TARGET CHINA: Military wars— South China Sea and Obama’s ‘China Pivot’

TARGET CHINA © F. William Engdahl

Chapter Five:

Military wars— South China Sea and Obama’s
‘China Pivot’

China today, because of its dynamic economic growth and its determination to pursue sovereign Chinese national interests, merely because China exists, is becoming the Pentagon new “enemy image,” now replacing the false “enemy image” of Islam used after September 2001 by the Bush-Cheney Administration to justify the Pentagon’s global power pursuit. The new US military posture against China, the ‘Asia Pivot’ and Ballistic Missile Defense has nothing to do with any aggressive threat from the side of China. The Pentagon has decided to escalate its aggressive military posture to China merely because China has become a strong vibrant independent pole in world economics and geopolitics.

Navy carrier battle group—today’s version of “gunboat diplomacy”. Show the flag and carry a big stick.

Washington targets Missile Defense on China

On August 24, 2012 the New York Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama Administration as part of its newly-announced policy of an ‘Asia Pivot,’ will expand its missile-defense shield in the Asia-Pacific region. [1]

The official reason given by the Pentagon was to protect Japan, South Korea and other US allied countries in the region against a North Korean missile attack. This argument did not stand close scrutiny. In reality, according to numerous reports, Washington has decided to invest in a major Ballistic Missile Defense network using Japan, South Korea and Australia. The real target of the Asia Pivot shift and the BMD system is not North Korea but rather the Peoples’ Republic of China, the only power in the region possessing even a potential nuclear threat with serious long-range delivery capabilities. It is part of the new Pentagon strategy of imposing full control over the future development of China. Washington’s Asia Pivot in reality is a China Pivot.

The Washington BMD offensive had to be viewed as well in the light of the well-timed Japanese government decision to deliberately provoke tension with China over the disputed Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, a region believed to be vastly rich in natural gas reserves.[2]​​​​​​​

ImageBMD Strategy across Asia
In September 2012 the White House announced that the United States and Japan had reached a major agreement to deploy a second advanced missile-defense radar on Japanese territory.[3]

According to US press accounts, the most important feature of the new Japanese BMD project would be installation of a new, powerful early-warning radar, ‘X-band’, made by Raytheon Co. It is “a large, phased-array fire control sensor, featuring precision discrimination and interceptor support,” designed to counter threats from ‘rogue states.’ It will be installed on an unnamed southern Japanese island.[4]

Japan’s defense minister Satoshi Morimoto confirmed that Tokyo and Washington “have had various discussions over missile defenses, including how to deploy the US’s X-Band radar system.” [5] Japan already hosts an X-Band radar in the northern prefecture of Aomori, since 2006. It is heavily opposed by local residents who fear presence of the radar makes them a target for potential enemy attacks.[6]

The US move to prioritize its BMD installation in Asia not only involves Japan. Washington  has also announced it is helping India improve its new missile defense system. The Indians want to build a multi-layer missile defense network with US help. Publicly India’s government cites Pakistan as the reason. Privately, it is China. India test-fired its Agni-V intermediate range ballistic missile earlier this year and the Indian press openly cited the system’s ability to strike anywhere in China as the most important feature.[7]

According to Steven Hildreth, a missile-defense expert with the Washington Congressional Research Service, the USA is “laying the foundations” for a region-wide missile defense system that would be constituted by US ballistic missile defenses and those of regional powers, particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia. Although supposedly aimed at containing threats from North Korea, Hildreth also stated, “the reality is that we’re also looking longer term at the elephant in the room, which is China.” The Wall Street Journal claimed the X-band arc would allow the US to ‘peer deeper’ into China, as well as North Korea. [8]


There are reports from unnamed US Defense Department officials that a third X-Band radar would be positioned in the Philippines, allowing the Pentagon to accurately track ballistic missiles launched from North Korea and parts of China.[9]

BMD encourages Nuclear First Strike
The US BMD strategy in Asia follows a decision by the Bush and later Obama Administrations to first deploy BMD in a ring surrounding Russia with installations in Poland, the Czech Republic and Turkey aimed at Russia’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile arsenal. As prominent retired US military officers have warned, deploying Ballistic Missile Defense against a potential nuclear opponent, whether Russia or China or North Korea or Iran is madness in strict military strategy terms.

With even a primitive missile defense shield, the US could attack Russian or Chinese missile silos and submarine fleets with less fear of effective retaliation; the few remaining Russian nuclear missiles would be unable to launch a response sufficiently destructive.

During the Cold War, the ability of both sides—the Warsaw Pact and NATO—to mutually annihilate one another, had led to a nuclear stalemate dubbed by military strategists, MAD—Mutually Assured Destruction. It was scary but, in a bizarre sense, more stable than what would come later with a unilateral US pursuit of nuclear primacy. MAD was based on the prospect of mutual nuclear annihilation with no decisive advantage for either side; it led to a world in which nuclear war had been ‘unthinkable.’

Now, the US with BMD in Europe against Russia and in Asia against China was pursuing the possibility of nuclear war as ‘thinkable.’ That was really and truly ‘mad.’

The first nation with a nuclear missile ‘defense’ shield (NMD) would de facto have ‘first strike ability.’ Quite correctly, Lt. Colonel Bowman, who had been Director of the US Air Force Missile Defense Program during the Reagan era, called missile defense, “the missing link to a First Strike.” [10] BMD gives an incentive to make a first nuclear strike, something never before imaginable owing to the lack of certainty one’s nation would not become nuclear radioactive rubble. That is to say, in military terms, BMD is totally offensive, not defensive contrary to the name.

Evidence of uninterrupted global ambitions on the part of the US military could be found in a “future study” commissioned in 1995-96, by the US Air Force Chief of Staff. The report, Air Force 2025, was a massive 4-volume elaboration of hundreds of technologically advanced, super-sophisticated space-based weapons systems intended to provide the United State with global combat support capabilities in space. These were considered the systems necessary for the US “to remain the dominant air and space force in the future,” an integral part of the Pentagon’s Full Spectrum Dominance strategy.

One weapon, for example, was a “laser cannon” in space, described chillingly, as follows:

[It would] successfully attack ground or airborne targets by melting or cracking cockpit canopies, burning through control cables, exploding fuel tanks, melting or burning sensor assemblies and antenna arrays, exploding or melting munitions pods, destroying ground communications and power grids, and melting or burning a large variety of strategic targets Washington’s Nuclear Obsession (e.g., dams, industrial and defense facilities and munitions factories) — all in a fraction of a second.

Another section of Air Force 2025 described small metal projectiles fired at the earth from space. The “flechettes” could penetrate the earth to a depth of a half mile, destroying targets like underground bunkers. Despite caveats and disclaimers that the Report did not represent the views of the United State or its Department of Defense, or even the Air Force, it had been authorized at the highest ranks of the Pentagon. And that was seventeen years before the decision to deploy BMD against Russia and now, against China.

Dr. Robert Bowman, a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Air Force who directed the US Government’s early anti-missile defense effort when it was still top secret, noted:

[They] mirror the results of studies we performed in the 1970s and early 80s. The difference is that then we considered the results sufficient reason to continue our national policy of keeping weapons out of space, while now they entice the hawks into discarding treaty constraints and pursuing a still more total form of absolute military superiority. Bush’s first budget quadrupled the spending on laser battle stations. In his new budget, he gives the space warriors an essentially blank check. Now he has once again renamed and reorganized the Pentagon office doing ‘Star Wars.’

Clearly, for all its rhetoric about peace-keeping missions and “democracy” promotion, the Pentagon is pursuing what its planners refer to as “Full Spectrum Dominance,” the total control of all global air, land, ocean, space, outer-space and now cyberspace. It is clearly determined to use its military might to secure global domination or hegemony. No other interpretation is possible.
Under Reagan and Bush I, it was called the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO). Under President Clinton, it became the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). Now Bush II made it the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and given it the freedom from oversight and audit previously enjoyed only by the black or top secret programs. If Congress doesn’t act soon, this new independent agency may take their essentially unlimited budget and spend it outside of public and Congressional scrutiny on weapons that we won’t know anything about until they’re in space. In theory, then, the space warriors would rule the world, able to destroy any target on earth without warning. Will these new super weapons bring the American people security? Hardly. [11]

In addition to Japan, Washington has invited South Korea and Australia to join the Asian BMD program. The Philippines are also being considered. As the official Chinese English language daily, Global Times, pointed out, “Among the nuclear powers, China has the smallest number of nuclear weapons. It is also the only country to make a ‘no first use’ commitment. Installing a missile defense system in Asia disrespects China’s nuclear policy.”

The Beijing policy statement in the article continued, “If Japan, South Korea and Australia join the system, a vicious arms race in Asia may follow. It is not what China wants to see, but it will have to deal with it if the arms race happens. The US is creating waves in Asia. The region may see more conflicts intensify in the future. China should make utmost efforts to prevent it, but prepare for the worst.” [12]

Japan and the East China Sea island wars

The latest in a series of escalating pressures on China on the military front came via what obviously clearly must have been US pressure on the Government of Japan, one of the USA’s so-called “vassal states.” Never in postwar US-Japan history has Japan engaged in provocative military actions without first being pressed to do so by Washington.

In early September 2012, the Japanese Government announced, provocatively, that it had decided to buy several islands in a disputed uninhabited island chain called in China the Diaoyu Islands. Thereby, Japan asserted its claim to all subsea rights surrounding the island group. Going back to China’s Ming Dynasty, the Diaoyu Islands were regarded as a marine defense zone and governed by the Ming Chinese government.[13]

According to Zhang Haiwen, associate director of China Institute for Marine Affairs under State Oceanic Administration of China, “Japan may further ask for an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles and may take the Diaoyu Islands as the base to divide the continental shelf of the East China Sea and further ask for the relevant oil and gas resources.” [14]

Zhang pointed out that geopolitically, the Diaoyu Islands have a huge strategic and military value. The islands are at the first island chain in the West Pacific, and are a springboard for entering China from the outside sea. ”If Japan controls the waters, it means Japan has clutched the throat of the channel in which China goes to the open sea of the Pacific,” said Zhang.[15]

On September 10, 2012 the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a formal protest over the provocative Japanese “buying” of the islands:

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China

10 September 2012

Regardless of repeated strong representations of the Chinese side, the Japanese government announced on 10 September 2012 the “purchase” of the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated Nan Xiaodao and Bei Xiaodao and the implementation of the so-called nationalization” of the islands. This constitutes a gross violation of China’s sovereignty over its own territory and is highly offensive to the 1.3 billion Chinese people. It seriously tramples on historical facts and international jurisprudence. The Chinese government and people express firm opposition to and strong protest against the Japanese move.

The Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands have been China’s sacred territory since ancient times. This is supported by historical facts and jurisprudential evidence. The Diaoyu Islands were first discovered, named and exploited by the Chinese people. Chinese fishermen had long been engaged in production activities on these islands and in their adjacent waters. The Diaoyu Islands have been put under the jurisdiction of China’s naval defense as affiliated islands of Taiwan, China since the Ming Dynasty. The Diaoyu Islands have never been “terra nullius”. China is the indisputable owner of the Diaoyu Islands.

In 1895, as the Qing government’s defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War was all but certain, Japan illegally occupied the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands. After that, Japan forced the Qing government to sign the unequal Treaty of Shimonoseki and cede to Japan “the island of Formosa (Taiwan), together with all islands appertaining or belonging to the said island of Formosa”. After the end of the Second World War, China recovered the territories invaded and occupied by Japan such as Taiwan and the Penghu Islands in accordance with the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation. According to international law, the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands have already been returned to China. Facts are facts, and history is not to be reversed. Japan’s position on the issue of the Diaoyu Island is an outright denial of the outcomes of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and constitutes a grave challenge to the post-war international order.

In 1951, the Treaty of Peace with Japan (commonly known as the Treaty of San Francisco, a treaty partial in nature) was signed between Japan, the United States and other countries, placing the Ryukyu Islands (known as Okinawa today) under the trusteeship of the United States. In 1953, the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands arbitrarily expanded its jurisdiction to include the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islands, which are in fact Chinese territories. In 1971, Japan and the United States signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, which arbitrarily included the Diaoyu Islands in the territories and territorial waters to be reversed to Japan. The Chinese government has, from the very beginning, firmly opposed and never acknowledged such backroom deals between Japan and the United States concerning Chinese territories. The claims of the Japanese government that the Diaoyu Island is Japan’s inherent territory and that there is no outstanding territorial dispute between Japan and China showed total disregard of historical facts and jurisprudential evidence and are absolutely untenable.

During the negotiations on the normalization of China-Japan relations in 1972 and on the signing of the Sino-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978, the then leaders of the two countries, acting in the larger interest of China-Japan relations, reached important understanding and common ground on “leaving the issue of the Diaoyu Island to be resolved later”. This opened the door to normalization of China-Japan relations and was followed by tremendous progress in China-Japan relations and stability and tranquility in East Asia in the following 40 years. Now, if the Japanese authorities should deny and negate the previous common understanding reached between the two countries, then how could the situation of the Diaoyu Island remain stable? How could China-Japan relations continue to grow smoothly? And how could Japan ever win trust from its neighbors and people of the world?

The Japanese government has repeatedly stirred up troubles in recent years on the issue of the Diaoyu Island. Particularly since the start of the year, the Japanese government has endorsed rightwing forces to clamor for the “purchase” of the Diaoyu Island and some of its affiliated islands in an attempt to pave the way for a government “purchase” of the islands. People have reason to believe that what Japan did regarding the Diaoyu Island was nothing accidental. The political tendency these actions point to may well put people on the alert. We cannot but ask: where is Japan heading to? Can anyone rest assured of Japan’s future course of development? [16]

Pentagon ‘String of Pearls’ Strategy

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the nominal end of the Cold War some twenty years back, rather than reducing the size of its mammoth defense spending, the US Congress and US Presidents have enormously expanded spending for new weapons systems, increased permanent military bases around the world and expanded NATO not only to former Warsaw Pact countries on Russia’s immediate periphery; it also has expanded NATO and US military presence deep into Asia on the perimeters of China through its conduct of the Afghan war and related campaigns.

On the basis of simple dollar outlays for military spending, the US Pentagon combined budget, leaving aside the huge budgets for such national security and defense-related agencies of US Government as the Department of Energy and US Treasury and other agencies, the US Department of Defense spent some $739 billion in 2011 on its military requirements. Were all other spending that is tied to US defense and national security included, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies estimates an annual military spending of over $1 trillion by the United States. That is an amount greater than the total defense-related spending of the next 42 nations combined, and more than the Gross Domestic Product of most nations.

China officially spent barely 10% of the US on its defense, some $90 billion, or if certain defense-related arms import and other costs are included, perhaps $111 billion a year. Even if the Chinese authorities do not publish complete data on such sensitive areas, it is clear China spends a mere fraction of the USA and is starting from a military-technology base far behind the USA.

The US defense budget is not just by far the world’s largest. It is dominant to everyone else completely independent of any perceived threat. In the nineteenth century, the British Royal Navy built the size of its fleet according to the fleets of Britain’s two most powerful potential enemies; America’s defense budget strategists declare it will be “doomsday” if the United States builds its navy to anything less than five times China and Russia combined. “ [17]

If we include the spending by Russia, China’s strongest ally within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, their combined total annual defense spending is barely $142 billions. The world top ten defense spending nations in addition to the USA as largest and China as second largest, include the UK, France, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Germany, India and Brazil. In 2011 the military spending of the United States totaled a staggering 46% of total spending by the world’s 171 governments and territories, almost half the entire world. [18]

Clearly, for all its rhetoric about peace-keeping missions and “democracy” promotion, the Pentagon is pursuing what its planners refer to as “Full Spectrum Dominance,” the total control of all global air, land, ocean, space, outer-space and now cyberspace.[19] It is clearly determined to use its military might to secure global domination or hegemony. No other interpretation is possible.

China today, because of its dynamic economic growth and its determination to pursue sovereign Chinese national interests, merely because China exists, is becoming the Pentagon new “enemy image,” now replacing the false “enemy image” of Islam used after September 2001 by the Bush-Cheney Administration to justify the Pentagon’s global power pursuit. The new US military posture against China has nothing to do with any aggressive threat from the side of China. The Pentagon has decided to escalate its aggressive military posture to China merely because China has become a strong vibrant independent pole in world economics and geopolitics.

Obama Doctrine: China is the new ‘enemy image’

After almost two decades of neglect of its interests in East Asia, in 2011, the Obama Administration announced that the US would make “a strategic pivot” in its foreign policy to focus its military and political attention on the Asia-Pacific, particularly Southeast Asia, that is, China.

During the final months of 2011 the Obama Administration clearly defined a new public military threat doctrine for US military readiness in the wake of the US military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan. During a Presidential trip to the Far East, while in Australia, the US President unveiled what is being termed the Obama Doctrine.[20]

The following sections from Obama’s speech in Australia are worth citing in detail:

With most of the world’s nuclear power and some half of humanity, Asia will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation…As President, I have, therefore, made a deliberate and strategic decision — as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future…I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority…As we plan and budget for the future, we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.  We will preserve our unique ability to project power and deter threats to peace…Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in the region. 

The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay. Indeed, we are already modernizing America’s defense posture across the Asia Pacific.  It will be more broadly distributed — maintaining our strong presence in Japan and the Korean Peninsula, while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia.  Our posture will be more flexible — with new capabilities to ensure that our forces can operate freely.  And our posture will be more sustainable, by helping allies and partners build their capacity, with more training and exercises. We see our new posture here in Australia…I believe we can address shared challenges, such as proliferation and maritime security, including cooperation in the South China Sea.[21]

The centerpiece of Obama’s visit was the announcement that at least 2,500 elite US Marines will be stationed in Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory. In addition, in a series of significant parallel agreements, discussions with Washington were underway to fly long-range American surveillance drones from the remote Cocos Islands — an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Also the US will gain greater use of Australian Air Force bases for American aircraft and increased ship and submarine visits to the Indian Ocean through a naval base outside Perth, on the country’s west coast.

US military actions in Cocos Islands and Australia are aimed at China

The Pentagon’s target is China.

To make the point clear to European members of NATO, in remarks to fellow NATO members in Washington in July 2012, Phillip Hammond, the UK Secretary of State for Defense declared explicitly that the new US defense shift to the Asia-Pacific region was aimed at China. Hammond said that, “the rising strategic importance of the Asia-Pacific region requires all countries, but particularly the United States, to reflect in their strategic posture the emergence of China as a global power. Far from being concerned about the tilt to Asia-Pacific, the European NATO powers should welcome the fact that the US is willing to engage in this new strategic challenge on behalf of the alliance.” [22]

As with many of its operations, the Pentagon deployment is far more sinister than the relatively small number of 2,500 new US soldiers might suggest.

In August 2011 the Pentagon presented its annual report on China’s military. It stated that China had closed key technological gaps. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for East Asia, Michael Schiffer, said that the pace and scope of China’s military investments had “allowed China to pursue capabilities that we believe are potentially destabilizing to regional military balances, increase the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation and may contribute to regional tensions and anxieties.” [23] He cited Chinese refurbishing of a Soviet-era aircraft carrier and China’s development of its J20 Stealth Fighter as indications of the new capability requiring a more active US military response. Schiffer also cited China’s space and cyber operations, saying it was “developing a multi-dimensional program to improve its capabilities to limit or prevent the use of space-based assets by adversaries during times of crisis or conflict.” [24]

Pentagon’s ‘Air-Sea Battle’

The Pentagon strategy to defeat China in a coming war, details of which have filtered into the US press, is called “Air-Sea Battle.” This calls for an aggressive coordinated US attack in which American stealth bombers and submarines would knock out China’s long-range surveillance radar and precision missile systems located deep inside the country. The initial “blinding campaign” would be followed by a larger air and naval assault on China itself. Crucial to the advanced Pentagon strategy, deployment of which has already quietly begun, is US military, navy, and air presence in Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam and across the South China Sea and Indian Ocean. Australian troop and naval deployment is aimed at accessing the strategic Chinese South China Sea as well as the Indian Ocean. The stated motive is to “protect freedom of navigation” in the Malacca Straits and the South China Sea.

Air-Sea Battle’s goal is to help US forces withstand an initial Chinese assault and counterattack to destroy sophisticated Chinese radar and missile systems built to keep US ships away from China’s coastline.[25]

US ‘Air-Sea Battle’ against China

​In addition to the stationing of the US Marines in the north of Australia, Washington plans to fly long-range American surveillance drones from the remote Cocos Islands — an Australian territory in the strategically vital Indian Ocean. Also it will have use of Australian Air Force bases for American military aircraft and increased ship and submarine visits to the Indian Ocean through a naval base outside Perth, on Australia’s west coast.[26]

The architect of the Pentagon anti-China strategy of Air-Sea battle is Andrew Marshall, the man who has shaped Pentagon advanced warfare strategy for more than 40 years and among whose pupils were Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. [27] Since the 1980s Marshall has been a promoter of an idea first posited in 1982 by Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov, then chief of the Soviet general staff, called RMA, or ‘Revolution in Military Affairs.’

The best definition of RMA was the one provided by Marshall himself: “A Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) is a major change in the nature of warfare brought about by the innovative application of new technologies which, combined with dramatic changes in military doctrine and operational and organizational concepts, fundamentally alters the character and conduct of military operations.” [28]

Marshall, a RAND Corporation nuclear expert, was brought by Henry Kissinger onto the President’s National Security Council that Kissinger headed. Marshall was then appointed by President Nixon in 1973, on Kissinger’s and Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger’s recommendation, to direct the Office of Net Assessment, a highly secretive internal Pentagon think tank. Marshall was reappointed by every president thereafter, a feat surpassed only by the late FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover. Andrew Marshall was the only official in the Rumsfeld Pentagon who had participated in strategic war planning throughout virtually the entire Cold War, beginning in 1949 as a nuclear strategist for RAND Corporation, then moving to the Pentagon in 1973.[29]

It was also Andrew Marshall who convinced US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his successor Robert Gates to deploy the Ballistic Missile “defense” Shield in Poland, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Japan as a strategy to minimize any potential nuclear threat from Russia and, in the case of Japan’s BMD, any potential nuclear threat from China.

‘String of Pearls’ Strategy of Pentagon
Already back in 2005 in an Annual Report to the US Congress, a select group of commissioners tied to the US intelligence community issued a report defining their view of the emerging China “danger.” They wrote:

China’s methodical and accelerating military modernization presents a growing threat to U.S security interests in the Pacific. While Taiwan remains a key potential flashpoint, China’s aggressive pursuit of territorial claims in the East and South China Seas points to ambitions that go beyond a Taiwan scenario and poses a growing threat to neighbors, including U.S. alliance partners, on China’s periphery. Recent and planned military acquisitions by Beijing—mobile ballistic missiles, improved air and naval forces capable of extended range operations—provide China with the capability to conduct offensive strikes and military operations throughout the region…

…China wants a military that is capable of performing a variety of essential offshore missions, including protecting its eastern seaboard and ensuring the security of the sea lanes through which it receives resources essential to its continued economic development. But as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld warned a Chinese military audience, ‘‘expanding [Chinese] missile forces’’ and ‘‘advances in Chinese strategic capability’’ worry China’s neighbors and raise questions, ‘‘particularly when there is an imperfect understanding of such developments on the part of others.’’

China’s aggressive pursuit of territorial claims arising from disputes with Japan in the East China Sea and multiple countries in the South China Sea and its forays into the Bay of Bengal give rise to growing regional security concerns in Japan, India, and Southeast Asia. China’s military threat against Taiwan is implicitly a threat to the United States as a result of both explicit and tacit assurances that have been expressed to Taiwan by every U.S. Administration since 1949. Taiwan has successfully converted from authoritarian rule to a functioning democracy, making it an even more significant symbol of American interest in the region and increasing the likelihood that a Chinese conflict with Taiwan will also involve U.S. forces. [30]

The 2005 China report to the US Congress went on to describe what they saw as Chinese military strategy to defend her access to vital oil from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere:

In addition, a growing dependence on imported energy resources needed to sustain its economic development exposes China to new vulnerabilities and heightens its need to secure new energy sources and the sea lines of communications (SLOCs) from East Asia to the Persian Gulf and Africa needed to move energy supplies to China. With Myanmar’s consent, China operates a maritime reconnaissance and electronic intelligence station on Great Coco Island and is building a base on Small Coco Island in the Bay of Bengal.17 According to an Asian defense analyst, China is helping Myanmar modernize several naval bases as a means of extending its power into the region. Moreover, Indian authorities claim that China has helped build radar, refit, and refuel facilities there to support further Chinese naval operations in the region in the future.[31]

In January that same year, 2005, Andrew Marshall, head of the Office of Net Assessments, issued a classified internal report to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld titled “Energy Futures in Asia.” It was the same Marshall behind the Pentagon secret ‘Air-Sea Strategy against China.  The Marshall report, which was leaked in full to a Washington newspaper, invented the term “string of pearls” strategy to describe what it called the growing Chinese military threat to “US strategic interests” in the Asian space.[32]

The internal Pentagon report claimed that “China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in ways that suggest defensive and offensive positioning to protect China’s energy interests, but also to serve broad security objectives.”

In the Pentagon Andrew Marshall report, the term China’s “String of Pearls” Strategy was used for the first time. It is a Pentagon term and not a Chinese term.

The report stated that China was adopting a “string of pearls” strategy of bases and diplomatic ties stretching from the Middle East to southern China that includes a new naval base under construction at the Pakistani port of Gwadar. It claimed that “Beijing already has set up electronic eavesdropping posts at Gwadar in the country’s southwest corner, the part nearest the Persian Gulf. The post is monitoring ship traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea.” [33]

The Marshall internal report went on to write of other “pearls” in the sea-lane strategy of China:

Bangladesh: China is strengthening its ties to the government and building a container port facility at Chittagong. The Chinese are “seeking much more extensive naval and commercial access” in Bangladesh.
Burma: China has developed close ties to the military regime in Rangoon and turned a nation wary of China into a “satellite” of Beijing close to the Strait of Malacca, through which 80 percent of China’s imported oil passes. China is building naval bases in Burma and has electronic intelligence gathering facilities on islands in the Bay of Bengal and near the Strait of Malacca. Beijing also supplied Burma with “billions of dollars in military assistance to support a de facto military alliance,” the report said.
Cambodia: China signed a military agreement in November 2003 to provide training and equipment. Cambodia is helping Beijing build a railway line from southern China to the sea.
South China Sea: Chinese activities in the region are less about territorial claims than “protecting or denying the transit of tankers through the South China Sea,” the report said. China also is building up its military forces in the region to be able to “project air and sea power” from the mainland and Hainan Island. China recently upgraded a military airstrip on Woody Island and increased its presence through oil drilling platforms and ocean survey ships.
Thailand: China is considering funding construction of a $20 billion canal across the Kra Isthmus that would allow ships to bypass the Strait of Malacca. The canal project would give China port facilities, warehouses and other infrastructure in Thailand aimed at enhancing Chinese influence in the region, the report said. The report reflects growing fears in the Pentagon about China’s long-term development. Many Pentagon analysts believe China’s military buildup is taking place faster than earlier estimates, and that China will use its power to project force and undermine U.S. and regional security. The U.S. military’s Southern Command produced a similar classified report in the late 1990s that warned that China was seeking to use commercial port facilities around the world to control strategic “chokepoints.” [34]

Breaking the String of Pearls

Significant Pentagon and US actions since that 2005 report have been aimed to counter China’s attempts to defend its energy security via that “String of Pearls.” The US interventions since 2008 into Burma/Myanmar were of two phases.

The first was the so-called Saffron Revolution, a US State Department and CIA-backed destabilization in 2007 aimed at putting the international spotlight on the Burma military dictatorship’s human rights practices. The aim was to further isolate Burma internationally from economic relations aside from China, especially threatening  the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines.

US moves to open Burma are aimed at the China Energy Corridor

​​​​​Forcing Burma’s military leaders into tighter dependency on China was one of the factors triggering the decision of the military to open up economically to the West. They declared that the tightening of US economic sanctions had done the country great harm and President Thein Sein made his major liberalization opening as well as allowing US-backed dissident, Aung San Suu Kyi, to be free and to run for elective office with her party in return for promises from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of US investment in the country. [35]

The US corporations approaching Burma are hand-picked by Washington to introduce the most destructive “free market” reforms that will open Burma to instability. The United States will not allow investment in entities owned by Myanmar’s armed forces or its Ministry of Defense. It also is able to place sanctions on “those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict or participate in military trade with North Korea.” The United States will block businesses or individuals from making transactions with any “specially designated nationals” or businesses that they control — allowing Washington, for example, to stop money from flowing to groups “disrupting the reform process.” It’s the classic “carrot and stick” approach, dangling the carrot of untold riches if Burma opens its economy to US corporations and punishing those who try to resist the takeover of the country’s prize assets. Oil and gas, vital to China, will be a special target of US intervention.   American companies and people will be allowed to invest in the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise.[36]

President Obama also created a new power for the government to impose “blocking sanctions” on any individual threatening peace in Myanmar. Businesses with more than $500,000 in investment in the country will need to file an annual report with the State Department, with details on workers’ rights, land acquisitions and any payments of more than $10,000 to government entities, including Myanmar’s state-owned enterprises.

American companies and people will be allowed to invest in the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, but any investors will need to notify the State Department within 60 days.

As well, US “human rights” NGOs, many closely associated with or believed to be associated with US State Department geopolitical designs, including Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, Institute for Asian Democracy, Open Society Foundations, Physicians for Human Rights, U.S. Campaign for Burma, United to End Genocide— will now be allowed to operate inside Burma according to a decision by State Secretary Clinton in April 2012.[37]

Thailand, another key in China’s defensive String of Pearl Strategy has also been subject of intense destabilization over the past several years. Now with the sister of the corrupt former Prime Minister in office, US-Thai relations have significantly improved.

After months of bloody clashes, the US-backed billionaire, Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra , managed to buy the way to put his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra in as Prime Minister, with him pulling the policy strings from abroad. Thaksin himself  was enjoying comfortable status in the US as of this writing, in summer 2012.

 US relations with Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, were moving in direct fulfillment of the new Obama “strategic pivot” to focus on the “China threat.” In June 2012, General Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, after returning from a visit this month to Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore stated: “We want to be out there partnered with nations and have a rotational presence that would allow us to build up common capabilities for common interests.”  This is precisely key beads in what the Pentagon calls the String of Pearls.

The Pentagon is now quietly negotiating a return to bases abandoned after the Vietnam War. It is negotiating with the Thai government to create a new “disaster relief” hub  at the Royal Thai Navy Air Field at U-Tapao, 90 miles south of Bangkok. The US military built the two mile long runway there, one of Asia’s longest, in the 1960s as a major staging and refueling base during the Vietnam War.

The Pentagon was also working to secure more rights to US Navy visits to Thai ports and joint surveillance flights to monitor trade routes and military movements. The US Navy will soon base four of its newest warships — Littoral Combat Ships — in Singapore and would rotate them periodically to Thailand and other southeast Asian countries. The Navy was pursuing options to conduct joint airborne surveillance missions from Thailand.[38]

In addition, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter went to Thailand in July 2012 and the Thai government has invited Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who met with the Thai minister of defense at a conference in Singapore in June.[39]

In 2014, the US Navy was scheduled to begin deploying new P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance and anti-submarine aircraft to the Pacific, replacing the P-3C Orion surveillance planes. The Navy was also preparing to deploy new high-altitude surveillance drones to the Asia-Pacific region around the same time. [40]

Pentagon targets China Oil Shipping Lanes from Africa and Mideast

India-US Defense ‘Look East Policy’… (end of selection from Target China)

[1]Brian Spegele et al, US Missile Shield Plan Seen Stoking China Fears, The Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2012, accessed in
[2] Kazunori Takada, Japanese firms shut China plants, US urges calm in islands row, Reuters, September 17, 2012, accessed in
[3] Thom Shanker and Ian Johnson, US Accord With Japan Over Missile Defense Draws Criticism in China, The New York Times, September 17, 2012, accessed in
[4] RT, Shield revealed US spreads missile defenses East. Russia Tioday, 24 August, 2012, accessed in
[5] Brian Spegele, et al, US Missile Shield Plan Seen Stoking China Fears, Wall Street Journal, August 24, 2012, accessed in
[6] Ibid.
[7] Trefor Moss, Asia’s New Arms Race: Missiles, Missile Defenses, August 27, 2012, accessed in
[8] RT, op. cit.
[9] Brian Spegele, op. cit.
[10] F. William Engdahl, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, edition.engdahl, Wiesbaden, 2009, p. 162.
[11] Ibid., p. 161.
[12] Global Times, US missile shield fosters Asian arms race, Beijing, Global Times, March 29, 2012, accessed in
[13] Chen Yuming, Xu Song and Mao Yizhu, Three questions for Japan: What is Japan’s intention behind ‘buying the Diaoyu Islands’?, People’s Daily Online, September 18, 2012, accessed in
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, 10 September 2012, Beijing.
[17] Winslow Wheeler, The Military Imbalance: How The US Outspends the World, March 16, 2012, accessed in
[18] Ibid.
[19] F. William Engdahl, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totalitarian Democracy in the New World Order, 2010, edition.engdahl, Wiesbaden.
[20] President Barack Obama, Remarks By President Obama to the Australian Parliament, November 17, 2011, accessed in
[21] Ibid.
[22] Otto Kreisher, UK Defense Chief to NATO: Pull Your Weight in Europe While US Handles China, July 22, 2012, accessed in
[23] BBC, China military ‘closing key gaps’, says Pentagon, 25 August 2011, accessed in
[24] Ibid.
[25] Greg Jaffe , US Model for a Future War Fans Tensions with China and inside Pentagon, Washington Post, August 2, 2012, accessed in
[26] Matt Siegel, As Part of Pact, U.S. Marines Arrive in Australia, in China’s Strategic Backyard, The New York Times,
[27] Greg Jaffe, op. cit.
[28] F. William Engdahl, Full Spectrum Dominance: Totallitarian democracy in the New World Order, Wiesbaden, 2009, edition.engdahl, p. 190.
[29] Ibid., p. 190.
[30] US-China Economic Security and Review Commission, 2005 Report to Congress of the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, US Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, November 2005, accessed in, pp. 115, 118.
[31] Ibid., p. 120.
[32] The Washington Times, China Builds up Strategic Sea Lanes, January 17, 2005, accessed in
[33] Ibid.
[34] Ibid.
[35] Wall Street Journal, An Opening in Burma: The regime’s tentative liberalization is worth testing for sincerity,
Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2011, accessed in
[36] Radio Free Asia, US to Invest in Burma’s Oil, 7 November, 2011, accessed in
[37] Shaun Tandon, US eases Myanmar restrictions for NGOs, AFP,  April 17, 2012, accessed in
[38] Craig Whitlock, U.S. eyes return to some Southeast Asia military bases, Washington Post, June 23, 2012, accessed in
[39] Ibid.
[40] Ibid.
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  Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, Engdahl is the son of F. William Engdahl, Sr., and Ruth Aalund (b. Rishoff). Engdahl grew up in Texas and after earning a degree in engineering and jurisprudence from Princeton University in 1966 (BA) and graduate study in comparative economics at the University of Stockholm from 1969 to 1970, he worked as an economist and freelance journalist in New York and in Europe. Engdahl began writing about oil politics with the first oil shock in the early 1970s. His first book was called A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order and discusses the alleged roles of Zbigniew Brzezinski and George Ball and of the USA in the 1979 overthrow of the Shah of Iran, which was meant to manipulate oil prices and to stop Soviet expansion. Engdahl claims that Brzezinski and Ball used the Islamic Balkanization model proposed by Bernard Lewis. In 2007, he completed Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation. Engdahl is also a contributor to the website of the anti-globalization Centre for Research on Globalization, the Russian website New Eastern Outlook,[2] and the Voltaire Network,[3] and a freelancer for varied newsmagazines such as the Asia Times. William Engdahl has been married since 1987 and has been living for more than two decades near Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

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