Tag Archives: Diaoyu Islands

China builds military base on offshore island to reclaim contested Senkakus

At the end of the Ryukyu archipelago in the East China Sea is a cluster of small islands called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyutai by the Chinese, the ownership of which is contested by Beijing and Tokyo. The waters surrounding the islets are believed to contain sub-soil oil and natural gas deposits.

On November 24, 2013, China made a bold move toward its claim by declaring an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) that includes the air space over the contested islands.

At first, the United States appeared to challenge China’s ADIZ by flying B-52 bombers over the area. Two days later, China demonstrated its resolve by sending warplanes into the ADIZ. The Obama administration then backed off, told U.S. commercial airlines to abide by China’s rules in the ADIZ, then seemed to signal that the U.S. would accept China’s ADIZ in the East China Sea although the U.S. official position is that it does not recognize the Chinese air defense zone as it covers large areas of international airspace and waters.

Now China has made another move to reclaim the islands.

China vs. Japan ADIZs

Bill Gertz reports for The Washington Free Beacon, Jan. 27, 2015, that recent satellite photos of an island off the coast of China confirm Beijing’s buildup of military forces within attack range of the Senkaku islands.

In October 2014, construction of a helicopter base on Nanji Island was observed by a commercial spy satellite. The island is off the coast of China’s Zhejiang province—some 186 miles northwest of the Senkakus. The imagery, obtained from the Airbus Defense and Space-owned Pleaides satellite, reveals China is constructing an airfield with 10 landing pads for helicopters on Nanji Island.

Click images below to enlarge

Nanji1Nanji2Military analysts say the new military base on Nanji Island appears to be preparation by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for an attack or seizure of the Senkakus. Rick Fisher, a senior fellow with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said:

“China’s new heli-base on Nanji Island demonstrates that the PLA is preparing for an offensive military operation against the Senkaku/Daiyoutai Islands. If you want to rate the level of tension, this is the PLA reaching for its holster. When forces start deploying to Nanji Island, that means the hammer is cocked.

The military buildup on Nanji was first disclosed by Japan’s Kyodo News Service last month. Kyodo, quoting Chinese sources, said a landing strip was being built. However, the satellite photos, reported last week by IHS trade publication Jane’s Defence Weekly, did not indicate construction of an airstrip, only helicopter landing pads. The helicopter base construction is new because photos taken earlier than October 2013 do not show any visible construction. In addition to the helicopter pads, wind turbines on a ridge on the southeast part of Nanji also are visible additions to the island. Radar and communications equipment also is visible. The helicopter pads are an indication that China plans to use the base for transporting troops and forces by helicopter and not for longer-range air transports or fighter jets.

China has been engaged in a tense confrontation with Japan over the Senkakus since 2012, when Tokyo, in a bid to clarify the status of the uninhabited islands, purchased three of the islands from private owners in a bid to prevent Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara from buying them. Since then, Chinese ships and warplanes, as well as unmanned surveillance drones, have been flying close to the islands, prompting numerous Japanese maritime and aerial intercepts.

Yang Yujun

Yang Yujun

China’s Defense Ministry did not dispute the military buildup on Nanji.

On Dec. 25, 2014, at the same time as he called Japanese news reports of the construction on Nanji “irresponsible,” Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman PLA Sr. Col. Yang Yujun told reporters in Beijing that “There is no doubt that China has the right to conduct activities and construction on its own territory. Some media in Japan make irresponsible speculations on China’s legitimate activities and construction and play up tensions in the region. It is pure media hype.”

Questions were raised during the discussion with Yang as to whether the buildup is part of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea that covers the Senkakus.

Retired PLA Maj. Gen. Xu Guangyu, a senior adviser at China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, a Beijing-based research group, told Singapore’s Today newspaper on Dec. 23, that the Nanji military construction was “normal” and that “China has military bases in several strategically important coastal islands and the Nanji is one of them. The Japanese media is only singling out the Nanji and making a big fuss, [and] this can be misleading.”

Jane’s said the Nanji construction appears to be part of a “quiet military buildup around the Senkaku/Daioyu islands by both sides. For its part, Japan is putting aside funds to buy land for a coastal surveillance radar unit on Yonaguni island, which is the westernmost of its islands and only 150 kilometers from the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, while it is also training up and kitting out a small marine corps-style force that will be based in Nagasaki.”

The lack of an airfield is a “gap” in Chinese plans for military operations against the Senkakus, Jane’s said. The closest PLA air base to the Senkakus currently is located at Luqiao, some 236 miles from the Senkakus, where J-10 fighters are based.

Fisher, however, said Nanji could be used by the PLA to base its large Zubr air-cushioned hovercraft that are capable of moving troops and tanks in a takeover of the Senkakus or an assault against Taiwan.

A Japanese Embassy spokesman declined to comment on the Chinese military construction: “We are in the process of gathering information on this, and thus not able to comment.” A Pentagon spokesman did not respond to an email request for comment.

Note: The United States has a mutual defense treaty with Japan, and a Congressional act with the Republic of China on Taiwan called the Taiwan Relations Act (1979), wherein the U.S. states it is committed to the maintenance of peace and security in the Western Pacific (which includes the Taiwan Strait).

See also:

~StMA

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

Capt. James FanellCapt. James Fanell

In February of this year, at the U.S. Naval Institute’s WEST 2014 conference, Capt. James Fanell, 52, the director of intelligence and information operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that the Chinese Navy was practicing for a “short sharp war” against Japan.

According to Fanell, the PLA Navy had been carrying out amphibious assault drills to practice taking territory in the East China Sea, specifically the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands that are claimed by both Japan and China. Once the uninhabited islands come under Chinese control, the PLA could then attack Okinawa to remove the facilities of the US Air Force and Marine Corps from the island. (See my post “U.S. Navy intelligence chief: China training for a quick war against Japan”)

Fanell also stated that China is at the center of virtually every maritime territorial dispute in the Asia-Pacific and that the Chinese were engaging in a blatant land-grab of islands that would enhance their exclusive economic rights to fishing and natural resources.

“I do not know how Chinese intentions could be more transparent,” he said, adding that when Beijing described its activities as the “protection of maritime rights,” this was really “a Chinese euphemism for the coerced seizure of coastal rights of China’s neighbors.”

Now comes news that Captain Fanell has been removed from his position as director of Navy Intelligence by Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) boss Adm. Harry Harris and reassigned within the command.

David Larter reports for Navy Times, Nov. 10, 2014, that Capt. Fanell’s remarks about China preparing for a “short sharp war” with Japan ran counter to the Pentagon’s talking points on building ties to the increasingly assertive Chinese navy, which forced top defense officials, including the 4-star head of the Army and the Pentagon spokesman, to respond to his comment in the following days.

PACFLT did not disclose the relief, saying that Fanell was not a commanding officer and therefore was entitled to increased privacy. “It is inappropriate to publicly discuss the internal reassignment of non-command triad personnel,” PACFLT said in an Nov. 7 statement.

The reasons for Fanell’s firing are cloudy, but two sources said the relief stems from alleged mishandling of classified information and fostering a negative command climate. Capt. Darryn James, top spokesman for PACFLT, declined to say whether Fanell’s relief was related to his controversial views, citing privacy concerns.

Fanell’s relief is the latest turmoil in the Navy’s intelligence community, and has raised questions about whether an intel officer was cashiered for publicly voicing a view that contradicted Pentagon public statements.

Fanell’s views have supporters inside naval intelligence, and he has become a high-profile spokesman for a more alarmist view of the rise of China than those espoused by Navy senior leadership, an intelligence source who spoke to Navy Times said. Fanell’s articles on China have been published by Hoover Digest, Naval Intelligence Professionals Quarterly and the U. S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

But his public remarks stirred a major controversy and forced both the Pentagon’s top spokesman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to repudiate his comments.

John Kirby

John Kirby

Pentagon Press Secretary and Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters that Fanell’s comments were his to express and that they weren’t reflective of the organization’s stance on China: “What I can tell you about what [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel believes is that we all continue to believe that the peaceful, prosperous rise of China is a good thing for the region, for the world.”

Ray Odierno

Ray Odierno

Fanell’s comments in early 2014 came at an awkward time, coinciding with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno‘s trip to Beijing in February, when he was asked by a reporter to respond to Fanell’s analysis. Odierno said, “I’ve seen no indications of that at all,” referring to Fanell’s analysis that China was preparing for war with Japan.

The comments also ran contrary to the messaging from Adm. Jon Greenert, who has made engagement with China one of

Jonathan Greenert

Jonathan Greenert

the hallmarks of his time as chief of naval operations. Later in 2014, Greenert stated that talking openly of war with China — and a Chinese war with Japan would almost certainly trigger a war with the U.S. — was unnecessarily antagonistic. “If you talk about it openly, you cross the line and unnecessarily antagonize,” Greenert said at a forum in Newport, Rhode Island. “You probably have a sense about how much we trade with that country. It’s astounding. ”

Fanell is a California native and nearly 29-year career intelligence officer commissioned in 1986. He was responsible for damage assessments for Pacific Fleet during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He served as a China maritime watch officer at Joint Intelligence Center Pacific in 1991, and served on board the carriers Kitty Hawk, Carl Vinson, as well as the amphibious command ship Blue Ridge.

He has been reassigned as an aid to Rear Adm. Randy Crites, head of the maritime headquarters at PACFLT.

See also:

~StMA

Russia & China to hold joint naval drills in East China Sea

East China Sea Air Defense Identification ZoneChina’s East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone

Reuters reports (via The Sydney Morning Herald), May 1, 2014, that on April 30, China said it would conduct joint naval drills with Russia in the East China Sea off Shanghai in late May, in what it called a bid to deepen military co-operation.

China’s defense ministry did not give an exact location in the East China Sea, where Beijing is locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with Japan over the ownership of a group of uninhabited islets called Senkaku by Japanese and Diaoyu by Chinese.

“These drills are regular exercises held by China and Russia’s navies, and the purpose is to deepen practical co-operation between the two militaries, to raise the ability to jointly deal with maritime security threats,” the ministry said on its website. It provided no other details.

China alarmed Japan, South Korea and the United States last year when it announced an air defense identification zone for the East China Sea, covering the Senkaku islands.

The Beijing government, which is swiftly ramping up military spending, has regularly dispatched patrols to the East China Sea since it established the defense zone.

China was angered last week after US President Barack Obama assured ally Japan that Washington was committed to its defense, including the disputed isles. (See “Obama makes promises to Japan and South Korea“)

Earlier this month, Tokyo announced it would break ground on a new radar base on Yonaguni island close to Taiwan and the Senkakus. (See “Japan expands its military footprint for first time in 40 years to counter China“)

China and Russia have close diplomatic, security and economic ties, and regularly carry out military exercises together.

~StMA

Japan expands its military footprint for first time in 40 years to counter China

Yonaguni

Nobuhiro Kubo reports for ReutersApril 19, 2014, that for the first time in more than 40 years, Japan undertook its first military expansion at the western end of its island chain by breaking ground on a military radar station on the Yonaguni island off Taiwan. When constructed, 100 troops will man the radar station. 

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Note: Yonaguni Island, a population around 1700, is one of the Yaeyama Islands and the westernmost inhabited island of Japan. It is the last of the Ryukyu Islands chain, and lies about 67 miles from the east coast of Taiwan, and 93 miles from the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islets. (For more, go here.)

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The move risks angering China, locked in a dispute with Japan over the nearby Senkaku or Diaoyu islands which they both claim.

Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, who attended a ceremony on Yonaguni island to mark the start of construction, suggested the military presence could be enlarged to other islands in the seas southwest of Japan’s main islands.

This is the first deployment since the U.S. returned Okinawa (1972) and calls for us to be more on guard are growing,” Onodera told reporters. “I want to build an operation able to properly defend islands that are part of Japan’s territory.”

The military radar station on Yonaguni, part of a longstanding plan to improve defense and surveillance, gives Japan a lookout just 150 km (93 miles) from the Japanese-held Senkaku islands also claimed by China.

More than that, building the radar station could also extend Japanese monitoring to the Chinese mainland and track Chinese ships and aircraft circling the disputed Senkakus.

Heigo Sato, a professor at Takushoku University and a former researcher at the Defense Ministry’s National Institute for Defense Studies, said the new base on Yonaguni “should give Japan the ability to expand surveillance to near the Chinese mainland. It will allow early warning of missiles and supplement the monitoring of Chinese military movements.”

The 30 sq km (11 sq mile) Yonanguni island is home to 1,500 people and known for strong rice liquor, cattle, sugar cane and scuba diving. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s decision to put troops there shows Japan’s concerns about the vulnerability of its thousands of islands and the perceived threat from China.

Japan does not specify an exact enemy when discussing its defense strategy but it makes no secret it perceives China generally as a threat as it becomes an Asian power that could one day rival Japan’s ally in the region, the United States. In its National Defense Programme Guidelines issued in December, Japan expressed “great concern” over China’s military buildup and “attempts to change the status quo by coercion” in the sea and air.

China’s decision last year to establish an air-defense identification zone in the East China Sea, including the skies above the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islets, further rattled Tokyo.

Japanese and Chinese navy and coastguard ships have played cat-and-mouse around the uninhabited islands since Japan nationalized the territory in 2012. Japanese warplanes scrambled against Chinese planes a record 415 times in the year through to March, Japan’s Defense Ministry said last week.

Tapping concern about China, Abe raised military spending last fiscal year for the first time in 11 years to help bolster Japan’s capability to fight for islands with a new marine unit, more longer-range aircraft, amphibious assault vehicles and helicopter carriers. Japan’s thousands of islands give it nearly 30,000 km (18,600 miles) of coastline to defend.

While many of the islanders on Yonaguni are looking forward to hosting the radar base because of the economic boost it will bring, others fear becoming a target should Japan end up in a fight.

“Opinion is split down the middle,” Tetsuo Funamichi, the head of the Japan Agricultural Association’s local branch, told Reuters. “It’s good for the economy if they come, but some people worry that we could be attacked in an emergency.”

When Defense Minister Onodera was in Yonaguni to mark the start of construction of the radar station, he was greeted by about 50 protesters who tried to block him from entering the construction site. A protestor who declined to be identified said, “Becoming a target is frightening, they won’t talk to us about it, we haven’t discussed it.”

~StMA

China threatens war in South and East China Seas

South China SeaSouth China Sea

Qianzhan.com ( Forward Looking) is a Chinese-language news site headquartered in the city of Shenzhen in China’s southeastern Guangdong province, with offices in Beijing and Hong Kong.

On Jan. 11, 2014, Chan Kai Yee of China Daily Mail, a non-PRC affiliated website, provided a summary translation of an alarming article in Qianzhan.com, that “According to experts, the Chinese navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize Zhongye Island [from the Philippines] and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea.”

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Note: Zhongye Island, aka Pagasa or Thitu Island, is one of the Spratly islands in the South China Sea.

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According to Chan, the unnamed author of the Qianzhan article wrote that “Relying on US support, the Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Zhongye Island, a Chinese island that it [the Philippines] has illegally occupied for years.” It is claimed that the Philippines military buildup on the island has been confirmed by a report in the Philippines Star.

The buildup being “an intolerable insult to China,” the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) accordingly has made plans for a battle “aimed at recovering the island stolen by the Philippines from China. There will be no invasion into Filipino territories.”

But China is prepared for war not only against the Philippines in the South China Sea, but also against Japan [and the United States] in the East China Sea as well.

East China Sea Air Defense Identification ZoneThis author, StMA, found another Qianzhan article, dated Jan. 13, 2014, which cited (with no source link) an article from the U.S. magazine National Interest predicting that “a small-scale maritime conflict” between China and Japan over the Senkaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea is “most likely,” given a rising China that demands “greater respect” and restitution for its past humiliation, as well as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s determination to revise the Constitution so as to rebuild Japan’s military might.

Conflict will be sparked by the “downing” (yunluo 陨落) of a fighter plane or ship in China’s newly-declared East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The conflict will escalate, resulting in small-scale naval or air combat — a conflict in which Japan will have scant sympathy or support from the international community, including the Obama administration.

Another Qianzhan article of Jan. 13, 2014 boasts that, in order to protect Chinese fishermen from Japanese harassment in the East China Sea, the PLA has installed 50,000 sets of a “mysterious weapon” on the fishermen’s boats. Reportedly, the “mysterious weapon” is the Big Dipper (Beidou 北斗)Positioning System, which will enable the fishermen to accurately pinpoint and differentiate Chinese territorial waters from international waters. This will ensure the safety of Chinese fishermen and any recurrence of their unwarranted detention by foreign [Japanese] law enforcement personnel.

Of course, since China’s ADIZ includes the Senkaku islets, Beijing considers the waters around Senkaku to be Chinese territorial waters.

Yet another Qianzhan article, also dated Jan. 13, 2014, is even more alarming. The unnamed author writes:

What God wants to destroy, he first makes mad. The faster the pace of [Japanese Prime Minister] Abe’s hurtle toward militarism, the abrogation of [Japan’s] peace constitution, and development of nuclear weapons, the more isolated Japan will be in the international community and the more detested and loathed Abe will be. Japan will then become the object of the world’s condemnation, and will be spurned even by its ally, the United States. Obama’s cold demeanor toward Abe when he recently visited the United States was a warning to Japan.

The Diaoyu [or Senkaku] Islands are extremely important to China and Japan, on which neither country will retreat. Only the country with the greatest capabilities to defeat (zhanzheng 战胜) the other will use the Diaoyu Islands for its future advancement.  In this, according to foreign media, [the Chinese government’s] Central Military Commission has made an important decision: Diaoyu Islands are now (” immediately” or mashang 马上) in a state (zhuangtai  状态) of total war (quanmian zhanzheng 全面 战争).

According to informed sources, in order to meet the U.S.-Japan challenge (tiaozhan 挑战) to China, the People’s Liberation Army has deployed 1,000 guided missiles aimed at Japan. Abe was very shocked when he learned the news. Japanese media are critical of Abe for having been duped by Obama, because once conflict breaks out between the three countries [U.S., Japan, China], the United States most likely will not make much of an effort [to help Japan]. In the end, Japan will be out of luck (daomei 倒霉).

China’s ADIZ is a strategic move to control First Island Chain

China-Japan ADIZs

On Nov. 23, 2013, China unilaterally announced an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) which includes the Japan-held Senkaku Islands, which Chinese call Diaoyutai and over which China also claims ownership.

Since that declaration, Japan and South Korea have refused to accept China’s ADIZ, while the Obama administration has sent mixed signals — at first seemingly challenging the ADIZ by flying two unarmed B-52 bombers over the East China Sea (and the disputed Senkaku islands), then seemingly accepting the ADIZ so long as China not require all aircraft, commercial and military, to check with Beijing before flying through the ADIZ.

It turns out that China’s ADIZ isn’t solely motivated by Beijing’s irredentist claim over the Senkakus, but reaches beyond those disputed islets to include none other than the First Island Chain.

What is the First Island Chain? From Maria Hsia Chang, Return of the Dragon: China’s Wounded Nationalism (Westview, 2001), p. 220:

The PRC [People’s Republic of China] now conceives oceans to be its “second national territory (dier guotu). … China’s “second national territory” includes 12 territorial seas …, 24 “maritime adjacent zones”…, 200 maritime exclusive economic zones and continental shelves — totaling more than 3 million square kilometers or one-third of China’s total land mass.

Defense of its “maritime national territory” requires Beijing to shift its defense strategy from one of “coastal defense” … to “offshore defense”…. National Defense maintains that since “the frontline of maritime national defense lies beyond China’s territorial waters … there will be times” when China’s defense of its seas “may require doing battle in farther maritime regions” including “international waters and seabeds.” China’s perimeter of “offshore defense” is conceived to include two “island chains.” The first chain stretches from the Aleutians to the Kurils, the Japanese archipelago, the Ryukyus, Taiwan, the Philippine archipelago, and the Greater Sunda Islands. The “second island chain” comprises the Bonins, the Marianas, Guam [a U.S. territory], and the Palau archipelago.

1st and 2nd island chainsFirst and Second Island Chains (click map to enlarge)

Below is an excerpt from a commentary by Li Xuejiang (李学江) in the Chinese-language People’s Network (Renmin wang 人民网) of Dec. 3, 2013, titled “Why China’s ADIZ is like a fishbone stuck in the throats of Japan and the U.S.”:

China’s announcement of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) caused an uproar in Japan, the United States, Australia, Canada and other Western countries. Japan and the U.S. even sent military planes as an act of provocation. Their media also rallied together to attack China. Some people laughed at China, saying that the ADIZ is a “disgrace,” “useless,” “a paper tiger.” But in truth, their reaction proves that China’s ADIZ is like a fishbone that’s stuck in the throats of Japan and the U.S.

One of the accusations against China is that China’s military modernization is “disrupting the balance of power in the region.” The United States, therefore, should “return to Asia” to restore the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific. Some U.S. allies in Southeast Asia also expect the United States to counterbalance China. It should be noted, however, that the Asia-Pacific has never had a military balance to restore. Not only has the United States never left Asia, it has had military dominance in East Asia. …

In recent years China’s military modernization has been more in the interest of  defense — an interest that is necessary and legitimate in order to rectify the “imbalance” of power so as to achieve a “rebalance.” This is what worries the United States and Japan. But that should not deter China — China cannot stop cultivating crops because of a “fear of locusts.”

China’s establishment of the ADIZ is not only a matter of the sovereignty of our core national interests and of economic importance; it also has great strategic significance. The United States not only has never accused Japan for its ADIZ, but strongly supports it. Why do these two countries cooperate so seamlessly? Their purpose is, through Japan’s ADIZ, to achieve a blockage of China’s sea and air passages in the first island chain.

Japan’s attempt in so doing is not just “unacceptable,” China must break through the blockage. Ironically, the United States and Japan have shown us how to break that blockage. Now that American and Japanese military airplanes have trespassed into China’s ADIZ without notice, China can also do so vis-a-vis Japan’s ADIZ and without notification. In effect, the U.S.-Japan’s first island chain has become a “useless paper tiger.”

H/t CODA’s Sol Sanders

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Chinese warship tries to stop U.S. warship in So. China Sea’s international waters

USS CowpensUSS Cowpens is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser that is named after the Battle of Cowpens, a major American victory near Cowpens, South Carolina, in the American Revolution.

Bill Gertz writes for The Washington Free Beacon, Dec 13, 2013:

A Chinese naval vessel tried to force a U.S. guided missile warship to stop in international waters recently, causing a tense military standoff in the latest case of Chinese maritime harassment, according to defense officials.

The guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, which recently took part in disaster relief operations in the Philippines, was confronted by Chinese warships in the South China Sea near Beijing’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning, according to officials familiar with the incident.

“On December 5th, while lawfully operating in international waters in the South China Sea, USS Cowpens and a PLA Navy vessel had an encounter that required maneuvering to avoid a collision,” a Navy official said.

“This incident underscores the need to ensure the highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap.”

A State Department official said the U.S. government issued protests to China in both Washington and Beijing in both diplomatic and military channels.

The Cowpens was conducting surveillance of the Liaoning at the time. The carrier had recently sailed from the port of Qingdao on the northern Chinese coast into the South China Sea.

According to the officials, the run-in began after a Chinese navy vessel sent a hailing warning and ordered the Cowpens to stop. The cruiser continued on its course and refused the order because it was operating in international waters.

Then a Chinese tank landing ship sailed in front of the Cowpens and stopped, forcing the Cowpens to abruptly change course in what the officials said was a dangerous maneuver.

According to the officials, the Cowpens was conducting a routine operation done to exercise its freedom of navigation near the Chinese carrier when the incident occurred about a week ago.

The encounter was the type of incident that senior Pentagon officials recently warned could take place as a result of heightened tensions in the region over China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently called China’s new air defense zone destabilizing and said it increased the risk of a military “miscalculation.”

China’s military forces in recent days have dispatched Su-30 and J-11 fighter jets, as well as KJ-2000 airborne warning and control aircraft, to the zone to monitor the airspace that is used frequently by U.S. and Japanese military surveillance aircraft.

The United States has said it does not recognize China’s ADIZ, as has Japan’s government.

Two U.S. B-52 bombers flew through the air zone last month but were not shadowed by Chinese interceptor jets.

Chinese naval and air forces also have been pressing Japan in the East China Sea over Tokyo’s purchase a year ago of several uninhabited Senkaku Islands located north of Taiwan and south of Okinawa.

China is claiming the islands, which it calls the Diaoyu. They are believed to contain large undersea reserves of natural gas and oil.

liaoningChina’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning (source)

The Liaoning, China’s first carrier that was refitted from an old Soviet carrier, and four warships recently conducted their first training maneuvers in the South China Sea. The carrier recently docked at the Chinese naval port of Hainan on the South China Sea.

Defense officials have said China’s imposition of the ADIZ is aimed primarily at curbing surveillance flights in the zone, which China’s military regards as a threat to its military secrets.

The U.S. military conducts surveillance flights with EP-3 aircraft and long-range RQ-4 Global Hawk drones.

In addition to the Liaoning, Chinese warships in the flotilla include two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and the Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and the Weifang.

Rick Fisher, a China military affairs expert, said it is likely that the Chinese deliberately staged the incident as part of a strategy of pressuring the United States.

“They can afford to lose an LST [landing ship] as they have about 27 of them, but they are also usually armed with one or more twin 37 millimeter cannons, which at close range could heavily damage a lightly armored U.S. Navy destroyer,” said Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Most Chinese Navy large combat ships would be out-ranged by the 127-millimeter guns deployed on U.S. cruisers, except China’s Russian-made Sovremenny-class ships and Beijing’s new Type 052D destroyers that are armed with 130-millimeter guns.

The encounter appears to be part of a pattern of Chinese political signaling that it will not accept the presence of American military power in its East Asian theater of influence, Fisher said. “China has spent the last 20 years building up its Navy and now feels that it can use it to obtain its political objectives,” he said.

Fisher said that since early 2012 China has gone on the offensive in both the South China and East China Seas. “In this early stage of using its newly acquired naval power, China is posturing and bullying, but China is also looking for a fight, a battle that will cow the Americans, the Japanese, and the Filipinos,” he said.

To maintain stability in the face of Chinese military assertiveness, Fisher said the United States and Japan should seek an armed peace in the region by heavily fortifying the Senkaku Islands and the rest of the island chain they are part of. “The U.S. and Japan should also step up their rearmament of the Philippines,” Fisher said.

The Cowpens incident is the most recent example of Chinese naval aggressiveness toward U.S. ships.

The U.S. intelligence-gathering ship, USNS Impeccable, came under Chinese naval harassment from a China Maritime Surveillance ship, part of Beijing’s quasi-military maritime patrol craft, in June.

During that incident, the Chinese ship warned the Navy ship it was operating illegally despite sailing in international waters. The Chinese demanded that the ship first obtain permission before sailing in the area that was more than 100 miles from China’s coast.

The U.S. military has been stepping up surveillance of China’s naval forces, including the growing submarine fleet, as part of the U.S. policy of rebalancing forces to the Pacific.

The Impeccable was harassed in March 2009 by five Chinese ships that followed it and sprayed it with water hoses in an effort to thwart its operations.

A second spy ship, the USNS Victorious, also came under Chinese maritime harassment several years ago.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, when asked last summer about increased Chinese naval activities near Guam and Hawaii in retaliation for U.S. ship-based spying on China, said the dispute involves different interpretations of controlled waters. Locklear said in a meeting with reporters in July, “We believe the U.S. position is that those activities are less constrained than what the Chinese believe.”

China is seeking to control large areas of international waters—claiming they are part of its United Nations-defined economic exclusion zone—that Locklear said cover “most of the major sea lines of communication” near China and are needed to remain free for trade and shipping.

Locklear, who is known for his conciliatory views toward the Chinese military, sought to play down recent disputes. When asked if the Chinese activities were troubling, he said: “I would say it’s not provocative certainly. I’d say that in the Asia-Pacific, in the areas that are closer to the Chinese homeland, that we have been able to conduct operations around each other in a very professional and increasingly professional manner.”

The Pentagon and U.S. Pacific Command have sought to develop closer ties to the Chinese military as part of the Obama administration’s Asia pivot policies.

However, China’s military has shown limited interest in closer ties.

China’s state-controlled news media regularly report that the United States is seeking to defeat China by encircling the country with enemies while promoting dissidents within who seek the ouster of the communist regime.

The Obama administration has denied it is seeking to “contain” China and has insisted it wants continued close economic and diplomatic relations.

President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to seek a new type of major power relationship during a summit in California earlier this year. However, the exact nature of the new relationship remains unclear.

James R. Holmes writes for The Diplomat, Dec. 14, 2013:

[…] Beijing’s moves in the China seas — seizing disputed islets and atolls, asserting ownership of others, trying to restrict free use of the maritime commons — [can be interpreted] as China’s version of a first-mover strategy. […] Beijing has staked claims to parts of the commons while daring fellow Asian powers to reverse its claims at high cost and risk to themselves, and to regional tranquility. Strategic offense, tactical defense.

This would help explain China’s passive-aggressive approach to offshore quarrels. It proclaims some new policy, then acts put-upon and oh-so-prickly when challenged. Beijing’s announcement of an air-defense identification zone (ADIZ)  has riveted commentators’ attention on the skies over the East China Sea for the past three weeks. The South China Sea appeared somnolent. But last week, reports Bill Gertz reports, a PLA Navy vessel ordered the cruiser USS Cowpens to stop in international waters (but presumably within the nine-dashed line). Cowpens was evidently shadowing the carrier Liaoning at a distance, and Chinese commanders didn’t take kindly to its presence. When the cruiser refused to halt, a PLA Navy amphibious vessel cut across its bow so close aboard that the crew had to maneuver to avoid colliding.

This is serious business. U.S. officials continually harp on the need to work out procedures whereby American and Chinese reduce the chances and ill effects of “miscalculation.” Maybe so. But the main problem in maritime Asia isn’t miscalculation, it’s calculation. The ADIZ, the Senkakus, Scarborough Shoal — none of these are accidents. They’re policies made in China. By all means, let’s work out hotlines and incidents-at-sea agreements in Asia, if possible. But let’s not kid ourselves about their prospects for success. U.S. and allied strategists had better ponder how to counter [China] ….