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NightWatch 20110928

NightWatch

For the night of 28 September 2011

China-US-South Pacific: China told the United States that it does not support combined efforts and will go its own way with its growing aid and investment in the South Pacific. At a 16-nation Pacific island summit this month in New Zealand, Chinese officials explained they were not interested in sharing the fruits of their engagement, said Kurt Campbell, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia. Campbell said China politely explained it would do its own investment and quid pro quo bilaterally.

China-US-South China Sea: China's military authority reiterated on 28 September that attempts to internationalize the South China Sea issue would further complicate the matter, Xinhua reported. Any move meant to internationalize or multi-lateralize the issue will not help, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said, adding that China's sovereignty over the islands in the sea and the surrounding waters is incontestable.

Comment: The two items above are nearly identical in theme. China goes its own way and is not interested in coalitions, sharing or group gropes. This attitude borders on heresy in some western intelligence agencies and think tanks, but mimics the way the US conducted foreign policy after World War II.

The two anecdotes have several implications. First, the US continues to be the Chinese model for great power behavior. Next, China sees strategic advantage relative to the US in cultivating South Pacific states. Chinese engagement with Fiji and other island states extends back more than 30 years. The economics of this strategy are so poor that it can only be justified on the grounds of China's national security, such as maintaining outposts for tracking the US Navy.

As for the South China Sea, the military and security authorities continue to serve as more reliable guides to Chinese strategic decision-making than the Chinese diplomats. China considers the South China Sea to be Chinese territorial waters and the coastal countries must deal with China  on a one-to-one basis in settling disputes over seabed exploration and mining rights.

South Korea-Japan: South Korea will begin construction in 2012 on a naval base on Ulleung Island so that, in case of disputes, its warships can deploy faster than Japan's, a South Korean lawmaker said on 27 September.

Chung Mi-Kyung of the ruling Grand National Party said the government would build a $300 million naval base on the island by 2015. The new base will feature a 300-meter (990-foot) pier large enough to accommodate Aegis-equipped destroyers and the 14,000-ton amphibious landing ship, Dokdo. Chung said the base will help strengthen South Korea's territorial rights on Dokdo, the Korean name for the Seoul-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan.

Comment: As might be expected, the paramount issue is title to seabed resources, whose ownership is contested by two US allies. The Chinese will be more than pleased to watch US allies fight each other and degrade their ability to stand together against Chinese hegemony.

US-Pakistan: The United States established sanctions on 28 September against founding members of Pakistan-based jihadist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Zafar Iqbal and Hafiz Abdul Salam Bhuttavi, Xinhua reported. Iqbal and Bhuttavi are two of the most significant LeT leaders, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said in a statement.

Comment: This action is long overdue. This group also is supported by and acts as a proxy for Pakistani intelligence, but is targeted primarily against India, whereas the Haqqani group is targeted against Afghanistan. Unlike other US government departments, the Treasury has shown it can cut the funding and genuinely cripple groups or nations for long periods without using bombs and guns.

Syria-US: The Syrian opposition should not expect the United States to treat Syria like Libya, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford said. The situation is a Syrian problem needing Syrian solutions, adding that the Syrian opposition should try to win support from the regime and not look to outsiders to solve the problem.

Ford said the pro-democracy movement has not yet turned violent but many protesters have armed themselves and fired upon Syrian security forces to defend their families and neighborhoods. Ford said President Bashar al Asad's regime must change tactics as its repressive actions are triggering more violence that will grow and conflate with sectarian conflicts.

Comment: At least the first part of Ford's remarks makes sense at last. Syria has a real army - ten times larger than Libya's -- that in defense would be the match of NATO forces without US support. Even with US support, NATO lacks the capability to win a conventional fight against Syria without Israeli ground forces. NATO lacks the money to finance another fight. Libya all but exhausted the European military forces, some 80% of whose support the US supplied.

The second part of Ford's comments contains the usual litany of inaccuracies and hyperbole. Ford does not know when to stop talking. The Syrian fight already is a sectarian fight for the survival of all non-Sunni sects and non-Arab minorities. Ford's comments place the US in favor of sectarian massacres.

Lithuania: Recent decisions about the upcoming Russian leadership shuffle have ended hopes for renewed relations with the West, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius told Lithuanian Radio on 28 September. Kubilius said there should be no illusions about how Russian will be ruled in the upcoming decades. He called restart policies "expired and naive dreams."

Comment: Kubilius' real message is a request whether NATO and the US will defend the Baltic States against a more aggressive and expansive Russia under Putin. The Medvedev presidency gave the Baltics a false sense of security.

End of NightWatch for 28 September.

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