Sunday, June 10, 2018

Behind the scenes of the new Cold War


As the waves of United States-led militarism increase across the Asia-Pacific region it is important to study some of the hidden features of the problem. By doing so it is possible to establish those responsible for the creation of the new Cold War.

The US-led military planning, for example, dates back to the early years of the 21st century and is now fully operational with the aim of encircling and containing Chinese influence in the region and elsewhere.

Early in June a carefully planned photograph was placed in the Australian newspaper accompanied by a US Defence Department media release following the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. (1) The photograph showed US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis diplomatically standing between  Australian Defence Minister Marise Payne with her Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera. The media release emphasised US-led initiatives to challenge the role of China in the region.

Behind the carefully prepared statement, however, lay important considerations.

Early in the 21st century then US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld introduced military planning designed for a Global Transformation of Defence and Security (GTDS). The planning included Japan becoming a fully-fledged hub for 'US interests' in the northern part of the region with Australia as a southern counterpart. It is now fully operational, with the two hubs directly linked to the US in triangular form.

The two hubs have then been linked with other countries in their part of the region. Recent research and development of the Australian-based Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN), for example, has revealed the significance of Canberra with US-led military planning toward the southern part of the region. The JORN system has a stated range of up to 3,000 kms from various military facilities, and 'this takes in parts of Java, all of Papua New Guinea and halfway across the Indian Ocean'. (2) The area concerned contains a myriad of sensitive shipping-lanes and military facilities.

Other estimates of the JORN system , however, provide a far greater range of operation from northern military facilities in Australia. 'Anecdotal evidence', it has been noted, 'suggest a range of at least 4,000 kms from the Australian coastline depending on atmospheric conditions, with some capability as far north as the Korean peninsula'. (3)

Developments in Japan, likewise, have not been difficult to monitor. Moves to drop the pacifist section of the Constitution imposed by the US after World War Two, have been accompanied by the establishment of a 'unified fighting force' linked to 'a central command station for Japan's Ground Self-Defence Force'. (4) The central command headquarters will also 'control Japan's five regional armies and a new amphibious brigade similar to the US marine corps'. (5) There are also two further considerations: the Japanese military have 'some of the world's most advanced weaponry; and most of it is compatible with Pentagon facilities due to the 'equipment being American-made'. (6)

The Japanese military is now ready for regional deployment at the behest of the US through technological and command systems under their control.

The US-led military war-drive has also had a further effect upon the higher levels of decision-making in Tokyo; diplomats 'who speak Chinese and have networks in China, have come under attack for being too conciliatory and have been removed from the front-line of diplomacy'. (7) The move has stoked the fires of the new Cold War, designed to serve 'US interests'.

After the initial planning of the GTDS, the Asia Security Summit: Shangri-La Dialogue was established the following year, in 2002, through the London-based Institute for Strategic Studies. The new organisation had two important considerations: to co-ordinate regional defence and security planning; many of the countries across the region had strong formal or informal links with the British Commonwealth. Eleven of the fifteen member countries of the Pacific Island Forum, for example, are also members of the Commonwealth.

Organised on the annual basis, the recent Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore was the seventeenth such meeting, and attracted five hundred senior defence officials and researchers from more than fifty countries. The three-day bean-feast, from 1-3 June, was composed of five plenary sessions on US leadership and various challenges to their position.  

The US regard the rise of China as an economic and military power as a direct challenge to their traditional hegemonic position. The region has, therefore, become a potential theatre of war with endless US-led military exercises organised through the GTDS, which take priority over traditional diplomatic relations. The problem of real-war scenarios is not idle posturing: at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue a media release noted the NATO Deputy Secretary-General was attending and that, 'Asia will be the central strategic theatre in the years ahead'. (8)

The US-led military build-up is not difficult to establish: last year, for example, 'the largest naval task force to leave Australia in forty years visited twelve countries in Asia exercising its right of passage and joining allied navies in major exercises'. (9) Next month 'the biennial US-led RIMPAC' (Exercise Rim of the Pacific) will include more than 25,000 sailors 'from as many as 27 countries'. (10) The Australian contribution toward the war-games include 'at least five war-ships'. (11)

Other annual US-led military exercises include the month-long Foal Eagle every April off the Korean peninsula. Nearly 300,000 South Korean military personnel are led by about 11,500 US military officials 'in a series of field training exercises'. (12) They are accompanied by Key Resolve military exercises which usually have 'tabletop exercises using mainly computer simulations' which include 'decapitation scenarios' for the leadership of the northern DPRK. (13)
It has, however, been the South Pacific region which has witnessed some of the most hostile US-led diplomacy against China in recent times. US military planners have acted, through their proxies, with a sense of heightened urgency: they pull the strings very hard on their puppets. 

When Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull travelled to London in April for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), his 'first three meetings', it was noted, 'were all with South Pacific leaders'. (14) The initial meetings were then followed by a 'top level security meeting with the three five-eyes partners attending the meeting, Britain, Canada and New Zealand'. (15) The remaining member of the five-eyes, the US, were not officially in attendance. They have a long history, however, of using 'cut-outs' to report immediately to the Pentagon.

The role thrust upon Australia by Pentagon military planners has been based in a neo-colonial mentality, raising tensions within countries of the South Pacific region. Melanesian and Polynesian countries tend to value their independence very highly, with an intense dislike of interference into their norms and values. It is, therefore, interesting to note while official media statements from the CHOGM stated, 'Britain is also looking at expanding its aid throughout the South Pacific', much of the proposed effort will be channelled through Australia. (16) Further references to Australian government planning to 'deepen economic integration, strengthen security partnerships, expand our people-to-people and talk about our development assistance', reveal a great deal about responsibilities thrust upon Australia from elsewhere. (17)

The statements were also accompanied by a recent official Australian government media release which 'the Pacific is Australia's part of the world'. (18) It also included further terms indicative of a backyard-type mentality with reference to 'we regard the Pacific as our part of the world, this is our region'. (19) Diplomatic links between Canberra and their counterparts in the South Pacific, under such circumstances, look set to become problematic in the future.

The moves have also been accompanied by a return to Cold War thinking by decision-makers in Canberra. A daily diet of literary drivel about Chinese spies in main media outlets and other areas has, however, been driven from Washington. (20) The rubbish is, nevertheless, allowed to meet the professional and academic requirements of modern mainstream journalism and scholarly research, which also clearly coincide to serve the interests of the political far-right. Professor Clive Hamilton of Charles Sturt University, for example, has recently produced a book where he claims the Chinese Communist Party is 'inserting agents of influence at all levels of Australian political life'. (21)

An announcement the Trump administration are planning a bill termed Countering the Chinese Government and Communist Party's Political Influence Operations Act, modelled on a previous piece of administration from 1985 where the focus was upon the former Soviet Union, should, under the circumstances, be no surprise. (22) The legislation has also included reference to espionage as being to any feature of Chinese foreign policy assessed as a 'threat to US interests'. (23)

It is hardly surprising, therefore, to note the US bill has been designed to 'enhance co-operation with Australia', a very important and vital component of the regional GTDS. (24) During recent times US officials have also conducted an assessment upon the ALP about support for proposed government legislation restricting media coverage under the guise of counter-intelligence. (25) The US want no opposition to their proposed legislation in Canberra, which will ultimately be used for draconian purposes.

We are living through another US-imposed Cold War.

1.     US mulls more South China Sea patrols,
        The Australian, 4 June 2018.

2.     Far-seeing JORN learns to multi-task,
        The Weekend Australian, 26-27 May 2018.

3.     Ibid.

4.     Japan unifies army for the first time since WW2 to counter China,
        The Australian, 6 April 2018.

5.     Ibid.

6.     Ibid.

7.     Choppy weather in the China Seas,
        Le Monde Diplomatique, December 2012.

8.     Minister's targeted message to China: stop the coersion,
        The Weekend Australian, 2-3 June 2018.

9.     Pacific neighbours are a priority for Payne,
        The Weekend Australian, 26-7 May 2018.

10.   China barred from Pacific naval exercises,
        The Australian, 25 May 2018.

11.   Ibid.

12.   Cut-back US-S Korean drills to resume,
        The Australian, 21 March 2018.

13.   Ibid.

14.   PM accused of 'strategic blunder' in Pacific,
        The Australian, 20 April 2018.

15.   Brits set to stir it up in the Pacific,
        The Australian, 19 April 2018.

16.   Ibid.

17.   Bishop's message to Beijing: this is our patch,
        The Australian, 5 June 2018.

18.   Ibid.

19.   Ibid.

20.   Foreign spy 'threat' to by-elections,
        The Australian, 8 June 2018.

21.   Chinese influence 'at all levels',
        The Australian, 14 November 2017.

22.   US congress takes Canberra's lead on China,
        The Australian, 5 June 2018.

23.   Ibid.

24.   US takes our lead on China influence,
        The Australian, 5 June 2018.

25.   US calls Labor MPs on foreign meddling,
        The Australian, 4 June 2018.

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