Esper Discusses Moves Needed to Counter China's Malign Strategy
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued Aug. 27, 2020)
The international, rules-based system that has brought security and stability to much of the globe is under duress, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said in Honolulu today.

Esper said China is threatening the basis for prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and like-minded nations must band together.

Allies and partners are crucial in this new era of great power competition, Esper said at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. The United States recognizes the dangers and is reaching out to nations around the globe to counter China's moves.

That U.S. network of allies and partners ''remains the enduring asymmetric advantage we have over near-peer rivals, namely China, that attempt to undermine and subvert the rules-based order to advance their own interests – often at the expense of others,'' he said.

Great power competition is the foremost threat facing the globe, and the United States has made it the foundation of the National Defense Strategy promulgated in 2018.

''One of the goals that drives our implementation of the [strategy] is to focus the department on China,'' he said.

The Defense Department has taken a number of steps including the creation of a new policy office to counter China. There is now a China strategy management office to integrate DOD efforts to deter China.

The National Defense University has shifted its curriculum with 50% of the coursework concerning China. He also decreed that the services make China ''the pacing threat'' in all DOD schools, programs and training.

''These efforts are critical to preparing our military's future leaders for tomorrow's challenges,'' he said.

The Chinese Communist Party – not the people – rule China, and the leaders in Beijing have repeatedly fallen short of their promises, and China does not abide by international laws, rules or norms, Esper said. This is despite continuing to reap the benefits of the international system and free markets.

The Communist Party also reneges on commitments it made, including promises to safeguard the autonomy of Hong Kong and not to militarize features in the South China Sea, *the secretary said.

''Beijing's self-serving behavior … is not isolated to just the Indo-Pacific region,'' he said. ''Increasingly, our like-minded partners around the world are experiencing the CCP’s systematic rule-breaking behavior, debt-backed economic coercion and other malign activities meant to undermine the free and open order that has benefitted nations of all sizes – China included.''

Fishing fleets with no care for the ecological and economic damage they create around the world are an example of China flexing its muscles. Beijing has failed to uphold its obligations under the World Trade Organization. Chinese leaders also hampered global efforts to control the coronavirus pandemic due to its lack of transparency with the World Health Organization, Esper said.

There are direct military implications to the Chinese attitude.

''To advance the [Chinese Communist Party's] agenda, the People's Liberation Army continues to pursue an aggressive modernization plan to achieve a world-class military by the middle of the century,'' the secretary said. ''This will undoubtedly embolden the PLA's provocative behavior in the South and East China Seas, and anywhere else the Chinese government has deemed critical to its interests.''

The PLA does not serve the people or swear an oath to a constitution but is the military arm of the Communist Party. It is in league with attempts to undermine rules and norms across the globe, including Djibouti, Sri Lanka, Latin America and Africa.

''Clearly, China seeks to undermine the free and open order itself, which impacts every nation supporting and benefitting from this system,'' he said.

DOD's answer to this is preparedness, strengthening alliances and partnerships, and promoting and expanding a network of like-minded partners.

The United States is focusing on modernizing the force to deter, compete, and, if necessary, fight and win, across all domains: air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace, Esper said.

''Thanks to our largest research and development budget in the department's history, we are prioritizing the development and deployment of game-changing technologies, such as hypersonic weapons, 5G and artificial intelligence,'' he said. ''We are also investing in platforms critical to the future of a free and open Indo-Pacific, such as submarines, B-21 stealth bombers, P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, unmanned underwater and surface vehicles, long-range precision munitions, integrated air and missile defense, and a new class of frigates.''

But it is not just equipment. DOD is developing a new Joint Warfighting Concept for the 21st century. Part of that is making the U.S. military more strategically predictable to our partners, and operationally unpredictable to our competitors, Esper said.

''These efforts prepare our military for future conflicts that we hope we won't need to fight, but must – and will – be prepared to win,'' he said.

Allies and partners are key in this struggle. DOD must assist countries across the region to develop their national security policies, strategies, plans, and laws.

''This type of work — with nations such as Bangladesh, Mongolia, the Philippines and several Pacific Island nations — has helped put like-minded partners on a path toward greater preparedness, enabling them to become more confident in their sovereignty,'' he said.

Allies and partners provide an asymmetric advantage adversaries do not have.

''Our shared security concerns and desire to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific have yielded countless bilateral and multilateral initiatives throughout the region aimed at strengthening and expanding defense cooperation and alignment,'' Esper said.

Part of this process is through an improved and expanded foreign military sales program.

''By streamlining the FMS process, we have lowered costs and accelerated our response time to partner nation requests, allowing us to deliver critical capabilities more quickly and effectively,'' he said.

The United States is working with long-established allies, including Australia and Singapore, and with other nations in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Bilateral alliances are good, but multilateral efforts are better. Promoting a more networked region encourages the growth of inter-connected security partnerships, Esper said. This is a force multiplier for nations that share U.S. interests.

''As we continue to implement our Indo-Pacific strategy, the United States needs our allies and partners to contribute in ways that are fair and equitable,'' the secretary said. ''We need them to pursue close alignment in policies that uphold a free and open order, and reject decisions that would benefit malign actors to our collective detriment. And, we need them to make the necessary investments to improve their capabilities so that, together, we can safeguard our interests, strengthen our readiness, and defend our sovereignty and values.''

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US 'Walking on Thin Ice' With Spy Plane Flight
(Source: China Daily; published August 27, 2020)
Chinese experts warned that the United States military is "walking on thin ice" by allowing one of its U-2 spy planes to trespass into a no-fly zone over Chinese live-fire military drills, calling the move extremely provocative and prone to misjudgement.

On Tuesday, a Lockheed U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft trespassed into the no-fly zone that is hosting a live fire drill by the People's Liberation Army Northern Theater Command, Senior Colonel Wu Qian, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Wu said the trespass had "seriously disrupted China's regular training activities" and violated China-US maritime and flight safety codes and international norms.

"The incident could very easily lead to misunderstanding and misjudgment, and may even lead to an accident," he said. "It is also a blatant provocation that China resolutely opposes."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in a news briefing on Wednesday that China resolutely opposes the US trespass and urged the US to immediately stop such provocative acts and take concrete measures to maintain regional peace and stability.

The US Pacific Air Forces said in a statement on Tuesday that a U-2 flight had been conducted in the Indo-Pacific region and it had operated within the accepted international rules and regulations governing aircraft flights.

"Pacific Air Forces personnel will continue to fly and operate anywhere international law allows, at the time and tempo of our choosing," it added.

The South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, a Chinese nonprofit research institution, said a US RC-135S intelligence aircraft entered air space above the South China Sea on Wednesday morning via a flight path above the southeastern waters of Hainan province, where the Chinese military is holding a drill nearby.

Naval drills

According to local maritime safety administrations, China is holding major naval drills in all four of its major adjacent waters, namely the Bohai Sea, the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea. Since late July, the Chinese military has conducted a total of 22 drills in these waters.

The exercise in the Bohai Sea, which is the northwestern and innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea bounded by the coastlines of Hebei, Shandong and Liaoning provinces, began on Aug 21 and ends on Friday. The drill in the South China Sea began on Monday and ends on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the local maritime authority in Zhejiang province said the Chinese military will conduct "real weapons training" in the East China Sea from Thursday to Sunday, and prohibited ships from entering the training area.

Major General Zhang Shaozhong, a military commentator, said according to international norms, any nation has the right to declare a temporary no-fly zone for military testing and training, and the announcement must be made in public and in advance.

"It is extremely dangerous to deliberately trespass into a no-fly zone after receiving clear notification, because the radars on live missiles may pick up the wrong signal and pursue the wrong target, causing accidental damage," he said on microblogging platform Sina Weibo on Tuesday.

A military historian who spoke on condition of anonymity said seeing a U-2 spy plane trespassing into a Chinese no-fly zone is like seeing a "ghost of the Cold War", because the plane is infamous for its aggressive intelligence gathering capability and had been shot down multiple times in the 1960s.

Developed in the early 1950s, the U-2 is a single-pilot, high-altitude spy plane known for conducting photo-reconnaissance deep into enemy territory and picking up radio signatures from radar, data links and telecommunication equipment from an extreme operating height of 21.3 kilometers.

"It is a notoriously high-profile target that no competent military could allow to roam freely around their borders," the historian said, adding that the plane played a major role in the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War.

"The recent trespass was in a temporary no-fly zone, not our territorial airspace. It would be a perilous overreaction and escalation if we tried to intercept or shoot the plane down, and the US knows we can't risk this," the historian said.

"But the US military is also walking on thin ice here. Flying a Cold War relic directly in China's face, our military will not take this insult lightly."

Zhu Feng, executive director of the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, said the US is sparing no effort to stir up tension in the South China Sea and around China, and is hoping to "artificially manufacture a China crisis".

"History has repeatedly shown that the only way to heal a divided US is for it to tackle a serious external threat, so people could rally around the American flag," he said. "We must see through this insidious ploy and remain calm and collected."

Groundless claims

In another development, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao on Wednesday rebuked an article by US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, published in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, saying his claims about the role of the PLA were "totally groundless".

Zhao said China upholds a defensive national defense policy, and the Constitution of the Communist Party of China and the Constitution of the People's Republic of China have made it clear that China follows a path of peaceful development and opposes hegemony.

"Can the US make such a declaration?" Zhao asked.

"Which country owns hundreds of military bases around the world, waged war or conducted military actions illegally against countries such as Iraq, Syria and Libya, and sent vessels and aircraft to flex its muscles in distant waters away from its own territory?" he said.

"Which country is sticking to a Cold War mentality, withdrawing from treaties and organizations, wielding its 'clubs and fists' and undermining global rules wantonly?" Zhao said.

Also, China has sent more peacekeeping troops than any other permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Zhao said, pointing out that since 1990, the Chinese military has participated in more than 20 UN peacekeeping operations and sent more than 40,000 peacekeeping troops.

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