Last week I attended the Air Refueling Systems Advisory Group (ARSAG) annual conference in Tucson Arizona. The 20 plus nations with air refueling tankers in their inventories gave an overview of their refueling operations during the three day conference. I felt the best lecture given during the week came from Air Commodore Bill Kourelakos, the Commander of the Royal Air Australian Air Force Air Mobility group. He covered events and RAAF operations in Australia’s neighborhood. There was a lot more than a DIME’s worth in his lecture.
In the Diplomatic area,
The Australia Foreign Policy White Paper of 2017 stated the following, “The United States remains the most powerful country but its long dominance of the international order is being challenged by other powers. A post-Cold War lull in major power rivalry has ended. These trends are converging to create an uncertain outlook for Australia.” The uncertain outlook involves China. China is one of Australia’s largest trading partners. But China continues to build their islands in the South China Sea, which they could use to close off all air and sea traffic through the area. During any conflict in the region, the Australians will remain our critical ally. The Australia – New Zealand – US (ANZUS) Treaty of 1951 created the foundation of defense and security cooperation between the three countries. The Treaty was invoked for the first time by Australia in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. China has challenged Australian Navy ships transiting through the South China Sea. Any conflict in the South China Sea US forces would need basing and support from Australia, bringing their forces into the crosshairs.
In the Informational arena,
China uses their version of domestic law to claim the South China Sea islands they created. China claims the islands are not for military use. Satellite pictures show otherwise. SU-27 Flankers and H-6K Badger bombers participated in exercises. US military planes and warships operated in international waters next to the islands, causing a top General to say operations are irresponsible.
So much to say in the Military area,
This is a good explanation of the Chinese build up in the South China Sea. As Chinese bomber flights increased, so did US bomber flights from Guam. US Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft monitor China’s build up, a CNN crew flying with them recently. They monitored a Chinese Navy large force exercise recently. Here is why we do this.
In the Economic area,
Remember the number five. That is the amount of commerce moving through the South China Sea in TRILLIONS of dollars. The US and our allies need the shipping and air lanes to remain open through the South China Sea. China is capable of shutting all of that down from their island territories. The US and our allies lack a coherent strategy for China’s ambitions in the South China Sea. There are recommendations but will the US and our allies develop a strategy keeping air and sea lanes open remains a challenge.
— Final note, please let me know your feedback and suggestions on Twitter, your thought on this weeks DIME, and what do you want more or less of? Let me know by sending a tweet to @MarkHasara and put #nationsdime in the header.