Confronting China at Sea

Is there a chink in their armour? Could someone nip their ambitions in the bud? We need to know!

'Until recently a naval war between Japan and China was not a serious proposition. As recently as the 1980s, China was a “green water” navy barely capable of protecting its own coastline, let alone projecting naval power several hundred miles away. Japan, on the other hand, had a large force of fully modern destroyers tasked with protecting sea lines of communication out to a thousand miles. As long as it stayed clear of the occasional large antiship cruise missile and volleys of unguided torpedoes, the Japanese navy could easily defeat whatever China threw at it.

'That has changed. More than a quarter century of Chinese defense increases have amounted to an overall tenfold increase in military spending. Beijing’s defense spending, both official and unofficial, likely amounts to more than $200 billion—nearly five times as much as Japan’s roughly $43 billion. This has had serious implications for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, as its potential Chinese adversaries are now better armed and trained than ever.

'In considering any Japan-China naval war, we should be mindful of their respective naval doctrines. The Maritime Self-Defense Force is an almost purely defensive force, trained to escort convoys to and from Japan, conduct antisubmarine warfare, protect the country from ballistic-missile attack, and conduct humanitarian operations. It is defensively armed, with relatively few antiship missiles and no cruise missiles. Offensive operations, with the exception of amphibious landings to take back national territory, are unheard of. While this is a noble approach to warfare, it also makes it very difficult to terminate a conflict on Japan’s terms.'


 
Is there a chink in their armour? Could someone nip their ambitions in the bud? We need to know!

'Until recently a naval war between Japan and China was not a serious proposition. As recently as the 1980s, China was a “green water” navy barely capable of protecting its own coastline, let alone projecting naval power several hundred miles away. Japan, on the other hand, had a large force of fully modern destroyers tasked with protecting sea lines of communication out to a thousand miles. As long as it stayed clear of the occasional large antiship cruise missile and volleys of unguided torpedoes, the Japanese navy could easily defeat whatever China threw at it.

'That has changed. More than a quarter century of Chinese defense increases have amounted to an overall tenfold increase in military spending. Beijing’s defense spending, both official and unofficial, likely amounts to more than $200 billion—nearly five times as much as Japan’s roughly $43 billion. This has had serious implications for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, as its potential Chinese adversaries are now better armed and trained than ever.

'In considering any Japan-China naval war, we should be mindful of their respective naval doctrines. The Maritime Self-Defense Force is an almost purely defensive force, trained to escort convoys to and from Japan, conduct antisubmarine warfare, protect the country from ballistic-missile attack, and conduct humanitarian operations. It is defensively armed, with relatively few antiship missiles and no cruise missiles. Offensive operations, with the exception of amphibious landings to take back national territory, are unheard of. While this is a noble approach to warfare, it also makes it very difficult to terminate a conflict on Japan’s terms.'


The Japanese armed forces being only for self defence in limited areas is a result of their constitution, which was written by the Americans and imposed on the Japanese following WWII. That the Japanese have as much of a defence force as they have is the result of their wriggling through various loop-holes in the constitution, as the Americans intended them to have nothing at all beyond police for keeping order.

This was all created at a time when China was a US ally and the Americans were determined that Japan should never again become a serious military power who could challenge US dominance in east Asia.

The Japanese fleet are focused on commerce protection, which makes a great deal of sense given their geographic position. There is no way though that Japan can hope to build a navy which can control the seas of the western Pacific. They're just too small and geography, economics, and demographics are against them.
 

The key for the U.S. is to gradually bend Chinese behavior without breaking the international relationship in a way that leads into a Cold War or armed conflict. The best way to do that is to bring more international allies into the freedom of navigation patrols (including North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners along with Australia and Japan); increase U.S. engagement with Taiwan, particularly in military-to-military cooperation; insist on a full-blown international investigation into the Wuhan outbreak of the coronavirus; and build stronger relations with other nations around the littoral of the South China Sea.

So playing chicken with the chinks?
 

riksavage

Old-Salt
Ethnic Chinese are a dominant force across APAC, they have all the money; whether Chinese-Indonesian, Malaysian-Chinese, Filipino-Chinese etc. The CCP love to play the ‘we’re all Chinese together’ narrative and will leverage off the race card against the West and Japanese. Ethnic Chinese will never forget what the Japs did to them during the occupation of China and Malaya in WW2.
 

The key for the U.S. is to gradually bend Chinese behavior without breaking the international relationship in a way that leads into a Cold War or armed conflict. The best way to do that is to bring more international allies into the freedom of navigation patrols (including North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners along with Australia and Japan); increase U.S. engagement with Taiwan, particularly in military-to-military cooperation; insist on a full-blown international investigation into the Wuhan outbreak of the coronavirus; and build stronger relations with other nations around the littoral of the South China Sea.

So playing chicken with the chinks?
And given that NATO (as opposed to individual alliance members) finds it extremely difficult to fill the ORBAT of its Standing Naval Forces, operating in close proximity to Europe, the thought of a NATO TF conducting freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea is a triumph of optimism over reality.
 
And given that NATO (as opposed to individual alliance members) finds it extremely difficult to fill the ORBAT of its Standing Naval Forces, operating in close proximity to Europe, the thought of a NATO TF conducting freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea is a triumph of optimism over reality.
Which leaves the SCS to local players with their own national agendas and whatever the US can spare/afford/sustain.
 
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