September 22, 2008

The Significance of Hainan Island and Sanya

Contrary to conventional wisdom that the U.S. is slowly, withdrawing from the western pacific, Defence Secretary Robert Gates recently visited the region and committed the U.S. to a construction boom worth over $15 billion. Speaking at an annual assembly of Asian defence chiefs, the Shangri-la dialogue, Secretary Gates confirmed that over the next 5-10 years the Pentagon would spend billions on new facilities that can berth a nuclear carrier and include medical facilities and homes for U.S. service members and woman and even air bases.

Our Asian friends, whether or not they are formally allied to us, welcome our growing presence on Guam. As the island's new facilities take shape in coming years, they will be increasingly multilateral in orientation, with training opportunities and possible pre-positioning of assets," Gates said in Singapore. Gates's Shangri-La Dialogue speech was designed to convey a message of reassurance to the US's close allies in East Asia that talk of the gradual diminution of the US's military posture in the face of a renascent China was misplaced.
On the question of guaranteeing that the U.S. will not lose interest in Asia Gates was unequivocal
We will not lose interest because we are an Asian power," he said. "People would have been surprised, perhaps, in 1945 to see the US, 60 years later, still engaged in a larger way and a broader front in Asia than we were even at the end of the war ... nobody should have any worries on that score.The Defence Secretary argues forcefully Washington's presence has been an essential element in assisting Asia's economic revival, "opening doors, protecting and preserving common spaces on the high seas, in space and more and more in the cyber world.

This presence has offered other nations the crucial element of choice and enabled their entry into a globalised international society," he said. "As someone who has served seven US presidents, I want to convey to you with confidence that any future US administration's Asia security policy is going to be grounded in the fact that the United States remains a nation with strong and enduring interests in the region, interests that will endure no matter which political party occupies the White House next year.
Within 6 years the historic island territory of Guam, reclaimed in WWII from the Japanese will be home to 20,000 U.S. marines and a detachment of advanced unmanned global hawk surveillance craft with long range capabilities and able to track Chinese navy vessels and submarines as they emerge form their ports into the pacific or South China sea. The air forces newest fighter the F-22a will also be periodically flying from the island.

In spite of the build, some argue that China remains on target to challenge U.S. dominance in the Pacific by 2050. In an opinion piece featured in the Melbourne Age, Dr. Paul Monk author of Thunder from the Silent Zone: Rethinking China asserts that the Chinese will stamp there authority in the Pacific using the new secretive naval base on Hainan island referred to as Sanya.

China is set to challenge US dominance in the Pacific by 2050. According to naval intelligence sources in London and Washington and a recent MI6 briefing to Jane’s Intelligence Weekly, China is building a massive, highly secure naval base at Sanya on Hainan Island.

Recall the EP-3 incident in 2001 when a U.S. Reconnaissance aircraft was forced to land in Hainan, it had some to do with Sanya.

According to naval intelligence sources in London and Washington and a recent MI6 briefing to Jane's Intelligence Weekly, China is building a massive, highly secure naval base at Sanya on Hainan Island. This has been independently confirmed, using commercially available satellite imagery, by the Federation of American Scientists. The question is, should we be concerned about Sanya? The answer: Yes.

The naval base centres on a huge underground complex even the most sophisticated spy satellites cannot penetrate. It is being prepared with berths for up to 20 of the most advanced Chinese submarines, the C94 Jin-class boat, which will be capable of firing both anti-satellite and nuclear-tipped missiles. It is also being fitted out to house several aircraft carriers — something China does not even have yet. In short, Sanya is a very clear signal of the scale of China's emerging blue-water naval ambitions.
Monk goes on to discuss the possible implications of China’s Sanya base and makes some interesting historical parallels.

Several episodes in modern history show us, by analogy, what Sanya could signify:

The development of German naval power in the 1910s to rival British dominance; the rise of Japanese naval power in the 1920s to rival Western naval dominance in the Pacific; and the attempt by the Soviet Union, in the 1970s and early 1980s, to build a blue-water navy that could challenge American dominance of the world's oceans.

None of those attempts succeeded, but they were part of what became the First World War, the Second World War and the last anxious phase of the Cold War.

Consider the case of Germany 100 years ago.

The intention of the Germans, when they began their naval build-up, was not to fight Britain but to develop enough naval muscle to apply pressure on Britain in a possible future crisis that would induce Britain to come to terms and make concessions. The Kaiser's Navy Laws of 1898 and 1900 gave navy secretary Alfred von Tirpitz a mandate to develop a fleet of short-range battleships that could challenge the Royal Navy in the North Sea.

It was also hoped that the naval build-up would rally conservative interests and the new middle classes around the flag and buttress the legitimacy of the monarchy.

Sanya, on the South China Sea, is about China being able to put enough pressure on the United States in a possible crisis to extract concessions from it.

The aim may also be to rally Chinese citizens around the Communist Party, whose dubious legitimacy depends more and more on nationalism rather than communism.

In the 1910s there were many people in Britain who did not see the rise of German naval power as necessarily a cause for alarm.

As Gates stressed in June, U.S. ties with East Asia are the best they have been at any point in history, he even recently inaugurated a direct hotline with the Chinese and both sides engage in regular dialogue. However, as history has shown, and Paul Monk suggests, we must not rest on laurels or cynicism as clearly Sanya and the strategy behind it…

... has a clear objective: to dominate the waters around the first island chain — the great chain of islands that runs from the Kuriles through Japan and Taiwan to the Philippines — and then to challenge US dominance in the Pacific by 2050. The Sanya naval base is a key move in the grand plan — and we should all sit up and take note.

Hainan island hosted the 2007 Miss World pageant as is billed as an excellent holiday destination with its blue sea, beautiful beaches, green mountains and all year long sunshine but just next door the Chinese are constructing a new and very different vision of international maritime relations.

Experts attempting to understand the strategic aims behind China's aggressive military expansion have generally focused on Taiwan. Nevertheless, a new naval base points at Beijing's significant and growing interest in projecting power into waters far from the Taiwan Strait. China, in fact, is equipping itself to assert its longstanding and expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. >> more

Circumstances set to further engage the interests of Tokyo, Seoul, New Delhi, Canberra and Washington …

Further reading

New Chinese SSBN deploys to Hainan Island

Observing China's "Secret" South Fleet Base

Chinese nuclear submarine base: China has secretly built a major underground nuclear submarine base that could threaten Asian countries and challenge American power in the region, it can be disclosed.

6 comments:

Debbie said...

I don't think we can become slackers anywhere on the globe. As sure as we think one region is stable and we pull back, that's where things will heat up.

Russia, Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, Pakistan, and on and on.

It's the world, all of it, that we must keep our eyes and military on.


Debbie Hamilton
Right Truth

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GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

interesting bit - alos Hainan could be a pivot point for Red China to ensure Malcca Straights remain open. By 2050 China will most likely have a blue water navy to protect her oil flow from the ME.

Interesting too that China has decided to deploy intelligent innocent shielding on Hainan ala Hiz'B'Allah or HAMAS.

MK said...

"...interests that will endure no matter which political party occupies the White House next year"

Is he sure of that, given that Obama is of the far left?

"None of those attempts succeeded, but they were part of what became the First World War, the Second World War and the last anxious phase of the Cold War."

I sure hope they keep a close eye on China, they have the capability of making us all sweat and more worryingly them chicoms aren't accountable to anyone.

AI said...

Thanks Debbie and Courtney ...

AI said...

Good point MK!