The United States and the South China Sea

Emeritus Professor Carlyle A. Thayer Presentation to Graduate Studies in Strategy & Defence Strategic and Defence Studies Centre The Australian National University September 26, 2012

Outline
• • • • • • • The U.S. as a Pacific Power Geo-Strategic Importance Clinton Administration Policy 1990s Obama Administration (2009-12) U.S.-China Relations U.S. Rebalancing Recent Developments

Notes Pages
• “The United States is and will remain a Pacific power, bound to the Asia-Pacific region by virtue of our geography, history, alliances, economic ties and people.”
– Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State, Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, September 20, 2012.

The U.S. as a Pacific Power

Notes Pages
China asserts that the US is an outside power. Kurt Campbell: US is a Pacific nation and a resident power. What is the basis for this claim? Missionaries, Whalers and Traders late 18TH Century - US leading country for whale oil, this brought ships to waters off Japan. 1852-54 Opening of Japan US-Siam (Thailand) Treaty of Amity and Commerce, March 20, 1833, during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson and King Rama III. The two countries pledged to establish "a perpetual peace" between each other. This Treaty was the first such Treaty that the United States concluded with any Asian country. In 1850, the United States and Brunei concluded a Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, which remains in force.

Notes Pages continued
• United States emerges after the Civil War (1861-65) • 1890 end of the American frontier – expansion reached the Pacific coast • Alfred T. Mahan, commander of the United States Naval War College in 1886, organized his lectures into his most influential book, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783, published 1890. Propagandist of sea power, Mahan, argued that future national security and greatness depended upon a large navy supported by bases throughout the world. • 1898 Spanish-American War. • 1900-01 China Relief Expedition

The U.S. as a Pacific Power

Notes Pages
• Great White Fleet 1907-09 • Washington Naval Conference 1921-22 Three wars: 1. World War II – occupation of Japan • Trusteeships evolved into Compact of Free Association nations of the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Notes Pages continued
• U.S. Alliance System – ‘hubs and spokes’/San Francisco Treaty System 1951 + emerging partners • Mutual Security Treaties 1954
– Philippines, ANZUS – Republic of Korea, Republic of China – Rusk-Khoman Agreement 1962

• Southeast Asia Collective Security Treaty 1954 (SEATO)

• U.S.-Japan (1951 and 1960) • Emerging partners: Singapore, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Notes Pages continued
2. Korean Conflict 3. Vietnam War • America’s involvement in the Pacific solidified with Clipper trade to China. US has had constant commitment to freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce. This is critical to America’s future and that of international system.

The U.S. and UNCLOS
United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea • U.S. the world’s pre-eminent maritime power • Took full part in UNCLOS negotiations • Signed but has not ratified UNCLOS • U.S. Navy policy is to adhere to UNCLOS • U.S. asserts freedom of the seas • U.S.-China differ on military activities in EEZs

Geo-Strategic Importance

Hainan Island

Notes Pages
Geo-Strategic Importance • South China Sea vital throughway for global commerce and energy. • One-third of world shipping passes through SCS. World’s second busiest sea lane. Half of world annual merchant fleet tonnage goes via three straits; Malacca, Lombok and Sunda. 15 million barrels of oil per day pass through the Malacca Straits.

Notes Pages continued
• India is 4th largest importer of oil in world. Imports coal from Indonesia and Australia. • China net importer of oil in 1993. In 2009 China imported approx. 56% of its oil and will import almost two-thirds by 2015. Imported oil contributes to 10% of China’s total energy consumption. • In 2010, over 80% of China’s oil imports transited the SCS and Strait of Malacca. New land pipelines will only slightly alleviate China’s maritime dependency on Strait of Malacca and Strait of Hormuz.

Notes Pages continued
• The US cannot afford to allow disputes in the South China Sea to endanger the global economy, US recovery, or regional security.

Geo-Strategic Importance

Notes Pages
• Transit of US warships and aircraft from Pacific to Indian Ocean must pas through South China Sea.

•High Seas ‘donut hole’ •UNCLOS: islands and rocks •End of high seas if EEZs drawn around islands

Taiwan Straits Crisis 1995-96
US dispatches two carrier battle groups • USS Nimitiz – Group 7 • USS Independence – Group 5

Notes Pages
• Crisis: July 21, 1995 to March 23, 1996. The first set of missiles fired in mid-to-late 1995 were intended to send a strong signal to the Republic of China government under Lee Teng-hui, who had been seen as moving ROC foreign policy away from the One-China policy. The second set of missiles were fired in early 1996, intending to intimidate the Taiwanese electorate in the run-up to the 1996 presidential election. • Two aircraft carrier battle groups, Carrier Group Seven centered on USS Nimitz. and Carrier Group Five, centered on USS Independence deployed to area.

First and Second Island Chains

Notes Pages
• Admiral Willard 2012: China’s antiaccess/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities extend well into the SCS. China asserts these military developments are purely defensive in nature and that it poses no threat to neighbors in the region. Yet, combined with broad maritime and sovereignty claims and incidents with lawful operators in the SCS and ECS, there is ongoing international concern regarding China’s activities in the South China Sea.

Notes Pages
• Yulin can accommodate mix of attack and ballistic missile submarines and advanced surface combatants including aircraft carriers. • Jin class Type 094, nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) that will eventually carry JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile with range of 7,400 km. First credible sea based nuclear capability. DOD: first of the new JIN class Type 094 SSBN appears ready. Uncertain when it will be able to deploy JL-2 SLBM. • China’s single XIA-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) and medium range JL-I SLBM remains questionable. • China has about 62 submarines and is expected to add 15 in coming years.

Clinton Administration Policy 1990s
• Crestone Energy Corp. 1992-94 • ‘The United States takes no position on the territorial claims, but we strongly oppose the use of force to resolve them. We support efforts, led by Indonesia, for a peaceful settlement and the development of resources.’
– Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State, ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference, July 26, 1994.

Notes Pages
• China signs a contract with U.S. firm Crestone Energy Corporation in May 1992 to explore for oil near the Spratly Islands in an area that Vietnam says is located on its continental shelf, over 600 miles south of China's Hainan Island. In September, Vietnam accuses China of drilling for oil in Vietnamese waters in the Gulf of Tonkin. • April 18, 1994 Creston commences seismic data project southeast of HCMC. Mid-May1994 Vietnam begins oil exploration in waters near Tu Chinh/Wan’an Reef/Vanguard Bank, demarcated blocks for external bidding, harssed Chinese scientific survey ships and fishing vessels. July 19, 1994 two Chinese frigates/warships blocked drilling activities by Vietnamese oil rig the Tam Dao (or Chinese turned back a Vietnamese supply vessel).

Notes Pages continued
• 1994 Crestone joins with a Chinese partner to explore China's Wan' Bei-21 (WAB-21 block. Vietnam protests that the exploration is in Vietnamese waters in their blocks 133, 134, and 135. • Vietnam leases exploration blocks to U.S. firm Conoco in April. Vietnamese blocks 133 and 134 cover half the zone leased to Crestone by China. • In May 1996, China reaffirms a national law claiming the South China Sea as its own.

Obama Administration
• Multilateralism
– Treaty of Amity and Cooperation – ASEAN
• US-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting

– APEC – Shangri-La Dialogue – ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus – ASEAN Regional Forum – East Asia Summit

Notes Pages
• Unprecedented commitment by the Obama Administration to the region’s multilateral institutions principally ASEAN, Pacific Island Forum and APEC

U.S.-China Relations
• >60 annual official dialogue mechanisms to coordinate strategic policy issues • Defense Consultative Talks (1997) • Military Maritime Consultative Agreement (1998) • Special Policy Dialogue (2005)/Defense Policy Coordination Talks (2006)

Notes Pages
• 60 mechanisms include military-to-military contacts and strategic dialogues • DCT twelve held by December 2011 • MMCA eight held by 2010 • DPCT five held by April 2011 Current US policy: Secretary Clinton in Beijing: US hope to build a cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China. New model of rising power meeting an established power.

U.S.-China Relations
• Strategic and Economic Dialogue (2009)
– Strategic Security Dialogue (2011) – U.S.-China Consultation on the Asia-Pacific (2011)

• China’s 3 obstacles (2009)
– Arms sales to Taiwan – Close-in surveillance in China’s EEZ – NDAA 2000

• South China Sea as a ‘core interest’ (2010)

Notes Pages
• China 3 or 4 obstacles: The first and foremost obstacle is the U.S.-Taiwan military relationship… The Taiwan issue is related to the core interests of China and is a core issue that prevents the development of the U.S.-China military relationship. If the U.S. side can’t handle this issue very well, a healthy and stable China-US. Military relationship will not be possible. • Second, U.S.-military aircraft and ships’ intrusions into China’s maritime exclusive economic zone should be terminated. China hopes the U.S. military can observe UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and Chinese maritime legislation, and stop such acts which would threaten China’s security and interests. • Third, there is some U.S. legislation which restricts the development of the China-U.S. military relationship. Most notably is the 2000 Defense Authorization Act passed in 1999. • Another obstacle is the United States lacking strategic trust in China.

Pressure on U.S. Oil Companies 2007
• The U.S. has ‘a vital interest in maintaining stability, freedom of navigation, and the right to lawful commercial activity in East Asia’s waterways… We object to any effort to intimidate U.S. companies’
– Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Scot Marciel, Testimony to to the Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, July 2009

Notes Pages
• Kurt Campbell: beginning in 2007 new period of heightened tensions, stemming from a combination of intense demand for natural resources including hydrocarbons, rapidly improving capabilities to extract resources in deep mater. Fishing stocks in coastal and inland area have significantly declined due to overfishing and environmentally harmful techniques pushing fishing fleets further offshore in SCS.

USNS Impeccable Incident March 2009

Notes Pages
• February 2009 US-China resume mid-level defence talks postponed since October 2008. On March 5, 2009, a Chinese frigate approached Impeccable, crossing its bow at a range of approximately 100 yards without first making contact. Two hours later a Chinese Y-12 aircraft, conducted 11 flyovers of Impeccable at an altitude of 600 feet (180 m) and a range from 100–300 feet (30–90 m). The frigate then crossed Impeccable's bow again, at a range of approximately 400–500 yards. One Chinese crewmen used a grappling hook to try to snag Impeccable's towed sonar array. • On March 7, a Chinese intelligence collection ship contacted the Impeccable over bridge-to-bridge radio, calling her operations illegal and directing Impeccable to leave the area or "suffer the consequences.”

Notes Pages continued
• On March 8, the Impeccable, while monitoring submarine activity 75 miles south of Hainan was shadowed by five Chinese ships, including a Bureau of Maritime Fisheries Patrol Vessel, a State Oceanographic Administration patrol vessel, a Chinese Navy ocean surveillance ship, and two small Chinese-flagged trawlers, which maneuvered close to the Impeccable, with two closing in to 50 feet (15 m), waving Chinese flags, and ordering the Impeccable from the area. The civilian crew sprayed water at one of the nearest Chinese ships; the Chinese vessel closed in to within 25 feet of the American ship. Shortly after the incident, the Impeccable radioed the Chinese, informing them of its intentions to leave the area, and requesting a safe pass to travel. When it was trying to leave the area the two Chinese trawlers stopped directly in front of the Impeccable, forcing it to do an emergency stop to avoid a collision. Once the Impeccable got underway, the crew aboard one of the Chinese ships used a grappling hook to try to snag Impeccable's towed sonar array.

Notes Pages continued
• June 11 PLAN submarine operating near USS McCain hit underwater sonar array in vicinity of Scarborough Shoal. McCain one of 3 US warships participating in joint exercise with six Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia and the Philippines.

Robert Scher, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
• 1) clearly demonstrating, through word and deed, that U.S. forces will remain present and postured as the preeminent military force in the region; • 2) deliberate and calibrated assertions of our freedom of navigation rights by U.S. Navy vessels;
– Testimony to to the Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, July 2009

Robert Scher, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
• 3) building stronger security relationships with partners in the region, at both the policy and … operational levels • 4) strengthening the military-diplomatic mechanisms we have with China to improve communications and reduce the risk of miscalculation
– Testimony to to the Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific Affairs of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, July 2009

17th ASEAN Regional Forum 2010
• The United States, like every other nation, has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea. We share these interests with not only ASEAN members and ASEAN Regional Forum participants but with other maritime nations and the broader international community.
– U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Notes Pages
2010 ARF Considered a major turning point. 9th Shangri-La Dialogue 2010 Our policy is clear: it is essential that stability, freedom of navigation, and free and unhindered economic development be maintained. We do not take sides on any competing sovereignty claims, but we do oppose the use of force and actions that hinder freedom of navigation. We object to any effort to intimidate U.S. corporations or those of any nation engaged in legitimate economic activity. – US. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

17th ASEAN Regional Forum 2010
• The U.S. supports a collaborative, diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion. • We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant. • The U.S. does not take sides on competing territorial disputes over land features
– U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Notes Pages
• “The United States supports a collaborative, diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion. We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant. While the United States does not take sides on the competing territorial disputes over land features in the South China Sea, we believe claimants should pursue their territorial claim and the company [sic] and rights to maritime space in accordance with the UN convention on the law of the sea. Consistent with customary international law, legitimate claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features. “

17th ASEAN Regional Forum 2010
• We believe claimants should pursue their territorial claim and … rights to maritime space in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Consistent with customary international law, legitimate claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features.
– U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Notes Pages
• “The United States supports a collaborative, diplomatic process by all claimants for resolving the various territorial disputes without coercion. We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant. While the United States does not take sides on the competing territorial disputes over land features in the South China Sea, we believe claimants should pursue their territorial claim and the company [sic] and rights to maritime space in accordance with the UN convention on the law of the sea. Consistent with customary international law, legitimate claims to maritime space in the South China Sea should be derived solely from legitimate claims to land features. “

17th ASEAN Regional Forum 2010
• The U.S. supports the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. We encourage the parties to reach agreement on a full Code of Conduct. The U.S. is prepared to facilitate initiatives and confidence building measures consistent with the declaration.
– U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Notes Pages
• “Because it is in the interest of all claimants and the broader international community for unimpeded commerce to proceed under lawful conditions. Respect for the interests of the international community and responsible efforts to address these unresolved claims and help create the conditions for resolution of the disputes and a lowering of regional tensions.”

• Eleven of the ARF’s twenty-seven members joined the United States in raising maritime security/South China Sea issues: Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, European Union, Japan and South Korea. Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar did not raise the South China Sea issue, while Thailand was most vocal in urging a nonconfrontational stance towards China.

U.S. and the Philippines
• Mutual Defense Treaty (1951)
– Same clause as ANZUS Treaty – consultations

• Kalayaan islands acquired after MDT • 1991-92 Philippines terminates U.S. leases on bases – Subic Bay, Clark AFB etc. • Chinese assertiveness leads Aquino Administration to revitalize MDT • Transfer of former Coast Guard cutters

Notes Pages
• China charges : US emboldens and encourages assertiveness by the Philippines and Vietnam

U.S.-Vietnam Relations

USS John D. Stennis April 2009

USS Florida SSGN, Pacific Command December 2009

USS George H.W. Bush Aug 2010

USS George Washington Aug 2010

Notes Pages
• Highly symbolic fly outs to U.S. carriers transiting the South China Sea off Vietnam’s eastern coast. • Vietnam Signaling – US presence legitimate and needed • Vietnamese Defence Minister enroute to Washington is pictured looking through the periscope of US nuclear submarine.

U.S.-Vietnam Annual Naval Engagement Activities

15th Anniversary of US-Vietnam Diplomatic Relations USS John S. McCain makes port call at Da Nang August 2010

Notes Pages
• No US-Vietnam naval exercises • Exercises involved exchange of combat skills • Naval Activities involved noncombat training
– damage control – search and rescue drill – exchange of cooking skills – Salvage – Civic action

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Cam Ranh Bay, June 2012

U.S. National Defense Strategy
• U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.
– Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (January 2012)

Notes Pages
• In July 2010: USN deployed thirty-one of its fifty-three fast attack submarines to the Pacific (prior to announcement of pivot) • “Our relationships with Asian allies and key partners are critical to the future stability and growth of the region. We will emphasize our existing alliances, which provide a vital foundation for Asia-Pacific security. We will expand our networks of cooperation with emerging partners throughout the Asia-Pacific to ensure collective capability and capacity for securing common interests.” Defence cuts for the Pacific Command’s Area of Responsibility will be quarantined. The US is strengthening its posture on Guam, stepping up weapons and equipment sales to the Philippines, negotiating new arrangements with Australia giving the U.S. greater access to training facilities near Darwin, and basing Combat Littoral Ships in Singapore.

U.S. National Defense Strategy
• Over the long term, China’s emergence as a regional power will have the potential to affect the U.S. economy and our security in a variety of ways. Our two countries have a strong stake in peace and stability in East Asia and an interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship. • However, the growth of China’s military power must be accompanied by greater clarity of its strategic intentions in order to avoid causing friction in the region
– Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (January 2012)

Notes Pages
• Rebalancing: comprehensive defense strategy to develop a force posture in the region that can better respond to non-traditional security threats, protect allies and partners, and ultimately defend the US national interests.

Recent Developments
• 45th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting July 2012
– U.S. supports ASEAN, collaborative diplomatic approach and conclusion of COC

• China’s opens ‘five fronts’
– Raising status of Sansha to prefecture level city – CNOOC oil leases in Vietnam’s EEZ – military garrison on Sansha – combat ready patrols and – fishing armada in the South China Sea

Notes Pages
• US Policy (Kurt Campbell): peaceful approaches to disputes in the region. Long-term goal of supporting a rules-based order, undergirded by agreements and strong institutions, that can support the management, and, ultimately, resolution of the disputes. The US has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability; respect for international law; unimpeded lawful commerce; freedom of navigation and over flight in the SCS. The US opposes the use of coercion, intimidation, threats, or force by any claimant to advance its claims.

Notes Pages
• The US supports 2002 DOC, multilateral diplomatic collaboration COC, international law, UNCLOS, self-restraint in conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability, including steps to inhabit presently uninhabited land features.

Notes Pages continued
• US encourages relevant parties to explore new cooperative arrangements for managing the exploitation of resources in SCS. Secretary Clinton at ARF July 2012 equitable joint exploration and exploitation arrangement for hydrocarbon resources in areas of unresolved claims. • Five fronts: Raising status of Sansha to prefecture level city; CNOOC oil leases in Vietnam’s EEZ; military garrison on Sansha; combat ready patrols; and fishing armada in South China Sea.

Recent Developments
• “We are concerned by the increase of tensions in the South China Sea. Recent developments include an uptick in confrontational rhetoric, disagreements over resource expliotation, coercive economic actions, and the incidents around the Scarborough Reef, including the use of barriers to deny access… [these] run counter to collaborative diplomatic efforts to resolve differences and risk further escalating tensions in the region.”
– U.S. Department of State, August 3, 2012

Notes Pages
• “We strongly support ASEAN’s efforts to build consensus on a principles-based mechanism for managing and preventing disputes. We encourage ASEAN and China to make meaningful progress toward finalizing a comprehensive Code of Conduct in order to establish rule of the road and clear procedures for peacefully addressing disagreements.”
– US endorses recent ASEAN Six Point Principles on the SCS.

Recent Developments
• China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visits
– Indonesia and Malaysia (9-13 Aug)

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits
– Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Brunei (1-6 Sept) – China
• U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission summoned • Hostile Chinese media – ‘shut up’

• Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visits Japan and China (15-20 Sept)

Notes Pages
• US Policy SCS:/Secretary Clinton’s visit: • Indonesia: plans for East Asia Summit and Code of Conduct • China: full range of issues including SCS • Brunei: chairmanship of ASEAN 2013 and EAS • Panetta: China invited to take part in RIMPAC 2014

The United States and the South China Sea

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