U.S. Navy intelligence chief: China training for a quick war against Japan

The United States Naval Institute (USNI) reports, Feb. 18, 2014, that the chief of intelligence of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLEET) says China’s People’s Liberation Army is training for an attack on Japanese holdings in the East China Sea.

Chinese marines assault a beach during the Mission Action 2013 exercise. Xinhua Photo

Chinese marines assault a beach during the Mission Action 2013 exercise. Xinhua Photo

At the West 2014 conference on Feb. 13 in San Diego, California, Capt. James Fannell, deputy chief of staff intelligence and information operations for PACFLEET, said the PLA is training to take the Senkaku Islands, as part of China’s Mission Action 2013 exercise — a massive exercise between all branches of the PLA:

“We witnessed the massive amphibious and cross military region enterprise — Mission Action 2013. [We] concluded that the PLA has been given the new task to be able to conduct a short sharp war to destroy Japanese forces in the East China Sea following with what can only be expected a seizure of the Senkakus or even a southern Ryukyu [islands] — as some of their academics say.”

In the last year, China has increased its provocative military actions in the South China Sea around the so-called Nine Dash Line — China’s expansive claim into the region in conflict with several other international claims.

PLAN training planPLA Navy’s training plan

“As a senior U.S. government official recently stated, there is growing concern that China’s pattern of behavior in the South China Sea reflects an incremental effort by China to assert control of the area contained in the so-called 9-dash line despite the objections of its neighbors, and despite the lack of any explanation or apparent basis under international law.” Fannell said.

He then detailed a series of what he called aggressive actions taken by China against its neighbors over the past year. Some of those actions, including combat drills in the south Philippine Sea were described as China’s “protection of maritime rights.”

Fannell explained that “protection of maritime rights is a Chinese euphemism for coercive seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors.” “The next week (the week after the combat drill in the south Philippine Sea) in the East China Sea, Japan said that a Chinese warship locked its fire-controlled radar onto a Japanese warship. China denied it for a month, but then admitted that it occurred, but said that it was not in danger since the range between the two ships was too close for a weapons system,” he said. “Seriously, you just can’t make this stuff up.”

Fannell also called out quasi-military actions by the newly created Chinese Coast Guard which unified five mostly civil maritime services.

Chinese Coast Guard vessel

Chinese Coast Guard vessel

Tensions in the South and East China Seas have deteriorated with the Chinese Coast Guard playing the role of antagonist, harassing China’s neighbors while PLA Navy ships, their protectors, (make) port calls throughout the region promising friendship and cooperation.”

Fannell points out China has allocated $1.6 million on improvements to disputed South China Sea outposts, developing ports, air fields, water purification and surveillance systems. “Meanwhile, China describes efforts by other nations to improve the navigability of their outposts as egregious provocations and responded with threats.”

But Fannell’s assessment of China’s provocation is in contrast to the Obama administration’s efforts to forge closer military-to-military ties with the PLA.

As an example, on the same panel at the West 2014 conference, the U.S. Navy’s head of operations, plans and strategy, Rear Adm. James Foggo described a successful meeting between U.S. Navy officials and the head of the PLA Navy (PLAN), Adm. Wu Shengli. The U.S. delegation toured PLAN ships and submarines. Shortly after, the Chinese declared the controversial Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over a large swath over the East China Sea in November.

The Obama administraton is also continuing to work out plans for the Chinese navy to participate in the Rim of the Pacific 2014 (RIMPAC) exercise later this year.

See also:


17 responses to “U.S. Navy intelligence chief: China training for a quick war against Japan

  1. Aren’t we required by treaty to aid Japan if it is attacked? C’monnnn, shootin’ war: Daddy needs a new job back in the intel community and hiring’s been waaay too tight these last several years!


  2. If I remember correctly, the Chinese fleet sent by Kublai Khan to conquer Japan in the late 13th century was destroyed in a storm and the survivors who landed on Japan did not survive for long. In such an case we could only hope that History might repeat itself.


  3. Reblogged this on Fellowship of the Minds and commented:
    There’s a severe disconnect in U.S. policy toward China. At the same time as a Navy intelligence chief warns that China’s military is training for a quick war against Japan to take a group of disputed islets in the East China Sea, the Obama admin is courting China in the delusional quest for closer military-to-military relations. So what else is new? Obama is a disaster not just for Americans but also for U.S. friends & allies like Japan.

    ~Dr. Eowyn


  4. Obama administration tries to be everybody’s friend? Japanese begin to voice their complaints. Allies will boil with rage at Obama’s betrayal.


  5. While China is indeed using “communist negotiation tactics” with respect to offshore islands and sea floor mineral rights, the writer is unfairly ignoring the context of history. First, it is false to allege there is no Chinese claim to these areas. In fact, in the case of the Ryuku’s, as late as 1945, the US and the other four “great powers” officially required they be returned to China (by which they meant ROC China – but note ROC China still claims the Denryu/Senkaku Islands and others in the area). There is also historical behavoirs by our military and naval forces, including how we declared the Japan, Korea and Taiwan ADIZ – sometimes even including islands we admit belong to PRC. An ADIZ needs distance to work – so it is a reasonable construct. Nevertheless, it is OUR idea, not something they invented. It is neither honest nor a way to get China to the table to write as if there is nothing whatever to their position. In that too they are merly copying our practice. Since nobody lives there, and since the decision to return the Okinawa Kingdom to Japan (after we declared the Treaty of Shimonoseke void and demanded it be returned to China – it was a voluntary protectorate of China before) was in fact high handed and in contradiction of our (and Russian, and British, and French, and even ROC Chinese) policy – there is at least something to talk about. Taking the position “you have no case and Japan is within its rights to use military force to keep you out” is a formula for confrontation, not for conflict avoidance. There really is a better way. It starts with how we write. Let THEM be seen to be one sided and unreasonable by the contrast with how we are willing to be honest and also to negotiate that which ought to be negotiable in some degree.


    • If by “the writer,” you mean the USNI, or me (StMA), then you are being most unfair. USNI was simply reporting on what Captain Fannell said at the conference, and I’m simply posting about it here on CODA. Neither of us is obliged to give the whole history of the Senkakus, which I did in a chapter on Chinese irredentist nationalism in my book that you haven’t read. You could have made your point without being insulting.


    • Japan has the reasonable position: They’ve possessed them for the last 40years, and they received them from the previous possessors (America) who possessed them for the 30years before that, and the Japanese possessed at least the Ryukyus for 50years before that. Going back more than 70years or maybe 120years when trying to figure a land title is the unreasonable position. China can go pound sand.


  6. The five maritime agencies folded into the China Coast Guard included elements that had to make their living by traditional means. That is, like the PLA itself, and also the ROC army in the past, they were virtually unpaid – and so collected “fines” for various offenses, real or made up. This is very much related to the ancient institutional concepts, and it was not until the 1990s the PLA began to pay its members properly (if indeed properly even can be said today). There are likely some people in the Coast Guard who have attitudes once attributed to “Chinese pirates” – although in fact they were not precisely that in the Western meaning of the term. While there is reason to think the Coast Guard is named, and adopted a paint scheme, in imitation the US Coast Guard – a common practice in PRC institutions – and that there is likely an effort to establish professional training and standards similar to ours – it will take time to get there. And the PRC way will NOT be like ours in the end: witness the new test for (domestic) journalists. It makes clear the Party is in charge, and there is no right to tell the truth in the sense we understand freedom of the press. The Coast Guard is going to act as if every policy alleged is Chinese law – which indeed may generally be the case. Just as ours does. Try not complying with an order from USCG or any other if you want to experience what happens next.


  7. StMa – whoever that may be – is mistaken if he believes I was being insulting. While I regard it as unwise to write as the article was written, it is because I don’t want to persuade PRC there is no option but warfare. Their formal position is quite correct – it is better to negotiate. But writing as this article is written, or as Jim comments above – amounts to total dismissal of the possiblity of negotiating anything. I elaborate on my reasoning in a reply to the post on the article PLA Ordered to Commense War. This is a serious attempt to make a constructive suggestion – and in no sense an insult to anyone.


  8. Yes, I dismiss the possibility of negotiating anything with regard to Japan reliquishing any sovereignty over the Senkakus. Of course, whether I dismiss anything or nothing regarding those Japanese islands is meaningless on multiple levels, but that would be my position if I had some sort of actual authority in the matter.


  9. Thank you StMA for this important post. Clearly, China is acting in bad faith, and with an agenda that is interested in its own aggrandizement and acquisitions. And as can be expected, Obama courts China, not having the integrity, good sense or courage necessary for a competent commander in chief. God help us!


  10. Pingback: Dir. of U.S. Navy Intelligence sacked for warning about China’s aggressive designs in East China Sea -

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