Implications of the Emerging Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2/AD) Capabilities in the Asia-Pacific
Senior Associate, East Asia Program,
Nonresident Senior Fellow, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security,
Vice President and Director, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security,
Harry J. Kazianis,
Location: Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.
Time: 12:00 p.m. EDT
Date: Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Superior Transcriptions LLC
BARRY PAVEL: Well, thanks, everyone, for joining us for a discussion on a very important topic today. So I will minimize the introduction, but just set the scene briefly.
We’re really thrilled today to welcome Dr. Roger Cliff, who is a fellow with the Scowcroft Center here at the Atlantic Council – by the way, I’m Barry Pavel. I’m the director of the Brent Scowcroft Center here – Ms. Christel Fonzo-Eberhard, a former colleague of mine from the Department of Defense but now with Monitor; and Ms. Yuki Tatsumi. These are our esteemed speakers. And also Mr. Harry Kazianis as the moderator. Thanks for coming.
This is part of the Cross-Straits Series of the Scowcroft Center’s Asia Security Initiative, which looks at a range of strategic issues surrounding cross-straits relations. We’d like to thank the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States and Ambassador Shen for his support for this event, as always.
Today’s event is addressing an issue that’s been discussed and debated quite a bit in Washington over the last several years at least, but I think there are some new tinges to it that we hope to draw out of the discussion. It’s on the implications of the emerging – continuously emerging anti-access and aerial – area denial capabilities in the Asia-Pacific, which is very centered on China’s very long-term, decades-long sustained modernization and exercise of increasingly capable military capabilities. And as China continues on this trajectory, it has significantly challenged the military balance of power and security in the region and will continue to. So we’ll – we will want to look at both pieces in this discussion.
The U.S., in its discussions with China, continues to raise these issues, looking for transparency, citing the relative opacity of intent and investments that look designed to strengthen China’s power and influence in the region by making it more difficult for U.S. forces to operate in the area, as well as those of key allies and partners of the U.S. In fact, these have become a central focus of U.S. defense strategy in particular, including in the last Quadrennial Defense Review, and also I know on a personal basis for the new secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.
So key questions: How do countries in the region perceive this? That will be a central focus of this panel. Do they view these challenges similarly to the United States? And what is in their strategy regarding these developments? Fortunately, today we have really great speakers on perceptions of Chinese A2/AD strategy from Japan, from Taiwan, and from other countries in Southeast Asia and elsewhere, and their implications for regional defense strategy.
Dr. Roger Cliff, as I said, is a senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center here. He does research on East Asian security issues. He’ll be releasing a report shortly on the future of Japan’s defense role in – probably in the summer. Previously he worked at CSBA, Project 2049 Institute, RAND Corporation, with me in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and other places. He’s co-authored or edited more than 30 books, articles, book chapters and op-eds on topics with a particular focus on China’s military doctrine and training and China’s defense industries, as well as U.S. strategy and policy in the Asia-Pacific.
Ms. Yuki Tatsumi was appointed senior associate of the East Asia Program at the Stimson Center in September ’08 after serving as a research fellow there since ’04. Before joining Stimson, she worked at CSIS and as the special assistant for political affairs at the Embassy of Japan here in Washington. She also is an accomplished author and has won various awards for her work.
Ms. Christel Fonzo-Eberhard is currently a manager at Monitor 360, which is a strategic consulting firm that leverages big data from traditional and social media to decode underlying narratives, map them, and use them to help clients understand and shape various narratives. Until very recently, I just learned, she worked in the Secretary of Defense’s Policy Office as chief of staff for South and Southeast Asia and as director for Southeast Asia. Among her many accomplishments was the development of a White House-approved Burma military engagement plan soon after Burma announced its intent to return to democracy. She was also the lead architect for engagement with – military engagement with Thailand post-coup and has a number of other very important accomplishments in her official policymaking capacity.
And then lastly, but not leastly, Mr. Harry Kazianis currently serves as editor of RealClearDefense, which is a member of the RealClearPolitics family of websites. He’s also a nonresident fellow for defense policy at the Center for National Interest and a nonresident senior fellow at the China Policy Institute. He’s the former executive editor of The National Interest and former editor of The Diplomat.
And with that, Harry, I’ll hand it to you to engage this really, really interesting discussion.
HARRY J. KAZIANIS: Excellent, excellent. Well, thank you, everybody, for coming. Thanks to the Atlantic Council for having me and having this wonderful panel here. It’s great to be here with all of you. I’ve read all of your work for many years, sort of great to engage in this space. My comments will be very brief today because I want to hear what these guys have to say about these issues.
Very briefly, from sort of an editorial standpoint where I sit at RealClearDefense and other places I’ve worked, I can tell you the topic of anti-access area denial, or A2/AD, is one of the most popular topics out there when we look at readers and different topics that are extremely popular. And as others have pointed out, this has been a topic that’s been around for a long time, at least 2007-2008, but in the last couple years has gotten a lot more popular as some of the more gadgety sort of things that have come out like the DF-21D or the carrier-killer missile and other things that have sort of gotten into the more popular media. So that’s just sort of where I stand on things, and just to give you a little feel for that.
One of the things that I was really attracted to when I heard about this panel when it came together is there’s a lot of talk about anti-access area denial, but it’s always from a U.S. perspective. We’re always talking about air-sea battle or – not air-sea battle anymore, JAM-GC or whatever it’s called right now. That’s transitioning. Sounds like – more like a rock band than an actual acronym for something along those lines. (Chuckles.) But we’re always talking from a U.S. perspective. So I think one of the great things about this panel is that we’re looking at what our allies and partners are thinking about in terms of A2/AD.
You know, what does Japan think about anti-access area denial, maybe in terms of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands? So I think that might be something we might touch on today.
In terms of Taiwan, you know, there’s a lot that’s been written in the last couple years, specifically a number of RAND studies and other things that say the United States might have a hard time sort of getting into a scenario to help out its Taiwanese partners and allies if there was some sort of cross-strait contingency. So that might be something we might talk about a little bit.
And then, for ASEAN, I think we have to definitely talk about the situations when we’re talking about the South China Sea. There’s been a lot in the press about that, a lot of things from IHS, Jane’s, CSIS, different pictures of all these different island reclamation projects. Where does that fit in terms of A2/AD and anti-access area denial? So there’s a lot of stuff we can talk about here.
So I’m going to stop there and I’m going to kick it over to our first panelists if you would like to take the floor.
CHRISTEL FONZO-EBERHARD: Great. Thanks so much.
Thanks to the Atlantic Council for such a – for hosting such a timely event, especially given the dramatic changes and progress we’ve seen in Asia’s evolving security architecture. It’s a pleasure to be here to discuss A2/AD from the ASEAN perspective.
But first I want to provide a little bit of context regarding Southeast Asia and ASEAN. It’s well known – it’s not a mystery that Southeast Asia is home to some of the most dynamic, rapidly changing democratic nations in the world. Globalization, social media, transnational threats have raised level of awareness, I think, in unprecedented ways. Southeast Asian nations are playing a lead role in promoting Asian regional institutions and increasingly are stepping forward as a vital security partner on a host of regional and global challenges.
America’s alliances, its emerging partnerships and its working in regional institutions remains the main tool of engagement for the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. government has quickened the pace and widened the scope of its engagement with regional institutions, with its partners and allies, to advance one overarching set of goals in the Asia-Pacific: namely, to sustain and strengthen America’s leadership, and to improve security and heighten prosperity and promote American values, in concert with our partners and allies.
Asia faces a wide and growing range of challenges in the 21st century: proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, North Korea’s continuing provocations, extremist violence, climate change, pandemic disease, competition over scarce resources and unresolved border disputes. These are security issues that cannot be successfully addressed by one country alone. What the U.S. strategy has been trying to create is a network of network partners that can work alongside each other and alongside the United States. This concept is commonly I think referred to as regional architecture.
At the center of regional architecture and the rebalance is ASEAN. ASEAN should be viewed as a fulcrum of the region’s emerging regional architecture, and indispensable on a host of political, economic and strategic matters. When it comes to sub-regional institutions, ASEAN is worth noting as an important success story. However, ASEAN has its limitations. It can be slow-moving, unwieldy and consensus-based. But for the reasons I’ve laid out, it’s a promising tool for multilateral engagement.
The 10 sovereign nations that make up ASEAN have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. They have begun moving from being a talk shop to an action-oriented, results-driven organization. We still see a strong tendency towards consensus-making – that’s OK – but it’s taking less time to get there. We’re also seeing room for outliers without them necessarily being outcasts. And I see this as evidence of an evolving ASEAN, an ASEAN that’s getting stronger and stronger by the day. Might we see some backsliding? Sure. That’s a natural part of the process of learning to work together and work with others for the greater good.
So that brings me to the two metaquestions that the Atlantic Council asked us to focus on: One, how do countries in the region perceive China’s growing power and influence in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically for me ASEAN? And two, do they view these threats similarly to the U.S., and what is their strategy given that they live within the area covered by A2/AD?
I think both questions can be slightly rephrased to which countries in Southeast Asia are impacted the most by China’s growing influence and power. So for the sake of this discussion, I’ll leave out Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Burma. Cambodia and Laos are largely seen as unwilling or unable to push back against China, and Burma because it’s still in the process of shedding its hard outer skin. And as much as the USG has been investing in Burma, I think that our approach is significantly encumbered by the sanctions in place, which unfortunately then provides opportunities for China. And Brunei, though a South China Sea claimant with some equity in the outcome of the disputes, is – (chuckles) – is really off doing its own thing.
So who are we really talking about when we talk about ASEAN and its perspective on the A2/AD question? I think it largely comes down to the five founding ASEAN members – Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia – plus Vietnam.
It’s important to note that A2/AD, as you mentioned, that’s our term. It’s our access that’s being threatened. Not all in the region are affected the same way we are affected. Vietnam and Philippines are the most impacted, as the two countries covered by the threat rings. The further you get away from China, the less of a threat.
ASEAN is definitely watching what’s going on, but they don’t think about A2/AD the same way we do. ASEAN’s perspective on A2/AD is based, in my opinion, on each member’s narrative, on how they view themselves in the games that superpowers play in the region and have played in the region before. The Chinese capabilities aren’t necessarily denying them anything. The U.S. is more spun up because it impacts our interest to project power in the region.
It’s important to know that intent matters to Southeast Asia. Southeast Asia’s holding out hope that China won’t use its military might. They don’t think China will use their military capability to harm their interests. That is fundamentally different than the way we see it.
But I would say that these six countries are concerned about China’s growing sphere of influence and its – and its strength. I would assess they fully recognize that a kinetic military action in the region between two superpowers would not benefit them in any way. They will, in true ASEAN fashion, seek to strike some sort of balance between the two, and at the end of the day their strategic calculus is entirely different than ours in that after a war we get to go home and they’re stuck with an angry China which controls their economy.
The way ASEAN sees China’s influence in the region, the U.S.’s rebalance to the region, A2/AD, et cetera, will most certainly be very much informed by their national-level narratives – their history, their deeply held beliefs. Their history will inform how they view A2/AD and what approach they take, if any.
So I’m going to do a quick round the horn focusing on these – on these six countries, and we’ll start with Indonesia. Indonesia’s master narrative, to use a Monitor 360 term, is rooted in their being haunted by their colonial legacy. Indonesia’s going to seek to follow the example of its founding fathers on issues like South China Sea. Only by asserting sovereignty can Indonesia bring prosperity to the archipelago and reclaim its rightful position as the heir to Indonesia’s ancient empire. We see this a prevailing attitude over and over again, as Indonesia is seen as the de facto leader of ASEAN, the arbiter of contentious issues between nations, and most recently in Jokowi’s pledge to revive Indonesia’s maritime supremacy in the region. Indonesia will seek to remain independent and active, exactly the way – the way they did during the Cold War, where they refused to surrender their hard-fought sovereignty to become a pawn between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Whenever Indonesia has deviated from a non-aligned path, it feels that they have suffered. Additionally, they view the U.S. as a fickle friend, despite our best efforts. We can expect the same type of posture with a China-U.S. scenario. But it is important to note that only Indonesia has the diplomatic weight and the regional respect to engage China, and will seek to act as a broker between the U.S. and China.
For Thailand, Thailand, like many in ASEAN, will seek to strike a balance in the region between its neighbors and between superpowers – Russia, China, the U.S. As the only country in the region that was never colonized, Thailand will seek to strongly protect its sovereignty and not appear as a nation that can be swayed one way or another. Thailand will cooperate with the U.S. to ensure its military has world-class training and technology so its troops never risk confronting battle-tested foes alone or unprepared. However, as with the 2006 coup and the most recent coup this – spring of ’14, Thailand sees U.S.-imposed sanctions as unjust and validate the perception that the U.S. is capricious. While Thailand has looked north for decades, the friendship did suffer when China adopted a hostile communist ideology. However, Thailand has not forgotten the respect that China showed them after the 2006 coup and again in the 2014 coup. Thailand sees its ability to secure its place in the – in the Asian century by building up its economic and trade ties with China. Again, a very delicate act balancing between economic interest with China and security interest with the U.S.
The Philippines’ narrative is very similar to Indonesia. They are sensitive at any actions that begin to feel like colonialism. They feel threatened by China, but are willing to subsume those concerns for pragmatic reasons. There’s a definite tension between responding to nationalist domestic sentiment and inviting the U.S. to protect them.
Vietnam’s narrative spells out a Vietnam that has learned things the hard way about the perceived duplicity and the unreliability of superpowers. Vietnam feels bandied about by the Chinese, the Americans, the Soviets, the French, and as a result Vietnam will not easily forget that they were once a pawn in the game the superpowers play in the region. Again, a major theme throughout Southeast Asia: Vietnam will seek to balance regional powers against each other. Vietnam knows that, like others in ASEAN, it cannot stand up militarily to China. But Vietnam did prove to China last spring during the oil rig standoff that it can be a nuisance. Vietnam further aggravated China by supporting the legal case initiated by The Philippines to contest China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Of course, this flies directly in the face of China’s efforts to internationalize bilateral issues.
Malaysia. The national-level narrative for Malaysia reveals a stance that favors cautious neutrality. This cautious neutrality has served Malaysia well, resulting in thriving trade ties with China that underpin the nation’s booming economy. While friendly relations must be preserved, Malaysia cannot ignore the possibility of China becoming a regional bully again. Malaysia has quietly been growing its bilateral relationship with the United States notably and in earnest since the 9/11 attacks, when Malaysia participated in coalition efforts contributing medical and technical aid. Malaysia sees its relationship with the U.S. as an essential partnership, but applies a pragmatic embrace to the relationship – there’s that balancing thing going on again. However, Malaysia’s been consistent in its rapport-building, going so far as to develop a Marine Corps to protect Malaysia’s interests in the South China Sea. Only by working with and siding with the United States does Malaysia believe it can combat extremist intruders, maintain maritime security and guard against potential Chinese aggression. While Malaysia will not openly call out China’s aggression and they did react to China’s nagging or micromanagement during the search for MH370, Malaysia understands that to quietly prepare to meet strength with strength it will need to deepen its ties with the U.S. as it pursues its modernization of its military.
And I’ll close with Singapore. They are the ultimate balancers. They are under no illusion that they are a small nation-state and would be quickly overrun if tensions escalate to violence. They would like nothing more than to be the best friend to both the United States and to China in the region. They would love to be the key interlocutor between the two and to keep the region stable, since any disruption of trade would completely dismantle the Singaporean economy. They’re probably not too concerned about the China threat in A2/AD beyond the chance for war between China and the U.S.
Singapore and the five others will work very, very hard to not choose sides or be in the position where they have to choose. They will watch our actions and those of China very carefully, and I can’t see ASEAN thinking too hard about A2/AD for fear of appearing to favor the U.S., or China for that matter.
That concludes my remarks.
MR. KAZIANIS: Excellent. Well, thank you. That was extremely comprehensive. And I think it’s important to get sort of the ASEAN perspective when we talk about A2/AD because a lot of times it seems like ASEAN, when we think about these issues, sort of gets dropped off in some of the larger issues between Japan and China and, you know, China and Taiwan. So I think that’s an important perspective to have. Thank you.
Roger Cliff, you’d like to take the floor?
ROGER CLIFF: Sure.
So Taiwan’s case is obviously a little bit different from ASEAN’s for a variety of reasons. Most particularly, Taiwan is a single country, so I don’t have to try to express the different perceptions throughout a fairly large and diverse region about anti-access area denial. At the same time, you know, there’s people from Taiwan in this room here, so I’m not going to talk so much about how Taiwan perceives anti-access area denial capabilities as what they mean for Taiwan.
So let me start out by defining what I do mean when I say “anti-access area denial,” and I define these as capabilities that could prevent an outside power – the United States – from deploying forces into the theater of combat operations or prevent them from operating freely once they are in the theater.
The most commonly cited, as Harry mentioned in the beginning, Chinese anti-access capabilities are those associated with its ballistic missiles, including the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, which could be used to attack U.S. aircraft carriers. But ballistic missiles could also be used to attack the bases that are used by land-based aircraft as well. If they were armed with runway-penetrating warheads, they could be used to prevent aircraft from being able to take off or land at those bases. Now, those runways could eventually be prepared, but while they were trapped on the ground the aircraft that were at those bases would be vulnerable to other forms of attack, and some of those forms of attack could come from ballistic missiles as well. Ballistic missiles armed with warheads filled with hundreds of little bomblets could be used to attack aircraft that are parked out in the open. Some RAND analyses have shown that probably a few dozen such missiles would be sufficient to destroy most of the aircraft that weren’t parked in hardened concrete shelters at an airbase. And then, in the case of airbases that do have such shelters for their aircraft, China has cruise missiles and aircraft armed with precision-guided munitions that could be used to destroy aircraft parked in those shelters.
But anti-access just isn’t about attacks on airbases and aircraft carriers. There are other things that China could do as well. China could mine an adversary’s harbors, preventing ships that are in port from being able to go to sea. It has submarines and land-based aircraft armed with anti-ship cruise missiles that could make life quite hazardous for any surface ships operating within about a thousand miles of China’s coast.
Fuel storage and distribution facilities are another potential point of vulnerability. These could be attacked by a variety of systems, including ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft, and even covert operatives that might be living near the locations of these facilities. Without fuel, aircraft can’t fly.
Underway replenishment ships and aerial refueling aircraft are another potential point of vulnerability. U.S. aircraft carriers are nuclear powered and can steam for years without needing to refuel, but the aircraft that operate off of the aircraft carrier will burn through all the fuel that the aircraft carrier carries in a few days of high-intensity combat operations. So that means the carrier needs to come alongside an oiler and take on additional fuel and other supplies if it wants to continue operating. So if China could attack those oilers, sink them or drive them away, then it could turn the U.S. carriers into basically giant floating parking lots.
And the same applies to aircraft. Fighter aircraft in particular have ranges of a few hundred miles. If they want to fly farther than that or stay in the air for more than a few hours, they need to be refueled in the air from tanker aircraft. Again, Chinese writings indicate an interest in attacking those tanker aircraft and, again, shooting them down or driving them away. If that were to happen, then either fighter aircraft wouldn’t be able to make it to where they were going or they wouldn’t be able to stay in the area long enough to defend against Chinese aircraft attacks.
Other potential points of vulnerability include surveillance, reconnaissance and communications systems. China is developing a variety of anti-satellite weapons that could be used to attack both surveillance and, more recently, potentially communications satellites. China could also use long-range fighters to try to intercept or drive off reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles like AWACS aircraft or Global Hawks. And it could use cruise missiles and aircraft with precision-guided munitions to attack ground-based facilities as well, such as ground-based radar stations and communications nodes.
And there’s a variety of other things that China could do that I don’t even want to mention in case they haven’t thought of them already. (Laughter.) And I don’t want to give them help. (Chuckles.) We’ve got enough of a challenge as it is.
So what would the effects of these kinds of attacks, particularly attacks on communications systems or reconnaissance systems? They wouldn’t prevent forces from actually being able to get into the theater, but the commander of the U.S. forces might feel that he doesn’t have a good enough ability to see what’s happening in the theater to be able to protect those forces and not a good enough ability to communicate with those forces, and might wind up pulling them to more distant bases where he would better be able to protect his forces, or she if the day comes when the commander is a woman, and better able to control them. But if they’re operating from longer distances, those forces would be less effective.
So what does all this mean for Taiwan? So I – you know, what I just tried to say I tried to express in generic terms without reference to any specific country, but most of what I said mainly applies to the U.S. Taiwan’s only 90 miles away from China and hardly moves at all, so it’s pretty hard to deny Taiwan access to East Asia. It does move a little bit now and then. I’ve been through a few of those. (Laughter.) But China’s anti-access capabilities do have really two types of implications for Taiwan.
First of all, Taiwan doesn’t have the capability to defeat China by itself. If China were to launch a full-scale attack on Taiwan, Taiwan would only be able to hold out for so long on its own. Beyond that point, it would need the United States to come to its aid to be able to defeat a full-scale Chinese attack. If China can prevent or delay the deployment of U.S. forces to Taiwan’s defense, then it’s possible that China could actually bring about the defeat of Taiwan before the U.S. could muster enough force to thwart China’s efforts.
So what’s Taiwan doing about it? Well, a number of things. First of all, I think we need to give credit where credit is due. Taiwan has the most robust airbases in the region. If you look at almost all the airbases in Taiwan, they have an average of about 50 hardened aircraft shelters. There’s no other country in the region that has such a high percentage of well-defended airbases as Taiwan. And in the case of two bases, the aircraft are actually stored in mountainside tunnels that are virtually invulnerable to attack by conventional weapons. That doesn’t mean the runways are invulnerable, but the aircraft themselves are relatively safe. Taiwan also has acquired the capability to rapidly lay sea mines on the approaches to Taiwan’s beaches that China would have to use in order to launch an amphibious invasion of the island. And Taiwan is developing a fleet of small, fast missiles craft that could also be used to attack a Chinese invasion fleet.
But there is more that Taiwan should do, I believe. First of all, it needs to ensure that it has the capability to rapidly repair runways that have been damaged by Chinese missile attacks so that it can get its aircraft back in the air again before they are destroyed on the ground. They should also invest in mobile surface-to-air missile systems, such as the MEAD system which is jointly being developed by the United States, Germany and Italy, so that Taiwan can defend its airspace even when its fighters are trapped on the ground. And it should go ahead and purchase the eight submarines that the U.S. approved for sale to Taiwan 14 years ago. And negotiations over that deal are still ongoing. And Taiwan should do what it can to try to move that forward.
There’s much the U.S. can do as well with regard to anti-access, particularly as it pertains to the defense of Taiwan. The U.S. needs to invest in the facilities and capabilities it needs to – as well as the number of airbases it has in the region to make those bases more resilient against attack. It needs to improve the air-to-air combat capabilities of the F-35 joint strike fighter, which is still in development but will be entering service fairly soon. And it needs to invest in a long-range, stealthy anti-ship cruise missile. Finally, I think the U.S. should go ahead and approve for sale to Taiwan the 66 additional F-16 fighter aircraft that Taiwan would like to purchase.
Anti-access/area denial is not a fundamentally new way of war. It’s gotten a lot of currency in recent years, but it isn’t something that’s fundamentally new and it’s not an insurmountable approach. It’s something that’s made possible, or particularly acute, but a combination of new technologies that have been developed and the particular geography of the Asia-Pacific region.
And for that reason, overcoming the challenges it represents is going to require responses that are different from the usual ways of doing business, both for Taiwan’s military and for the U.S. military. And for that reason, we’ll require vision and perhaps most importantly determination and persistence on the part of U.S. and Taiwanese leaders in order to push through the changes that are needed. But I do think it can be done. Thank you.
MR. KAZIANIS: Excellent. Excellent discussion, Roger. Thank you. No, I think that was – that was really great. It seems like what you described, and I guess what’s been a lot in the press, is that famous porcupine strategy that I guess the Taiwanese are trying to roll out, which is always very interesting.
Yuki, the floor is yours.
YUKI TATSUMI: Great. Thank you. I’d like to thank, first of all, the Atlantic Council to give me this opportunity. And thank you, Harry, for your kind introduction.
As we all know, I think this is a very interesting time for me to talk about Japanese perspective because right now U.S. government and the Japanese government are in the middle of revising the bilateral guidelines for their defense cooperation, which inevitably includes the defense cooperation and regional contingencies. It has already been covered under the current guidelines, but the purpose of this revision – this revision that’s ongoing today is how to make it more – how to make that defense cooperation go more smoothly as the situation escalates. So I think it’s a – it’s a very important time and it’s a very timely topic, especially given that context.
And then I also think that – you talked about the – perhaps perceptional differences between Japan and – well, Asian countries and U.S. when we talk about the A2/AD capabilities. And it’s – that is a – that is very interesting proposition because I do think – it is – it is the case that in case of Japan, the overall Japan’s – Japan is very much impacted by this Chinese, and what we call as A2/AD capability, and certainly debate within the U.S. about how we counter this A2/AD capabilities in Asia-Pacific as a part of rebalance very much drives the Japanese national debate, and particularly the debate within Japanese defense establishment when they think through how to – how to shape their forces and how to – how to think about their future of force posturing.
But with – even with that, there are some, I guess, granular differences, if you will, in the perception between the two. So let me just go quickly through this. Obviously, for Japan the area where Japan feels most pressure in this context is in the East China Sea Senkaku area that we mentioned. And there are three points that I would like to make on that one. First of all, in this context of East China Sea Senkaku Islands, the challenge that Japan feels from what we call here as A2/AD challenge is very much their homeland defense need.
Japan is an island nation, so in land mass Japan ranks only 31st in the world – by its landmass that it occupies. But when you count all those islands large and small that’s covered under Japanese either administrative control or because it’s Japanese territory, Japan actually comes up with the sixth largest country in terms of ocean that a country manages. And falls only after U.S., Russia, Australia, and Indonesia in Southeast Asia – and Canada.
So what does that mean for Japan is that – basically the heart of A2/AD capability – A2/AD challenge when we talk about East Asia is really who controls maritime and air domain. And so much of that is Japan’s homeland defense issue. It’s really not the power projection issue, but it’s really close to their home. And what makes it complicated for Japan is that the stress that they feel in the different domains varies.
So for example, maritime domain – which is most tangible, most talked about, most reported – it’s very visible. Japan obviously feels very much stress from Chinese side on this almost daily basis. But as visible as it is, what Japan and the Japanese leaders are keenly aware is that at this point it’s still primarily done by Chinese Coast Guard. So they have been countering them by Japanese Coast Guard. And then, of course, that’s not to say that Self-Defense Force and PLA are not involved. I mean, they are watching, monitoring the situation at the distance. But it’s still the front line who are having face off are two country’s coast guards.
So why that is complicated, but it – actually, for Japanese benefit is that those low enforcement organizations face off actually gives some breathing space for Japanese government to resort to less than kinetic military solution while they’re having face off and try to control the tension with China in that realm. But why is that complicated? Because when the tension escalates out of control for the Japanese Coast Guard to handle, whether the escalation control will seamlessly be done between coast guard and maritime defense forces I think – I think Japan has been improving in that realm in recent years, particularly for the last several years. But I think there are still some questions that remains whether – how it actually works in actual tensions.
But so that’s maritime domain. So, yes, there are tensions, but that’s mainly law enforcement in nature. It does give us a little bit of buffer. Situations are dramatically different in air. It is much, much less tangible. We hardly ever read about it until we have an incident. But since Chinese unilateral declaration of ADIZ in 2013, now is a direct faceoff between PLA air force and the Japanese air defense force when it comes to this air defense realm. So they don’t have the buffer that the maritime domain has. If there’s some incident, some crisis, it carries a far greater risk of it quickly escalate – quickly escalate between the two countries.
And when it comes to the ground – what we talk about by ground is how Japan does control those islands with those ground forces, is that currently Japanese defense establishment almost exclusively focus on the worst-case scenario, which is island – Senkaku Island gets taken and they take back. And that really drives their force posturing, their mid-term acquisition planning. But here again, when situation actually – how situation evolves into that very much varies, depending on how it starts.
So for example, if it’s a civilian guy’s – fisherman’s guy’s protest group that lands on Senkaku, Self-Defense Force don’t get mobilization order. It will be Okinawa professional police who has the jurisdiction of all those little islands. So it frankly takes a severe casualty on the police force for Self-Defense Force to get an order and have a justification for them to go out there and respond to the situation. So there are varying degrees of the composition of the forces and tensions level and potential escalation level onto different domains.
So what does that – what does that mean? For Japan, what that means is what we call A2/AD challenges in East China Sea. When we talk about it, we talk about it in a purely kinetic, military sense and power projection. When it comes to Japan, it has a much, much greater feel of not only – it’s a homeland defense needs, but then also that requires greater elements of all of the government approach. So not only defense establishment, but then also police forces needs to get in there. So it really needs to be coordinated at the – at the leadership interagency level. So, that’s a complication that Japan faces when it come to East China Sea.
But when Japan looks at its own national interests as a – I’m not going to repeat what they – what they wrote in the national security strategy, they do consider the stability and the safety of the – of the global commons is in their critical national interest. And that certainly covers the stability and safety of the global commons in Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
And then I think – I think what’s – what will become a challenge for Japan is as the debate moves beyond the immediate – more of a strictly homeland defense discussion, how Japanese public feels about Self-Defense Forces having certain type of – you know certain type of power projection, not necessarily the kinetic combat force, but in terms of providing logistical support for the U.S. forces or ASEAN forces. They are already – they have already been providing some support for Philippine Coast Guard and, you know, they have been talking with Singapore also. But that’s mainly – primarily in the coast guard realm. But they’re really not talking about mil-mil cooperation in that.
So how that’s – how that’s being – how the debate over those broader region role for the Self-Defense Force evolve is – I think will be interesting to watch for all of us. But having said that, what is Japan is doing about this more direct A2/AD – so-called A2/AD challenge. They have been investing in some of the capabilities, some of them rather belatedly. But then, for example, C4ISR; anti-submarine warfare – they have been doing that for a long time, since Cold War; and de-mining – again, long history of doing that; and cyber, that’s the recent; and space; and also very nascent amphibious capabilities, something that they are – they began to look into. And of course, they’ve been – Japan and the U.S. have been cooperating in the ballistic missile defense realm for a long time.
Two challenges that I – actually, three challenges that I see as Japan continues to think through the – think through how to respond to this pressure from China. One is – one is budget. In recent months – we all talk about Japanese defense budget is increasing, increasing. And Japan, depending on some narratives, they would like to put in a narrative of Japan remilitarizing. But if you actually look back on last 10 years or so data, they are recovering from all the declining trends that they’ve been experiencing for – roughly for the last 10 years or so.
So it’s not – yes, compared to the previous years it has been going up, but has it come back to the 2007 level, for example? They have not yet. So it’s still – they’re – its increase, as it’s so touted in – touted by some, is very still modest step to recover, recapture what they – what they had hoped to invest in the past. So their defense budget is not in a situation where they can seriously look at large scale, wholesale, you know, up the ante kind of modernization. They’re doing what they can within the restricted budget environment. And that will not – that will not change.
Legal is another challenge that I see. Over the next month or so, we will know more about what Japanese government intends to when it comes to – when it comes to authorizing Self-Defense Forces to play a larger role, whether that may be in the regional contingencies in the Far East area or broad – or beyond in the broader Asia-Pacific. And then I – and then I – and that has – that has a – that has relations with the last July’s Cabinet decision on the right of collective self-defense. It’s a little bit too detailed for opening remarks, I’ll be happy to get into it in the Q&A if there’s a question about it.
And finally, I come back to this point, is political. So Abe’s – what Abe – Prime Minister Abe has been trying to do ever since he got into the office, he actually took over a lot of the policy initiative that has been done by his predecessor, Prime Minister Noda, who was Democratic Party of Japan, so his opposing party’s prime minister. So in a sense, the trajectory that Japan’s defense policy has over the last five years or so has kind of a bipartisan support in a political space.
However, when it gets to – when it gets to public realm, it does have complication because I don’t know if – if you follow closely of the Japanese government’s narrative toward these modernization – for example, Osprey, transport capabilities, refueling capabilities – first they will talk. One thing that’s very different from past years is that the government is more openly talking about security concerns from China. That’s something very different.
However, right after they talk about that – whether that may be Osprey, transport capability, long-range capability – they also couch it with more non-kinetic – so for example for Osprey, it’s important – it’s useful thing to have for Self-Defense Forces for disaster relief purposes. And it is true, it does have utility, but making that argument as a set – so, kinetic, security concerns, but then also it can – its also dual purpose use for more of a broader, peaceful usage is something that Japan – Japanese government has been cautious of doing to make it more politically palatable to the public.
So – but then there are so much equipment that they can justify in that language. So when and if Japan gets to the point where it starts looking at greater power projection capability or more of a kinetically offensive capabilities – (audio break) – that narrative will be a very tricky proposition for the – whoever may be in power at that time. So I’ll end at that.
MR. KAZIANIS: Excellent. Thank you, Yuki. That was a great discussion. I appreciate your commentary on Japan’s defense budget. There’s been a lot in the media about this that I’ve covered. And it’s interesting because the Japanese defense budget, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, is about $41 billion. And some of these increases that I think have been talked about are around 2 to 3 billion (dollars). So we’re not talking massive dollar amounts. So I appreciate your point there.
So I think now we’re going to open it up to the best part, which is question and answer. So if we could, I – probably the best way to approach this is if you could state your name and affiliation and your brief question. And I think, sir, you had the first –
Q: Chen Wen (sp) with China Daily.
And I just sort of, because the center of the topic is AD/A2, I mean, after China. But yeah, I mean, the point is there is no one talking about China’s perspective or there is no representative from China. So I think that is really a disappointment because – you know, it’s basically denying China’s voice. I mean, it’s not fair, I mean, to me. I’m from China. I’m a journalist too, talking about equal time, equal voice.
The second thing is, you know, I think a lot of talk has been hypothetical, you know, because you say, oh, China going to shoot off satellite. Could it, I mean, attack Taiwan? I mean, the U.S. could do that – destroy every other country, panic, ten times if not a hundred times more than China. So that’s how hypothetical it is. It doesn’t make sense to – I mean, to me and a lot of – I mean, why China want to do that? I mean, China – it’s like Russia could do that too. I mean, so should we be paranoid? I mean, China, if it’s paranoid – I mean, should just – you know, the U.S. is doing attacks every day.
So the other issue, and I really thought about, you know, this – talking about AD/A2 without talking about air/sea, you know, battle is kind of – it doesn’t make sense to me. Because AD/A2 is defensive in nature because we’re not going to Africa, we’re not targeting Latin America, we’re not going to the coast of the United States. I mean, we’re in our neighborhood. So just to, you know, protect our territory.
But you know, why air/sea battle is offensive in nature. So shouldn’t we be more concerned about, you know, actually – you know, my question, if I have one, is how do you guys would respond that, you know, we do not encourage escalation of a sort of arms race between AD/A2 and air/sea battle, you know?
MR. KAZIANIS: I think it’s a great question. I mean, just to sort of maybe paraphrase and jump off your question, is there a security dilemma there between A2/AD and air/sea battle, something I’ve actually wondered. Any thoughts on the panel on sort of those remarks? Go ahead, Roger.
MR. CLIFF: I’m happy to jump in. First of all, you know, your point about China not being represented is a fair one. I will say, as someone who did some research and, in fact, led a project that resulted in a publication on Chinese anti-access strategies, when we did this research, you know, we found that China doesn’t really have an anti-access strategy. And what China has is a strategy. All militaries develop strategy. There are components of that strategy that would have the effect of preventing or delaying the deployment of U.S. forces into the theater.
So you know, to the extent of – you know, I think I’m as qualified to represent the Chinese view as the Taiwanese perspective, which is to say I’m not from either place. But in – to broaden a little bit – this is – you know, I won’t argue with you that from a Chinese perspective this is a defensive type of action. You consider Taiwan to be part of Chinese territory. This is about securing what is regarded as China’s sovereign territory.
It’s not just hypothetical though, OK? The Chinese government has repeatedly stated that it does not renounce the possibility of using forces to resolve Taiwan’s status. And the U.S. government, for its part, has said that it considers any threat to the peace and security of the Taiwan Strait to be a grave concern to the United States. And that – we’re not just talking about anything that could happen, we’re talking about something that both countries have said they might do. So it’s not a purely hypothetical problem.
With regard to the stability issues, you’re not the first person to raise this issue. And many Americans have as well, that – you know, is this idea – and first of all, I should say, nobody knows what air/sea battle is. I’ve read everything published by an air/sea battle office and it tells me absolutely nothing, OK? (Laughter.) So then what people do is they go to a report published by my former employer, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and say: Well, this report is titled “Air/Sea Battle.” This must be what air/sea battle is. Well, maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t know.
But if air/sea battle does contain certain elements that involve attacks on the mainland, people have recognized that this is potentially escalatory. And they’re – in fact, there is a debate in the U.S. for precisely that reason, where people say, oh no, this is too escalatory. We should take a different approach, which is called offshore – oh, what the hell is it called?
MR. KAZIANIS: Offshore control.
MR. CLIFF: Offshore control, thank you – which to me, in my mind, this – and we’re getting a little farther afield here, but this strategy says basically, no, we wouldn’t do that. That’s escalatory. Let’s cut off China’s trade with the outside world and strangle China. Well, I can’t think of anything more escalatory than threatening China’s survival as a nation.
All that said, as Harry alluded to, the Air/Sea Battle Office has now been absorbed into the joint staff. It’ll be – become part of, you know an exploration of possible ways of countering what are perceived as possible Chinese courses of action. This is normal. This is what countries do. It doesn’t mean either side is evil, or anything like that.
MR. KAZIANIS: Excellent, Roger. Thank you. Thank you for your honestly on air/sea battle, too, by the way. (Laughter.)
Sir, I think you were next.
Q: I’m Harlan Ullman with the Atlantic Council.
A small historical fact about the air/sea battle. It was originally started when Norty Schwartz and Gary Roughead, later service chiefs, were serving in the Pacific. And they thought this was the best means to integrate the capacity of both the Navy and the Air Force, and then see what was lacking so that they could put their programs and acquisition policies in synchronization.
And then the White House announced its pivot to Asia. And all of a sudden, this became a great marketing strategy. So it was perverted, unfortunately, by the bureaucratic realities of Washington, D.C. And it was never actually meant against the Chinese initially. And if it were used against the Chinese, I think we’d see a charge of the Light Brigade, because we would get ourselves waxed.
My question is this: What about the other powers in the Pacific? Anybody want to comment about India’s view, or Russia’s view, or even Korea’s view of what’s happening?
MR. KAZIANIS: Great question. Any takers?
MR. CLIFF: I’m always willing – talk about the charge of the Light Brigade – I’m always willing to charge in, but maybe I should let my co-panelists speak on the issue if they want. (Laughter.)
MS. TATSUMI: I think it didn’t – you didn’t include it in your – in your question about a major power, but I could probably talk a little bit about how Australia sees this, and that makes it even more complicated for the U.S. because Australian always has been – always has been a little bit interesting place when it comes to China. It has a very deep economic relations with China, but then at the same time it also now feels pressure of all these – you know, diplomatic – you know, diplomacy – primarily economic diplomacy that China has been – China has been conducting in the – in their neighborhood and the Pacific Islands.
So – and then particularly with this current prime minister, he tends to – Prime Minister Abbott seems to have a – share more of a world view with Japanese and American counterpart as his predecessor. But why it’s interesting? Because Australia is, as we know, geographically far, far, far from the area that – especially when it comes to East China Sea – I mean, it’s so far. And same thing for Taiwan. And I think their prime minister in the past has kind of got in hot water by saying we’re not going to do anything in Taiwan. Don’t expect us to do anything in Taiwan.
But that said, as one of the – one of the ways in which U.S. tries to – United States has been trying to sustain its engagement and kind of – engagement and permanence through this rebalance, how are we doing it, kind of networking all the regional alliance that it has? And it used to be – it used to be we kind of simplified and hub-and-spokes, but now they’re more talking about the web, so intra-alliance network. And then I think in that realm, Australia comes in as an important part, and in part – and largely because geographically Australia is so much closer to South China Sea. So how it sees its relations with China on both security and economic is probably very important for Southeast Asians, I would imagine, and the South China Sea situation.
MS. FONZO-EBERHARD: And I think on the – on the India piece, for – when I was working on State policy, for years we were trying to get India more involved in Southeast Asia. We thought they had, you know, a lot of capabilities, particularly with Burma, building up their infrastructure, their IT, telecommunications infrastructure in particular. And we would have – you know, during the bilateral agreements we would raise these – you know, this topic. And it was just kind of left on the table. And then the Australians thought we had cracked the nut when it came to India, which wasn’t necessarily true.
I think – I think India has gone from their look east to an act east policy. I don’t know what that really looks like. I haven’t seen any signs of real implementation that would necessitate that shift. But I think what is interesting is that we may see in India a type of A2/AD-type strategy type approach because of India – or China’s incursions into the smaller – into the Indian Ocean and to the smaller island sets in the region. So I think they’re starting to focus their attention on what’s going on there. But I don’t think it extends, necessarily, into kind of our look at it.
Q: Any comments about Russia?
MR. KAZIANIS: Russia –
Q: Consolidating power, building up its navy?
MR. KAZIANIS: Good point. Good point.
MS. TATSUMI: I mean, I have a few words to say about Korea, which is, you know, they are so focused on North Korea now and that I just do not see they actively engaging in this A2/AD debate. But you know, people here might – my colleagues might have a different idea.
MS. FONZO-EBERHARD: I don’t see it either. I’ve seen, you know, Russia reaching out a little bit more to Indonesia, to Malaysia. I think the ASEAN members will cooperate with the Russians on a particular set of activities, only to offset the balance or to create a little bit more operating space for themselves between a U.S.-China dynamic. That’s all I can say about Russia. And Putin appeared yesterday, so. (Laughter.)
MR. KAZIANIS: He’s back. He’s back.
MS. FONZO-EBERHARD: He’s back.
MR. KAZIANIS: Sir, please. Purple shirt, yes.
Q: John Zang with CtiTV of Taiwan. I have a question for Roger.
Has the relative calm across the Taiwan Strait over the last seven years had any impact on the effort by the United States, and Taiwan probably, in terms of development of capabilities to counter the A2/AD capabilities? And is the possibility of the DPP, whom Michael Fonte represents, coming back to power having any effect on the kind of urgency that people in this town with which to discuss this issue? Thank you.
MR. CLIFF: That’s a great question. And you can probably answer better than I how it’s affected planning in Taiwan. I will say that after Ma Ying-jeou was elected in 2008 there was for a while a sense in the U.S. that, ah, the Taiwan problem’s gone away. Whew, we can relax now. In fact, and I won’t name his name, but there was a retired U.S. ambassador – I was still at the RAND Corporation at the time – who, you know, had come to RAND as a senior fellow. And he wanted to do a project that was basically premised on: Now that the Taiwan problem has gone away, what’s the future of security in East Asia?
And a number of us, myself included, kind of said: I don’t think we can assume the Taiwan problem has gone away. And people have started to come to that realization, I think, in Washington as well. If anything, I think the problem is being taken more seriously now, or at least we’re seeing more action now than we were a few years ago. Part of that’s because of the draw down in first Iraq and now Afghanistan, that there was actually some room in people’s attention span for something other than those particular crises. But I would say if anything – even though defense budgets are coming down, people are taking this problem as seriously as ever.
I will say also I was speaking to a senior retired Taiwanese defense official over the weekend. And he told me, you know, some of the things I mentioned in my talk, which are relatively new initiatives in Taiwan – things like the – being able to mine the approaches to the beaches and the development of these prototype fast attack missile-craft and so on.
The U.S. has been, you know, through various – you know, both officially and unofficially hammering on Taiwan’s military for some time in terms of basically recommending that Taiwan adopt its own anti-access strategy on a smaller scale that says, you know, our job is not to build a miniature version of the U.S. military, which has global responsibilities, but a military that’s tailored for our particular defense problem which is defending an island from an adversary that sits 90 – across 90 miles of water. And that does seem to be getting traction. There’s always institutional resistance in any military establishment, both in Taiwan as well as in the U.S. to these things, though.
MR. KAZIANIS: Great. Great. Sir, please.
Q: Thanks for terrific presentation. I’m Mike Fonte. I am the director of the DPP’s office here in Washington.
DPP has put out a series of booklets about defense going forward. If anybody’s interested in them, I’d be happy to send them to you. I think the key issue is there is a difference of perception in Taiwan – within Taiwan between the older KMT, shall we say, DPP because whether you view China’s pressure as threat or not becomes an issue on how you structure your military.
So DPP has looked very hard at the question of the volunteer army and asymmetrical warfare and development of indigenous capabilities. And I wonder if – Roger, if you’ve looked at that in any depth about – for example, indigenous submarine production is one thing they’re talking about. Certainly missile production, the fast corvettes, or whatever they’re called, that can be – and I think way I see what they’re developing is the attempt to say we can keep an invasion force at bay. Whether we can protect our aircraft, et cetera, is another question. But wonder if you had any thoughts about what you’ve seen of some of these issues as they’ve been developed by the DPP?
MR. CLIFF: So let me take a couple of stabs at that issue. And since you mentioned the indigenous submarine production, you know, part of the problem is this gets wrapped into things that really don’t have to do with defense, it’s industrial policy, desire for, you know, domestic contracts rather than giving money to foreigners. And you know, Yuki was talking about Australia. We were talking about this, actually, before we came in here. The Australian government’s been very smart, I think, in general historically about just acquiring the best available system, whether it’s domestically made or imported.
And that is an approach that Taiwan should take as well in general, I think. To the extent, however, you know, that the U.S. military builds – designs and builds things that are for U.S. military purposes and not necessarily optimized for Taiwan’s particular challenges, then Taiwan should be looking at developing its own defense systems. I mean, one of the things I mentioned in my talk was the MEADs system, which the U.S. has designed but has now decided it won’t buy. So we’re going to take it all the way up to the completion of development, and then we’ll let the Germans and Italians buy it, basically because the U.S. military has decided it doesn’t want such a thing. And the Germans and Italians still want it, though, and that’s why the U.S. is continuing to fund it, because we kind of had a deal.
There are similar examples. The U.S. had a system – and again, these are examples. These aren’t supposed to be recommendations of particular systems. But we had a system called SL-AMRAAM, which was the AMRAAM air-to-air missile mounted on a Humvee. Highly mobile system, had a radar it could drag around, really hard to track down and kill that thing. Well, that got killed a few years ago in the U.S. That would have been perfect for Taiwan. So if the U.S. isn’t going to build it, then – you know, those are the sort of things where it’s relatively cheap.
I’m not talking about a stealth bomber that’s going to cost $500 trillion or whatever to develop. But things that are relatively cheap where you’re putting together existing systems – Taiwan has air-to-air missiles. They can build, you know, mobile ground vehicles. This isn’t quite rocket science. Those are the sort of things where Taiwan should be, you know, trying to say, well, if the Americans aren’t going to build it, they’re not going to sell it to us, we’ll build it ourselves.
MR. KAZIANIS: Gentleman in the back.
Q: I enjoyed the discussion today. And one comment – you know, one comment about the women commanders. So there actually is a commander in the Pacific, a four-star is the air commander now, Lori Robinson. So an interesting point. So small commentary, I guess.
But I guess Christel, you haven’t been getting any of the questions here, so I had – I had one, which is: If you could comment on, you know, the – you made an earlier comment about how a lot of the things that the U.S. government was actually because we were concerned about our ability to influence power. But if you look at the countries that you had kind of annotated or went through in your list, are any of them feeling any concerns that A2/AD would be used in some way to coerce them away from the United States in terms of any kind of a relationship and it might be used as a political ploy instead of purely a military?
MR. KAZIANIS: That’s a great question.
MS. FONZO-EBERHARD: Yeah. I think that the concern is there. And I think that’s why the ASEAN members work so hard at balancing between the two. And sometimes that’s viewed as just complete inaction, but I think – I think there is concern. And they will try very hard to not put themselves in situations where they would be forced to choose.
MR. KAZIANIS: That’s a good point. Well, as moderator, I’m going to jump in and just ask my brief question, if I can. So in Washington today we’re talking a lot about sequestration, defense budgets, lots of different spin in terms of what the right dollar amount – is it 499 billion (dollars) that’s been sort of locked in by the Budget Control Act or do we need to spend more?
My question, just to the panel and whoever wants to take it, is in terms of spending, how are our allies looking at it, or our partners? Are we spending enough or procuring sort of the right systems to approach this sort of A2/AD challenge? Anybody care to comment?
MS. TATSUMI: I can take the first crack, because in Japan – especially those that – the people that I have conversation in the Ministry of Defense, they are obsessed with this budget question. (Laughs.) And also, they are – they pay such close attention to anything that anyone who is remotely related to U.S. government current administration say – may or may not say about commitment to Asia rebalance.
And why? That is because what we do here and the type of the – type of system that we invest, they take a queue almost from that and look at themselves and say, OK, we’re never going to be like we’re going to replicate what they do, but if – as a close ally, there is a certain need generated from that that we need to complement – better complement them in different situation, and particularly in terms of – in terms of the homeland defense scenario. So much of that is kind of uncertain in terms of how it starts and how it escalates.
But then what Japan essentially looks at what we do here in terms of investment into Pacific theater and western Pacific is that, OK, so what – we definitely have to invest – we definitely have to start investing if we haven’t do so already is our own ability to defend all these different islands. And our – we need to have a better capacity to be able to manage emergencies or crises in the water that we’re supposed to manage. And you already are seeing sign of that.
You know, they are – they are investing in, you know, very nascent, they’re just starting out, but amphib capability. They are – they are doubling up on the ASW. They are – they’re very – they have been very steady on the demining because that’s really like their naval comparative advantage, I think, in that water. But then also, they do have an intention of improving their C4ISR capability. And they have been procuring their, you know, modernized reconnaissance airplane. And they are making some reorganization institutionally to improve that capacity in house.
And then I think that’s kind of gearing toward how to better connect with their American counterpart, when they have to operate in that type of emergency because they do see responsibility in, A, doing what they can in homeland defense, but then in a broader situation like, you know, Taiwan or Korean contingency, they see it that they need to take greater responsibility or burden, you know, in terms of, you know, surveillance, logistical support, you know, things of that nature. Not necessarily, you know, front line combat, but then rear area they’re thinking through a little bit more realistically, I think.
MR. KAZIANIS: Please.
Q: Thank you. My name is Genie Nguyen with Voice of Vietnamese Americans.
I would like to ask the panelists about the recently-built islands in the South China Sea, especially the Mischief Reef, the Fiery Cross and all that. How would that augment – how would that augment Chinese capability in increasing its A2/AD, in a way, strategy, especially with the control of the whole area? And where would Taiwan fit into that? Because Taiwan was the first one who originated the 11-dashed line. And Taiwan also has the ownership of the Itu Aba, which is the biggest island in the Spratlys.
And how do you expect ASEAN to react, given that, I think March 15 is the arbitration case of the Philippines coming in? And also, Indonesia, if it has any play in it? I know that Malaysia is the chair now and Malaysia directly have some part in it, but Indonesia being the other country that is not involved, but right around there and its capacity is (low ?) in the area. But the recent attitude policy that Widodo put out with all the fishing in the area, how can we put all of that together to help Southeast Asian nations in that area to protect the area? And what exactly can we do to stop the building?
MR. KAZIANIS: That’s a great question. I think the island reclamation projects that have happened over the last couple months and years have been a very hot topic. Who’d like to sort of jump in on that one?
MR. CLIFF: Well, maybe – I don’t know if Christel wants to talk about the ASEAN – how these are perceived in ASEAN. I will just tell you may take on how they related to anti-access/area denial, which is to say they’re really relatively insignificant, OK? An air base is not a straight piece of asphalt that’s 10,000 feet long and 50 feet wide.
An air base is a whole complex of things that includes storage locations for aircraft, fuel – and I’ll get back to fuel in a second – but places for the pilots to live in and so on. So just because you have an airstrip on an island, none – you know, these artificial islands they’re building are huge, but not big enough to actually hold any amount of military power that would be significant to the United States. Now, relative to the other countries in the region, yes, they could be very significant. But to the United States, it’s not an issue.
And again, the fuel issue – OK, how are – a wing of aircraft – OK, let’s take a squadron of aircraft goes through – in high-intensity combat operations burns through 300,000 gallons of aviation gasoline a day. That’s – you know, if you drive down the Jersey turnpike you see one of those giant round things? That’s one of those a day. So how are they going to keep any significant number of aircraft – combat aircraft, actually fuel in those islands in the face of U.S. opposition? Now, if you’re fighting the Vietnamese Air Force of the Philippine Air Force, that’s a different story.
So I don’t know if you want to add to that.
MS. FONZO-EBERHARD: I would – I would just say that I think ASEAN – you know, I mentioned earlier in my remarks, they are starting to work better together. And in doing so, they’re becoming a stronger unit, even if you don’t take into consideration the smaller – the smaller states, like Cambodia. So what does that mean? That means that, you know, last year when Myanmar was chair of ASEAN it was a – they did a remarkable job. And I think that further strengthened ASEAN. This year you have Malaysia. So I think they’re going to build off of very good performance from last year.
So what does that mean? I think that means that we start seeing actions like Vietnam consulting with Philippines on the case they brought forward to the international tribunal. I think – I think the other states, Indonesia, will try and be an arbiter and say, hey, everyone, settle down. Let’s try to resolve this peacefully. I think the ultimate goal is to resolve these disputes peacefully and, as best they can, to internationalize them and resolve them on international courts.
I think that’s going to start to be the approach and I think before it was just Philippines. Now you got Philippines and Vietnam. And I think you’re going to start to see a couple of the others join in on that. I think that’s part of – part – small part of what’s motivating Indonesia to become more of a naval supremacy power in the region, to work for its own sort of historical heritage, but also to work with ASEAN, because I think that as a – as a group they can – they can do a better job at managing, I think, what are real, real threats, which are Mother Nature – Vanuatu recently, right? So Supertyphoon Haiyan, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I think those are really, really the problems that ASEAN will struggle to contest and to work for.
MR. KAZIANIS: Great. Great. I think we are just about out of time – or do we have a little bit more? We’re out of time.
Well, I guess we’re going to have to leave it there. I want to thank the Atlantic Council and everybody coming out. If we can get a round of applause for our great panel today. (Applause.)