Navy Lights

Navy Lights

Thursday, March 31, 2016

China Does Not Surprise: "Defends Deployment of Anti-Ship Missiles to South China Sea Island"

Paracels in the yellow box
Least surprising headline of he day so far China Defends Deployment of Anti-Ship Missiles to South China Sea Island as captured by Sam LaGrone at USNI News:
Beijing is defending the deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles to Woody Island in the South China Sea, according to a Wednesday statement from the Chinese foreign ministry.

“China’s deployment of national defense facilities on its own territory is reasonable and justified,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday.
“It has nothing to do with the so-called militarization.”

Last week, several international news outlets reported the Chinese fired an YJ-62 cruise missile from Woody Island based on images that emerged on the Chinese language Internet.
Revisit that double-speak again - putting missiles someplace - "“It has nothing to do with the so-called militarization.”

Orwell would be so proud.

Remember when a justification for their efforts in the South China Sea was:
Beijing has cast a peaceful light on its construction of airfields, ports and radar antennae on 800 hectares of new man-made islands in the South China Sea, claiming they are intended for humanitarian concerns like maritime search and rescue, disaster relief, and navigational security, and to aid environmental protection. (source)
Nothing says disaster relief like a friendly slew of Y-62 anti-ship missiles and companion HQ-9 anti-air missile batteries.

Further, the Y-62 has a guessstimated range of about +180 miles. For my purposes, I bump it up to about 240 miles or about 380 km. Given that, here's a map of what arming the Paracels does to the threat area posed by the Chinese in the South China Sea with the area within the yellow lines being within the range of these missiles:



Now, is this any greater threat than from aircraft flying out of Chinese bases located on the mainland or Hainan Island? Sure - it's a time, distance and readiness issue if you think about it.

It's pretty damn strategic position to control a large chunk of the South China Sea, ain't it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Back to the Falklands, Continental Shelf Edition

BBC News headline Falkland Islands fears new ruling expanding Argentina's sea control:
The government of the Falkland Islands says it is unhappy about a decision by an international commission to expand Argentina's waters to include those around the UK-sovereign lands.
The decision, which is not yet final, follows a move by Argentina in 2009 to expand its maritime territory to include that of the islands, known as the Malvinas in Argentina.
The move will increase its waters in the South Atlantic Ocean by 35%.
The area is potentially rich in oil.
On the other hand, there are many Argentinians who are delighted with this "ruling" though, as the UK government notes:
But the prime minister’s official spokeswoman said the UK government had not yet seen the full report, and stressed that the commission was merely an advisory body.

“It’s important to note that this is an advisory committee – it makes recommendations, they are not legally binding and the commission does not have jurisdiction over sovereignty issues.

“What’s important is what do the Falkland islanders themselves think? They’ve been clear that they want to remain an overseas territory of the UK and we will still support their right to determine their own future.”
I know there are emotional issues of national pride, etc, but there is that "oil" thing lurking in the background, isn't there?

Further, underneath all of this is the issue of the rights granted to any nation under the "continental shelf." Some of this is covered nicely in this MercoPress report, "Argentina, on a UN decision expands continental shelf area by 35% to 350 miles":
This means Argentina's shelf will increase 1.7m sq km from its current 4.8m sq km, and refers to the area from the 200 miles to the shelf slope. This represents a 35% expansion of its continental shelf.
According to reports in the Argentine media, CLCS on its 40th plenary session of last March 11, made public it had finally adopted the presentation on the shelf request, which was made back in 2009.
“We're reaffirming our sovereignty rights over the resources from our continental shelf, minerals, hydrocarbons and sedentary species”, Ms Malcorra was quoted in anticipation of Monday's official announcement at the San Martin Palace.
Attending the event will be Deputy minister Carlos Foradori, president of National Committee on the limit of the Argentine continental platform, COPLA, officers from the Navy and Coast Guard plus lawmakers.
“The demarcation of the exterior limit of the continental shelf constitutes a clear example of a State policy in which Argentina has worked professionally during twenty years with the purpose of reaffirming our presence, conservation of our resources and reaffirming our sovereignty rights over a zone politically, economically and strategically so important in the South Atlantic”, added Ms Malcorra.
This acknowledgement means the UN accept there is a dispute over the South Atlantic islands, and is “another diplomatic victory” for Argentina said Deputy minister Foradori.
However, “Argentina will not exercise these rights over territories and maritime spaces which the United Kingdom is administrating unilaterally since 1833”.
***
The shelf refers to the sea floor and subsoil from the 200 miles maritime zone up to the natural extension of the continental territory with a 350 miles limit.
The UN CLCS is a scientific commission made up of 21 international experts and in the case of Argentina's presentation the decision was unanimous.
You can read about the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf here:
The purpose of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (the Commission or CLCS) is to facilitate the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention) in respect of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles (M) from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. Under the Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer limits of its continental shelf where it extends beyond 200 M on the basis of the recommendation of the Commission. The Commission shall make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of those limits; its recommendations and actions shall not prejudice matters relating to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts.
Part VI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) defines the "continental shelf":
1. The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.
That 200 mile limit is subject to refinement (expansion) under certain conditions:
4. (a) For the purposes of this Convention, the coastal State shall establish the outer edge of the continental margin wherever the margin extends beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, by either:

(i) a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to the outermost fixed points at each of which the thickness of sedimentary rocks is at least 1 per cent of the shortest distance from such point to the foot of the continental slope; or

(ii) a line delineated in accordance with paragraph 7 by reference to fixed points not more than 60 nautical miles from the foot of the continental slope.

(b) In the absence of evidence to the contrary, the foot of the continental slope shall be determined as the point of maximum change in the gradient at its base.

5. The fixed points comprising the line of the outer limits of the continental shelf on the seabed, drawn in accordance with paragraph 4 (a)(i) and (ii), either shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured or shall not exceed 100 nautical miles from the 2,500 metre isobath, which is a line connecting the depth of 2,500 metres.

6. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 5, on submarine ridges, the outer limit of the continental shelf shall not exceed 350 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. This paragraph does not apply to submarine elevations that are natural components of the continental margin, such as its plateaux, rises, caps, banks and spurs.
So, what the CLCS has done is to find that Argentina has made its case that its continental shelf extends out past 200 miles to 350 miles in places.

Why does that matter? See Article 77:
Article77

Rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf

1. The coastal State exercises over the continental shelf sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring it and exploiting its natural resources.

2. The rights referred to in paragraph 1 are exclusive in the sense that if the coastal State does not explore the continental shelf or exploit its natural resources, no one may undertake these activities without the express consent of the coastal State.

3. The rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or on any express proclamation.

4. The natural resources referred to in this Part consist of the mineral and other non-living resources of the seabed and subsoil together with living organisms belonging to sedentary species, that is to say, organisms which, at the harvestable stage, either are immobile on or under the seabed or are unable to move except in constant physical contact with the seabed or the subsoil.(highlights added)
Back to the oil issue.

Further, this "continental shelf issue" is are playing out in the Arctic Ocean, where Russia (and others) have assert that they have "sovereign rights" over large portions of the seabed for purposes of exploration and exploitation. See the IBT's Russia submits claim over Arctic and North Pole to UN citing scientific proof from June 2015:
Russia has re-submitted its petition to the United Nations claiming
exclusive control over 1.2 million square kms of the Arctic sea shelf, based this time on what its foreign ministry calls "ample scientific data".

The region contains some of the world's largest untapped reserves of oil and gas besides valuable minerals. The US, Canada, Denmark and Norway have also been trying to gain control over parts of the Arctic.

This is the second time Russia has staked its claim to what it sees as its territory. Earlier in 2002, the UN rejected the bid on lack of evidence.
Oil and gas.

See also here

Monday, March 28, 2016

Malaysia Complains About Chinese Fishing Fleet "Intruding" Into Its Waters, Indonesia Continues Protest of Chinese Incursions

The Philippine Star reports, Malaysia says 100 China boats intrude into its waters:
About 100 China-registered boats have been detected encroaching into Malaysian waters
near the Luconia Shoals in the South China Sea, a Malaysian minister said.

Shahidan Kassim, a minister in charge of national security, said the government has dispatched the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency and the navy to the area to monitor the situation.

Shahidan was quoted by the national Bernama news agency on Friday as saying that legal enforcement action would be taken if the Chinese vessels are found to have entered Malaysia's exclusive economic zone.
More from Reuters here:
Shahidan did not specify what type of Chinese vessels had been spotted but a Maritime Enforcement Agency official said they were fishing boats guarded by two Chinese coastguard vessels.

China claims most of the South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Its Southeast Asian neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, also claim parts of the sea, as does Taiwan.

China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, asked about the Malaysian report at a briefing on Friday, said he did not "understand the details" of what Malaysia had said.

"Now is the fishing season in the South China Sea ... At this time of year, every year, Chinese trawlers are in the relevant waters carrying out normal fishing activities," Hong said. He did not elaborate.

In the GoogleEarth image above, the yellow line from the shoals to the nearest point in Malaysia is about 110 miles. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),  "Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)" is defined:
The exclusive economic zone is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea, subject to the specific legal regime established in this Part, under which the rights and jurisdiction of the coastal State and the rights and freedoms of other States are governed by the relevant provisions of this Convention.

Article56

Rights, jurisdiction and duties of the coastal State in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:

(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;

(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:

(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;

(ii) marine scientific research;

(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;

(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.

2. In exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention.

3. The rights set out in this article with respect to the seabed and subsoil shall be exercised in accordance with Part VI.

Article57

Breadth of the exclusive economic zone

The exclusive economic zone shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.

Article58

Rights and duties of other States in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.

2. Articles 88 to 115 and other pertinent rules of international law apply to the exclusive economic zone in so far as they are not incompatible with this Part.

3. In exercising their rights and performing their duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, States shall have due regard to the rights and duties of the coastal State and shall comply with the laws and regulations adopted by the coastal State in accordance with the provisions of this Convention and other rules of international law in so far as they are not incompatible with this Part.

***
Article60

Artificial islands, installations and structures in the exclusive economic zone

1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have the exclusive right to construct and to authorize and regulate the construction, operation and use of:

(a) artificial islands;

(b) installations and structures for the purposes provided for in article 56 and other economic purposes;

(c) installations and structures which may interfere with the exercise of the rights of the coastal State in the zone.

2. The coastal State shall have exclusive jurisdiction over such artificial islands, installations and structures, including jurisdiction with regard to customs, fiscal, health, safety and immigration laws and regulations.

3. Due notice must be given of the construction of such artificial islands, installations or structures, and permanent means for giving warning of their presence must be maintained. Any installations or structures which are abandoned or disused shall be removed to ensure safety of navigation, taking into account any generally accepted international standards established in this regard by the competent international organization. Such removal shall also have due regard to fishing, the protection of the marine environment and the rights and duties of other States. Appropriate publicity shall be given to the depth, position and dimensions of any installations or structures not entirely removed.

4. The coastal State may, where necessary, establish reasonable safety zones around such artificial islands, installations and structures in which it may take appropriate measures to ensure the safety both of navigation and of the artificial islands, installations and structures.

5. The breadth of the safety zones shall be determined by the coastal State, taking into account applicable international standards. Such zones shall be designed to ensure that they are reasonably related to the nature and function of the artificial islands, installations or structures, and shall not exceed a distance of 500 metres around them, measured from each point of their outer edge, except as authorized by generally accepted international standards or as recommended by the competent international organization. Due notice shall be given of the extent of safety zones.

6. All ships must respect these safety zones and shall comply with generally accepted international standards regarding navigation in the vicinity of artificial islands, installations, structures and safety zones.

7. Artificial islands, installations and structures and the safety zones around them may not be established where interference may be caused to the use of recognized sea lanes essential to international navigation.

8. Artificial islands, installations and structures do not possess the status of islands. They have no territorial sea of their own, and their presence does not affect the delimitation of the territorial sea, the exclusive economic zone or the continental shelf.
The Republic of Indonesia (RI) has a beef, too, Govt: RI does not recognize
China's ‘traditional fishing zone’
:
Via a chargé d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta in a meeting with Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi earlier this week, the Chinese government denied that the Chinese fishing vessel and the country’s coast guard had violated Indonesian territory, claiming they had been in an area China calls its “traditional fishing zone”.

“In a verbal communication conveyed by the chargé d'affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, they said the incident occurred in China’s traditional fishing zone,” Retno said at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister in Jakarta on Thursday.

The minister added she had explained to the Chinese representative that Indonesia did not recognize the so-called traditional fishing zone.

“In the meeting we asked: ‘What does the traditional fishing zone mean?’ to clarify the meaning of this terminology,” said Retno.

“We don’t recognize this terminology at all. And, based on what reasons could this terminology exist?” she went on.
***
In the protest note, Indonesia conveyed three points of objection to measures taken by the Chinese maritime security patrol, which Jakarta believes protected illegal fishing activities in Indonesian waters.

In the first point, the Indonesian government protested the Chinese maritime security vessels, which contravened Indonesia’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf areas.

Second, Indonesia protested violations over law enforcement measures by Chinese authorities in the EEZ and continental shelf areas. Third, the Indonesian government protested violations committed by the Chinese maritime security boats against the sovereignty of Indonesia’s maritime territories.

As previously reported, two Chinese vessels, namely fishing vessel MV Kway Fey and a coast guard vessel, were involved in an incident with an Indonesian patrol boat at around 2:15 p.m. local time on Saturday.

The incident began when the Indonesian patrol captured the MV Kway Fey in Natuna waters. The Chinese vessel was allegedly fishing illegally in Indonesia’s ZEE. (NB: EEZ)

As noted in U.S. DoD's ASIA-PACIFIC Maritime Security Strategy:
Several nations have expanded their use of non-military assets to advance their territorial and maritime claims in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Most notably, China is using a steady progression of small, incremental steps to increase its effective control over disputed areas and avoid escalation to military conflict.
Yep, the old "wear you out to wear you down" approach."
U.S. Dept of Defense graphic

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Special Sunday Afternoon Fun TV: Captain Midnight "Mission to Mexico" (1955)

Old heroes never die ... here's a TV episode of Captain Midnight who was on radio, in the comics and on televsion. He even made a 2013 comeback in Dark Horse Comics as seen here:
Piloting a World War II dive-bomber, Captain Midnight—fighter pilot extraordinaire and expert inventor—hurtles out of a freak storm in the Bermuda Triangle and into the twenty-first century, where he’s in for more than one surprise as he enters the modern era! Collects the three stories from Dark Horse Presents #18–#20.


Brought to you by . . . Ovaltine "A Nutritional Supplement"

Not much of the angst-ridden anti-hero in the good Captain.

Easter!

Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Acts 10:34-43

Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: "I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ--he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."
What are we charged for this forgiveness?

Nothing in gold or silver, nothing in conquest or the forced conversion of others.

No, we are simply asked to believe.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!

The Lord hath promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The Story of the Pacific "The Philippines and Their Fight for Freedom"

The Pacific Story:
The Pacific Story was broadcast on NBC at 11:30pm, with the first broadcast on July 11, 1943.

The series lasted 184 weeks with two weeks pre-empted and ended on January 26, 1947. It was considered a documentary.

The premise of the show was that with Europe in ruins, the Pacific might emerge as the center of political and social change in the world, and people should know something about it.


The series touched on every nation around the Pacific rim and told of their importance in the years to come when the war ended.

It was narrated by Gayne Williams and featured such authorities on Pacific affairs as Henry Luce and Pearl S. Buck.

Today it is interesting to listen to this broadcast in light of importance of the strategic location of the Philippines and our treaty promise to help defend them and the freedom they fought for:


Friday, March 25, 2016

Where Tax Dollars Go: Port of Los Angeles and the Chinese

LATimes report by Jack Dolan and Tony Barboza, "Port of L.A. helped pay for cleaner China Shipping vessels--which later stopped docking in L.A." in which China appears to have siphoned some millions from the Port of Los Angeles:
The Port of Los Angeles paid a Chinese government-owned shipping company $5 million in 2005 to equip cargo vessels to plug into electric shore power while at dock to keep their massive diesel engines from polluting neighborhoods near the harbor.

The company, China Shipping, used the money to upgrade 17 ships, but the city didn't get all the promised environmental benefits. Most of the vessels stopped traveling to Los Angeles in 2010, a Times review of shipping industry data showed.
If the Port of LA agrees to pay me $5 million, I will promise to not pollute its neighbors.  I will also agree to not use the Port any less than I currently do.

If you were wondering, the ultimate owner of China Shipping is COSCO (China Ocean Shipping (Group) Company), a Chinese government-owned entity.

Friday Fun Film: "Destroyer Escort"

This film is about the story of the destroyer escorts and their services in the U.S. Navy it shows the construction and launch of the USS Frament (DE-677) in June 28 1943 and USS Brennan (DE-13) in August 22 1942.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Ah, "U.S. Bases" on the South China Sea - Okay, in the Philippines on the SCS

The Washington Post sneers, "These are the new U.S. military bases near the South China Sea. China isn’t impressed"
Antonio Bautista Air Base on Palawan
Antonio Bautista Air BaseThe disputed South China Sea will soon see increased U.S. military activity from five Philippine bases, following the signing of a deal between Manila and Washington that will allow the Pentagon to deploy conventional forces to the Philippines for the first time in decades.

The deal — called an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement — was reached Friday between State Department officials and the government of the Philippines, and will allow the Pentagon to use parts of five military installations: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base. It comes at a time when the United States and its allies in the region have expressed concern about China increasingly deploying military assets to man-made islands in the South China Sea.
Well, I'm impressed.

Of course, I suggested something like this back a few month ago (Nov 2015) in A Random Thought on the South China Sea Artificial Islands:
Well, it occurs to me that there are several ways to play this game. One opening move would be to assist the Republic of Philippines (RP) to build up its airfields on the South China Sea - on Palawan (Antonio Bautista Air Base (9000 foot runway - looks like it could be expanded), the current dirt field on Busuanga (yellow pin) and, of course, Clark International Airport (formerly Clark AFB).
The difference is mere details.

The real point is, as noted in my previous post,
"In any event, if we are going to sit down to play, we better be prepared to go all the way."
I hope we're serious.

Info on Fort Ramon Magsaysay:
Fort Magsaysay is also the only Philippine Army base that boast its own runway, apron, aircraft maintenance, and air control facilities. The Philippine Army operates Cessna CE172 Skyhawk and CE421 from Fort Magsaysay.
The runway is 1600 feet long.

Info on Lumbia Airbase in addition to its 8000 foot runway:
Lumbia Airport took its name from its location in Barangay Lumbia. It now serves as a minor air base of the Philippine Air Force, with service equipment of OV-10 Bronco aircraft as well as UH-1 Huey and MD-520MG Defender helicopters.

Info on Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in addition to its 10800 foot runway:
This air base is responsible for the Transport Wing, and provides for PAF operations in the Visayas area.

Stationed at the base in 2009 were the 208th Tactical Helicopter Squadron, 205th Tactical Operations Wing and the 220th Airlift Wing, along with the 5052nd Search and Rescue Squadron of the 505th Search and Rescue Group and the 1304th Dental Dispensary. The Headquarters Administrative Squadron from the 205th Tactical Operations Wing and the 560th Air Base Wing handle logistics.

Info on Antonio Bautista Air Base in addition to its 9000 foot runway:
It is one of the nine air bases eyed for the priority development programs of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). The PAF planned to construct Two additional hangars at Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa to store relief supplies and accommodate additional air assets, including long-range patrol aircraft to be stationed there in the future.
I think those upgrades will be happening sooner rather than later.
Info on Basa Air Base in addition to its 10000 foot runway:
Since the Basa Air Base has few aircraft today, it serves as a venue of sports and other outdoor tourism activities. It is planned to be converted into a tourism spot instead of a military base because of the low budget allotment of the government. Aside from housing active soldiers, there are also facilities for tourism.
I expect most tourism will be outside the gate soon.

UPDATE: Nice set of additional info from the USNI News Blog at Analysis: New U.S.-Philippine Basing Deal Heavy on Air Power, Light on Naval Support by Armando J. Heredia.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

China's Fishing Fleet: Apparently Only Chinese Waters Are Sovereign

Natuna Islands circled outlined in yellow
It ought to be clear to most people paying attention that China uses its fishing fleet as tool in its aggressive, expansionist efforts in the South China sea as well as a force of to intrude on the sovereign rights of other nations outside the South China Sea. One of the latest incidents involves China's powerful "Coast Guard" using force to retrieve a fishing boat captured by Indonesian forces inside Indonesian waters, as reported by the Jakarta Globe here:
Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Susi Pudjiastuti will summon the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia on Monday (21/03) over reports of a standoff between Chinese coast guards and Indonesian officials trying to capture a ship illegally fishing in Indonesian waters, although China says the incident happened in "a traditional Chinese fishing ground."

Susi said Indonesian officials were pursuing the ship Kway Fey 10078 at 2.15 p.m. on Saturday, for illegally fishing off the coast of Indonesia's Natuna islands as it attempted to flee to the contested South China Sea.

Three officials managed to climb on board and arrested a total of eight crew members, but a Chinese coast guard ship intervened and rammed the fishing ship back into the South China Sea.

“We will summon the Chinese ambassador [ Xie Feng] to discuss the issue [on Monday]. Because in the process of capturing the ship, a standoff occurred,” she told reporters on Sunday. “We respect China, but we must also maintain our sovereignty.”

The incident, she said, occurred just 4.34 kilometers off Indonesia's Natuna islands, which meant it was well inside Indonesia's exclusive economic zone.

“We want to avoid a much more serious incident, so we settled on just arresting the eight crew members. The ship got away but we have the eight men in custody to help us investigate this incident,” Susi said.

The Chinese embassy said in a statement issued late on Sunday night that the area where the incident occurred is "a traditional Chinese fishing ground."

"The Chinese fishing vessel was conducting its regular operation when chased by an armed Indonesian vessel," embassy spokesman Xu Hangtian said in the statement, adding: "It is hoped that the Indonesian side could properly handle this issue, taking into consideration the overall picture of our bilateral relations."
Natuna Islands? Was it just last November when China conceded sovereignty over Natuna to Indonesia? See here:
On Nov. 12, China shocked the countries in the region by issuing a first-ever public statement on the Natuna Islands. According to Hong Lei, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, “The Indonesian side has no territorial claim to China’s [Spratly Islands]. The Chinese side has no objection to Indonesia’s sovereignty over the Natuna Islands.”

This is significant because, although the Natuna Islands are outside of China’s self-designated “Nine-Dash-Line” that lays claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, Natuna’s 200-miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ) protrudes into the area defined by the Nine-Dash-Line. To publicly recognize Indonesia’s sovereign right to the Natunas means China’s acknowledgment of Indonesia’s legitimate claim to an EEZ inside China’s self-claimed Nine-Dash-Line.

And this is not something that China has been willing to do, partly because of the inexact nature of the so-called Nine-Dash-Line and partly because China does not want to show weakness to its smaller neighbors who challenge its maritime claims. Beijing’s failure to clarify with Indonesia the competing claims on the Natuna Islands and the EEZ lies at the root of the angst felt by Jakarta for decades.

Of course, there is the hilariously geographically challenged headline from Fortune regarding China's contretemps: China Goes 1 for 2 in Fishing Boat Wars With Neighbors
China’s fishing fleet got itself involved in a second diplomatic incident for the second time in a week–and this time, it used force to secure a better outcome.

Only days after Argentina sank a Chinese fishing boat that it alleged was fishing illegally in its waters, a Chinese coastguard ship intervened to stop Indonesia impounding another trawler that Jakarta said was fishing illegally in the Natuna Sea, an area between Peninsular Malaysia and the Malaysian province of Sarawak on Borneo island
First, Argentina and China are not even in the same hemisphere or even on the same side of the equator and, thus, are hardly neighbors. A look at a map of the South China Sea region will reveal that China and Indonesia are pretty widely separated. The only "neighborly" aspect to their relationship is China's assertion of "special" if not sovereign rights over a large chunk of the South China Sea - which is downright un-neighborly if you ask me. More about that Argentine thing here.

More about China's aggressive moves in the SCS in a nice post at CIMSEC by Natalie Sambhi CHINA TO INDONESIA: THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH:
The incident complicates Indonesia’s long-held nonaligned stance in which it has carefully maintained the semblance of good relations with both China and the United States. On closer inspection, there is a qualitative difference between Indonesia’s security relationships with China and the United States. Cooperation with the United States is far more established and covers a greater number and variety of activities than activities with China. This latest incident could result in a turn toward even greater depth in that longstanding relationship, particularly in the maritime domain. But more importantly, this is an opportunity for Indonesia to now actively lobby other Indo-Pacific states — in particular Japan, India and Australia — to work together in the maritime sphere.

China’s behavior undercuts the Indonesian president’s Global Maritime Fulcrum vision. This concept positions sovereignty front and center, and has the eradication of illegal fishing as a core domestic element. Despite wanting to keep good relations with China and investment flowing into the country, Indonesia can’t afford to sweep this incident under the rug. China’s “liberation” of its vessel from Indonesian law enforcement, in Indonesian waters, shows flagrant disregard for Indonesia’s sovereignty.

Monday, March 21, 2016

China and Its Australian Gambit

Very interesting NYTimes piece by Jane Perlez on China's 99 year lease on up by Darwin - a very strategic locale "U.S. Casts Wary Eye on Australian Port Leased by Chinese":
The port in this remote northern Australian outpost is little more than a graying old wharf jutting into crocodile-infested waters. On a recent day, there was stifling heat but not a ship in sight. “Our pissy little port,” as John Robinson, a flamboyant local tycoon, calls it.

The financially hurting government of the Northern Territory was happy to lease it to a Chinese company in October for the bargain price of $361 million, raising money for local infrastructure projects.

“We are the last frontier; you take what you can get,” said Mr. Robinson, who is known as Foxy. “The Northern Territory doesn’t have the money for development. Australia doesn’t have it. We need the major players like China.”

But the decision has catapulted the port of Darwin into a geopolitical tussle pulling in the United States, China and Australia.

This month, the United States said it was concerned that China’s “port access could facilitate intelligence collection on U.S. and Australian military forces stationed nearby.”
Read it all, it'll make you say, "Hmmmm."

Not really a brand new story, back in November, The Australian Financial Review reported US 'stunned' by Port of Darwin sale to Chinese:
Richard Armitage, a former United States Deputy Secretary of State, said he was "stunned" that Australia blindsided the US on a decision to allow a Chinese company with alleged links to the People's Liberation Army to lease the Port of Darwin.

"I couldn't believe the Australian defence ministry went along with this," Mr Armitage told The Australian Financial Review in an interview.

"And I was further stunned to find out that apparently this did not come up in the A-US talks [Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations]."

Mr Armitage's comments come amid growing controversy about the $506 million deal between the Northern Territory Government and the Chinese Company, Landbridge Corporation to lease the Port of Darwin for 99 years. The furore comes ahead of final bids being lodged for the $9 billion purchase of the NSW electricity grid, which also includes the purchase of sensitive optic fibre cables used by the defence establishment.
More hmmmm.

Check out the map above. Darwin is a vital port right on alternative sea lanes to China, Japan, Korea, etc, from the Middle East. It's that little red dot in the yellow box.

Nice strategic purchase you got there, China.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Special Saturday Matinee Movie Edition: "Zombies of the Stratosphere" (1952) plus Superman Radio

Back in the olden days we had radio, some limited television and also we had Saturday morning matinees designed to keep the kids off the mean streets of Laramie, Wyoming.

I think some of those Saturdays were spent in the old Wyo Theater in downtown Laramie.

In those days we could ride our bikes to the movies and spend our dimes. Before the Roy Rodgers feature, there were serials - multi-part movies cut into segments and nearly unburdened by any hint of continuity from episode to episode.

Here's a favorite:



I dunno, but is that a killer chemtrail behind that space ship?

Well, perhaps the baby from Krypton can save us:


Superman's Krytonion mom was played by Agnes Moorehead.



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Reading the Future

Well, actually, you can read the Office of Naval Research's Future Force magazine to peek into future capabilities:
Future Force is a professional magazine of the naval science and technology community. Published quarterly by the Office of Naval Research, its purpose is to inform readers about basic and applied research and advanced technology development efforts funded by the Department of the Navy. The mission of this publication is to enhance awareness of the decisive naval capabilities that are being discovered, developed, and delivered by scientists and engineers for the Navy, Marine Corps, and nation.
Yes, cutting edge.

You might also enjoy reading the Navy League of the United States magazine SEAPOWER:
SEAPOWER magazine and its Almanac issue are official publications of the Navy League of the United States, an international organization founded in 1902 to support the U.S. sea services. SEAPOWER articles cover a wide range of topics, including national defense, foreign policy, naval affairs, maritime issues, homeland security and defense research, development and procurement. SEAPOWER coverage focuses on such areas as defense strategies, emerging technologies and ways to improve the operational concepts and managerial processes of the U.S. sea services.

The principal mission of SEAPOWER — an award-winning monthly magazine — is to educate Congress and the American people about the activities, requirements and accomplishments of the sea services and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. It also provides a forum for senior sea service leaders to express their views on various topics of concern. SEAPOWER also supports and encourages the programs of the Navy League councils throughout the United States and overseas.
Fight sea blindness!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Methanol in the Ocean: Food for the Microbes

Interesting read at Ocean News & Technology, Major Source of Methanol in the Ocean Identified:
As one of the most abundant organic compounds on the planet, methanol occurs naturally in the environment as plants release it as they grow and decompose. It is also found in the ocean, where it is a welcome food source for ravenous microbes that feast on it for energy and growth.

While scientists have long known methanol exists in the ocean, and that certain microbes love to snack on it, they’ve been stymied by one key question: where does it come from?

Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have solved this mystery through the discovery of a massive – and previously unaccounted for – source of methanol in the ocean: phytoplankton.
***
“Methanol can be considered a ‘baby sugar’ molecule and is rapidly consumed in the ocean by abundant bacteria – called methylotrophs – which specialize in this type of food,” said Dr. Tracy Mincer, WHOI associate scientist and lead author of the paper. “However, up until now, the thought was that methanol in the ocean came from an overflow of terrestrial methanol in the atmosphere. So, this discovery reveals a huge source of methanol that has gone completely unaccounted for in global methanol estimates.”

Mincer first became interested in the idea of biologically-produced methanol in the ocean through previous work where he found methanol-nibbling bacteria in a phytoplankton culture he was growing. Intrigued, he extracted the microbe’s DNA and its barcodes matched up with a well-known methylotroph in the ocean.
For those who may need a refresher on methanol:
Methanol is the simplest alcohol, being only a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group. It is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor very similar to that of ethanol (drinking alcohol). However, unlike ethanol, methanol is highly toxic and unfit for consumption. At room temperature, it is a polar liquid, and is used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol. It is also used for producing biodiesel via transesterification reaction.

Methanol is produced naturally in the anaerobic metabolism of many varieties of bacteria, and is commonly present in small amounts in the environment. As a result, the atmosphere contains a small amount of methanol vapor. But in only a few days, atmospheric methanol is oxidized by sunlight to produce carbon dioxide and water.

Methanol is also found in abundant quantities in star forming regions of space, and is used in astronomy as a marker for such regions.
As set out here,
Methylotrophs, in general, aerobically utilize C1 compounds by oxidizing them to yield formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, in turn, can either be "burned" for energy (by dissimilation to CO2) or assimilated into biomass, allowing the cell to grow using molecules like methanol as a sole carbon source.
Which I read as indicating that these things secrete CO2 as they burn through formaldehyde. I am prepared to be corrected on this.

If I am right, though, then we have a much larger than previously known possible natural source of carbon dioxide potentially reaching the atmosphere?

Better call the EPA.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lowest Oil Rig Count Ever?

Oil and Gas Journal reports US rig count hits all-time low in recorded data:
The overall weekly US rig count is now at its lowest point in Baker Hughes Inc. data that begins in the 1940s, and perhaps since the infancy of US oil and gas industry in the mid-19th century.
BHI reported that the count lost 9 units to 480 during the week ended Mar. 11, officially falling beneath the previous recorded low of 488 on Apr. 23, 1999, reached during the nadir of the 1998-99 industry downturn.
“While there is no consistent series for drilling activity before 1948, we think it likely that to find a lower level of activity would require going back to the 1860s, the early part of the Pennsylvania oil boom,” said Paul Hornsell, head of commodities research for Standard Chartered Bank, in a research note published last week (OGJ Online, Mar. 4, 2016).
Hmmm. Prices down, supply good, and oil reserves not being drained. And it looks like we'll just cycle up and down for the foreseeable future. Not such a good a thing for the rig workers, though.

U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Intelligence Worldwide Threat to Shipping (WTS) Report 9 February - 9 March 2016

From ONI:



For those of you interested in the smuggling of migrants, an interesting blog from a law professor at the University of Southern California, Migrants at Sea, one post of which links to this NATO news release about an expansion of it counter-migrant program in the Mediterranean/Aegean from international waters into territorial waters of NATO members Greece and Turkey:

NATO took swift decisions to deploy ships to the Aegean Sea to support our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the EU's border agency FRONTEX, in their efforts to tackle the migrant and refugee crisis. NATO ships are already collecting information and conducting monitoring in the Aegean Sea. Their activity will now be expanded to take place also in territorial waters.
***
the purpose of NATO's deployment is not to stop or push back migrant boats, but to help our Allies Greece and Turkey, as well as the European Union, in their efforts to tackle human trafficking and the criminal networks that are fueling this crisis.
Yes, criminals committing crimes at sea.

As the good professor at Migrants at Sea notes:
NATO’s characterisation of its operation seems to be an attempt to draw a distinction between a push-back practice where any migrant boat, regardless of whether it is in need of rescue, would be intercepted and pushed back and a search and rescue operation providing assistance to migrant boats in need of rescue. This is meaningless distinction given the current situation in the Aegean where every migrant boat is in need of assistance or rescue.

NATO video on their efforts in the Aegean:

Pacific War Prep? Howland, Baker and Jarvis Islands Before WWII

Now a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Refuge
Howland was discovered soon after 1800 AD during the whaling era. Artifacts found indicate that there may have been early Polynesian visitation. Howland was claimed for the United States under the Guano Act of 1856 by Alfred G. Benson and Charles H. Judd in 1857. A total of 85,000 to 100,000 tons of guano was removed from Howland. After guano mining had stopped, there was not a lot of visitation until 1935 during the Colonizing Era, when military personnel and Kamehameha Schools graduates were stationed on Howland Island, Baker Island, and Jarvis Island to colonize them so the United States could maintain control and establish them as territories. In 1937, a runway was built and prepped for Amelia Earhart so she could use Howland Island as a refueling station on her quest to circumnavigate the globe. Unfortunately, she and navigator Fred J. Noonan never made it. They were last seen July 1, 1937 when they took off from New Guinea.

The colonization project continued until January 1942 after the Japanese attacked Pearl
Harbor and several American territories, including Howland, Baker, and Jarvis. On December 8, 1941 Howland was bombed and 2 colonists were killed. Attacks also took place on December 10th and then on January 5th and 24th, 1942. Colonists on Howland and Baker Islands were not rescued until January 31, 1942 and the last colonists were not evacuated from Jarvis and Enderbury until February 9, 1942. The project and the group of young men that were assigned to these expeditions became known as the Hui Panala’au.

Howland Island was named a National Wildlife Refuge in 1974. Before then there were only a few research expeditions between the conclusion of WWII and then. In 2000, US Fish and Wildlife Service began conducting studies on board NOAA vessels. In 2002 they were scheduled to occur every 2 years.
More here:
A Japanese air attack on December 8, 1941 by 14 twin-engined Mitsubishi G3M "Nell" bombers of Chitose Kōkūtai, from Kwajalein islands, killed two of the Kamehameha School colonists: Richard "Dicky" Kanani Whaley, and Joseph Kealoha Keliʻhananui. The raid came one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and damaged the three airstrips of Kamakaiwi Field. Two days later a Japanese submarine shelled what was left of the colony's few buildings into ruins.[18] A single bomber returned twice during the following weeks and dropped more bombs on the rubble of tiny Itascatown. The two survivors were finally evacuated by the USS Helm a U.S. Navy destroyer on January 31, 1942. Howland was occupied by a battalion of the United States Marine Corps in September 1943 and known as Howland Naval Air Station until May 1944.

All attempts at habitation were abandoned after 1944. Colonization projects on the other four islands were also disrupted by the war and ended at this time.[19] No aircraft is known to have ever landed there, although anchorages nearby could be used by float planes and flying boats during World War II. For example, on July 10, 1944, a U.S. Navy Martin PBM-3-D Mariner flying boat (BuNo 48199), piloted by William Hines, had an engine fire and made a forced landing in the ocean offshore of Howland. Hines beached the aircraft and although it burned, the crew escaped unharmed, was rescued by the USCGC Balsam (the same ship that later took Unit 92 to Gardner Island), transferred to a sub chaser and taken to Canton Island.[20]
Interesting film about the experience of the "colonists":Film history:
On March 20, 1935, six young Kamehameha Schools graduates sailed from Honolulu Harbor aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Itasca for destinations unknown. Carefully recruited for their physical and mental fitness, they believed they would be collecting specimens for Bishop Museum.

Instead, they found themselves on remote desert islands in the middle of the Pacific, living for months at a time in total isolation. The ability of these young Hawaiian men, as "Americans," to survive would eventually enable President Roosevelt to claim jurisdiction over the islands of Jarvis, Baker, and Howland.

"Under A Jarvis Moon" was screened at Marks Garage to a standing-room only crowd in early January. It was later shown at the Atherton Halau Bishop Museum to more than 300 people.

A tribute to her grandfather George, Noelle Kahanu's discovery in the archives of the Bishop Museum of a story long forgotten is renewed in this film.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: Bob and Ray

Just humor.

Very odd humor.





On Midrats 13 Mar 2016: Episode 323 - "Building a Navy in Peace That Wins at War"

Please join us at 5pm (remember Eastern Daylight Time) on 13 March 2016 for Midrats Episode 323: Building a Navy in Peace That Wins at War
The wartime record of the US Navy in under four years of combat from late 1941’s low point to the September 1945 anchoring in Tokyo Bay did not happen by chance. It did not happen through luck, or through quick thinking. It happened through a process of dedicated, deliberate, disciplined and driven effort over two decades in the intra-war period.

What were the mindset, process, leadership, and framework of the 1920s and 1930s that was used to build the fleet and the concepts that brought it to victory in the 1940s?

This week we are going to dive deep in this subject for the full hour with Captain C.C. Felker, USN, Professor of History at the US Naval Academy and author of, Testing American Sea Power: U.S. Navy Strategic Exercises, 1923–1940.
Listen live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here or later from our iTunes page

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dear Politicians - Of Course Your Actions in Office Will Be "Politicized" That's the Way Our System Works

Ok, so Hillary Clinton says Benghazi was a tragedy 'politicized' by opponents.

Let me see if I can get this straight - a politician, who once occupied a high office, and is currently running for the presidency, is complaining that her performance in that former office was "politicized" by other politicians who had the nerve to ask questions about that performance in office?

Yes, I know. This current "fauxrage" by Ms. Hillary is just silly. She might as well assert that her political campaign to become president is being "politicized" by Mr. Sanders, her opponent in the Democratic primaries.

Perhaps someone should remind Ms.Clinton that we have a political system. With two parties. And one party may frequently take swipes at the performance of the politicians of the other party. And, sometimes, even by members of your own party.

Next thing you know she'll be under investigation for something she did while in office . . .

Oh, the horrors. It's so hard being a victim. All the time.

"Politics ain't beanbag."



Wednesday, March 09, 2016

South China Sea Power Play: China Goes Wrongly Historical on the South China Sea

 U.S. Navy photo by MC3 David Flewellyn

Report on Chinese Bluster over its absurd claims in the South China Sea by David Larter in Navy Times After U.S. show of force, China takes hard line on South China Sea:
China's foreign minister said his country's sovereignty claims are supported by history and made a veiled reference to the 5-day patrol by the Stennis Carrier Strike Group, as well as recent passes by China's man-made islands by destroyers Lassen and Curtis Wilbur in recent months.

"The South China Sea has been subject to colonial invasion and illegal occupation and now some people are trying to stir up waves, while some others are showing off forces," Wang Yi said, according to an Associated Press report, a day after the Stennis CSG departed the South China Sea. "However, like the tide that comes and goes, none of these attempts will have any impact. History will prove who is merely the guest and who is the real host."
Well, if you are China and in the need of some of this Chinese version of "lebensraum", you might as well continue to go with idea a claim of "history," no matter how absurd, trumps minor considerations like - say - international law.
U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Jonathan Jiang

As set out nicely in this Lawfare blog brief by Sean Mirski, The South China Sea Dispute: A Brief History, the situation created by China's claims is murky:
. . . In May 2009, Malaysia and Vietnam sent a joint submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf setting out some of their claims. This initial submission unleashed a flurry of notes verbales from the other claimants, who objected to the two nation’s claims.

In particular, China responded to the joint submission by submitting a map containing the infamous “nine-dash” line. This line snakes around the edges of the South China Sea and encompasses all of the Sea’s territorial features as well as the vast majority of its waters. However, Beijing has never officially clarified what the line is meant to signify. Instead, it has maintained “strategic ambiguity” and said only that “China has indisputable sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and the adjacent waters, and enjoys sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the relevant waters as well as the seabed and subsoil thereof (see attached map).” This could mean that China claims only the territorial features in the Sea and any “adjacent waters” allowed under maritime law. Or it could mean that China claims all the territorial features and all the waters enclosed by the nine-dash line, even those that exceed what’s permitted under maritime law.
That "strategic ambiguity" refers to a National Interest piece also by Mr. Mirski, Magnetic Rocks: Assessing China's Legal Strategy in the South China Sea:
... while Beijing’s long-term ambitions counsel restraint, its more immediate objectives – including sovereignty over the South China Sea – pull the other way. In Beijing’s ideal world, China would now be the undisputed master of the South China Sea.

Beijing seeks to control the South China Sea in order to manage national security threats and advance its economic objectives. The Sea represents a strategic vulnerability for China, both as a historical invasion route and as a modern threat to its energy security and export-oriented economy
We discussed this during a recent Midrats show Episode 321: The Year of the Monkey in the South China Sea w/Toshi Yoshihara.


Many legal briefs which are weak on law and fact use a phrase like "It has long been held . . ." to justify some act or inaction. Here the Chinese want to by-pass history to shield a "sea grab" of immense proportions. Just as the reference to "colonial invasion" regarding a sea space as justification for China's assertion of some "superior to all others" claim of sovereignty over the SCS is very odd indeed, the fact is that neither history nor legal theories have a damn thing to do with what China is up to in the South China Sea.

This is a pure power play of an expansionist nation trying to bully the world into accepting its demands. While it's nice to pretend that some "International Court of Something" will declare China's actions "illegal" - the problem is who will enforce that ruling. To paraphrase Stalin, "The International Court of Something? How many divisions (fleets) has it got?"

China, by its actions, is following Sun Tzu's well known guidance:
. . . [S]upreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
***
Therefore the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting; he captures their cities without laying siege to them; he overthrows their kingdom without lengthy operations in the field.
After all, why fight when you can present the world with a fait accompli and then challenge them to get enough force together to push you off whatever you've claimed.

It's an old, old story.