January 2013

By By Song Sang-ho
The Korea Herald

(This is the 11th and last in a series of articles on the growing rivalry between the U.S. and China and its implications for the two Koreas and East Asia. — Ed.)

A South Korean officer briefs U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey on points of interest at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas on Nov. 11, 2012. (U.S. Department of Defense)

The U.S. is stepping up its strategic engagement in the Asia-Pacific as an increasingly assertive China poses a challenge to the regional order and unnerves its allies and partners relying on its security assistance.

Under its “rebalancing” policy toward the emerging center of power, Washington has been strengthening regional defense alliances, its military presence and multilateral institutions on security and economic matters.

“In recent years, China has taken an aggressive stance over its maritime disputes with Japan and others. Its noticeably enhanced missile capability has also alarmed the U.S.,” said Nam Chang-hee, security expert at Inha University.

“Due to the possibility that China could undermine the ‘global commons’ such as the freedom of navigation and commerce with its anti-access strategy, the U.S. is rebalancing its military and diplomatic resources toward this region, following a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

China apparently feels vexed and boxed with its geostrategically vital neighbors including Myanmar being courted by the U.S. Its state media have denounced Washington’s policy for disturbing Beijing’s ties with neighboring states and posing direct or indirect security challenges.

Washington has repeated that its policy is not aimed at hemming in China.

The rebalancing also appears intended to target what Western analysts call China’s “string of pearls” strategy, which could help the Asian power gain a strong maritime presence in the Indian Ocean, an area covering crucial sea lines of communication en route to the mainland.

China has sought to construct commercial ports in critical countries lining the ocean such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Some argue that as China rises as a formidable sea power, the trade-oriented ports could be turned into naval bases that could challenge maritime security for China’s potential adversaries such as the U.S. and India.

Despite Washington’s confidence in the policy, it faces an array of challenges such as budgetary constraints, Middle East conundrums and uncontrollably spreading terrorism across Africa, which could impede its policy efforts in the economically vibrant Asia-Pacific region.

Rebalancing toward Asia-Pacific

Media and pundits have described Washington’s new Asia policy as a “pivot.” But the U.S. government uses the term “rebalancing,” stressing it has never left Asia. The word “pivot” could strike a sour note with China. It could also unnerve the Middle East and Europe by signaling America’s decreased attention to the regions.

Under the Asia-oriented policy, the U.S. has been strengthening its treaty alliances with South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and Thailand, and partnerships with India, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar and others. The policy comes amid growing concerns that the U.S. financial challenges could weaken its security commitment in the region.

“The U.S. is a Pacific power whose interests are inextricably linked with Asia’s economic, security and political order. America’s success in the 21st century is tied to the success of Asia,” Obama’s national security advisor Tom Donilon said in his speech in November.

As it faces massive budget cuts to tackle its fiscal deficit, Washington has strived to capitalize on diplomatic forums such as the East Asia Summit and sought to share its security burden with regional partners.

Japan is the strongest supporter in the region of America’s rebalancing while itself striving to adapt to the region’s changing security landscape.

“The U.S. wants Japan to play a constructive role as a regional security provider. But it could not play the role under constraints such as the pacifist constitution and domestic anti-war sentiment,” said Nam of Inha University.

“But Washington apparently cautions against Japan’s rightward shift. It appears to feel somewhat concerned about Shinzo Abe, the new prime minister who is too conservative, as it should also have to think about South Korea-Japan relations.”

Japan has felt the growing need to counter China’s rise amid the long-festering dispute over the chain of islands in the East China Sea, which are called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Tension between Tokyo and Beijing has sharply increased in recent years with Japan having nationalized the islands and China sending warships and even combat aircraft to patrol what it sees as its maritime territory.

In tune with the U.S. policy, Japan agreed to step up bilateral missile defense cooperation last year. The allies also finalized the deal to relocate some 9,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa to Guam and other locations, so as to enhance the marines’ strategic flexibility and reduce the geographical vulnerability stemming from their being concentrated on the Japanese island.

Washington and Tokyo are also reportedly seeking to revise their defense guideline to increase the role of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces with an aim to bolster regional and global military cooperation in preventing disasters, combating piracy, securing maritime trade routes, and promoting democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.

America’s rebalancing has put South Korea in a diplomatically difficult position as Seoul wants to maintain good relations both with Washington and Beijing. China is South Korea’s largest trading partner and wields great influence over North Korea.

Observers say that as the allies prepare for the transfer of wartime operational control slated for December 2015, the U.S. may seek to reshape the long-standing alliance in a way that could help keep China in check.

Rebalancing within Asia-Pacific

The U.S. is rebalancing not only toward the region but also within it. Washington has sought a more balanced distribution of its military resources, which had long been concentrated on Northeast Asia.

With South Korea and Japan remaining its staunch allies, Washington is refocusing its foreign policy on Southeast Asian countries, some of which are called “swing players,” balancing the interests of the U.S. and China without taking the side of either in order to maximize their own national interests.

Southeast Asian states are of great strategic importance as they stretch across the Indian and Pacific Oceans where the world’s most crucial trading and energy supply routes pass including the vulnerable and congested Strait of Malacca.

Many of the countries harbor some sense of enmity toward China due to the escalating territorial rows in the energy-rich South China Sea. Many including the Philippines and Vietnam have sought America’s help in backing them over the escalating spats.

From Washington’s perspective, China’s aggressive behavior in the maritime disputes could disrupt the regional “rule-based” order, which the U.S. has fostered since the end of World War II.

Striving to use the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations as a crucial tool to maintain regional stability and security, the U.S. has stressed the freedom of navigation and argued that the maritime disputes be resolved peacefully, not coercively, with an oblique reference to China.

“The U.S. is apparently seeking to prevent China from becoming too strong both militarily and economically so that it can continue to maintain regional primacy,” said a security expert who declined to be named, citing his organization’s policy.

“The U.S. may fear that if it fails to counter the rise of China, it may have to be withdrawn from the region. So, it appears intent on developing ways to weaken China’s power projection capabilities.”

The U.S. and the Philippines agreed last year on the limited redeployment of U.S. troops to a naval base in Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base.

The Philippines evicted U.S. troops at the naval base in 1992 after Filipino lawmakers rejected a new defense treaty amid deepening anti-American sentiment. The air base was also abandoned in 1991 following a volcanic eruption.

In recent years, the U.S. has stationed special operations troops in the southern part of the country to help train local troops carrying out a campaign against Muslim extremist groups sympathetic to Al-Qaeda.

Manila has been in an intense dispute with Beijing over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Thus it has sought stepped-up security protection from the U.S. To defuse tension, China reportedly made a proposal earlier this month to jointly develop untapped oil and natural gas reserves in the disputed area.

Vietnam, which had also shunned the U.S. troop presence, has sought to build military ties amid its own territorial dispute with China over the Spratly and Paracel islands. Hanoi has been seen gradually allowing the U.S. to use its naval bases as calling ports.

Singapore has also agreed on the rotational deployment of four U.S. littoral combat ships for shallow-water operations. In the city state, the U.S. navy runs a small logistical support facility.

Thailand also signed a joint vision statement with the U.S. last year to strengthen their military cooperation in maintaining regional maritime security, humanitarian relief and other areas of mutual concern. Their military ties date back to the Vietnam War when the U.S. used its territory to launch air strikes.

Australia has showed off its robust alliance with the U.S. by agreeing to the rotational deployment of up to 2,500 U.S. marines to its northern city of Darwin. Washington has also sought to gain greater naval access to the country’s naval base in the western city of Perth.

But in line with their deepening economic interdependence with China, some of these countries including Australia feel that they should not damage the relationship with Beijing too significantly.

Other than gaining greater military access to the region, Washington has also sought to forge the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal for a free-trade bloc linking the Pacific-rim states. This move is based on its belief that economic interdependence would lead to greater trust among states, and regional stability and prosperity.

Given the high level of market opening envisioned by the treaty, China has virtually been excluded from the bloc. China apparently believes it is another move to hamper its rise as a global power. The TPP includes Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico and Canada. Japan is also considering it, but political opposition has clouded the prospect of its entry into the deal.

Concepts against anti-access strategy

Capitalizing on its economic wealth, China has steadfastly upgraded its military capability including its increasingly sophisticated missile technology. Particularly, it has focused on enhancing “asymmetric” capabilities for air, sea and land operations that can offset America’s military superiority.

The byproduct of the capabilities is what the U.S. calls the “anti-access/area-denial” strategy designed to prevent any adversary from entering its military operational area or restrict the enemy’s freedom of action within the area.

Since setting up a related office in November 2011, the Pentagon has been fleshing out its “AirSea Battle” concept to conduct integrated aerial and naval operations across all domains including cyberspace to neutralize anti-access capabilities.

Apparently not to fall behind amid an increasing focus on air and naval operations, the U.S. Army and Marine Corps released their “Gaining and Maintaining Access Concept” in March last year to jointly contribute to overcoming anti-access challenges.

The “Joint Operational Access Concept,” which the U.S. military introduced in January 2012, is a comprehensive concept encompassing both the AirSea Battle and GMAC concepts. It also envisions a flexible integration of space and cyberspace operations into the traditional air-sea-land battle space.

‘String of pearls’

For China, securing an unimpeded, stable supply of energy and resources is of paramount importance to continue economic growth and thus strengthen public support for the political leadership.

It has sought to develop safer, shorter and more cost-effective maritime and overland trade routes by strengthening relations with Indian Ocean states including Pakistan and Myanmar through economic assistance and other support programs.

The West has eyed the moves with suspicion, arguing that its creation of the so-called “string of pearls” would be a prelude to building a series of naval bases that could undermine the freedom of navigation and challenge the U.S. for regional preponderance.

The vital nodes in China’s grand geopolitical strategy include Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota and Colombo in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh, and Sittawe and Kyaukpyu in Myanmar.

China argues that these sites are for commercial ports that would help reduce its heavy dependence on the risky maritime chokepoints such as the Strait of Malacca, controlled by the U.S. and its partners. More than 80 percent of its oil imports pass through the strait.

“As the U.S.’ strong naval power is projected in the South China Sea and over other major shipping lanes around the world, China feels much pressure. Thus, it seeks to develop pipelines passing through Myanmar and Central Asian states, and Arctic shipping routes,” said Ahn Se-hyun, international relations professor at the University of Seoul.

“Rivalry over energy appears more intense than the Cold War-era contest. As China relies mostly on overseas energy resources, it would deal a serious blow to its economy, should energy prices go up due to shipping problems.”

China could send its warships to its overseas ports under the name of energy security, Ahn added.

One of the most crucial “pearls” for China is Myanmar, which could give China direct access to the Indian Ocean and help it build an overland route to transport oil from the Middle East and Africa to its southwestern province of Yunnan.

Aware of its geopolitical value, Washington has recently sought to mend ties with Myanmar. In November, President Obama made a historic visit to the Southeast Asian state, which the West has rewarded for its progress toward reform and democracy with the lifting of long-standing economic sanctions.

Jang Jun-young, senior research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, said that Myanmar is unlikely to take the side of any great power to maintain its geostrategic flexibility.

“Myanmar had been leaning toward China, but it has recently moved toward the center of the pendulum as its relationship with the U.S. has improved. But historically, Myanmar, surrounded by big powers such as China and India, has not employed any foreign policy relying on any one big power,” he said.

Another pearl for China is Pakistan. China has reportedly taken control of a commercial port in Gwadar, which is close to another chokepoint of the Hormuz Strait and the Pakistan-Indian border.

The deep-water port can serve as a shipping hub for oil and gas from the Middle East and Central Asia. China has sought to develop it to build a strategic shipping route, free from U.S. influence, to China’s western province of Xinjiang.

Amid the speculation over China’s naval ambitions, some argue that the “pearls” cannot be used as military facilities given that they could be easy targets for U.S. air strikes during wartime.

Restrictions on rebalancing

A host of domestic and international challenges have complicated Washington’s rebalancing efforts. At home, its budgetary difficulties have pushed the Pentagon to reorganize its security priorities. Interest groups that have deep trade relations with China have also been a hurdle for Washington.

Abroad, political instability in the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear ambition, frayed relations with Pakistan and spreading terrorism in Africa have also hampered the Asia-oriented policy.

For the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign, Pakistan is a crucial partner as it provides crucial intelligence on terrorism, facilities for drone attacks targeting terrorists, and a shipping route for military supplies for its troops operating in nearby Afghanistan. Pakistan’s help in stabilizing Afghanistan is also important for Washington to withdraw its soldiers by the end of 2014.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks to troops during a visit to Regional Command South in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Dec. 13, 2012. U.S. (Department of Defense)

But the relationship seriously deteriorated following America’s incursion into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden in May 2011. The two have also been at odds over some of the U.S. drone strikes which Pakistan called an encroachment on its sovereignty.

Adding insult to injury, terrorism that could threaten the U.S. security appears to be quickly spreading across Africa from Afghanistan. Without proper state control over them, local militant groups in Somalia, Mali, Yemen and others are believed to be coordinating with Al-Qaida.

Mail, once hailed as Africa’s model of democracy, has been a new stronghold for Al-Qaida. Its northern region, which is about the size of France, is thought to have fallen under the control of a group of militants supposedly associated with Al-Qaida. Experts say the global terror organization capitalizes on local conflicts to expand its footholds across Africa.

http://nwww.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130113000156

Source: Xinhua (January 12, 2013)

The new vertical-format maps of China, published by Sinomaps Press, include more than 130 islands and islets in the South China Sea.

China has inked for the first time South China Sea islands on its new official maps in equal scale to that of the Chinese mainland.

The new vertical-format maps of China, published by Sinomaps Press, include more than 130 islands and islets in the South China Sea, most of which have not been featured on previous maps of China, the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation (NASMG) announced on Friday.

The old maps, which were in horizontal format, only featured bigger islands such as the Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha islands. These were illustrated in the bottom-right corner at half the scale used for the Chinese mainland, said Zhou Beiyan, editor of the new maps.

The new maps have been published by Sinomaps Press but will not be available to the public until the end of January, according to the NASMG.

The maps will be very significant in enhancing Chinese people’s awareness of national territory, safeguarding China’s marine rights and interests and manifesting China’s political diplomatic stance, said Xu Gencai, chief editor of Sinomaps Press.

Xu added that the new vertical maps have marked clearly the major South China Sea islands and demonstrated their geographic relations with surrounding island countries as well as surrounding islands and islets.

In the bottom-left corner, there is also a zoomed illustration of the Diaoyu Islands, displaying their positional relations and those of their affiliated islets with the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

http://www.china.org.cn/china/2013-01/12/content_27665192.htm

India drew a line in the sand in 2012. Look for New Delhi to take a tougher stance in 2013.

By Jason Overdorf
Global Post

NEW DELHI, India — New Delhi stopped backpedaling and drew a line in the sand for Beijing in 2012, bolstered by support from Southeast Asia and America’s pivot toward the Pacific. Look for more tough talk from India in 2013 — but don’t expect much of a result.

“I simply cannot visualize a breakthrough of any sort,” said Indiana University professor Sumit Ganguly.

“The changes will be incremental, neither side will make significant concessions and the PRC will keep a close watch on Indo-US relations. While professing friendship and goodwill it will compete actively in India in third areas such as Burma, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. Of course, if India continues its maladroit policies it will lose out to the PRC in every sphere.”

India’s relatively new Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid met with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi for the first time at the end of December. And Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon will again meet with outgoing state councilor Dai Bingguo on Thursday.

But even though the two countries have started a dialogue on West Asia and Africa, and plan talks on Central Asia and issues like the dispute over the South China Sea, according to the Times of India, more talk isn’t likely to translate into more action.

The problem? The year 2012 might have been earmarked as a “year of friendship” for the two would-be superpowers. But it also marked the 50-year anniversary of India’s defeat in its 1962 war with China over the disputed borders of Indian-administered Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh.

India’s continued obsession with China’s “betrayal” and India’s “humiliation” makes an Asian arms race appear to be inevitable — even if Asia’s two giants manage to avoid a shooting war over territory or vital resources.

In 2012, New Delhi resisted Beijing’s attempts to bully India out of the South China Sea — inking an energy accord with Vietnam that flew in the face of Chinese opposition to Indo-Vietnamese oil exploration in the disputed waters.

India matched China man-for-man as Beijing stepped up its activities on the countries’ disputed borders in the Himalayas. And New Delhi fought to counter China’s so-called “string of pearls” strategy — which observers argue is intended to encircle India with Chinese naval installations — by stepping up its engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and working on its relationships with South Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar.

All for one reason.

“There’s little question that [the war] continues to shape the Sino-Indian relationship, for the simple reason that it was such a humiliating defeat,” said Ganguly.

“This is an issue that will simply fester, and the [Indian] military is not about to let its guard down anytime soon.”

In the 1950s, China and India might have seen themselves as allies fighting the lingering remnants of Western imperialism. But today, despite many reasons for cooperation in areas like climate change negotiations and the removal of trade barriers, New Delhi will never see Beijing as anything but an adversary.

“[The war] left a legacy of deep distrust in China’s attitude and policies toward India,” said India’s former foreign secretary, Kanwal Sibal.

Following years of negotiations and an ill-considered Indian move to advance its military border posts, China launched a blitzkrieg across the Himalayas on the night of Oct. 19, 1962, historian Ram Guha writes in “India After Gandhi.” Attacking in waves, the Chinese soon overwhelmed the Indians, using five times as many soldiers, and eventually occupied both of the disputed border regions before inexplicably packing up to retreat.

Soon after, then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru moved a resolution in parliament claiming that China had “betrayed” India’s “uniform gestures of goodwill and friendship” with the “massive invasion.”

Nehru and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai had for several years been hashing out the dispute over the borders in the Aksai Chin region, which lies between Tibet and Xinjiang, and the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh, which once paid a yearly tribute to the king of Tibet.

From Beijing’s perspective, Nehru’s embrace of the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees was an equal betrayal.

India’s success in casting the war as a “betrayal,” however, has had dramatic effects, according to Srikanth Kondapalli, professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Not only does India distrust China, but also the military is intent on avoiding another humiliation.

Moreover, the Indian media — which once propagated a rose-colored fantasy of “Hindi Chini bhai bhai” (India and China, brother and brother) — now views every Chinese maneuver as part of a dastardly plot.

The dispute over the borders of Arunachal Pradesh and the Aksai Chin — from which China retreated despite routing India’s troops — remains unresolved.

Every few months there are reports in the Indian media of “provocations” or “incursions” by the Chinese army, and India has responded to its 1962 defeat by dramatically increasing its defense budget and militarizing its Himalayan borders.

The focus of India’s forces is gradually shifting from Pakistan — which it already has outgunned — to China. And both the Indian air force and Indian army have huge acquisitions planned for the near future.

India now demands reciprocity from the Chinese on almost every issue — requiring Beijing’s recognition of India’s claim to Kashmir in exchange for New Delhi’s acceptance of China’s claim to Tibet, for instance. And even though India, as another poor, populous and rapidly developing country, naturally shares many of the same interests in negotiations with the US and Europe, Beijing continues to oppose New Delhi’s advance to prominence in international bodies such as the United Nations Security Council at every turn.

Meanwhile, the border dispute has now become both China’s greatest asset in constraining India’s influence outside of South Asia and the most dangerous potential flashpoint between the two rising powers, say experts.

“China essentially wants to contain us without use of military force, so they have fostered Pakistan and at the same time they have engaged us or agreed with us in 1993 and 1996 on certain confidence building measures to maintain peace and tranquility on the border and avoid any chance of a direct military conflict,” said Sibal.

The two nations’ nuclear capabilities make all-out war virtually impossible. But the cost of militarization on both sides — much like the Cold War for the Soviet Union and the US — threatens to bankrupt projects that are vital to bringing the huge populations of both countries out of poverty. And the incessant saber-rattling leaves Asia’s two largest armies always just one misunderstanding away from a deadly skirmish like the fighting that occurred in 1962 — when nearly 3,000 Indian soldiers were killed.

“There is always that chance that something could go amiss,” said Ganguly.

“The Chinese decide to probe along the border and they happen to make an incursion wider or deeper than previously, and the Indians decide they cannot simply let this pass, and they decide to respond, and the Chinese say we’ll teach you a real lesson now, and the next thing you know you’re in a real shooting war.”

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/india/121029/india-china-ties

Source: Voice of Russia

The U.S. aircraft carrier “Dwight D Eisenhower” has arrived off the shores of Syria. (Photo: EPA)

The multipurpose nuclear attack carrier the U.S.S. Dwight D Eisenhower is leading the naval assault group which has arrived in the eastern Mediterranean.

It is in close proximity to the coast of Syria. On board the ship are 70 fighter-bombers and a total 8,000 US servicemen.

The Dwight D Eisenhower joined the amphibious assault helicopter carrier Iwo Jima, which has been in the area for almost two weeks.

In all there are now 17 American warships off the Syrian coast.

Thousands of American troops near Syrian shore on USS Eisenhower

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, a large US Navy aircraft carrier that holds fighter bomber squadrons and 8,000 men on board, has appeared off Syrian coast yesterday amid arising speculations that the US is ready to attack Syria though there was no official announcement so far.

Media have already put forward suggestions that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decides to use chemical weapons against the opposition, the US will intervene the country militarily “within days”.

According to Jerusalem-based website DEBKAfile, the US has already near Syria at its disposal 10,000 fighting men, 17 warships, 70 fighter-bombers, 10 destroyers and frigates.

“The muscle is already there to be flexed,” a US official told the London Times about the US military’s presence outside of Syria.

“It’s premature to say what could happen if a decision is made to intervene. That hasn’t taken shape, we’ve not reached that kind of decision. There are a lot of options, but it [military action] could be launched rapidly, within days.”

Voice of Russia, TASS, RT

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_12_06/17-US-warships-now-off-Syria/

By Non Alquitran
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – There was no shootout.

Instead there was excessive use of force, and 13 men in a two-vehicle convoy drove into an ambush by a joint police-military contingent in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6.

This is the conclusion of a fact-finding committee created by Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), to investigate the incident that killed an alleged jueteng lord along with three policemen, two airmen, and two intelligence agents who were disowned by the military.

The committee, led by Chief Superintendent Federico Castro of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, is also recommending administrative charges against 15 policemen at the checkpoint as well as the former head of the Quezon provincial police, which could lead to their dismissal from the service.

Among the findings of the committee, apart from excessive use of force, is that standard operating procedures for checkpoints were violated.

Doubts were raised on the actual positions of two fatalities found outside the vehicles. Inconsistencies were noted in the positions of some of the fatalities who supposedly fired guns.

The committee could not determine the nature of the wounds suffered by Superintendent Hansel Marantan, who reportedly headed the police team at the checkpoint, because he refused to submit himself for physical examination. Marantan was the only member of the contingent wounded in the supposed encounter.

“All the facts presented in this case indicate the possibility that an ambush occurred instead of a shootout,” a source privy to the work of the fact-finding committee told The STAR last night.

Purisima will get the four-page report today from the committee. The report will be forwarded to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is the principal agency handling the probe.

Among those to be recommended for inclusion in the charge sheet are Marantan, head of the Calabarzon Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG); Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, who was sacked last week as Quezon police chief; and Chief Inspector Grant Gollod, who was also relieved last week as police chief of Atimonan town.

Sources said Director James Melad, police chief of Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), may be spared despite Marantan’s pronouncements that the operation to apprehend jueteng lord Vic Siman at a checkpoint in Atimonan was cleared with Melad and De Leon.

As RSOG chief, Marantan reported directly to Melad, who is said to have rushed to the scene of the killing from his headquarters at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna, a drive of several hours from Atimonan.

Gollod served as deputy of Marantan when the latter headed the Quezon police Provincial Mobile Group.

A police official said the maximum penalty in an administrative case is dismissal from the service. Some or all of the 15 could also face criminal charges that relatives of the 13 slain men reportedly plan to file.

Purisima sacked all 15 policemen manning the supposed checkpoint but spared Melad.

The PNP fact-finding committee will include in its report pictures taken at the site indicating tampering with evidence.

A police official said the PNP report does not speculate on possible motives for the killing although evidence pointed to a rubout rather than a shootout.

“The report will only enumerate the evidence we gathered at the crime scene, which would be investigated further by the NBI,” the official said.

Yesterday The STAR came out with two pictures taken at the scene. The first showed one of the 13 fatalities sprawled on the pavement outside one of the Mitsubishi Montero sport utility vehicles. The second photo showed the same body, but with a pistol near his hand.

The official said the two photos were taken before and after the arrival of Scene of the Crime Operatives to inspect the site.

‘Benefit of the doubt’

Meanwhile, Sen. Panfilo Lacson urged the public yesterday to wait for the final reportfrom the NBI and not prejudge the policemen at the checkpoint.

“Let us give them the benefit of the doubt,” Lacson told radio station dzBB, saying it was hard to be “convicted in the bar of public opinion.”

He recalled the same condemnation when he was accused of leading a police teamthat killed members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang in 1995, when P30 million in cash supposedly went missing.

“I just hope the police officers will not lose their will and (allow) criminality to prevail,” he said.

Lacson admitted that Melad and Superintendent Glenn Dumlao, who reportedly hatched the operation plan for the case against Siman, were his former men in the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force.

For his part, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. urged the appropriate Senate committees yesterday to conduct a probe, in aid of legislation, into the Atimonan incident. – With Christina Mendez

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/01/14/896674/pnp-probe-report-ambush-not-shootout

SKETCHES
By Ana Marie Pamintuan
The Philippine Star

If you’re in trouble, spread the blame. This looks like the intent of the group that tried to make Malacañang – specifically, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa – take the rap for the killing of 13 men in Atimonan, Quezon on Jan. 6.

I don’t think anyone, especially a lawyer, will be stupid enough to authorize lawmen to pulverize two SUVs, leaving no chance for even a mouse to survive. Especially if the supposed target is someone who, while tagged as a jueteng lord and head of a ring of hired guns, has never been indicted for illegal gambling or murder.

If there was a “coplan” or case operational plan from as early as October, as wounded police Superintendent Hansel Marantan has tearfully indicated, we can presume that the principal target, Vic Rimas Siman, had been under surveillance since that time. And if so, it weakens the initial story that the incident at the boundary of Plaridel and Atimonan towns was a chance encounter.

As of last night, a police fact-finding team had concluded that the “shootout” was an ambush. The findings of the team will be forwarded to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission was supposedly notified of the coplan several months ago. Ochoa has categorically denied that the PAOCC, which he heads, gave the green light for the operation that killed Siman.

Since the alleged jueteng lord was under surveillance for several months, surely the lawmen involved knew the vehicles Siman used and could recognize the license plates on one – VIC 27.

If the team at the supposed checkpoint insists that the incident was no ambush, their only defense is if they can prove that the men in the two Montero SUVs opened fire first, and then immediately rolled up the windows (a bad idea once you’ve started shooting at a contingent of 50 armed cops and soldiers).

Before a neutral investigator could inspect and preserve the scene of the killing, however, all the slain men’s bodies were moved, along with shells, slugs, guns, bags (and a suitcase?) and other pieces of evidence.

With even President Aquino now expressing doubts about the shootout story, the next option for Marantan’s group is to persuade the public that Siman deserved to be (as cop-turned-senator Panfilo Lacson liked to say) “neutralized.”

Lacson was the first to talk about a coplan for the Quezon incident, defending the team at the supposed checkpoint and saying the police team was after a group of hired guns. He seems to have intimate knowledge of the operation, maybe because one of the proponents of the coplan, Superintendent Glenn Dumlao of the Calabarzon Public Safety Battalion, used to be his underling in the police.

It’s surprising that Dumlao, implicated in the ambush, torture and brutal killing of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito, is back in the PNP.

Dumlao turned state witness in the Dacer case, pointing to former President Joseph Estrada as the one who gave the green light for the operation and clearing Lacson who at the time of the murders headed the group involved, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force. Erap’s reaction: Who, moi?

Lacson is a survivor of controversies involving supposed shootouts. In the cases that got him in legal trouble before the Dacer killing, however, those neutralized had numerous victims and sufficient notoriety to make the public sniff good riddance upon news of their deaths.

Filipinos obviously liked Lacson enough to send him to the Senate.

In the Atimonan case, however, Siman is relatively unknown. And even if he was into jueteng (denied by his relatives), illegal gambling is a minor offense that does not warrant the maximum penalty allowed under our laws, life in prison. In our country, jueteng lords don’t get killed; they become politicians, successfully laundering their money and becoming respectable members of society.

As for Siman’s 12 companions in the convoy, we’re still waiting for derogatory records or previous criminal indictments against them to be presented.

In the neutralization of the Kuratong Baleleng and Red Scorpion Group, there were perhaps two innocent individuals who became collateral damage in what were also described as legitimate law enforcement operations. Pinoys seemed to be able to live with that, as long as the notorious thugs – actually monsters out of control created by lawmen themselves – were permanently put out of commission.

In the Quezon incident, the alleged checkpoint team will find it tough to dismiss 12 of 13 fatalities as collateral damage. This looks like injustice, not swift justice.

* * *

Marantan must have been emboldened by his involvement in previous cases of mass killings, where the cops got into legal trouble but he emerged unscathed.

This style of law enforcement has been around since the creation of the Philippine police. That it has persisted, with public support (think of all the Dirty Harry types holding elective posts), is a symptom of the weakness of our democracy.

Cops take short cuts in law enforcement, executing crime suspects, for several reasons: laziness, incompetence, sheer blood lust (really), or frustration with the judicial system.

It’s not unusual for the innocent to be killed in such short cuts and the real culprits to remain scot-free. But crime victims often go along with these short cuts, thinking that litigation is expensive and can take a decade and in the meantime, the accused can escape or bribe his way to freedom and commit a crime again.

The public, also frustrated with the criminal justice system, goes along, too. How many suspects arrested for raping children have been killed “while trying to escape” or grabbing a police custodian’s gun? I don’t remember any public outcry over the suspects’ deaths, ever. In such cases, people don’t seem to mind if a cop becomes prosecutor, judge and executioner, all rolled into one.

You don’t hear loud complaints either, except from the slain men’s relatives, when suspected carjackers are killed in alleged shootouts with cops. Marantan was involved in one such case, documented on CCTV.

We don’t have capital punishment, but we have something just as lethal, and swifter.

In private, we even applaud such short cuts to justice. Until someone we know to be innocent becomes collateral damage in a deadly shooting incident.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2013/01/14/896587/swift-justice

Editorial
The Daily Tribune

Much like the vehicle sirens that Noynoy used as a symbolism for power in his inaugural speech when he said there would be no more wang-wang mentality in the government, guns represent a symbol of abuse of power, which in some way even epitomizes oppressive use of authority.

Noynoy’s invoking his right to self-defense doesn’t even appeal to logic since as President, he has around him an army of security men who have the best weapons that money can buy and who are bound to offer their lives for him.

Even in the United States, its president does not carry guns, since he has the secret service agents, packed with guns, surrounding him as they protect him. They take a bullet for him.

There is no recollection of an American or Asian president brandishing his guns, or even have photos of him taken at the target shooting range, if at all he does any target shooting.

Noynoy’s refusal to even consider breaking with his gun hobby to set an example and answer the call of many for a decisive action to stop gun-related violence in the country only shows Noynoy’s hypocritical nature beneath the democratic facade with which he tries to impress the nation.

Noynoy’s ownership of guns goes beyond rights and privileges as much as a vehicle of a government official using a siren, which is even much preferable than seeing a gun-wielding public figure.

Guns defined much of martial law, for instance, where the military, through its armed might, was able to dictate its will on the public. Those who have guns wield power, so they say.

There is a lot more in terms of guns being a symbol of abusive power.

The Ampatuan clan’s massacre of 53 individuals is remembered through the ownership of a frightening variety of firepower by the warlord family which incidentally was put to power by Noynoy’s mother, former President Cory Aquino.

The fact that Noynoy had also called as his boss the Filipino public makes it incumbent for him to hang up his holsters, so to speak, even temporarily during his term as president, because of the critical level of the gun problem in the country.

When children have become targets of gun users, the situation calls for drastic actions and the call for a total gun ban only reflects the evolving sentiment against private ownership of firearms.

Noynoy does have the right to campaign against a total ban on gun ownership and flog the Philippine National Police (PNP) all he wants which the agency deserves anyway for its incompetence in enforcing laws, but he still needs to comply with the majority sentiment that public officials shouldn’t be seen flaunting guns that an ordinary citizen does not have the means, financially or otherwise, to own as a means of defense as Noynoy would rationalize.

Noynoy has his gun hobby alright and his private preference should not be infused into the debate on gun control but still he is president and the entire nation would like to look up to him for guidance on critical issues, including the current debates on gun use.

Noynoy as president is expected to be the first to sacrifice his “personal preference” over the clamor of many to lead by example in stemming the tide of violence through the use of guns.

The past experiences on the “personal preferences” of Noynoy, however, point to the likelihood of public frustration.

He did not give up his Porsche nor his smoking habit, why expect him to end his obsession with guns?

http://www.tribune.net.ph/index.php/commentary/editorial/item/9003-wang-wang-and-guns

China Newspaper Says To ‘Prepare For The Worst’ After Military Confrontation With Japan In The East China Sea

By Robert Johnson
Business Insider

The J-10 fighter (China Defence Mashup)

After repeatedly flying surveillance aircraft into disputed airspace with Japan, which made Tokyo scramble F-15s in response, China sent fighters of its own on Thursday into the East China Sea.

A Friday press release out of China confirms the incident began when Beijing was flying a Shaanxi Y-8 on a “routine Thursday patrol” over the “oil and gas fields in the East China Sea.”

The fact that the aircraft was a Shaanxi Y-8 is interesting in that the Y-8 isn’t necessarily any one particular aircraft.

The Diplomat calls the Y-8 a transport plane, and it can be, but the aircraft has more than 30 variants. The Y-8 performs everything from Mineral Research, to Geophysical Surveying, to Electronic Warfare to Intelligence Gathering and one variant is simply an innocuous but lethal fully loaded gunship, with two heavy cannons and three heavy machine guns.

Naha, Okinawa with bar scale and regional map inset (Google Maps)

It’s the perfect plane for a game of cat and mouse because if the Y-8 ever received fire from Japan’s F-15s, China could simply maintain it was an unarmed transport model carrying troops, or the Y8-F model that carries only livestock.

In the meantime, the plane can perform all manner of sophisticated tests on the seabed floor, while eavesdropping on Japanese communications. China has been flying these planes consistently lately to surveil the contested island chain that’s supposed to hold billions in oil and gas reserves.

So, again, on Thursday Japan spotted aircraft in its Air Defense Identification Zone (above the islands) that it believed to be Chinese J-7 interceptors, along with some J-10 fighters whose combat abilities rival that of Western jets. Japan responded with two F-15s scrambled from Naha, Okinawa — just a couple hundred miles away. There are minor variations from either side about who sent what first, but all agree the aircraft met above the islands.

The Chinese planes scattered soon after, but this marked the first time China and Japan flung military assets at one another over the East China Sea island dispute. A line was crossed and staying behind it in the future will only be more difficult.

Air base Shuimen, China — disputed island chain — Naha, Japan (Google)

The U.S. assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell announced that he will be traveling to Seoul, and Tokyo. What he decides in Tokyo will filter south to Naha and the Japanese unit confronting the Chinese.

An interesting fact about Naha, aside from its proximity to the contested territory, is that while being fairly remote, it is also home to Alfred R. Magleby, a United States Consul General who holds a M.S. in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. This is appropriate, since the Naha Port (formerly Military) Facility is part of U.S. Forces Japan and the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma is less than nine miles from where Japan’s F-15s scrambled.

It looks like the islands everyone’s talking about are a few dots in the middle of nowhere, but all of this is taking place close to the U.S. Consulate and a contingent of several thousand U.S. Marines whose former commanding general told Time in 2010: “All of my Marines on Okinawa are willing to die if it is necessary for the security of Japan.”

In the future, when responding to China’s fighter deployment, if Japan considers permitting its F-15 pilots to fire tracer bullets as warning shots against Chinese planes, it is now reasonable to assume that U.S. forces at Futenma may have an indirect say in that decision.

Tracer rounds from ground fire (Wikimedia Commons)

Firing tracers, which usually contain phosphorous or some highly flammable material, sends a line of light through the air like a laser. Tracers are usually loaded in about every tenth round to let gunners know where they’re shooting, but in this case they would be fired to show Chinese pilots they’re being fired upon.

An editorial in China’s state-run Global Times called this possibility, “a step closer to war,” warning a military clash is “more likely” while its people need to prepare “for the worst.” With a U.S. presence so close at hand to where these Japanese decisions are being made, and tactical practices employed, we can hope for at least a bit of immediate tempering.

The Chinese jets are likely flying from air base Shuimen, built east of the islands in Fujian Province, not too much farther from the islands than Naha, Okinawa. So both sides have assets equally within reach of the islands.

Satellite imagery of the base came to light in 2009, and experts believe it was completed late last year.

The Taipei Times reported in May 2012 that J-10 combat aircraft, Su-30 fighters, and various unmanned drones were arriving at the base.

One of the many variations of the Y-8 (Defense Updates)

In addition to aircraft, experts believe Russian made S-300 long-range surface-to-air missiles ring the airbase, providing some of the best missile protection in the world. The S-300 is comparable to the U.S. made Patriot missile recently sent to Turkey for its first line of missile defense against Syria.

The Shuimen airbase compliments China’s East Fleet that maintains 35 ships in the region, including its newest warship the Type 054, seven submarines, and eight additional landing craft.

Among the subs are four Kilo-class diesel-electric Russian made submarines capable of the most advanced underwater warfare.

All of this located just 236 miles from the contested islands, which have been in dispute between Japan and China for some time. Han-Yi Shaw writes an interesting history of the dispute, for those interested in more background.

While the U.S. takes no official position on who owns the Islands, it would be expected to honor its U.S.-Japan security treaty signed in 1960.

Though this is a formal agreement that the U.S. will aid Japan if it comes under attack, there are few who believe the U.S. would risk a full-blown war with China over a few uninhabited islands, regardless of how much oil and gas lies beneath them.

But with a U.S. presence so closely intertwined in these events, and a contingent of Marines standing by, it seems that whatever happens could involve American input — one way or another.

What it’s all about — or what’s beneath them — the Senkaku Islands (Associated Press)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/china-fighter-jet-flights-diaoyu-senkaku-islands-2013-1#ixzz2Hmz8Pti5

By Erick San Juan

If this happen, people will be repeating history that has caused millions of lives in the past. We are talking here of the centenary of the First World War and in the same period a hundred years ago when the brewing regional conflict has started and dragged the rest of the world into a world war and after which laid the foundations for the Second World War.

At present there are several flashpoints that can trigger a conflict in this region and like before, two superpowers are involved here that has established their ‘clout’ either economically or militarily (or both). Virtual alliances are formed and if ever a conflict will start, such alliances will surface and then another war begins.

In our past article (can be seen @ericksanjuan.blogspot.com), we cited the brewing conflict between China and Vietnam over the disputed area being claimed by Vietnam in which China (also as claimant) has started its oil exploration. And now, with Japan over the disputed islands of Senkaku (in Japanese) and Diaoyu (in Chinese).

This tension between China and Japan intensifies as the United States showed its support for Japan, an ally which in fact, as stated by some pundits believe that US is using Tokyo as strategic tool to put pressure on Beijing. Actually, like any other ally in the region, US and Japan have this Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security that they will jointly help each other in times of aggression from an outside enemy.

Sounds familiar?

Yes, same holds true in the Philippines with our Mutual Defense Treaty with the US and its offspring – the Visiting Forces Agreement, any misunderstanding with China will surely intensify because of our relationship with Uncle Sam. And how Uncle Sam is using this territorial dispute to contain China, or worse to provoke China into a war via a witting pawn like our country.

Through such military agreements, nations like ours are forced to ride the arms race bandwagon, without thinking that we are also using our precious resources that will dig our own grave. Remember – everything is for sale in the US and we will never be treated equally as an ally, we will always be an inferior ally and a willing slave to a perceived master, allowing to be shortchanged in the process.

When are we going to wake up and assert our right as an equal partner? Sadly, this can only happen if we will have a true Filipino ideology and unite.

Political – Economic – Strategic Crisis

A few days ago, three prominent analysts discussed the issue over Press TV (http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/01/10/282827/uk-empire-after-war-with-russia-china/) and one of them, from Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) Mike Billington. He sounded the alarm (like what we have been warning since the middle of 2012) that any day now, or maybe weeks, an impending war is in the offing.

“This could be literally any day or any week if these wars are kicked off through an attack on Syria or Iran or perhaps, even to start in Asia as it has [had] in the past.” (Mike Billington)

The Sino-Japanese dispute is just one of the other brewing clashes in the region, specifically in the South China Sea where the Philippines is also one of the claimants trapped in the web of economic and geopolitical turmoil.

Just like what was pointed out by the analysts over Press TV, the situation in the Asian region, may it be in the Middle East or in the Pacific region, is like a ticking bomb, a time bomb that was planted by some evil genius in the US via the military-industrial complex.

The timer was already set through the arms race, translation – countries are in their buying spree mode of war materiel in spite of economic hardships and the global economic downturn. And like what we have been saying so many times now, that how the military-industrial complex is cashing-in hard-earned money from developing countries just to protect their sovereignty against an imagined aggressor.

There is now a race against time, when humanity is faced with the reality of an impending war. Any miscalculation or plain stupidity could light the bomb that will explode into a global war.

Scary indeed!

By Michael Kelley
Business Insider

China patrol ship (AP)

It seems that China, or at least part of it, has thrown down the gauntlet in the South China Sea with the announcement that police in the southern island province of Hainan will board and search ships which enter what China considers its territory in the disputed waters.

Before discussing the implications of the “revised regulations,” it’s helpful to know why China thinks it can commandeer the territory in the first place. In October James R. Holmes of NamViet News cited the book “How Communists Negotiate” to note that going into negotiations “Chinese communists try to rig the game in their favor” by trying to force the opposite side to agree to Beijing’s bargaining positions as a condition for convening talks.

China’s currently claims everything within the “nine-dashed line” – which takes in about 90 percent of the South China Sea – and now its law enforcement will act to defend it.

In August the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China stated: “China has indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters. This is supported by clear historical facts.”

(Note: A 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks reported that a senior Chinese government maritime law expert “admitted” he was unaware of the historical basis for the nine dashes.)

China’s stance makes diplomacy difficult since negotiation, as Holmes notes, “presupposes give-and-take between two parties. But indisputable means indisputable.”

Consequently, the Hainan decree raises the stakes in the region’s territorial disputes and creates immediate problems for other claimant countries as well as the world economy.

South china Sea (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

As James Fallows of the Atlantic points out, “Brunei is a very long way from mainland China, but China contends that its waters reach practically down to Brunei’s shores.”

He also notes that some of the affected shipping lanes “have nothing directly to do with mainland China” since export paths from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan pass through the waters on their way to the Indian Ocean while half the world’s oil-cargo traffic from the Middle East travels the route in the opposite way.

Yesterday Dr. Ely Ratner, a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told BI that the situation is “an incredibly difficult problem” that will come down to how far China is willing to go in terms of getting out on the high seas and arresting fishermen and others who think they’re within their rights to be in the disputed waters.

China will dictate how heated things get, but there’s no doubt that the Red Dragon is aggressively staking out its position.

“It is easy to imagine things becoming dangerous, quickly, if the new Chinese administration actually tries to carry out this order,” Fallows wrote. “A Chinese government deliberately courting this kind of showdown would be a very bad sign.”

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/china-south-china-sea-2012-11#ixzz2HnSCZ5C4