Tensions With China Increasing, But US Had Failed Simulated Chinese Attack
SOUTH CHINA SEA - During a press briefing in Singapore, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet stated that the amount of unsafe interceptions by Chinese aircraft has increased over the last few months, but Vice Admiral Karl Thomas said that overall, the interactions have remained "professional" according to the Navy Times. The United States had carried out wargames simulating an attack by China in 2021, but "failed miserably".
Thomas said that Chinese aircraft have been flying so close to the U.S. and allied aircraft, that the actions seem quite provocative in nature. "There are things that are understood and the normal rules-based international order of how you professionally operate. And then there are things that are provocative, and it’s the provocative nature of the intercepts that’s got our attention and we’re trying to understand it".
The Navy Times reported that there have been over two dozen "unsafe interactions" between Chinese aircraft and Canadian aircraft over international waters.
One such incident on May 26th saw a Chinese aircraft release chaff in order to confuse the Canadian aircraft's radar. The chaff, however, got sucked up into the Canadian aircraft's engines which could have led to an engine failure.
Thomas said, "This reported increase in the air is obviously concerning because it’s not a very forgiving environment if something goes wrong when you’re flying in the air".
China has also been continuing to breach Taiwan's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ). The Navy Times reported that Chinese military aircraft breached the zone 969 times in 2021, more than double the number of incursions in 2020.
While the United States and allies view the Taiwan Strait as international waters, China has said that it views the Strait as Chinese territorial waters, and has repeatedly condemned the United States for sailing military vessels through it, viewing the actions as provocative.
"If you don’t challenge it, the problem is that it’ll become the norm. And if you don’t challenge it, and if people just accept it, then all of the sudden people can make claims like that the entire South China Sea is their territorial sea... It’s so important we contest these types of things," Thomas stated.
On June 25th, 2022 China said that its military went on high alert and mobilized its ground forces after a U.S. maritime plane flew through the Taiwan Strait.
Colonel Shi Yi, who is the spokesman for the Eastern Theater Command of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) put out a statement saying that the Chinese military went on high alert after a U.S. plane flew through the Taiwan Strait.
China said that the plane flew through the strait deliberately and endangered peace and stability in the region. Flight Radar images, and the Pentagon have both confirmed that a P-8A aircraft flew over the Taiwan Strait on June 24th.
Earlier that month, in June China notified the United States that the Taiwan Strait is a part of their maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and not international waters, opposing the U.S. view that the strait is part of international waters. They have also given a warning to the U.S. to stay out of the Strait saying that they have sovereign rights over it.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at the time, "Our policy hasn't changed, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be true for the PRC. We're seeing growing coercion from Beijing". "We've witnessed a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan. That includes PLA aircraft flying near Taiwan in record numbers in recent months — and on a nearly daily basis," he added.
China's Minister of National Defense Wei Fenghe responded by saying that "If anyone dares to secede Taiwan from China, we will not hesitate to fight. We will fight at all costs, and we will fight to the very end. This is the only choice for China".
The Chinese ministry of foreign affairs put out a statement saying "The biggest threat to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is the obdurate separatist activities of the “Taiwan independence” forces and the US’s connivance and endorsement of such activities".
In another statement, they said, "The US has deployed military aircraft and warships in the SCS on a regular basis and its reconnaissance aircraft have electronically impersonated the civil aircraft of other countries there many times. A US nuclear-powered submarine even hit an “uncharted seamount” there".
Wang Wenbin, the ministry's spokesman at the time had also said that China "has sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the Taiwan Strait" and that "It is a false claim when certain countries call the Taiwan Strait 'international waters' in order to find a pretext for manipulating issues related to Taiwan and threatening China's sovereignty and security".
In response, Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin Meiners was cited by Bloomberg as saying "The United States will continue to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, and that includes transiting through the Taiwan Strait".
Taiwan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said that the comments by China regarding the Taiwan Strait were a 'fallacy' and that "The Taiwan Strait is international waters, and the waters outside our territorial waters are subject to the 'freedom of the high seas' principle of international law".
She said, "We understand and support the U.S. freedom of navigation missions' contribution to promoting regional peace and stability".
In response to the constant incursions by the Chinese into Taiwan's ADIZ, Taiwan moved its Mirage 2000 jets to Penghu in the Taiwan Strait and Taitung on the island's east coast in May 2022.
The incursions by Chinese military aircraft into Taiwan's ADIZ commonly occur close to the island, usually to the southwest of the island, sometimes in the southeast sector of the ADIZ, and are obviously intentional, despite propaganda often shared on social media claiming that the incursions happen far from the island of Taiwan and showing how Taiwan's ADIZ line extends into mainland China.
Analyzing the actual locations of the incursions on a map, however, reveals the fallacy of the claims that the incursions are unintentional due to the Chinese aircraft's close proximity to the island of Taiwan during these incursions.
On May 20th Taiwan's Air Force stated that it moved its IDF jets to a base in Magong, Penghu County, and their Mirage jets to Taitung County in the southeast according to the Taiwanese newspaper the Liberty Times.
IDF jets are multirole fighters manufactured by Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation. Taiwan began the IDF program after the United States refused to sell them F-20 Tigershark and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets after being pressured by China not to sell them to Taiwan.
Member of the Taiwanese Legislative Yuan Jiang Qichen said that Chinese aircraft have recently been intruding on Taiwan's eastern airspace, so a special arrangement had been made to visit the Taitung Air Force Zhihang Base.
Qichen [based on translation] expressed concern about the Taiwanese Air Force's combat readiness and refitting. To increase combat readiness, Taiwan would be deploying the latest F-16V fighters 'in the future' to strengthen the island's eastern air defense, according to Taiwan's Liberty Times.
Taiwan News reported in May that defense analysts believe that the frequent incursions into Taiwan's ADIZ by Chinese military aircraft are meant to both collect information and wear out Taiwan's Air Force.
In November 2021 the Chinese Coast Guard blocked a Philippine resupply ship on the way to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. The Coast Guard ships also shot water canons at the two Philippine ships causing the Philippines to issue a warning to Beijing.
While no one was hurt in the incident, Manila ordered the Chinese ships to back off and warned that its supply vessels are under a mutual defense treaty with the United States.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr stated that the two supply vessels had to abort their mission to supply food to Filipino military forces located at the Second Thomas Shoal which is recognized internationally as exclusively an economic zone.
Locsin had stated in a tweet that the attack by the Chinese coast guard was illegal and told them to "take heed and back off".
After that incident, The United States said that China's actions "directly threaten regional peace and stability" and put out a statement solidifying their support for the Philippines.
The statement read, "Two days ago, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Coast Guard blocked and used water cannons against Philippine resupply ships en route to Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea".
"The United States stands with our ally, the Philippines, in the face of this escalation that directly threatens regional peace and stability, escalates regional tensions, infringes upon freedom of navigation in the South China Sea as guaranteed under international law, and undermines the rules-based international order".
"On July 12, 2196, an Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, delivered a unanimous and enduring decision firmly rejecting the PRC’s claims to Second Thomas Shoal and to waters determined to be part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone."
"The PRC and the Philippines, pursuant to their treaty obligations under the Law of the Sea Convention, are legally bound to comply with this decision. The PRC should not interfere with lawful Philippine activities in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone".
"The United States stands with our Philippine allies in upholding the rules-based international maritime order and reaffirms that an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty".
"The United States strongly believes that PRC actions asserting its expansive and unlawful South China Sea maritime claims undermine peace and security in the region".
In 2021, as China conducted what they described as 'normal' military training exercises near Taiwan, United States Mustin, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer was carrying out 'close up reconnaissance' on the Chinese carrier strike group, interfering with their exercises and causing the Chinese carrier group to warn away what they call the "stalker" destroyer.
While China calls this a 'close-up provocation' that could end up in 'misjudgments and accidents' and admonishes the US for carrying out such 'dangerous' activities by interfering with their military operations, one must also ask why China is carrying out such exercises so close to Taiwan, which also could also be seen as a provocation.
China however continues to see Taiwan as Chinese territory and sees no issue with their having a military presence in such close proximity to the country of Taiwan.
That incident was just a few weeks from another incident where the USS Mustin was seen 'stalking' the Liaoning on April 11th, 2021, and taking a photograph of Commander Robert J. Briggs and his deputy Commander Richard D. Slye sitting back and observing the Liaoning from about a mile away in relaxed form.
Lu Li-shih, former instructor at Taiwan's Naval Academy stated that the photograph taken by the USS Mustin shows a form of 'cognitive warfare' so that China knows that the United States 'does not regard the PLA as an immediate threat'.
After the photo was taken, the USS Mustin has been shadowing the Liaoning carrier group as it carries out its military activities around Taiwan as if to let China know, "we're watching you!".
Also in 2021, a Top US General had said that the United States military "failed miserably" during a wargame in October of 2021 simulating a Chinese attack on Taiwan, leaving the military pondering the changes that need to be made to the US and Taiwan joint strategy.
During a speech in front of the Emerging Technologies Institute (ETI), Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Chairman and US Air Force General John Hyten had stated that the U.S. Army carried out a joint warfighting strategy during a wargame in October of that year.
Hyten stated, "Without overstating the issue, it failed miserably. An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us. They knew exactly what we were going to do before we did it."
Technologically, China has increased dramatically and their navy has been aggressively practicing an invasion on Taiwan as of late, as well as ramping up emboldened threats about an invasion on the island to 'reunify' it to mainland China.
Hyten stated that the advantage that the U.S. has is "shrinking fast, and China is running the race very quickly and we have to figure out how to stay ahead".
One of the issues that caused U.S. forces to fail in the wargame was the fact that U.S. forces concentrated firepower to one area in order to combine and reinforce each other.
"We always aggregate to fight and aggregate to survive. But in today’s world, with hypersonic missiles, with significant long-range fires coming at us from all domains, if you're aggregated and everybody knows where you are, you're vulnerable," General John Hyten, the 11th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated.
Another issue was that the "blue team" which represented U.S. forces lost communications. Defense One reported Hyten as saying, "We basically attempted an information-dominance structure, where information was ubiquitous to our forces. Just like it was in the first Gulf War, just like it has been for the last 20 years, just like everybody in the world, including China and Russia, have watched us do for the last 30 years".
"Well, what happens if right from the beginning that information is not available? And that’s the big problem that we faced,” he continued.
Earlier that year Air Force Lieutenant General Clint Hinote, the service's Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration, and Requirements had said, "we should never play this war game scenario [of a Chinese attack on Taiwan] again because we know what is going to happen. [...] The definitive answer if the U.S. military doesn’t change course is that we’re going to lose fast.”
Hinote said that the F-35 would be pretty much useless in this type of conflict and that "Every fighter that rolls off the line today is a fighter that we wouldn’t even bother putting into these scenarios.”
After the failed wargame in October of 2021, Hyten stated that the United States military has been reevaluating its strategy. The new strategy they have come up with is "not quite a clean-sheet approach because you can never take a clean sheet of paper if you want to get between now and 2030, you have to start with what you have".
Hyten stated that the new strategy addresses just how to "aggregate" military forces for a 'significant' effect" as well as then "disaggregate to survive in any kind of threat environment".
"We always aggregate to fight, and aggregate to survive", Hyten stated. "But in today’s world, with hypersonic missiles, with significant long-range fires coming at us from all domains, if you’re aggregated and everybody knows where you are, you’re vulnerable".
Hyten talked about ways to improve "functional battles", the first of which is "contested logistics" focused on delivering supplies and fuel to front-line troops.
The second is "joint fires". "You have to aggregate to mass fires, but it doesn’t have to be a physical aggregation. It could be a virtual aggregation for multiple domains; acting at the same time under a single command structure allows the fires to come in on anybody. It allows you to disaggregate to survive".
The third "functional battle" he talked about is Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) which involves having centralized information, or access to information from domains covering the entire battlefield area, but disaggregated so that if the centralized information structure were targeted the whole fighting force would not lose access to the information.
"The goal is to be fully connected to a combat cloud that has all information that you can access at any time, anyplace," Hyten said. Fully connected, but without the ability for the enemy to compromise the data through an attack on a centralized location.
For the last "functional battle" Hyten spoke of "information advantage" which he stated is really just a sum of the first three "functional battles". Hyten said, "If we can do the things I just described, the United States and our allies will have an information advantage over anybody that we could possibly face".
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