Vietnam Goes Shopping for U.S. Military Hardware

Vietnam’s military is going shopping. Anxious about a more assertive China on its doorstep and frictions over territory in the South China Sea, officials in Hanoi recently hosted a group of foreign defense contractors looking to sell the Communist nation everything from radar systems to night vision technology and aircraft. The military’s top officers were… Continue reading Vietnam Goes Shopping for U.S. Military Hardware

Chinese Takeaway: PM Modi in Mongolia – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

With barely three million people deep inside the Eurasian steppe and sandwiched between Russia and China, Mongolia is an unlikely destination for Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week. China will certainly loom large over Modi’s three-nation tour, beginning Thursday. For, Modi is trying to move the Sino-Indian relationship out of the stasis that it finds itself in. Given his focus on “Make in India” and attracting foreign direct investment, Modi would want to end India’s prolonged political neglect of South Korea, one of the world’s leading economies, located at the heart northeast Asia. But Mongolia? Why has Modi chosen to be India’s first prime minister to visit Mongolia?

Some point to Mongolia’s potential as a source of natural uranium and other valuable minerals for India. But New Delhi already has agreements on uranium supplies with many countries from where it is easier to ship uranium than the landlocked Mongolia. Others would see rivalry with China as the driver behind Modi’s brief sojourn in Mongolia. If China spends so much political energy in cultivating India’s neighbours in the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, it has been argued, Delhi should be doing the same on China’s periphery.

C. Raja Mohan

More from this author…
The Great Game Folio: Manohar Parrikar and Ashton B. Carter
Chinese Takeaway: Parrikar Missing
A New Manual for Diplomats
The Great Game Folio: Peripheral Diplomacy
Mongolia is indeed a very sensitive neighbour of China, and the investment of the PM’s time in Mongolia seems worthwhile. To be sure, there has been a geopolitical dimension to India’s engagement with Mongolia. Over the last few years there, India and Mongolia have steadily expanded their defence exchanges and security cooperation.
But there are also limits to any Indian powerplay in Mongolia. With just two neighbours, with whom Mongolia has had difficult relations in the past, Ulaanbaatar has no interest in provoking either Russia or China by undertaking activities hostile to them. Like all small states with large neighbours, Mongolia wants a measure of “strategic autonomy” from them. The country, however, carefully calibrates its partnerships with other major powers. It also had to carefully circumscribe its relations with the Dalai Lama amid Chinese protestations.

Over the last quarter of a century, Mongolia has diversified its relations with an approach that is called the “third neighbour” policy. Originally developed vis-a-vis the United States in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, Mongolia has sought active cooperation with Germany, Europe, Japan and Korea. Ulaanbaatar has also taken to multilateralism, regional and international. Mongolia holds annual multilateral military exercises on its soil called the “Khaan Quest”, and has participated in UN Peacekeeping Operations. These activities have already given Mongolia an interesting global personality.

For Mongolia, India is more than a third neighbour — it is the “spiritual neighbour”. Buddhism travelled to Mongolia in different periods from India and Tibet to emerge as the dominant religious faith over the last two millennia. It has survived the Stalinist-era oppression of religion, when Mongolia became part of the Soviet sphere of influence after the Bolshevik Revolution.

India was the first country outside the socialist bloc to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia in 1955. Reviving its religious heritage and celebrating its new democratic orientation have become the major attributes of Mongolia after the 1990s, and India figures prominently in both domains. If the Mongolian state has put special emphasis on reaffirming the nation’s cultural identity, it might have found the right man in Modi.

During his travels over the last year — whether it was offering prayers to Lord Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Nepal, meditating at a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan or visiting the Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka — Modi has put shared religious heritage with neighbours at the centre of his regional engagement. Mongolia, then, offers many possibilities for Modi’s cultural diplomacy.

Modi, who used to express his interest in Buddhism when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, has now lent it a special mission in shaping the future of the subcontinent and Asia. Speaking in Delhi earlier this month on the occasion of Buddha Purnima, Modi said, “Without Buddha, the 21st century will not be Asia’s century.”

Modi has talked about the possibilities of restoring historic Buddhist sites in the subcontinent and promoting tourism by integrating them across borders through modern transportation facilities. If spiritualism and economic development are presented as two sides of the same coin by Modi, his three-nation tour this week will see Buddhism at the very forefront of India’s new Asian outreach.

This article was originally published in Indian Express.

via Chinese Takeaway: PM Modi in Mongolia – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

China’s Emerging Competitive Edge: Pentagon Report Reveals Regionally-Potent Military with Growing Reach Beyond

Andrew S. Erickson, “China’s Emerging Competitive Edge: Pentagon Report Reveals Regionally-Potent Military with Growing Reach Beyond,” China Analysis from Original Sources 以第一手资料研究中国, 9 May 2015. It’s that time of year again. The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has just released its annual report on Chinese military and security issues. It documents important trends in this area using… Continue reading China’s Emerging Competitive Edge: Pentagon Report Reveals Regionally-Potent Military with Growing Reach Beyond

Conflict in the South China Sea: Contingency Planning Memorandum Update

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea continue to be a source of tension and potential conflict between China and other countries in the region. Though the United States takes no position on sovereignty claims in the South China Sea—including those of its ally, the Philippines—it is deeply interested in maintaining maritime security, upholding freedom… Continue reading Conflict in the South China Sea: Contingency Planning Memorandum Update

Images show Vietnam South China Sea reclamation, China defends own

By David Brunnstrom and Ben Blanchard

WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) – Newly released images show Vietnam has carried out significant land reclamation at two sites in the disputed South China Sea, though the scale and pace is dwarfed by that of China, a U.S. research institute said.

In response, China condemned Vietnam’s actions, and said its work in the region was part of an obligation to the international community to improve navigation safety and contribute to science and research, including building observation platforms to monitor sea levels.

Satellite images shared with Reuters by Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), show an expansion of the land area of Vietnamese-controlled Sand Cay and West London Reef in the Spratly archipelago and the addition of buildings.

Mira Rapp-Hooper, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (, said the work included military installations and appeared to have started before China began a flurry of reclamation projects last year.

The photographs were taken by satellite imagery firm

Digital Globe between 2010 and April 30 this year.

“On one site, it has constructed a significant new area that was formerly under water and at another it has used land reclamation to add acreage to an existing island,” Rapp-Hoopersaid.

Vietnam’s government did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but routinely says it has sufficient legal and historical evidence to support its claims in the Spratlys.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries had been carrying out such reclamations for a long time on what she said were Chinese islands being illegally occupied.

“We demand that the relevant countries stop all their activities which infringe upon China’s sovereignty and rights,” she told a daily news briefing.


Hua added that China’s building work was partly to better fulfill its international obligations, including as part of a deal agreed at a UNESCO meeting in Paris in 1987.

There, she said, China was entrusted to build five out of 200 sea level observation platforms, including on the Spratlys.

“The scale of China’s construction should be commensurate with its responsibilities and obligations as a major country,” Hua added.

The speed of recent Chinese reclamation work has alarmed its neighbors and the United States, which sees it as a potential threat to the status quo in a region through which $5 trillion of sea-borne trade passes each year.

China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

New Vietnamese military facilities at Sand Cay appeared to include defensive positions and gun emplacements, and new buildings visible on West London Reef could also have military applications, Rapp-Hooper said.

“Strictly speaking, these photos show that China is right, “she said, “but we can safely say that the scope and scale of what China has undertaken is totally unprecedented and dwarfs Vietnam’s activities many times over.”

She said the images showed Vietnam had reclaimed about65,000 square meters (699,654 square feet) of land at West London Reef and 21,000 square meters (226,042 square feet) at Sand Cay. This compared to 900,000 square meters (9.6 million square feet) reclaimed by China at a single reef, Fiery Cross.

Rapp-Hooper said satellite images showed that since about March 2014, China had conducted reclamation work at seven site sin the Spratlys and was constructing a military-sized air strip on one artificial island and possibly a second on another.

She said Vietnam already had an airstrip on the Spratlys.

The U.S. State Department said it had “consistently called on all claimants, including Vietnam, to avoid taking unilateral actions that raise tensions, such as large-scale land reclamation, in disputed areas.”

A department spokesperson said the pace and scale of China’s recent reclamation work far outstripped that of other claimants.

The official said that before January 2014, China had only reclaimed about five hectares, but this had since soared to 2,000 acres (800 hectares), expanding the acreage on outposts it occupies by over four hundred times. Vietnam had reclaimed about 60 acres (24 hectares) since January 2009, the official said.

U.S. President Barack Obama last month accused China of” flexing its muscles” to advance its maritime claims and Washington has been helping countries in the region, including Vietnam, strengthen their defense capabilities.

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila and Martin Petty in Hanoi; Editing by Warren Strobel, Stuart Grudgings, Dean Yates and Mike Collett-White)

via Images show Vietnam South China Sea reclamation, China defends own.

South China Sea: China placing mobile artillery on reclaimed island, US says – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

PHOTO: The US Navy has released footage purporting to show Chinese vessels during outcrops into islands. (Reuters/US Navy)

The United States says China has placed mobile artillery weapons systems on a reclaimed island in the disputed South China Sea, a development that Republican senator John McCain has called “disturbing and escalatory”.

Brent Colburn, a Pentagon spokesman travelling with defence secretary Ash Carter, said the United States was aware of the weapons.

Senator McCain, chairman of the Senate’s armed services committee, said the move would escalate tensions but not lead to conflict.

“It is a disturbing development and escalatory development, one which heightens our need to make the Chinese understand that their actions are in violation of international law and their actions are going to be condemned by everyone in the world,” he said at a news conference in Ho Chi Minh City.

“We are not going to have a conflict with China but we can take certain measures which will be a disincentive to China to continue these kinds of activities,” he said.

In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she had no information on the weapons.

Chinese ships busy transforming outcrops into islands

US officials said Chinese dredging work had added some 2,000 acres to five outposts in the resource-rich Spratly islands in the South China Sea, including 1,500 acres this year.

It has released surveillance plane footage showing dredgers and other ships busily turning remote outcrops into islands with runways and harbours.

Mr Carter called on Wednesday for an immediate halt to land reclamation in the South China Sea and was expected to touch on the issue of maritime security and freedom of navigation again in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue security conference in Singapore.

China says the islands are in sovereign Chinese territory.

Pentagon officials said efforts by China and other claimant countries to turn reefs into islands in the Spratlys undermines international law and raises questions about their future plans and intentions.

“It creates an air of uncertainty in a system that has been based on certainty and agreed-upon norms,” said Mr Colburn, the Pentagon spokesman.

“So anything that steps outside of the bounds of international law we see as a concern because we don’t know what the … motivations are behind that. We think it should concern everyone in the region.”

Asian military attaches and analysts said the placement of mobile artillery pieces appeared to be a symbol of intent, rather than any major development that could tilt any balance of power.

“It is interesting and a point to watch. But it should be remembered they’ve already got potentially a lot more firepower on the naval ships that they routinely move through the South China Sea,” one military attache said.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the vital trade route.

All claimants except Brunei have military fortifications in the Spratlys

via South China Sea: China placing mobile artillery on reclaimed island, US says – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Vietnam buys submarine-launched land attack missiles to deter China – World | The Star Online

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Vietnam is arming its expanding submarine fleet with land attack missiles that could be capable of reaching Chinese coastal cities, a choice of weapon likely to be seen as provocative by China in the ongoing South China Sea dispute.

A little-noticed filing to the United Nations made by Vietnam last year, and reviewed by Reuters, shows it has bought the Russian-made land attack variant of the Klub missile for its state-of-the-art Kilo attack submarines.

The filing came to light after the independent Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently updated data on its website to show Vietnam’s acquisition.

Regional military attaches and analysts see the missiles as a further sign of Vietnam’s determination to counter the rise of China’s larger military and part of a broader trend of Asian countries re-arming amid rising territorial tensions.

The choice of weapon is a more assertive one than the anti-shipping missiles Vietnam was expected to obtain.

While those would potentially target Chinese ships and submarines in the South China Sea, the land attack weapons are capable of precision strikes at a range of 300 kilometres, making China’s coastal cities potential targets in any conflict.

Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam’s military at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said the move was a “massive shift” beyond more routine anti-ship tactics.

“They’ve given themselves a much more powerful deterrent that complicates China’s strategic calculations,” he said, adding he was surprised by the move.

Vietnam is the first Southeast Asian nation to arm its submarine fleet with a land attack missile.

The Vietnamese defence and foreign ministries have yet to respond to questions submitted by Reuters. Vietnamese military officials have previously described Vietnam’s arms build-up, including the submarine purchases, as defensive.

Moscow-based Almaz-Antey, parent company of the missiles’ manufacturer Novator, declined to comment on any weapon sales to Vietnam.


Rather than risk an attack on cities such as Shanghai, it is more likely Vietnam would see closer ports and airfields, such as the naval base at Sanya on China’s Hainan Island and facilities on land reclamations China is building in the South China Sea, as potential targets, Thayer said.

While communist parties rule both Vietnam and China, Hanoi has long been wary of China, especially over Beijing’s claims to most of the potentially oil-rich South China Sea.

Beijing’s placement of an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam last year sparked riots in Vietnam and infuriated Hanoi’s leadership.

The two navies routinely eye each other over disputed holdings in the sea’s Spratly islands, which straddle some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

Before obtaining the weapons, Hanoi’s previous land attack capabilities were limited to a handful of ageing Scud missiles and more limited weapons fired by Russian-built Su-30 aircraft.

Vietnam’s navy has taken possession of three Russian-built Kilos and a fourth is in transit under a $2.6 billion deal struck with Moscow in 2009, according to Vietnamese state press reports. A fifth is undergoing sea-trials off St Petersburg and a final sixth submarine is due for completion in 2016.

SIPRI has logged the sale of 50 anti-ship and land attack Klubs to Vietnam as part of the deal, with 28 having been delivered already over the last two years. The precise number of land attack missiles it has bought is not publicly available.

Collin Koh of Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies said it was unclear whether Vietnam had the full electronic capabilities to deploy the missiles at peak effectiveness.

“But even with those caveats, this is still significant… the Vietnamese have realised that without the ability to launch a counterstrike, their deterrence would have been quite limited.”

Moscow-based strategic analyst Vasily Kashin said the Kilos sold to Vietnam are more advanced than those used by China while Moscow has never sold the Klub land attack missile to Beijing, which has developed its own similar weapon, the YJ-18.

Zha Daojiong, an international relations professor at Beijing’s Peking University, said the move was part of a “normal” regional rearmament trend and Hanoi would be aware of the costs of ever using them against China.

“It is a loaded pistol, but can (they) afford to fire it?,” he said.

China’s Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng, when asked about the missiles and whether Beijing had expressed concern about them to Hanoi, said the two country’s militaries were always in close touch.

“We have confidence we can together properly maintain this relationship,” Geng told a monthly news briefing on Thursday.

Trevor Hollingsbee, a former naval intelligence analyst with Britain’s defence ministry, said Vietnam was creating China’s biggest strategic headache in the South China Sea.

“All indications are that they are surmounting the submarine learning curve quite rapidly…this is a very real problem for China,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Martin Petty in HANOI, Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Gleb Stolyarov in MOSCOW; Editing by Rachel Armstrong)

via Vietnam buys submarine-launched land attack missiles to deter China – World | The Star Online.