Yves here. While you were busy watching the MSM scream about Rooskie influence in the hope of swaying electors pledged to vote for Trump, China and the US have been flexing their muscles at each other.
By David Llewellyn-Smith, founding publisher and former editor-in-chief of The Diplomat magazine, now the Asia Pacific’s leading geo-politics website. Originally posted at MacroBusiness
China is fortifying its little islands:
BEIJING’s controversial artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea are now bristling with fortified gun towers, new satellite photographs reveal.
This is despite repeated assurances from Beijing that it would not militarise these outposts.
The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) first highlighted mysterious hexagonal-shaped structures under construction at the Spratly Island’s Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in August.
A fresh batch of satellite photos taken in November show these are being completed as point-defence fortifications housing radar-guided anti-aircraft and antimissile guns.
This means all seven of China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea are now armed.
And the US is fortifying it’s little island, via Domainfax:
The US will begin flying its deadliest fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, out of northern Australia next year, the most senior American commander in the Pacific has revealed as he warned of a need to show strength to deter aggression in the region.
During a visit to Sydney on Wednesday, the commander of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris, vowed the US would remain a major player in the region, saying its “enduring interests” would not “change on January 20th” – referring to the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President.
United States Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris issues a firm warning to “an increasingly assertive China” amid territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Admiral Harris revealed that he had signed a 2017 agreement for Australia to host US military assets including the Raptors, which are feared and revered as the best fighter planes in the world, and will send a strong signal about US military presence in the region.
“I think that’s positive,” Admiral Harris told the Lowy Institute event.
The greater presence of US air power out of Australia follows on from the rotation of US marines as a way to bolster the alliance and the American footprint at the southern edge of Asia – akin to a stationary aircraft carrier.
Strategic analysts widely see northern Australia as vital territory because it is mostly out of range of China’s ballistic missiles and is at the fulcrum of the Pacific and Indian oceans.
Euan Graham, the Lowy Institute’s director of international security, described the presence of the F-22s as “pretty high-end coercive signalling to China”.
While the rotation of marines in Darwin got more attention, the stationing of planes was much more strategically significant, he said.
…Admiral Harris, who has been a hawkish voice during the Obama years – coining the famous phrase “Great Wall of Sand” to describe Beijing’s artificial islands in the South China Sea – said along with North Korea and Islamist terrorism, the US and Australia faced “significant challenges . . . posed by a revanchist Russia and an increasingly assertive China”.
Admiral Harris said there was “no room for subtlety” in convincing potential aggressors that their actions would be deterred and said that maintaining a “credible combat power” was vital, along with having the resolve to use it and signalling that resolve.
…”I’ll be blunt in saying that the global operating system that created the Indo-Asia-Pacific economic miracle is coming under pressure from revisionist powers,” he said in an apparent reference to China and Russia.
Admiral Harris said he would like other countries such as Australia to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations – designed to challenge China’s island-building in the South China Sea – but stressed it was up to them.
Based on our present foreign policy we will now sell the F-22s airport to China not at all mindful of this sort of thing.