South China Sea: Beijing boosts naval power!


South China Sea: Beijing boosts naval power!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
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Recently on June 28, China launched what it calls the most advanced and largest warship in Asia on Wednesday, billing it as a major step forward in the modernisation of its navy. As the first of the new Type 055 guided-missile destroyers – which have a displacement of more than 12,000 tonnes – military experts said it was designed to accompany the country’s future aircraft carrier battle groups. The destroyer was built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai and was equipped with air ¬defence, anti-missile, anti-ship and anti-submarine weapons. The Type 055 destroyer is similar in size to the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke class ships and is billed as a major step forward for Chinese sea power.

USA cannot attack China by sea.

Obviously, China is serious about its claims of South China Sea and has been developing its navy on the one hand and the region with modern military facilities, on the other. China claims nearly all of the South China Sea — a vast tract of water through which a huge chunk of global shipping passes. Not only is the South China Sea (SCS) a major shipping route but also a zone of high rich energy resources. Hence USA is also keen to intervene in the dispute and hence there is tension in the region. Several countries have supported the Chinese position on the South China Sea issue.
China has bolstered its claim by building artificial islands including airstrips in the area, some of which are suitable for military use. Other regional powers the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims to parts of the sea, which is believed to harbour significant oil and gas deposits.
The launch of the warship marks an important step towards China’s dream of having a strong and modern naval force, General Zhang Youxia, a member of the Central Military Commission who oversees the army’s equipment, was quoted as saying at the launch ceremony. Military analysts said the Type 055 was in theory the world’s second most powerful destroyer – after the US Navy’s DDG-1000, or the Zumwalt class. The capabilities of the Type 055 surpass South Korea’s DDG-991 and Japan’s ¬Atago class, which have a 10,000 ton displacement.

With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ¬People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.
The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ¬analyst Zhou Chenming. “In some respects – such as the size, radar system, missile capacity and the multifunctionality in use – the Type 055 has now caught up, or at least it’s on the same level as the United States’ main ¬destroyer,” Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert, said.

With its size far exceeding a standard destroyer, the launch of the Chinese-designed and built 055 was as significant as that of an aircraft carrier, affording the ¬People’s Liberation Army Navy advanced sea capability and weaponry development, experts said.
The need to protect the country’s overseas interests and vital waterways used by oil tankers and cargo ships is expected to increase as the country’s ambitious belt and road trade initiative starts to take shape. But unlike the US Navy, which has a true global presence, PLA ships do not have many overseas ports for resupply, according to Beijing-based military ¬analyst Zhou Chenming.

Li said the warship would play an important role escorting aircraft carriers or the new advanced Type 071 amphibious assault ships, and it could also lead a comprehensive combat group of smaller destroyers and frigates. For these purposes the PLA Navy would need at least 10 Type 055 destroyers, and at the current capacity China could build one or two a year, Li said.
Meanwhile, the sheer size of the warship means there is space for more – and more powerful – weapons. Before the 055, the PLA Navy’s most advanced destroyer was the Type 052D, a 7,500-tonne vessel that squeezed in a flat-array radar, a 64-cell vertical launch system (VLS) and long-range anti-air missiles.

The Type 055, according to the Jane’s Defence Weekly, is over 180 metres long – more than 20 ¬metres longer than 052D. It has a 128-cell VLS and missiles to attack planes, ships, submarines and missiles, making it the most powerful destroyer in Asia. Given its size, it could also serve as a platform to develop the next generation of weapons, such as high-energy radio-frequency equipment, Zhou said.“When you have a bigger home, you can fit in different new furniture.” But Macau-based military analyst Antony Wong Dong said the Type 055 had some “disappointing” design flaws. The relatively low positioning of its flat-array radar system would affect its range of detection, he said, while the use of light aluminum alloy in the upper decks would make it vulnerable to damage.
“Despite its very modern stealth shape, the damage control capability is a big concern,” Wong said. “The design follows the Chinese convention, probably due to a lack of experience … in a combat situation.”
Next, the warship will undergo equipment and sea testing and it is due to enter service next year.

The SCS area may be rich in oil and natural gas deposits; however, the estimates are highly varied. The Ministry of Geological Resources and Mining of the People’s Republic of China estimate that the South China Sea may contain 17.7 billion tons of crude oil (compared to Kuwait with 13 billion tons). However, other sources claim that the proven reserve of oil in the South China Sea may only be 7.5 billion barrels, or about 1.1 billion tons According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)’s profile of the South China Sea region, a US Geological Survey estimate puts the region’s discovered and undiscovered oil reserves at 11 billion barrels, as opposed to a Chinese figure of 125 billion barrels. The same EIA report also points to the wide variety of natural gas resource estimations, ranging from 190 trillion cubic feet to 500 trillion cubic feet, likely located in the contested Reed Bank”.
The South China Sea is dubbed by China as the “second Persian Sea.” The state-owned China Offshore Exploration Corp. planned to spend 200 billion RMB (US$30 billion) in the next 20 years to exploit oil in the region, with the estimated production of 25 million metric tons of crude oil and natural gas per annum, at a depth of 2000 meters within the next five years.
China claims almost all of the energy-rich South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of maritime trade passes each year. USA is major user of the sea route mainly for trade purposes.
China questions American surveillance activities and other military activities over the South China Sea.  China’s construction activities and military preparatory actions have drawn criticism from the USA. The United States is not a claimant in the South China Sea dispute but says it has an interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight in the area.
The USA and China are currently in disagreement over the South China Sea. This disagreement is exacerbated by the fact that the USA is not a member of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Nevertheless, the USA has stood by its maneuvers, claiming that “peaceful surveillance activities and other military activities without permission in a country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), is allowed under the convention.
The South China Sea disputes involve both island and maritime claims among several sovereign states within the region, namely Brunei, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Non-claimants want the South China Sea to remain as international waters, with the United States conducting “freedom of navigation” operations.

There are disputes concerning both the Spratly and the Paracel islands, as well as maritime, areas near to sea, boundaries in the Gulf of Tonkin and elsewhere. There is a further dispute in the waters near the Indonesian Natuna Islands. The interests of different nations include acquiring fishing areas around the two archipelagos; the potential exploitation of crude oil and natural gas under the waters of various parts of the South China Sea, and the strategic control of important shipping lanes.
In February 2016, President Obama initiated the US-ASEAN Summit at Sunny lands for closer engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Territorial disputes in the South China Sea were a major topic, but its joint statement, the “Sunnylands Declaration” called for “respect of each nation’s sovereignty and for international law”. Analysts believe it indicates divisions within the group on how to respond to China’s maritime strategy.
China has reacted angrily to a US decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering North Korean money. A foreign ministry spokesman urged the US to “stop wrongful actions” to avoid harming co-operation. The US announced the move, as well as sanctions on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese nationals, on Thursday.
It said the blacklisting was aimed at cutting funds to North Korea’s weapons programmes.
“We will follow the money and cut off the money,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a news conference. But he said the move was not a response to Chinese inaction on North Korea, saying: “This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China.”

The UN has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang, but China is widely seen as the nation most able to impose economic pain on North Korea.  Washington has been pushing Beijing for tougher measures amid a series of missile tests by Pyongyang. But in a tweet earlier this month, President Donald Trump said China’s actions had “not worked out”.
The sanctions mean that the Bank of Dandong will be barred from doing business in the US.
The US Treasury said it had been “a conduit for illicit North Korean financial activity” and facilitated “millions of dollars of transactions for companies involved in North Korea’s WMD (weapons of mass destruction) and ballistic missile programs”. Two Chinese nationals accused of creating front companies for North Korean entities and a shipping company, Dalian Global Unity Shipping, accused of smuggling luxury goods to North Korea, have also been blacklisted. Mnuchin said that the US could impose more sanctions in the future. The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said the US action went “against the important spirit” of the apparently friendly meeting between Trump and US President Xi Jinping at the US president’s Florida resort in April.
The sanctions came as the US announced the sale of $1.42bn (£1.09bn) worth of arms to Taiwan, the first such transaction under the Trump administration. US arms sales to Taiwan always anger Beijing because it considers the self-governing island part of its territory. It also came as new South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited Washington for talks with Trump on security issues.

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