Far from the political upheaval in Washington and the continuing carnage in Iraq, the navies of the Pacific are girding themselves to provide more of the maritime security that is vital to their expanding economies.
In particular, the US and Asian navies are seeking to prevent the terror that has been spreading on land in Asia from moving to sea where it would threaten the lifelines of all but the landlocked nations of the region. These navies, however, are not doing so well in working together to prevent the shipment of nuclear weapons and missiles from North Korea to terrorists in Southeast Asia or elsewhere.
Led by South Korea, which has been seeking an accommodation with North Korea, several navies have balked at searching North Korean ships on the high seas.
A US naval intelligence report on terror in Asia says: "The number and lethality of attacks are growing as smaller, decentralized jihadist groups increase the violence against local political, security, and communal targets."
Many assaults occurred in the Philippines and southern Thailand.
This year, the report said, 1,015 people have been killed in 491 attacks, compared with 880 killed in 373 assaults last year. Safe havens for terrorists have been discovered in Bangladesh, the site of much civil strife, in Myanmar, Laos and Papua New Guinea.
Both US naval intelligence and the International Maritime Bureau in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which tracks piracy worldwide, reported a decline in sea robbery as navies and coast guards have gone on the offensive.
Piracy around Indonesia dropped to 40 incidents in the January-September period, compared with 61 in the same time last year. Even so, Indonesia still had the world's worst record for piracy.
The potential for a link-up between pirates and terrorists remains, the intelligence report says.
Some 70,000 ships pass through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea every year carrying half of the world's oil and a third of its commerce. A ship scuttled or blown up in those sea-lanes would cause unpredictable economic and political disruption.
The US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Mullen, told a recent naval symposium in Honolulu: "These ideologues, pirates, proliferators, criminals and terrorists are prevalent throughout the coastal regions that we are all obligated to protect."
He asserted: "Without maritime cooperation, we cannot hope to effectively battle these forces of instability."
The US Navy, however, has urged other navies to take on the greater share of responsibility for countering those predators. In Asia, colonialism ended only a few decades ago and Asians are sensitive to anything that they perceive encroaches on their sovereignty.
Aware of that, Admiral Gary Roughead, who commands the US Pacific Fleet, told the conference: "I made it clear that I don't want to be patrolling in other people's waters."
Similarly, the commander of all US forces in the Pacific, Admiral William Fallon, told Indonesian officers last February: "It's your neighborhood, you should do it yourself."
Mullen, Roughead, and leaders of 15 other navies gathered in Honolulu behind closed doors earlier this month for the annual Western Pacific Naval Symposium. A US Navy spokesman said the Proliferation Security Initiative, which US President George Bush said in Singapore was intended to halt the seaborne spread of nuclear material, was not discussed.
To combat piracy and terror, the US for several years has advocated having the world's 90,000 ships emulate aircraft, almost every one of which is monitored whenever it is in the air. Requiring ships to transmit an automatic identification system and having that information fed into collecting points would be critical.
Then, if a ship started to sail off its plotted track, a navy, coast guard, or law enforcement vessel -- or aircraft -- would check it out.
Roughead said some nations, such as Singapore, now require every ship that enters its waters have such a system. Since pirates usually use high-speed boats displacing less than 300 tonnes, Roughead said they should be included in any monitoring system.
The main task before the navy leaders was to find ways to gather and move information faster than pirates or terrorists could make decisions.
The technology exists and much of the discussion centered on methods of communicating quickly.
When Mullen was asked whether this effort would be a distraction from the US Navy's main mission of fighting wars, he was emphatic: "No, you pay me not to go to war. You pay me to prevent war. This is all part of the deterrence of war."
Richard Halloran is a writer based in Hawaii.
US President Donald Trump on Thursday issued executive orders barring Americans from conducting business with WeChat owner Tencent Holdings and ByteDance, the Beijing-based owner of popular video-sharing app TikTok. The orders are to take effect 45 days after they were signed, which is Sept. 20. The orders accuse WeChat of helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) review and remove content that it considers to be politically sensitive, and of using fabricated news to benefit itself. The White House has accused TikTok of collecting users’ information, location data and browsing histories, which could be used by the Chinese government, and pose
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) at a ceremony on July 30 officially commissioned China’s BeiDou-3 satellite navigation system. The constellation of satellites, which is now fully operational, was completed six months ahead of schedule. Its deployment means that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is now in possession of an autonomous, global satellite navigation system to rival the US’ GPS, Russia’s Glonass and the EU’s Galileo. Although Chinese officials have repeatedly sought to reassure the world that BeiDou-3 is primarily a civilian and commercial platform, US and European military experts beg to differ. Teresa Hitchens, a senior research associate at the University of
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) this week came under fire over his speech at a Rotary Club meeting in Taipei on Monday, when he said that Beijing’s military strategy toward Taiwan was “to let the first battle be the last.” If China started a cross-strait war, it would end quickly, without time for other nations to react, he said in his “Cross-Strait Relations and Taiwan Security” address, criticizing President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for saying that she hoped other nations would come to Taiwan’s aid in Beijing’s first wave of attacks. A president should prevent war from happening, not talk about how
There are few areas where Beijing, Taipei, and Washington find themselves in agreement these days, but one of them is that the situation in the Taiwan Strait is growing more dangerous. Such a shared assessment quickly breaks down, though, when the question turns to identifying sources of rising tensions. Several Chinese experts and officials I have consulted with recently have argued that Beijing’s increasingly belligerent behavior in the Taiwan Strait is driven mostly by fear. According to this narrative, Beijing is worried that unless it puts a brake on Taiwan’s move away from the mainland, Taiwan could be “lost” forever. They