NIGHTWATCH Extracts: China-Fiji, China Carriers, Venezuela-Colombia Re-Set

02 China, 08 Wild Cards

Below the line:

Full Extract on China-Fiji, Fiji as Potential Base of China in South Pacific

Full Extract on China Carrier Force and Implications in Region

Full Extract on Venezuela-Colombia Reconciliation

Phi Beta Iota:  It’s a shame no one will fund NIGHTWATCH to do Global Coverage, because it is consistently more intelligent than all the other “open source” offerings.  Fiji is a failure, primarily an Australian failure but also a US failure; China’s carriers are a natural progression, they advance while the US Navy retards–absent Whole of Government, a long-haul Air Force, and a 450-ship expeditionary Navy, US influence in Asia and the Southern Hemisphere is destined to whither.  Our esteemed colleague is too hard on Venezuela.  Read Open Veins of Latin America, understand Savage Capitalism and Sorrows of Empire as well as Killing Hope, and push the reset button–the US has screwed over Latin America for going on two centuries and throws a hissy-fit when Castro first, and now Chavez seek their own declaration of independence.  America desperately needs someone with gravitas devising a sustainable strategy aimed at a Non-Zero solution: a prosperous world at peace.

Fiji: Military leader Commodore Bainimarama said that China was the one country that understands the reforms he is trying to implement, Agence France-Presse reported 11 August. China is the only nation that can assist Fiji in its reforms because of the way the Chinese think outside the box, he said, and that the Chinese are visionary in what they do.

He said Fiji must maintain trade but should forget about the politics of the Pacific Forum, Australia and New Zealand. Fiji needs infrastructure, water and electricity, and Australia, New Zealand and America will not provide help, he stated.

Comment: During the past two decades, Chinese survey and other ships have sought to gain access to South Pacific states with mixed results. Access to and influence in Fiji would be a significant strategic achievement for China.

China: Special comment. The Japanese news service Asahi Shimbun published a report on 10 August that is a good summary of Chinese progress in developing an aircraft carrier force. The primary source of the information overstates its novelty and urgency. Almost all of the activities described have been reported, including the training of the first class of 50 pilots for carrier-based aircraft; the indigenous development of a carrier-based fighter; the creation of two sites for training carrier pilots and the continuing modification of the 60,000 ton carrier Varyag at Dalian to prepare it for training of crews and air wings. China purchased this carrier from Ukraine in 2001.

The article describes the Chinese as going forward at a “feverish pace.” That overstates a decades-long program whose first milestone was purchase of Australia’s HMAS Melbourne in 1985 for use in land-based training.

The important point is that the Chinese have maintained a consistent and steady pace in moving toward aircraft carrier capabilities for a quarter century. The pace is not feverish, but it is significant, cumulative and unwavering.

The item is a reminder that China’s now medium-range intentions to follow the US pattern for asserting strategic dominance at sea, using aircraft carriers with a Chinese, poor-man’s twist. They are smaller, sea control carriers by US standards, but mightily threatening to the northeast Asian and the Southeast Asian US friends and allies.

In past crises, western Pacific and Southeast Asian states could rely on the arrival of a US carrier task group to tilt the balance in the US favor. In the future, a Chinese aircraft carrier task group might arrive first, backed by carrier-tracking over the horizon radars, linked to carrier-killing ballistic missiles. Not there yet, but even in open source materials that end-state looks increasingly clear.

South Korea likely will respond with its own carrier force that is likely to match the Chinese, except in numbers. It is not clear how the Japanese leadership will respond, but the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the South Korean Navy are likely to find more reasons to train together and cooperate than ever before.

The prospect of a Chinese aircraft carrier squadron was once a distant future. That future is fast approaching and is spawning a northeast Asian naval buildup.

Venezuela-Colombia: For the record. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and create five joint commissions dealing with bilateral trade, security, debt payment, infrastructure and promoting investment in border regions, Globovision reported 10 August.

The agreements were the result of their summit meeting in the Colombian city of Santa Marta. Many will recall that President Santos, most recently, was the Minister of Defense in the Uribe administration and regularly castigated Chavez. So Chavez has responded with superficial magnanimity to “reset” relations with a new president. This easing of tension will not last and the ever-mercurial Chavez is likely to be the first to need an external threat to build political support.

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