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The Encirclement of China is Well Underway: France Prepares to Lead EU Missions in the South China Sea

by Asia-Pacific Research

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The naval encirclement of China is well underway. It was started over a decade ago by the United States with the re-militarization of Japan and the tightening of Washington’s military partnerships with countries like Australia and South Korea. The same is true about the missile shield being erected in South Korea, which targets China, Russia, and North Korea.

The excerpts that will follow are taken from a 14 July 2016 article written by Yo-Jung Chen, a Japanese-educated naturalized French diplomat that immigrated to France from Taiwan. The retired French diplomat wrote the article in The Diplomat seeking to justify the deployment of the French military into the South China Sea. Coming from a retired French diplomat who was stationed in Asia, the article offers some interesting insights. Aside from his post as the deputy consul of the French Consulate-General in San Francisco, Yo-Jung’s Chinese background helped qualify him as the press attaché for the French Embassy in China and deputy consul at the French Embassy in Singapore.

Yo-Jung Chen misleadingly identifies “Chinese aggression” as the reason for the plans of France to redeploy to the South China Sea and to lead a series of European Union military expeditions in the body of water against the People’s Republic of China. Never questioning the French occupation of places like Polynesia or New Caledonia, the retired French diplomat also tries to naturalize the French military presence in the South China Sea by talking about the colonial history of France in Vietnam and the South China Sea and by referring to France as a Indo-Pacific nation. What Yo-Jung fails to identify and mention is the inalienable rights of the Chinese to peacefully navigate in the South China Sea and the security and military threats emanating from the US and its allies against the Chinese.

The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China has been used as a pretext by the US and its allies to target China. Nor has Beijing threatened the freedom of navigation. Over 100,000 vessels sail through the South China Sea every year and there has never been any major cases of China preventing freedom of navigation.

On the contrary, Beijing fears that the US and its allies seek the tactical capability to halt Chinese shipping in the South China Sea.  Nothing is mentioned by Yo-Jung Chen about “US aggression” or Washington’s plans to cut off Chinese shipping in the South China Sea. This is what has pushed Beijing to try its best to prevent Washington and its allies from militarizing the South China Sea by claiming as much adjacent waters and nautical miles as possible.

What the plans of France and the European Union to militarily deploy their naval forces to the South China Sea illustrates is that the European Union is Washington’s accomplice and military partner in the objective of encircling China. This announcement is in line with the return of German naval forces to the Pacific Ocean. It is also no coincidence that many of the countries involved in the naval encirclement of China are either NATO members, like France and Britain, or NATO partners, like Australia and Japan.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Asia-Pacific Research Editor, 22 July 2016.

South China Sea: The French Are Coming

Yo-Jung Chen, 14 July 2016

The U.S.-led international efforts to defend the freedom of navigation guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), aiming at preventing the entire South China Sea from becoming an exclusive Chinese lake, has just received a powerful boost in the form of the July 12 ruling of The Hague-based UN Permanent Court of Arbitration. Much to China’s anger, most of its sovereignty claims over the South China Sea are rejected in this ruling.

To the surprise of many, a seemingly unrelated European power, France, has announced its intention of coordinating the navies of fellow European Union nations to conduct Freedom of Navigation Operations or FONOPs in South China Sea. On June 5, at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian mentioned this initiative for joint EU patrols of “the maritime areas of Asia” and for a “regular and visible presence there.”

From a strictly strategic viewpoint, France’s announced plan will not have a determining impact on the situation in the South China Sea. After all, despite being a major military power with global reach, France’s military presence in the region is limited. Besides, outside of France, what other EU nation has a permanent naval and air presence in the Pacific?

But however small the strategic impact may be, the French initiative promises to weigh in heavily on the diplomatic front, adding significantly to China’s already stark isolation in this case.

The scope of this diplomatic impact should be measured in the wake of the July 12 ruling of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration, in a context where China is attempting, without much success, to put together a “coalition of the willing” of countries presumably supportive of its position in the South China Sea.

The French initiative thus has the potential of further weakening China’s position by conspicuously bringing Europe in as an additional heavyweight to the international pressure for respecting the rule of law, represented by The Hague-based arbitration court’s ruling.

France in the Asia-Pacific

Contrary to general perception, France is no stranger in this volatile theater in the Far East. The announced French initiative may not be so surprising when one recalls that France is also an Asia-Pacific nation with vital interests in the region. It has territories in the Southern Pacific: French Polynesia, New Caledonia, and Wallis & Futuna islands. Combine this to territories in the Indian Ocean (La Reunion, Mayotte, Kerguelen, etc.), and France is also an Indo-Pacific nation.

These overseas territories add to those in the Caribbean’s to give France the world’s second largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (11 million square kilometers) after the United States, 62 percent of which is located in the Pacific and 24 percent in the Indian Ocean. 1,500,000 French citizens live in the French Indo-Pacific territories (500,000 in the Pacific) besides the 130,000 French nationals in various Asia-Pacific countries.

These territories, EEZ, and population necessitate adequate protection and policing. This explains the permanent presence of 8,000 French military personnel in the Indo-Pacific area (2,800 in the Pacific). In the Pacific area alone, France operates two surveillance frigates, four patrol vessels, two multi-mission ships, five maritime surveillance aircraft, four tactical transport aircraft, and seven helicopters.

Although the European Union as such does not particularly shine as a visible strategic presence in the Asia-Pacific region, France, through various treaties and agreements, maintains a network of “strategic partnerships” with Asian countries such as Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

France also has developing strategic relationships with Malaysia and New Zealand. And it takes part in almost every major regional strategic forum such as the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Pacific Coast Guard Forum, to mention only a few. France is the first of EU nations to have signed up to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, the TAC.

Moreover, France is a major provider of defense equipment in Asia. It has recently inked a deal to provide 12 new submarines to Australia. It is in the process of selling Rafale jet fighters to India and it has assisted Malaysia in setting up its submarine force. France also maintains research cooperation on defense matters with Singapore. Few people know that fighter pilots of the Singapore Air Force train on a permanent basis in southern France.

On a historical note too, France is not new in the region. According to Professor Shawn McHale writing in May 2016 for the “Rising Power Initiative,” France, as colonial ruler of Vietnam at the time, in 1931 asserted its sovereignty over part of the South China Sea. French sovereignty was challenged by Japan throughout World War II and both stopped their claims only in the 1950s.

Why France and the EU?

Given this background, questions may still linger on why France, which, along with other European countries, has important trade interests with China, would choose to ruffle Chinese feathers at this point by entering the fray in the South China Sea.

Excerpts have been taken from The Diplomat by Asia-Pacific Research. Copyright © Asia-Pacific Research, Asia-Pacific Research, 2016

18 Comments

  1. kevin morris says

    China has illegally occupied Tibet since 1950. It has been accused by the International Commission of Jurists as having committed genocide in Tibet. Tibetans are now a minority in their own country and it is almost impossible for Tibetans to receive a secondary eduction in their own language. The resources of Tibet have been and are being plundered by the Chinese whose name for Tibet translates as ‘Western treasure house.

    Asia’s chief rivers all rise in Tibet. Flooding in Bangladesh has been exacerbated by deforestation in Tibet. Currently the Chinese plan to reroute rivers to flow north in order to irrigate a desertified Chinese regions. Several countries south of Tibet have expressed serious concerns about the impact of those plans yet have received little by way of response from the Chinese.

    The Chinese refuse to recognise borders between former Tibet and India despite the fact that the peaceful relationship that had existed between India and Tibet for centuries. China meddles in the countries that border India and was found by India to have build a road between Pakistan and China illegally through Indian territory. China has refused to cooperate over the issue.

    China has the highest rate of executions in the world. The executed’s family still gets the bill for the bullet. It was common for political executees to have their jaws dislocated prior to execution so that they could not call out during public executions. Until very recently, surgeons stood by at the execution site in order to harvest organs that were sold on the international market to the highest bidder. It is not unknown for prisoners in China to be told they needed an operation, only to discover when they came round that they had lost a kidney to the international organ trade

    I could go on and on. I dislike much of the impact of the US on the world but I feel serious concern at the attempt, more prevalent on the left, to whitewash China. The country has a great deal to answer for and as its power grows, nobody is prepared to face her down- except currently the US. I am grateful for small mercies as indeed are those who have reason to fear the possible impart of threatened returns to the bosom of the motherland.

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    • No-one here is whitewashing the Chinese. Since the end of WW2, the US has illegally invaded or forced regime changes – openly or surreptitiously, in 78 countries. They’ve supported and nurtured terrorism for their own ends and openly refused to ratify many international treaties on civilised behaviour. Their neocon and neoliberal policies are destroying the economies of every country they deal with while their own citizens are left to rot. Now they seem determined to start a nuclear war with China and/or Russia.

      No-one here is whitewashing the Chinese, but they really are the lesser evil at present. I don’t hear the US pushing for Tibetan rights, presumably they don’t have any oil!

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      • kevin morris says

        I assure you- the PRC has been hard at work on a hearts and minds campaign in the West at least since the 90s. The left is particularly susceptible to China’s blandishments. We tend to ignore China’s own particular brand of chauvinism and bullying, partially because we prefer to see the US as the cause of every wrong in the world, and because of a mistaken belief that China is a progressive nation. Make no mistake, China intends the 21st century to be theirs. Rather like the US, they have their own doctrine of manifest destiny and the will to achieve their aims.

        China’s plans for the Yarlung Tsangpo River are likely to lead to serious ecological and economic damage, not only to The Tibetan Plateau but to the nations living in the river’s path. The fact that this project is almost unheard of in the west demonstrates a selectivity on the part of the west’s media. We are remiss in being selective, relishing every wrong committed by the US, yet ignoring those committed by China.

        You might not hear the US pushing for Tibetan rights but that is probably because you aren’t particularly attuned to the situation there. The US always raises the situation in Tibet during diplomatic visits. During the 60s and 70s, the CIA trained and funded Tibetan guerillas who were based in Mustang, Nepal. The US removed its support for them in response conditions set down by Chairman Mao prior to President Nixon’s visit to Peking and the subsequent US-China rapprochement.

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        • China’s plans for the Yarlung Tsangpo River are likely to lead to serious ecological and economic damage, not only to The Tibetan Plateau but to the nations living in the river’s path. The fact that this project is almost unheard of in the west demonstrates a selectivity on the part of the west’s media. We are remiss in being selective, relishing every wrong committed by the US, yet ignoring those committed by China.

          You say “we” are being remiss in being selective. I think that’s hardly fair, especially if the media aren’t reporting on issues. The media is generally a US mouthpiece, so for us to “relish every wrong committed by the US ” we actually have to dig and find out about it first.

          From the situation you describe and the fact that the MSM do not report more issues in China I would hazard a guess that the US is somewhat complicit in the Chinese plans, which doesn’t make sense given the South China Sea confrontation. You would think bad publicity of any variety would suit the US aims, but the first I hear of it is from you.

          Perhaps you might share your sources so that we all can see for ourselves and judge accordingly.

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          • kevin morris says

            When I say ‘we’ I am acknowledging that the left of which I believe myself to be a member, has tended to have a blind spot regarding the actions of China. I am old enough to remember figures on the left in Britain claiming in the early sixties that China’s invasion of Tibet would have a civilising effect.

            I would hazard a guess that your hazarded guess rather underlines what I have said about the left’s blindspot regarding China. Clearly you know nothing of China’s plans for the region yet you would wish to see that the US is somehow implcated. I would suggest that your viewpoint is a prime example of the sort of ‘dog whistle’ opinion forming that large parts of the left resorts to when the United States is mentioned.

            Despite news clampdowns of varying effectiveness for over half a century, the picture that continues to trickle from historical Tibet is a disturbing one. A good perspective on the serious ecological damage being perpetrated in Tibet by China, a good source is ‘Meltdown in Tibet’ Michael Buckley ISBN-13 978-1137279545

            For an Indian viewpoint on many aspects of the China’s behaviour in the region:

            Indian Defence Review 2011 ‘Threat from China ISBN-13:978-1-935501-30-5, editor Bharat Verma.

            This book is a collection of essays by Indian academics and mliitary personnel. It examines in detail the PLA’s published military aims in the region and provides in depth analyses of the history of China in the region. Bear in mind the fact that China and India have already fought a war over the borders between india and erstwhile Tibet.

            A very interesting essay details Chinese plans to damn and divert rivers that rise in Tibet and examines the implications for the countries to the south of Tibet. Almost every Asian river rises in Tibet and China’s plans are causing dismay throughout South East Asia.

            I started my earlier post by saying I am no great fan of the United States. That remains the case, but it is very clear to me that given the burgeoning power of China in the region, several Asian countries will be feeling a distinct sense of relief that the US is willing to confront China.

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            • I started my earlier post by saying I am no great fan of the United States. That remains the case, but it is very clear to me that given the burgeoning power of China in the region, several Asian countries will be feeling a distinct sense of relief that the US is willing to confront China.
              I understand your position concerning Chinese actions and I agree that they should be confronted on those issues. However, I don’t see how American aggression in the south China Sea is going to alter those issues. To be honest, the US would probably do the same thing. They didn’t mind polluting the great lakes at Canadas expense.

              US brinkmanship towards China puts us all at risk. No dialogue can take place on other issues while the threat continues. I can’t see the Chinese changing their policies because of military action. Consequently, the US needs to draw back and let the dust settle, in more than one arena.

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    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      A master-class in lying. Tibet has been part of China, on and off, for centuries. It is more part of China than California is of the USA. Chinese liberation ended a vicious theocracy, and freed the serfs. Women were emancipated for the first time, as in China. Illiteracy was ended, common diseases, particularly infectious and parasitic, greatly reduced in occurrence. Life expectancy soared and child mortality plummeted. And Tibetans, like all Chinese minorities, were not subject to the ‘one-child’ policy.
      The West, led by Uncle Satan in Thanatopolis DC, was involved in subversion and sabotage in Tibet from 1950. Terrorists were trained in Colorado at high altitude and returned, and eventually they organised the revolt by the Khampa bandits who resented their ‘traditions’ being interfered with.
      China has borders with about fifteen countries, and has settled ALL border disputes with all but one-poor old India, so impotently jealous of China far outstripping them since their near coincident Independence. The borders in the Himalayas were stuffed up by English Imperialism, and it is India, currently repressing the Kashmiris with vicious intensity for the seventieth or so year, who are responsible for the current impasse, not the Chinese.
      In all this sort of Sinophobic sludge one stench always comes through most strongly. And that is racism, the fear and outrage of Western racists who imagine themselves the God-ordained rulers of the Earth forever, driven mad with fear and hatred that a great non-European civilization like China has risen to power. Instead of co-operating with China, every day since 1949 they have worked incessantly to ‘bring China down’ and split into warring fragments, as in the 19th century. Today they are STILL at it, driven by intense racism and xenophobia, as we see here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kevin morris says

        You are expressing an opinion, to which of course, you are welcome. The historical picture though is rather more complicated.

        Tibetan is a different language from Chinese and is actually closer to Burmese. Tibet had a different currency and taxation system to China. The Tibetan culture is very different to Chinese and to be frank whilst you seem to have taken the Chinese propaganda arguments of Tibetan Chinese relations hook line and sinker, you rather ignore the fact that Chinese tend, generally speaking, have contempt for Tibetans who they regard as backward.

        Chinese claims over Tibet seem to stem from the fact that in the twelfth century, both Tibet and China were ruled by Mongolia. At that time, and for centuries afterwards, the view was that the Tibet China relationship was one of Priest and Patron. The Chinese viewpoint also rather ignores the fact that prior to Tibet’s conversion to Buddhism, Tibet had conquered and ruled a large part of China.

        Rather than peddling a viewpoint which of course you are welcome to however biased, I suggest you read some views in books that I have listed above on the serious ecological damage taking place in Tibet and the concerns of India over China’s influence in the region. India had good relations with Tibet for centuries, yet within twelve years of the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950 it has had to fight a war over the borders between the two countries.

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  2. Mick McNulty says

    If China is forced into a retaliatory strike by a US provocation (all a US design to start war), it may make more sense for China to sink the whole US fleet in the South China Sea than leave any ship or plane to continue a battle. This may just give US politicians enough time to think, to de-escalate the situation, after they’ve been warned they’ll be targeted next and many of them will be dead by the end of the week. Take war to their door.

    Change the whole concept of warfare. Target the elites, ensure they and theirs are amongst its first victims. After one in five of them [and rising] have been struck they’ll sue for peace. Make them reluctant to ever go to war again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Worldtruth and commented:

    The US is the greatest threat to World Peace and the most aggressive country in the world. They will use the simpletons in the EU to fight a proxy war against Russia and the fools on the other side of the world to wage war against China. Meanwhile back home, in the land of the sheep and home of the idiot, they will all be nice and war free while the rest of the world burns. It really is time to isolate the US and insulate against it’s rampant aggression.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. rtj1211 says

    The Americans really are the most despicable elites on earth.

    I’d like China and Russia to put fifty frigates and destroyers at either end of the Panama canal and sink any American vessel that tries to use it.

    See how the Americans like that…….

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Secret Agent says

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out when the European banking system goes into cardiac arrest this Autumn. Especially now that perfidious Albion has allied itself to China as part of its Brexit strategy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The recent article by K.J. Noh at Counterpunch paints a contrasting picture.

    You don’t have to be conspiracy theorist to surmise the following dialogue from the US to the Philippines: “We can’t go directly at the Chinese—not just now–but you can. If you escalate the conflict, get their goat, we’ll help you. It’s simple: if they come after you, they are bullies, and if they don’t they’re pussies. Either way they lose face. And when they do come after you, we can take them to court. We specialize in litigation. We can do lawfare like no-one’s business.

    And we’ll do it in a special court. Not just any court. Not a public international court like the UN International Court of Justice, which is where these things really get hashed out. If we go there, they will thrash our butts over sovereignty. But, we can get a little known private star chamber with a pretentious title, originally created to render judgments in favor of corporations, where the judges are rented, that should give us a favorable decision. The Chinese won’t know what hit them. How good is that? And we will set it up so we will win”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Richard Le Sarcophage says

      The ‘Philippines’ legal team contained few or NO Filipinos, just US and other Westerners. The kangaroo court was headed by a Japanese fascist, an ally of the Nanjing Holocaust denier, Abe. That, given Japan’s continued refusal to return Chinese territory, the Diaoyu Islands, seized by Japanese Imperialism (like the Ryukyu Islands for that matter) is a blatant conflict of interest. The thug then appointed four European ‘judges'(who else but White men?)from Poland, Germany, France and Holland, all stooges of the USA, and a Ghanaian ‘House Negro’ who has worked in the West, so knows the rules. And, as is typical of US belligerence and refusal to give an inch, they ‘surprised’ everyone by finding against China in every aspect, often contemptuously. In other words a typical US set-up and provocation, like so many others before. All regurgitated without ANY dissent anywhere by the Western MSM propaganda sewer. What lies behind this, of course, is the race hatred and terror of Western elites not prepared under any circumstances to allow a non-White, non-Western power to rise to economic power. They WILL destroy the world to avoid that, be assured.

      Like

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