it disqualified Washington from a serious role in any so-called “peace” talks, even the “Israeli” entity has urged Trump to abandon his threat to cut off aid to the United Nations agency that looks after millions of registered Palestinian refugees.

On North Korea, despite Trump’s Twitter posts, Pyongyang has gone ahead with tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles and has given no indication that it will agree to denuclearize in exchange for talks with Washington. Instead, it has gone around Washington to reopen talks with Seoul.

Even on Pakistan, where Trump followed through last week on threats to suspend aid over the country’s ambiguous support for the American battle against the Taliban, the president was for the Pakistanis before he was against them.

In one of his first calls with a foreign leader after being elected, Trump spoke with the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, and gushed that he was a “terrific guy.”

“Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people,” Sharif’s office said in a statement describing the call. “Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people.”

More recently, Trump switched to threatening them, saying on Twitter that Pakistan had “given us nothing but lies & deceit” and accusing it of providing “safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan.”

The public humiliation outraged Islamabad, giving an opening to China, which moved within 24 hours to praise Pakistan’s fight against terrorism. Pakistan then agreed to adopt the Chinese currency for transactions, to improve bilateral trade.

François Heisbourg, a French defense and security analyst, commented tersely about Trump’s anger this way: “Pushing Pakistan into an exclusive relationship with China.”

Trump has been equally changeable with the Chinese, whom the president repeatedly threatened to punish for what he termed trade dumping and currency manipulation, only to say in December that he had “been soft” on Beijing, needing its help on North Korea.

Some suggest that Trump’s Twitter posts should not be taken so seriously. Daniel S. Hamilton, a former State Department official who directs the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University, said that Trump “uses these tweets and social media to secure his political base,” and “whether the tweets turn into a policy or not is a whole different question.”

While allies do not necessarily take his Twitter posts as policy pronouncements, they still create significant confusion, said Pierre Vimont, former French ambassador to Washington and former top aide to the European Union foreign policy chief.

Even in areas where allies agree – for example, on the threat posed by North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong-un – “we have a hard time understanding the real policy line from Washington,” Mr. Vimont said.

Source: NYT, Edited by website team

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Way to go: Pakistan Is Ditching the Dollar for Trade With China — 24 Hours After Trump Denounced the Country

Pakistan Is Ditching the Dollar for Trade With China

Brilliant move: Trump hammers another nail in the petrodollar coffin

Just 24 hours after President Donald Trump took aim at Pakistan on Twitter, the South Asian nation already appears to be cozying up to the world’s second-largest economy.

A day after the U.S. leader slammed Islamabad for harboring terrorists in a New Year’s Day tweet, Pakistan’s central bank announced that it will be replacing the dollar with the yuan for bilateral trade and investment with Beijing.

The same day, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang defended Islamabad’s counter-terrorism track record, saying the country “made great efforts and sacrifices for combating terrorism” and urged the international community to “fully recognize this.”

 

China has been watching closely as U.S.-Pakistan relations become increasingly strained. Trump has long demanded the frontier economy to do more on counter-terrorism while he simultaneously grew closer to its arch-rival, India.

“Pakistan and the U.S. have had a fraught relationship for years, but the big change recently has been China,” said Simon Baptist, Asia regional director at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“China has really gone hard in cementing its existing relationship with Pakistan, it’s really the only place that’s seen significant investment under the Belt and Road initiative and China has been pushing for geopolitical advantage there.”

Islamabad is home to one of Beijing’s central infrastructure schemes, a near $60 billion collection of land and sea projects known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — a centerpiece of Belt and Road.

And with a steady stream of Chinese capital under its belt, Pakistan may no longer be receptive to American threats, the most recent of which involves Washington cutting off security assistance.

“Pakistan balks far less at reductions in American aid, which, as the former points out, has dwindled in recent years anyway. China, on the other hand, has promised Pakistan $57 billion in investments on infrastructure and energy under its Belt and Road Initiative,” Madiha Afzal, a nonresident fellow at Brookings, said in a recent note. “All this means that America has far less leverage over Pakistan.”

“The history of Pakistan’s relationships with China and the United States also shows that Pakistan’s policy does not respond to strong-handedness, but to loyalty, and to being treated with dignity,” she continued.

For Beijing’s part, a Monday editorial published by Chinese state-run news outlet Global Times said that “China and Pakistan enjoy an all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation, Beijing will without doubt not give up on Islamabad.”

Regardless of hardened rhetoric between the White House and Islamabad — Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif recently dismissed Trump’s outburst as a political stunt — the two nations are expected to continue cooperating this year.

Ultimately, Washington needs Pakistani cooperation to address its concerns about Afghanistan and Iran, Baptist said, adding that it remains to be seen if Trump’s social media tirade will translate into real policy change.

Source: CNBC

FM: US created terrorist groups in Pakistan

FM: US created terrorist groups in Pakistan

On September 27, 2017, Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif spoke at the New York-based Asia Society forum. Responding to Donald Trump’s anti-Pakistan rant in which the Israel First bigot accused Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism – Asif refused to take blame for Taliban, Haqqani group, Al-Qaeda and so-called other terrorist groups – because they’re all created by CIA-Mossad-MI6 Axis of Evil.

Don’t blame us for the Haqqani group and don’t blame us for the Hafiz Saeed. These were the people who were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say go to hell Pakistanis because you’re nurturing these people,” Asif said.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, PhD, the leader of Jamaat ud-Dawa (JUD) is on both Washington’s and New Delhi’s most wanted list for being the mastermind behind the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which was a Mossad-RSS false flag operation to start a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

Speaking at the forum, Asif further stressed that there was no military solution to the festering conflict in Afghanistan. “Scapegoating Pakistan for all the Afghan ills is neither fair nor accurate,” Asif said.

Taliban have long defeated US-NATO forces in Afghanistan. Trump intends to continue the war racket as the Generals and pro-Israel war-hawks in his administration refuse to accept a new military humiliation at the hands of Muslim resistance.

Talking about Pakistan’s sour relations with neighboring India, Khawaja Asif said that there cannot be peace between the two neighbors until India hold a free plebiscite in disputed Jammu and Kashmir state as agree upon at the United Nations in 1948.

Asif stressed that India must stop funding terrorism in Pakistan if it wants peace in the region.

Khawaja Asif was interviewed (watch below) by Steve Coll, American Zionist Jew academic, and staff writer for The Jew Yorker magazine.

The Asia Society was founded by John D. Rockefeller III (Jewish) in 1956. It’s current chairperson is Josette Sheeran. She is former US ambassador to Haiti. She is married to Jew professor Whitney T. Shiner.

Israel and its Western propaganda idiots have always claimed that Pakistan poses the greatest threat to world peace for providing sanctuary to so-called “Islamic terrorist group” despite the fact, both the US and Israel (here)were created by European terrorist groups. Pakistan is also victim of Zionist terrorism.

United States and its regional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia are the criminals sponsoring conflicts, wars and terrorism in the Middle East.

The World’s Only Undeclared Nuclear Weapons State

Global Research, September 22, 2017

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports that developments in North Korea’s nuclear program “contributed to international political instability with potentially serious knock-on effects.”

SIPRI says that as of January 2017 the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea together had an estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons.

Out of the above nine nuclear weapons states, only one is undeclared – that is the state of Israel, which is estimated to have built-up a secret arsenal of up to 400 warheads – all unidentified by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency. 

Should that figure be substantiated that would place the Israeli state as either the 3rd or 4th most powerful nuclear state in the world, after the US and Russia and the highest nuclear weapons state, per capita, anywhere on the planet.

However, the vital fact is that Israel is not a party to the IAEA and therefore not subject to inspection or report by the UN’s international Agency and is also not a party to the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and that makes the global situation fraught with danger for future peace.

It is seriously complicated by the fact that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is determined to shift the global spotlight away from Israel’s massive, covert, nuclear weapons program to that of Iran which, of course, has no nuclear weapons whatsoever but which is a party to the NPT and, furthermore, subject to inspection by the IAEA.

These facts would appear to indicate the most dangerous military confidence trick ever perpetrated on a naive international community.

Report on nuclear weapon programs and inspection of nuclear weapon stocks should be a mandatory requirement for participation in international trade, failing which there should be economic sanctions against any recalcitrant state that poses a nuclear threat to world peace.

North Korea today reminds us that the world is no longer a safe place for anyone, anymore.

CHINA’S MARITIME STRATEGIC REALIGNMENT

Written and produced by SF Team: Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

China has begun construction of the first Type 075 Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD). Construction most likely started in January or February of this year, with some satellite imagery and digital photos appearing online of at least one pre-fabricated hull cell. The Type 075 will be the largest amphibious warfare vessel in the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with similar displacement and dimensions as the U.S. Navy Wasp Class LHD. The PLA has also made it known that the force plans to expand the current PLA Marine Corps from 20,000 personnel to 100,000.

As China completes preparations for its new military base in Djibouti, located in the strategic Horn of Africa, it has also continued its substantial investment in developing the port of Gwadar, Pakistan. Not only will Gwadar become a key logistics hub as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative, but will also be a key naval base in providing security for China’s maritime trade in the region.  When these developments are viewed in conjunction with the decision to reduce the size of the army by 300,000 personnel, it is obvious that China has reassessed the strategic focus of the nation’s armed forces.

The PLAN’s intends to expand the current force structure of the PLA Marine Corps fivefold, from two brigades to ten brigades. At the same time, the PLAN will be increased in size and capabilities, with many new, large displacement warships of varying types added to the fleet. Of particular interest, are the addition of at least two Type 055 destroyers, an indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier of a new class, two more Type 071 LPDs, and the first Type 075 LHD.

China is rapidly gaining the ability to project power and naval presence at increasing distances from its shores. Not only is the PLAN expanding in tonnage, but its new vessels are considerably more capable. The PLAN will be striving to add and train an additional 25% more personnel over the next half a decade, in an effort to add the skilled crews, pilots, and support personnel that will facilitate such an ambitious expansion.

The Chinese military leadership previously decided to double the number of AMIDs starting in 2014. A 100% increase in the PLA AMIDs and a 500% increase in the PLAMC denotes a major strategic shift in the defense strategy of the Chinese state. With the successful growth of the Silk Road Economic Belt/Maritime Silk Road Initiative, it becomes readily apparent that China must focus on securing and defending this global economic highway. China has made a massive investment, in partnership with many nations, in ensuring the success of a massive system of economic arteries that will span half of the globe. Many of these logistics arteries will transit strategic international maritime territories. In light of these developments, a military shift in focus away from fighting a ground war in China, to a greater maritime presence and power projection capability are quite logical.

China began construction of a maritime support facility in Djibouti in 2016, to protect its interests in Africa, facilitate joint anti-piracy operations in the region, and to provide a naval base to support long range and extended deployments of PLAN assets to protect the shipping lanes transiting the Strait of Aden. In addition, China invested approximately $46 billion USD in developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, including major investment in the infrastructure of the port of Gwadar. The governments of both nations desire the stationing of a flotilla of PLAN warships in the port, and possibly a rapid reaction force of PLA Marines. Gwadar is well positioned to not only protect China’s economic interests in Pakistan, but also to react to any crisis threatening the free passage of maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. The forward positioning of naval forces will allow the PLAN to protect the vital crude oil and natural gas imports transiting the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden and into the Indian Ocean from routes west of the Horn of Africa. In light of the fact that 6% of natural gas imports and 34% of crude oil imports by sea to China transit this region, the desire to secure these waterways becomes readily apparent. Not only would the presence of PLAN warships and marines help to secure China’s vital interests in Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in particular, but would also afford the PLAN a base of operations close to the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 51% of all Chinese crude oil imports by sea transit the strait, as well as 24% of seaborne natural gas imports. Any closure of the Strait of Hormuz due to a theoretical military conflict or an act of terrorism or piracy would have a huge impact on the Chinese economy.

Although the maritime trade routes transiting the Indian Ocean are of vital importance to keeping the manufacturing engine of China running uninterrupted, the South China Sea is of even greater importance. Not only does the region facilitate the passage of $5 trillion USD in global trade annually, but much of this trade is comprised of Chinese energy imports and exports of all categories. The geographic bottle neck of the Strait of Malacca, to the southwest of the South China Sea, affords the transit of 84% of all waterborne crude oil and 30% of natural gas imports to China. The closure of the strait, or a significant disruption of maritime traffic in the South China Sea, would have a devastating impact on the Chinese state. It is in the vital national interest of China to secure the region based on this fact alone. In addition, establishing a series of strategically located island outposts, covering the approaches to the South China Sea, affords China a greater ability to secure the entire region, establish Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) and defend the southern approaches to the Chinese mainland, while enforcing the nation’s claims to valuable energy and renewable resources in the region.

China continues to expand and reinforce its island holdings in both the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. The massive construction on Mischief Reef, Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef will likely be completed later this year. These three islands, in conjunction with the surveillance stations, port facilities and helicopter bases located on a number of key smaller atolls, afford China the capability to project power and presence in the region at a level that no other regional or global power can match.

As China moves forward in expanding the PLAMC and the amphibious divisions of the PLA, it has maintained a swift schedule in shipbuilding which aims to provide a balanced and flexible amphibious sealift capability. China intends to tailor a modern and sizable amphibious warfare fleet that is capable of defending the growing maritime interests of the nation, and which can provide a significant power projection capability that can be employed across the full breadth of the Maritime Silk Road.

The first two classes of amphibious vessels that were seen as essential to design, construct and supply to the PLAN were the Type 072A class Landing Ship Tank (LST) and the Type 071 class Landing Platform Dock (LPD). There are a total of six Type 071 LPDs planned, with four currently in service and the fifth vessel reaching completion this year.

Plans to build a large LHD began in 2012, with a number of different designs contemplated. The class was known in intervening years as the Type 075 or Type 081. The Type 075 design was finalized and plans were made to begin construction in 2016. Although many analysts believe that the PLAN intends to build two such vessels, there will most likely be a need for one or two additional vessels of this class to meet the growing maritime security and power projection requirements of the nation. All signs point to the PLAN’s intentions of establishing two to three Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), as they have slowly and methodically developed a modern amphibious warfare skillset over the past two decades. They have taken a similar approach to establishing a modern carrier-based naval aviation arm.

From what is known, the Type 075 will displace 40,000 tons, have an LOA of 250 meters, and a beam of 30 meter. The Type 075 will be fitted with a large well deck, allowing for amphibious operations by LCACs, AAVs, and conventional landing craft. Each LHD could theoretically carry approximately 1,500 to 2,000 marines, a full complement of MBTs and AAVs (approximately 25-40 armored vehicles), 60 to 80 light vehicles, and ample cargo stowage space. The helicopter compliment will most likely consist of approximately 20 Z-8 transport helicopters, two Z-18F ASW helicopters, one or two Ka-31 AEW helicopters, four Z-9 utility helicopters, and possibly 6 to 8 naval versions of the Z-10 attack helicopter. With no VSTOL fixed wing attack aircraft in service, the PLAN would most likely opt for using a rotary wing attack element for the LHDs.

China has been slowly and methodically building the foundations of economic and military security and is offering those nations that cooperate as part of the New Silk Road/Maritime Silk Road a seat at the table. In order to create a mutually beneficial trade and transportation network, one that may soon supersede or compete against others, China must secure its vital interests, backed up by military force, and build a viable and sustainable naval presence in key maritime regions.

China has clearly signaled that its defense strategy is changing. The Chinese leadership feels that the sovereignty of mainland China is secure and is shifting focus to securing the vital maritime trade lifeline that not only ensures the security of the nation, but will allow China to increase its economic prosperity and trade partnerships with a multitude of nations.

Whether the United States decides to stand in the way of China’s growth or chooses to participate more constructively in a mutually beneficial relationship is yet to be determined. Without a doubt, China has set its course and will not deviate from this course unless some overwhelming force is brought to bear.

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