U.S. Needs to Demonstrate Ability to Assist Taiwan, Congressman Says

The U.S. needs to show Beijing that it can stop China if Chinese President Xi Jinping were to risk a cross-strait invasion to bring Taiwan under Chinese control, a congressman involved with military innovation this week. The United States must realize that it cannot rely on the Taiwanese people to be the only fighters, as is […]

Taiwan’s indigenous fighter. CNA Photo

The U.S. needs to show Beijing that it can stop China if Chinese President Xi Jinping were to risk a cross-strait invasion to bring Taiwan under Chinese control, a congressman involved with military innovation this week.

The United States must realize that it cannot rely on the Taiwanese people to be the only fighters, as is the case in Ukraine, if China invades Taiwan, Rep. Seth Moulton, (D-Mass.) and co-chair of the congressional Future Defense Task Force, said Tuesday at a Hudson Institute event. Washington would need to commit American forces to the fight.

There are “lots of parallels in legacy motivations” between the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and Xi Jinping’s threats to forcibly unite the self-governing democracy with the mainland, he said.

Taiwan would need to have in place the weapons, systems and trained forces to hold off the invasion long enough for the United States to overcome a blockade of the island to come to its aid, Moulton said. Ukraine, on the other hand, is being supplied overland by rail and highway.

With Ukraine, the better late than never approach worked, but that is not an option with Taiwan, Moulton said.

The Biden administration rallied NATO and the European Union to Kyiv’s defense with arms and ammunition, economic aid, refugee relocation and imposed severe sanctions on Russian leaders, business leaders and its commercial sector.

Ukraine showed “the usefulness of the national guard” in blunting the Russian invasion. Many of its members were well-trained and had combat experience in the Dombas region fighting separatists backed by the Kremlin since 2014. Kyiv took preparedness seriously, Moulton said.

“Taiwan is behind, but making progress,” he said.

The value of asymmetric warfare –“a $1,000 drone” destroying much more expensive tanks – was also made clear on land and in the Black Sea on Russian warships, he said. Later, Moulton cited the Ukrainians’ use of Starlink, a commercially available internet system, that gave its communications networks redundancy when attacked as another successful Ukrainian use of unconventional means in combat.

Where resiliency is required for nuclear threats, using commercial networks would also give U.S. forces redundancy in conventional operations, he added.

The Pentagon did “a remarkable job of sharing intelligence with the Ukrainians [and] information with the world” on Russia’s intentions before Feb. 24 and its intentions to use disinformation campaigns to cover “false flag” operations and lies over the fall of the government in Kyiv, Moulton said.

Moulton warned that Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine had to be taken seriously since it is part of Moscow’s military doctrine. “That is a risk for humanity” that Russia could be willing to take.

Similarly, he viewed advancing artificial intelligence technology in warfare without having “norms, treaties and conventions” in place, as there has been with nuclear arms, as increasingly dangerous.

“China doesn’t care about civilian casualties; China doesn’t care about collateral damage” in using all the weapons in its arsenal, including artificial intelligence, “the future of warfare,” Moulton said.

The goal of the House Armed Services Committee Future Defense Task Force is “to drive the forces to do more and do it quickly,” he said. In its “report card” on progress in areas like asymmetric warfare, Moulton said, “the Army and Navy are dragging their feet” citing size of force and infrastructure as reasons progress seems slow.

Those were poor excuses for slow response if Taiwan reached a military crisis point, he said.

On the other hand, the Marine Corps and Air Force are “moving but not fast enough” to meet new challenges posed by a rapidly modernizing Chinese military, Moulton said. He singled out the Defense Innovation Unit for its cut- through- the-red- tape of the acquisition process as a success in adopting existing commercial technology for the Pentagon’s use.

He added while Congress has approved a number of authorities allowing flexibility in recruiting and retention as well as weapons systems development, the services have been slow to use these tools. At the same time, Congress itself has blocked the services’ moves to divest themselves from legacy systems to invest more in future technologies, creating more challenges to paying for future modernization.

Bombers Could Help Australia During Transition to Nuclear-Powered Submarines

Bombers, long-range strike missiles and large undersea unmanned systems could help Canberra until it has nuclear-powered attack submarines, an Australian and American security expert agreed Wednesday. “Bombers are a possibility,” said Marcus Hellyer of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, speaking at a Hudson Institute event. Mark Gunzinger, of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies at the […]

Bombers, long-range strike missiles and large undersea unmanned systems could help Canberra until it has nuclear-powered attack submarines, an Australian and American security expert agreed Wednesday.

“Bombers are a possibility,” said Marcus Hellyer of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, speaking at a Hudson Institute event.

Mark Gunzinger, of the Mitchell Institute of Aerospace Studies at the Air and Space Force Association, said “the B-21 is part of a family of systems for long-range strike” that includes missiles and unmanned systems. The Air Force has taken delivery of six of these bombers and some can be operational soon.

He added, “you really don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket” when it comes to deterring a competitor like China. The goal should be “to build a much more resilient capability.” Bombers, in addition to having the ability to fly multiple long-range strike sorties, can also keep sea lanes of communication open and perform sea-mining.

Building a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines is the centerpiece of the technology agreement – known as AUKUS – that Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States reached a little more than a year ago. Canberra is expected to make a decision early next year on whether to use an American or U.K. design for the submarine. But that is only the first step in the submarine program, which also must train Australian crews in nuclear operations and create a skilled shipyard workforce in South Australia to build, repair and maintain the nuclear attack boats.

“There’s no use getting SSNs unless you can maintain them,” said Hellyer, adding that the nuclear-powered submarines require about three times as much maintenance time as conventional boats.

It could be 2040 before Australia has the first submarine deliver, with the Royal Australian Navy projected to have four boats by 2050, Hellyer said. 

While in the transition period, Canberra needs to determine what operations it wants its defense forces to be able to do, Hellyer said. It also needs to figure out what it can get from its allies and what it can provide for itself.

Submarines are just one option to carry out a number of maritime missions, Gunzinger said.

Australia is “already embarked on two high-risk [naval] activities,” Hellyer said.

He was referring to Canberra’s plan to extend the service life of some of its six Collins-class conventional submarines to ease the transition, while also launching an ambitious modernization program for its surface fleet.

Both programs are long-term and costly. They also will fill Australian shipyards to capacity at a time when American and U.K. yards also are stretched to the limit, Hellyer said.

“Maybe the best interim capability we could have is the B-21 bomber,” he said.

Both agreed that using modified F-35A Lightning II Strike Fighters and F/A-18F Super Hornets armed with 1,000-kilometer range missiles would have limited reach in deterring China in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

New systems like hypersonics are extremely costly and usable only once, Hellyer and Gunzinger said.

Unmanned systems, however, can play an increasingly important role in the transition. Hellyer noted that the Royal Australian Navy is also now partnering with Anduril to build and use extra large autonomous undersea unmanned vessels.

“It’s all about China,” Hellyer said in explaining Australia’s decision last year to break its contract with France to build extended range conventional submarines.

Australia’s relations with China “changed significantly” within a year, said Hellyer.

Factors included Beijing’s crackdown on democratic dissent in Hong Kong, its increasingly belligerent stance toward Taiwan and stiff tariffs and embargoes placed on Australian products after Canberra demanded an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it broke the contract last year and decided to pursue building a nuclear-powered submarine, Australia was looking for “a high-end conventional deterrent,” he said.

Hellyer added that AUKUS for Canberra also “is about keeping the U.S. engaged in the Western Pacific.”

China, Russia Quietly Expanding Arctic Partnership, Says Panel

China is subtly installing a larger presence in the Arctic through an extensive partnership with Russia in areas ranging from multi-use ports and airfields to energy extraction, Arctic security experts said Tuesday. The partnership also includes scientific research and sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data. However, this increased interest and activity has not yet led […]

Undated photo of the Chinese Xue Long Icebreaker.

China is subtly installing a larger presence in the Arctic through an extensive partnership with Russia in areas ranging from multi-use ports and airfields to energy extraction, Arctic security experts said Tuesday.

The partnership also includes scientific research and sharing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data. However, this increased interest and activity has not yet led to China establishing a base in Russia.

Beijing’s attention remains focused on Taiwan and the South China Sea, said Liselotte Odgaard, a professor at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies. China has “little interest in establishing a military presence” in the Arctic, at least for now, she said.

Marc Lanteigne, an associate professor at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, said China still is a newcomer to the Arctic and is learning by joining other nations in many activities in the region. Beijing “wants very much an open Arctic” where it can seek out business for the Polar Silk Road that goes beyond Russia and ensure a supply of liquified natural gas.

But the effects of the pandemic and economic headwinds that Beijing is facing have caused a slowdown in basic operations in the region, he added.

“The Arctic is not the South China Sea,” where China has historic ties and bases, and where Beijing’s territorial claims have been more aggressive, Lanteigne said at the Hudson Institute event.

“China would be more than willing to help” Russia in developing a region that it sees as its top economic and security priority by building deep water ports and rail hubs and digitizing the waters for commerce and defense, Odgaard said.

But when China looks at the Northern Sea route now, Beijing sees “too much sea ice” to make it immediately valuable for commercial use, she said. To date, China has not scheduled any transits using the route for the coming year.

The panelists compared an open Northern Sea route to the Suez or Panama canals – if free of ice that would cut weeks off shipping times from Asia to Europe.

Odgaard said the two nations have “taken the first step in integrating satellite navigation systems” that have great value militarily. The sharing of intelligence is important for Russia to get better control of entry to the Barents Sea and for Moscow’s Northern Fleet submarine movements to and from the Atlantic.

However, even in an era of closer cooperation between the two powers, Lanteigne doubted Moscow would allow China to base submarines in Russia’s Arctic.

“I don’t think you’ll find a Chinese military base” in the Russian Arctic, Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state, said during the question and answer session following his keynote remarks. But Pompeo didn’t rule out a shared presence with the Kremlin in the future.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, former United States permanent representative to NATO during the Trump administration, said China is “quietly” establishing itself as a “near-Arctic state” and wants a seat at the table in deciding the region’s future. “This is part of a strategy,” similar to one Beijing employed in the South China Sea, to advance territorial ambitions far from the mainland.

The panelists noted there are other nations – Japan, South Korea, Singapore, France and the United Kingdom – that have similar long-term economic and military interests in the Arctic but do not fall within its geographic boundaries.

None of those countries are members of the Arctic Council. Eight nations, including the United States and Russia, make up the council. When Sweden and Finland are admitted to NATO, all but Russia will belong to the security alliance.

The panelists agreed that this changes the security situation in the Arctic, particularly in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February and China’s increasingly bellicose actions threatening Taiwan. The region is also the subject of a newly-released American strategy to complement NATO’s. The strategy calls for an increased U.S. military presence in Alaska and in NATO nations, expanded military exercises and a commitment to rebuilding its icebreaking fleet.

But how quickly NATO nations can respond with equipment needed to operate in the Arctic is an open question.

“We need Arctic frigates; we need submarines; we need aircraft” to demonstrate NATO’s commitment, Odgaard said.

“We need rules of law in the region” that apply to Russia and China as well as democratic nations, Pompeo said. The rules emphasize respect for other nations’ sovereignty and transparency. “We can lead in the Arctic; we have done it before.”

Okinawa Key to Japan’s Defense Against China, North Korea, Says Expert

Winning the hearts and minds of Okinawans is critical to strengthening Japan’s own defenses against China, Russia and North Korea, one of Japan’s leading security experts said Thursday. Support from Okinawans is also key to smoothing over difficulties in Tokyo’s military alliance with Washington, said Kunihiko Miyake, the research director at the Canon Institute for […]

U.S. Marines with 3d Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 3d Marine Division, load CH-53E Super Stallions with 1st Marine Aircraft Wing during Castaway 21.1 on Ie Shima, Okinawa, Japan, March 16, 2021. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

Winning the hearts and minds of Okinawans is critical to strengthening Japan’s own defenses against China, Russia and North Korea, one of Japan’s leading security experts said Thursday.

Support from Okinawans is also key to smoothing over difficulties in Tokyo’s military alliance with Washington, said Kunihiko Miyake, the research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies.

Speaking at a Hudson Institute online forum, Miyake said China’s missile launches that landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone should be viewed as “another black ship” for Tokyo. He was referring to the unexpected arrival of an American flotilla commanded by Matthew C. Perry in 1853 that within a year opened Japan to a trade agreement with the United States. China launched the missiles last month to show its anger over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan.

Now with Washington and Tokyo voicing support for Taiwan, the Status of Forces Agreement between the two nations has taken on new significance. It “has been the most difficult issue” to resolve over the years, Miyake said. One example of that difficulty is the seven years-long controversy surrounding the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

The American military presence on 31 installations located on Okinawa remains a concern among Okinawans as tensions with China has risen.

What makes Okinawa so strategically important is geography, Miyake said. The threat from China to Japan comes from the sea and the south. Okinawa is about 500 miles north of Taiwan. About 70 percent of the U.S. military presence in Japan is on Okinawa.

In a serious review of the agreement, he suggested “increasing joint use of bases” in Okinawa. The U.S. forces assigned to Okinawa “would be regarded as guests” of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. He added that 70 to 80 percent of the miliary bases on the island are under American control.

“It’s a headache for Okinawans,” he said.

Miyake argued this would be one step necessary “to make ourselves more ready for a contingency.”

Looking at Tokyo’s defense spending, Miyake said the government has “to raise the Japanese public’s awareness” of the need to increase defense spending from 1.2 percent of gross domestic product. He noted the NATO standard for its members is to reach 2 percent of GDP and allocate that percentage to security.

The public also needs to understand the reasoning for increased defense spending that is likely to emerge in three important national security-related strategy documents due out by the end of the year.

“It will be very difficult” to move all these proposals through the Japanese Diet, he said.

In earlier remarks, Miyake said, “we cannot defend ourselves” without an ally, like the United States. But Japan needs to help secure itself as well through security spending and strategy.
“Even if we have an alliance, if you don’t have a defense, allies won’t help you,” making it imperative that the Japanese public see what the current close military relationship between Moscow and Beijing means in terms of their own security. Less than a week ago, the Chinese and Russian navies held joint live-fire drills around Japan as part of a larger military exercise.

If nothing is done, Miyake added, “we won’t have enough bullets; we don’t have enough missiles” in the nation’s arsenal for a prolonged conflict. He also noted shortfalls in ships for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and also funds to re-align Japan’s ground forces so they’re more like the U.S. Marine Corps.

“In my neighborhood, we have 2.5 threats” that need to be addressed, Miyake said, referring to China, Russia and North Korea. Tokyo “could do more with the Quad,” the informal security and economic arrangement between Japan, the U.S., Australia and India. He also cited the need for closer coordination with Seoul and Washington in dealing with Pyongyang and Beijing.

Miyake, who has diplomatic experience in the Middle East, said Tokyo’s future security can’t be solely focused on the Indo-Pacific. Japan’s economy is dependent on sea lines of communication into the Middle East for energy and trade with Europe.

“Did the 5th Fleet leave the Gulf? Did the [U.S.] Air Force leave the Gulf?” after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, Miyake asked rhetorically, referring to the Middle East-based U.S. 5th Fleet. “No,” he added. “Without them we wouldn’t have the sea lines of communication.”

He said a strong NATO stabilizes European security and reminds Russian President Valdimir Putin that “a dictator’s mistakes are much more difficult to amend,” like his invasion of Ukraine. The Feb. 24 unprovoked attack not only drew the alliance closer together, but moved Sweden and Finland to apply for membership. He added that the NATO alliance also welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Youn Suk-yeol to the June meeting in Madrid.

“The Russians made a big mistake” not realizing that their largest security challenge was China, not NATO, Miyake argued.

McMaster: Taiwan Could Prove Difficult for China to Invade

Despite China’s recent aggression toward Taiwan, former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster argued this week that Taiwan “not an easy military problem” for Beijing to solve. Speaking during a Hudson Institute online forum on Thursday, the retired Army lieutenant general added that Taipei could be difficult to attack across the 100-mile wide, often stormy Taiwan […]

Despite China’s recent aggression toward Taiwan, former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster argued this week that Taiwan “not an easy military problem” for Beijing to solve.

Speaking during a Hudson Institute online forum on Thursday, the retired Army lieutenant general added that Taipei could be difficult to attack across the 100-mile wide, often stormy Taiwan Strait. It’s a matter of “capability and will.”

To protest House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) 19-hour visit this week to the self-governing island, Beijing fired missiles into Japanese waters, sent military aircraft into Taipei’s air defense identification zone and conducted large-scale live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

But all these escalating military moves from the People’s Republic of China is a “signal to the world” that Beijing could blockade or invade Taiwan, said Patrick Cronin, Hudson’s Asia-Pacific chair. He mentioned threats by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that Pelosi’s visit could lead to a slippery slope of conflict as a means of intimidating other nations.

Wang, speaking at an Association of South East Asians Nations event on Wednesday, termed Pelosi’s visit “manic, irresponsible and highly irrational.”

McMaster said he hopes that the Chinese actions give the United States a “sense of urgency when it comes to Taiwan’s future and how important the Indo-Pacific is to the United States militarily and economically.

Steps that Taiwan can take – like lengthening the time Taiwanese conscripted reservists spend on active duty, creating a territorial defense force and improving joint training for active and reserve forces – would improve Taiwan’s deterrence by denial, McMaster said.

Two years ago, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said her administration increased defense spending to 2.3 percent of its gross domestic product and was very interested in buying asymmetric defense systems ranging from mines to anti-ship missiles, as well as modernizing force structure. In the past, Taiwan had looked to the U.S. for big-ticket items like fighter aircraft to block Chinese ambitions. Its parliament approved a special $8.6 billion appropriation earlier this year in the face of Chinese naval and air incursions during the winter.

Rebeccah Heinrichs, a senior fellow at Hudson, said the time for Taipei to spend on military equipment and receive it is now. It would be far more difficult to supply Taiwan if the Chinese invaded the island, as it has been to come to Ukraine’s aid using highways and rail following the Russian invasion earlier this year, she said.

So far, McMaster has been encouraged by “Taiwan’s will” in resisting escalating pressures of a possible blockade of the island. He added that such a blockade would disrupt not only the island’s economy but also global trade in the Indo-Pacific. McMaster said a key Chinese objective is to isolate Japan from its allies and partners, which could happen under a Beijing-controlled Taiwan.

“Japan has been a real source of strength” in standing up to China over Taiwan’s future, he said. McMaster said nations in ASEAN could learn from Tokyo’s example. “The choice they’re facing is sovereignty or servitude” if they accept China as the final arbiter regionally.

Not surprisingly, “Russia has come to China’s position in this” escalation of tensions, Heinrichs added.

McMaster compared it to the 1930s, “almost like Hitler’s playbook” of authoritarian coercion in Europe and the Pacific. He said Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin believe that together “we will rewrite the rules” because the U.S. and its allies are weak.

For the U.S. and its allies, “it is a period of trial … to maintain resolve” as they are showing in Ukraine, he said.

Heinrichs added that Pelosi’s visit should be a “reassurance to allies” of America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific. She added that Taipei welcomed the speaker “with open arms” and a bipartisan Congress at home supported her visit. Newt Gingrich visited Taiwan when he was speaker in the late 1990s.

The Trump Administration opened the door for more high-level U.S. official visits to Taiwan after decades following U.S. recognition of the People’s Republic of China in the 1970s.

She added that the speaker’s stopover was not the rejection of the United States’ “One China Policy,” as Beijing claimed.

“The Biden administration must embrace this visit” and “make sure there is no appearance of daylight” between the speaker and the White House and Pentagon, she said. Earlier, President Joe Biden warned of consequences that might arise over such a visit.

Heinrichs said Pelosi “holds a critical office” and showed courage in visiting Taiwan that can help Americans understand what is at stake in the Indo-Pacific for democracy and the world’s economy.

Australia to Build New Sub Base for Nuclear Attack Boat Fleet

The Royal Australian Navy will establish a new submarine base on its east coast to host its planned nuclear-powered submarines and to complement the existing Fleet Base West, Garden Island submarine base, Australian officials said on Monday. The government is considering three possible locations for the new base – Brisbane, Newcastle and Port Kembla – […]

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Albuquerque (SSN-706) and Royal Australian Navy Collins-class submarine HMAS Rankin (SSG-78) operate together in waters off Rottnest Island, Western Australia on March 4, 2015. Royal Navy Photo

The Royal Australian Navy will establish a new submarine base on its east coast to host its planned nuclear-powered submarines and to complement the existing Fleet Base West, Garden Island submarine base, Australian officials said on Monday. The government is considering three possible locations for the new base – Brisbane, Newcastle and Port Kembla – down from 19 initial candidates

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement in a virtual address to the Lowy Institute, followed by a joint media release with Defence Minister Peter Dutton. Morrison stated in the address that the decision was made to support basing and disposition of the future nuclear-powered submarines, but at the same time stressed that the new base would not replace any existing Fleet Base West facilities, “This is about additional national capacity, not relocating any existing or planned future capacity for Fleet Base West. Fleet Base West will remain home to our current and future submarines, given its strategic importance on the Indian Ocean” said Morrison.

Morrison said the decision to establish an east coast submarine base has been many years in the making as part of Australia’s transition from the Collins-class submarine, and that establishing a second submarine base on the east coast will enhance Australia’s strategic deterrent capability; bring advantages in operational, training, personnel and industrial terms; and enable regular visits from of U.S. and U.K. nuclear-powered submarines.

The Fleet Base West will also receive significant funding to support Australia’s nuclear-powered submarines and enable regular visits from U.S. and U.K. nuclear-powered submarines, according to the media release. It also stated that the Australian Department of Defence estimates that more than AUD $10 billion will be needed for facility and infrastructure requirements to prepare for the future nuclear-powered submarines, including the new east coast submarine base. It also stated that Defence will engage with state and local governments to determine the optimal site, which will be informed by the ongoing work of the Nuclear Powered Submarine Taskforce. This initial work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

In an interview with ABC Radio on Monday, Dutton said that Australia expects a future influx of ship maintenance and support works throughout Australia, not only from Australian ships, but also partner nation ships coming into Australia.

“We’re talking not only about Australian submarines, we’re also talking about significant visits to our country from the Astute-class [submarines]. We had an Astute-class in [Western Australia] only about two months ago. We have the prospect, I think, of significant visits from the United States fleet – not just their submarines – and also the Japanese visits, the British visits of their frigates. I think you’ll see more activity from the Indians. I just think this is the new norm, tragically, because of the uncertainty within the Indo-Pacific and we’ll see that ramp up over the next couple of years,” he said.

Dutton dismissed the prospect of an intermediate submarine class to bridge the gap between Collins class and the future nuclear-powered submarine, saying it was not feasible, “What we don’t want to do is get into an immature design of a third class of subs. Navy is going to be stretched to run the Collins-class into the mid-2040s, on top of the new nuclear-powered submarines. To have a sort of son of Collins or a daughter of Collins, as it’s been referred to, so a third class of submarines, I just don’t think it’s feasible,” he said, adding that a new class would take years to design and build.

Dutton said that buying an existing nuclear-powered submarine design was not possible given that current nuclear-powered submarine construction capacity globally is now at full capacity. He added that the planned upgrades of the Collins would be sufficient until the new nuclear-powered submarines entered service, which he believes will be earlier than the general estimate of a 2040 timeframe.

“There’s been speculation around the 2040s. That’s not my expectation. I think we can build and we can put into service much sooner than the 2040s. But we’re going through an 18-month process at the moment with both the United States and the United Kingdom talking about the transfer of that [intellectual property], talking about the way in which we can build up that capability”, said Dutton who also stated that there would be more to say on the matter in the middle of this year with the next stage of the [Australia, U.K. and U.S.] discussions.

In other developments, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surface task group involved with the alleged lasing of an Australian P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft on Feb. 17, returned to the military port of Zhanjiang, Guangdong on Thursday last week. The task group is comprised of the destroyer CNS Hefei (174), frigate CNS Huangshan (570), amphibious transport dock CNS Jinggang Shan (999) and replenishment ship CNS Honghu (963). China’s Xinhua news agency reported that the group left Zhanjiang on Feb. 5 and successfully completed combat readiness patrols and offshore training missions in the South China Sea, East Indian Ocean, Western Pacific and other waters. Xinhua also added that the training was a routine part of Southern Theater Command’s annual plan, did not target any specific goals and conformed to relevant international law and accepted practice.

Japan also reported the sighting of another PLAN surface group on Friday, stating that the destroyer CNS Urumqi (118), frigate CNS Yantai (538) and replenishment ship CNS Taihu (889) were sighted 110 km east of Miyako Island and traveled north in the Miyako Strait between Miyako Island and Okinawa heading into the East China Sea. The release by the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self Defense Force also stated that the replenishment ship JS Hamana (AOE-424) and the minesweeper JS Ukushima (MSC-686) conducted surveillance on the PLAN ships.

Australia Needs Asymmetric Capabilities to Counter China in Indo-Pacific, Former Australian Official Says

Australian political leaders have refocused Canberra’s attention on developing more asymmetric capabilities necessary to fighting a war far from its shores against “high-end competitor” China, a former senior national security adviser to its foreign minister said Tuesday. John Lee, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, described the security situation regarding Taiwan and in […]

Royal Australian Navy ship HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) executes a live missile firing off the coast of Hawaii during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) on Aug. 25, 2020. RAN Photo

Australian political leaders have refocused Canberra’s attention on developing more asymmetric capabilities necessary to fighting a war far from its shores against “high-end competitor” China, a former senior national security adviser to its foreign minister said Tuesday.

John Lee, now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, described the security situation regarding Taiwan and in northeast Asia “a lot bleaker” than they were five years ago when, for the first time, maritime concerns dominated an Australian defense white paper.

He added it was “not unrealistic to have a conflict” over self-governing Taiwan in five or six years and any war there would not be confined to the island. China regards the island as a province and has been escalating tensions over its future to include threats of invasion.

Later, Lee said that China, despite its air and immediate naval superiority over Taiwan, “can’t land troops there at an acceptable cost” right now.

By 2020, the Australian government recognized the need to “acquire capabilities to shape and deter” events far from its shores. Adding impetus to the drive to look at national security through a new lens was the increasingly icy relations between Canberra and Beijing over high tariffs and embargoing goods. That same year, the Chinese embassy also presented the Australians with 14 grievances. They ranged from Australia’s anger over how Beijing handled the pandemic to banning telecommunications giant Huawei from its domestic 5G market, to Canberra’s closer military relations with Japan.

Australians in government and the general public were repulsed by the threats “of explicitly punishing [Australia] for your actions.” Lee said nine of the 14 points concerned domestic decisions.

Lee said this was the decision-making framework that led Australia to seek an agreement with the United States and United Kingdom to build nuclear-powered submarines and, more importantly to Canberra, share advanced technologies ranging from cyber to artificial intelligence to unmanned, undersea warfare and hypersonics.

Asymmetric capabilities like unmanned and undersea technologies could be available within a few years. The submarines will take decades to build.

“We’re not in the same league as the Americans and Chinese” when it comes to high-end warfare, but Australia can be an “asymmetric power” to confound Beijing’s planning, Lee said. China has invested heavily in anti-access/area denial technologies to keep the U.S. and its allies at bay in a conflict.

The Chinese “for 30 years have messed up American thinking” on operating freely in the Indo-Pacific region, Lee said, noting Australia can play that role of upending Beijing’s military planning with advanced asymmetric capabilities from drones to undersea technologies.

With that in place, Lee said the Australian government’s existing contract with France to buy diesel-electric submarines and its own existing fleet that could only “operate around our periphery” would not address China’s ambitions to dominate the Indo-Pacific.

“Leasing has to be an option” to fill the timeline gap in undersea readiness, but the submarine does not necessarily have to be an American Virginia-class boat. “We need to learn how to operate them” and maintain them, he said.

Bryan Clark, the Hudson Institute event’s moderator, said another option could be having Australian submarine crews enter the American training pipeline to build a cadre of operators for the future. “Shipyards are backed up” with necessary nuclear maintenance work on existing U.S. aircraft carriers and submarines and would have little time to overhaul vessels destined for Australia.

Upending Beijing’s thinking on security is critical, Henry Sokolski, the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said in describing “the long cool war” between China and the democracies. For years, the Chinese have been “interested in breaking up alliances [like those with Australia, Japan and South Korea] and getting into our [United States’ and allies’] minds.”

“We need to work with our other allies [to build trust], so they don’t go their own ways,” he said. An example of that could be coming from South Korea, which wants to acquire nuclear-powered submarines and also wants to be able to enrich uranium for use in civilian power generation.

As for the U.S., that means “we’re really going to have to take more risks” in collaboration with allies in technology transfer. Washington needs to be “thinking much more clearly on things that matter” when deciding what technology it won’t share, rather than automatically pulling down security concerns to block deals that could benefit both parties.

“We need another AUKUS” for allies, “but not submarines,” Sokolski said. Specifically, he suggested closer cooperation between the European Space Agency, the U.K., Japan and the U.S. to “know what’s going on in space” and also among the democracies with Japan on advanced computing where “it is far ahead of us.”

If steps like those were taken, he said they would “Make AUKUS Great Again.”

Australia Ambassador to U.S. Says AUKUS Deal Will ‘Project Power Further Up’ Through Indo-Pacific

The key reason Australia entered into a new security agreement with the United States and United Kingdom that includes building nuclear-powered submarines is “to project power further up” from the homeland, Canberra’s ambassador to Washington said Tuesday. Arthur Simonides, speaking in a Hudson Institute forum, said Australia was also looking at new ways of shaping […]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with HMAS Sirius (O 266) while Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain Sailors watch onward during a bilateral exercise with Royal Australian Navy HMAS Ballarat Strike Group, Oct. 10, 2021. US Navy Photo

The key reason Australia entered into a new security agreement with the United States and United Kingdom that includes building nuclear-powered submarines is “to project power further up” from the homeland, Canberra’s ambassador to Washington said Tuesday.

Arthur Simonides, speaking in a Hudson Institute forum, said Australia was also looking at new ways of shaping the security environment in the Indo-Pacific and for a deterrent against China when acting with allies. He noted Canberra is spending nearly 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product on modernizing its security forces.

He said the three countries reached the September agreement, known as AUKUS, not because Australia feared an “imminent attack” from China, but because of Canberra’s commitment to the rules-based order that has marked post-World War II international relations.

Saying at one point that he didn’t believe the U.S. or western nations were in decline, Simonides said rising powers like China need to understand they “cannot just throw your weight around” to get their way in disputes with lesser nations. He added that democracies like Australia “should preserve [and] protect the sovereignty of all states in the region.”

Simonides praised the Biden administration for realizing the U.S. “cannot do it alone” in deterring Chinese ambitions in the Indo-Pacific. In Australia’s view, AUKUS “complements all the other arrangements” that Canberra has. Among those arrangements, he named the “Five Eyes” military intelligence sharing between New Zealand, Canada, the U.S. and U.K. He said this sharing “has proven to be very valuable” to all members since World War II. He added it continues to build greater cooperation in other areas of security and defense and enhances the interoperability of their armed forces.

On the nuclear-powered submarine aspect of the treaty, he said Canberra is committed to “what’s best for Australia” be it based on an American or British design, with the goal of building the boats in south Australia.

He compared the next year to 18 months as Lego-building as the project moves forward. This includes examining the available workforce, shipyard capacity and understanding that Australia is entering this “without having a civil nuclear engineering” force on hand.

“So watch this space,” Simonides said.

The nuclear-powered submarine, because of its extended range and lethality, “is the most important priority” for Canberra under AUKUS. Simonides added that over the time it takes to settle on the nuclear-powered submarine design and the decade of construction, Australia will overhaul and modernize its six diesel-electric Collins-class boats.

To Australians, “AUKUS is a mechanism” where its advances in cyber, artificial intelligence and quantum computing can be “brought to the table” with allies. Using cyber as the example, Simonides said the three nations should be asking themselves “what are the exact priorities” they want in this domain and how each nation’s work can complement that of others. “What are the Brits doing; what is the U.S. doing,” he asked rhetorically, calling it “a process of discovery.”

As for future relations with Beijing, Simonides said, “we don’t want to be just frozen” in a retaliatory trade war with China. Australia “wants to normalize relations,” he said. China this year imposed high tariffs on Australian imports and an embargo on goods from coal to wine to steel in retaliation for Canberra pressing Beijing on the origin of the COVID-19 virus.

He added Australia’s earlier moves controlling who is granted 5G rights to its telecommunications network and cracking down on Chinese attempts to influence national politics were examples of Canberra “seeking to stand up and protect our sovereignty.”

“We can’t take a step backwards,” Simonides said.

China accounts for about 40 percent of Australia’s goods’ exports.

Simonides said, “we want the WTO [World Trade Organization] to be as strong as possible to enforce the rules” of open markets and transparency.

U.S. Needs ‘Resilient’ Strategy to Counter China, Russia in Arctic, Experts Say

The United States “needs resilient people and resilient equipment” to meet mounting security and economic challenges posed by Russia and China, according to a panel of Arctic security experts. Moscow’s vision of the Far North as “the Russian Mecca” and Beijing’s ambitious Polar Silk Road initiative present economic obstacles to the United States, the experts […]

The aurora borealis over Ice Camp Seadragon during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2020. US Navy Photo

The United States “needs resilient people and resilient equipment” to meet mounting security and economic challenges posed by Russia and China, according to a panel of Arctic security experts.

Moscow’s vision of the Far North as “the Russian Mecca” and Beijing’s ambitious Polar Silk Road initiative present economic obstacles to the United States, the experts said.

Speaking Tuesday, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Randy Kee said the Arctic had proven to be a region “where technology is always challenged” by extremes. The severe conditions make military operations “quite demanding and quite challenging.” This remains the case now as temperatures climb and cause sea levels to rise globally, coupled with more violent weather conditions. It also makes the Northern Sea Route, which Russia claims as its own, more attractive as a shipping route to Europe, especially for China. It opens the Arctic to more mineral and natural resource exploration and exploitation, another Chinese goal of diversifying its energy suppliers.

On the security front, Kee, now with the Wilson Center, said the best way to “ameliorate the challenges is through partnership agreements” – such as NATO and NORAD with the Canadians – and keeping an airbase in Thule, Greenland. While he underlined interoperability with partners and the need for investment in research and development, he added, “exercises [are] a critical element … where we stress the force.”

While saying exercises like Trident Juncture were important building blocks to show presence, Kee said “we need to return to scale” on the magnitude of the Cold War’s Rimfrost Exercises to address the new military situation and climate changes.

Kee, speaking during a Hudson Institute online forum, added that the services’ Arctic strategies “will categorize the challenges and opportunities” in the region.

Among those security challenges to Washington and allies are Russia’s dual-track approach in the Arctic — building ports and airfields that can be used for civilian purposes for energy production and shipment, tourism and transpolar commercial shipping, as well as military power projection – according to Hudson’s Richard Weitz.

“The Arctic is the fourth wall” in Russia’s security thinking, he said. Unlike its western, eastern and southern borders, Moscow can operate “without having to compete with others” in the Far North. It is by far the largest nation in the Arctic.

As a sign of how important the Arctic has become, the Kremlin is designating the region as its Fifth Military District. It has moved Mig-31 fighters into airfields there and deployed hypersonic missiles, while it is hardening coastal defense ships that are capable of operating in ice as weapons platforms.

Moreover, the Kola Peninsula is the major home port of the Russian ballistic missile submarine fleet, said Hudson’s Bryan Clark. It could also be a region where the Chinese operate from.

“Monitoring for [submarine activity] is important,” but the United States Navy only operates in the Far North in the most favorable conditions, Clark said. Its surface fleet is not ice-hardened. Clark suggested large undersea unmanned vehicles with towed array sensors coupled with the passive Sound Surveillance Systems [SOSUS] would be ways to monitor submarine activity heading toward the Atlantic.

Clark also noted another Russian military advantage in the Arctic. Because satellite communications are spotty and there are few sensors in the region, a Russian electronic warfare attack “can easily blind” the few operating there. “They don’t have a lot of resilience,” he said. Those facts make electronic warfare “more of a concern than in other regions” that need to be addressed. Again, he suggested unmanned aerial systems for sensing and communications as a way to build resilience. But there’s “not a lot of demand” for that kind of investment, Clark said.

As a safety measure, particularly as merchant and potentially cruise ship transits increase, Clark said deploying an expeditionary sea base vessel would help search and rescue missions and also cut time and distance needed to care for the sick and injured.

The lack of ice-hardened surface vessels in the Navy and the Coast Guard, which now operates only one heavy and one medium icebreaker, make Freedom of Navigation operations challenging Russian territorial claims difficult. The few American Coast Guard ships available also limit strict enforcement of fishing, mineral exploration and other regulations in the American Exclusive Economic Zone, the panel agreed.

As for China’s approach, Weitz said instead of being confrontational as it was six years ago by demanding recognition as a special case in Arctic affairs, Beijing is “emphasizing win-win.” The Polar Silk Road is pushing infrastructure investment, including laying undersea communication cables, as well as ports, airports and highways “to build leverage” and to influence smaller nations in the Arctic like Greenland. It has also stepped up its research and scientific efforts in the region.

In a 2018 White Paper, Weitz clearly states “China has a role” – from shipping routes to climate and mineral development – although it is 1,000 kilometers from the Arctic.