Unfinished Vietnam War
THE COLD WAR IN ASIA – INDIA RESPECTS SOVEREIGNTY OF TIBET AND BHUTAN
My ‘CIA CONNECTION’ is byproduct of ‘The Cold War in Asia’. In 1950s, India’s external relations along Himalayan Frontier were shaped by the fear of Communism spreading in Asia. For centuries, people of India, Tibet, and Bhutan lived with no major concerns about boundaries between these countries. Communist China’s Doctrine of Expansionism came into focus when Red China made claims of her sovereignty over territories of her neighbors.
In May 1956, the 14th Dalai Lama visited New Delhi not to celebrate 2,500 Birth Anniversary of Gautama Buddha. He came to seek help and support for Tibet is the first victim of Red China’s Expansionism. Both India, and Tibet share this fear of Communism. In September 1958, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Bhutan to forge relationships driven by fear of Communist Expansionism. India respects sovereignty of Tibet and Bhutan not because of religious or philosophical doctrine of Gautama Buddha but on account of fear of Expansionist Doctrine of Red China.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
DOKLAM STANDOFF: BHUTAN’S SOVEREIGNTY
Today, as two Asian powers face off with Bhutan at the center of this delicate situation, the outcome will show whether the Asian century has a chance to be a peaceful one, or whether it will replay the violence of the colonial period.
Jawaharlal Nehru at Paro 1958. Credit: India House, Thimphu
As the Doklam plateau stand-off continues well into its second month, analysts in India, China and globally have focused primarily on the India-China interaction. Those that have mentioned Bhutan – the Doklam plateau dispute is between Bhutan and China – have characterized Bhutan as either a protectorate, a state whose relationship with India limits its sovereign actions, or merely as a vassal state being bullied by India. These characterizations ignore Bhutan’s long history of fighting for its sovereignty as well the reasons (and context) in which Bhutan has pursued its special relationship with India.
The India-Bhutan relationship is often characterized by the grants and aid that India has extended to the small country, principally to the hydropower plants that provide Bhutan its largest single source of revenue. The political relationship, though, precedes the hydropower projects by decades, and is best seen in the context of Tibetan issues. The first official meeting between the leaders of the two countries after Independence took place after Jawaharlal Nehru, accompanied by a young Indira Gandhi, travelled to Bhutan via Sikkim, by plane, jeep, horseback and yak in 1958. Although the Chinese accorded a welcoming reception, and gave Nehru’s party an honor guard while passing through Chinese administered territory, the clouds of future conflict were already there.
In 1956, on a visit to India to commemorate the 2,500 birth anniversary of the Buddha, the 14th Dalai Lama had asked for refuge. In 1959, he and his entourage would flee Tibet, setting in place a conflict that continues today.
Bhutan would not have been unaware of these issues. The Haa Drung (administrator of Haa), Jigme Palden Dorji, who also acted as the prime minister of Bhutan, was in touch with Major General Enaith Habibullah, the first Commandant of the National Defence Academy, who was also quite close to Nehru. Furthermore the pressure on the monastic orders being brought to bear by the Chinese in Tibet would have been relayed very quickly to Bhutan, whose monastic order was closely linked to Tibet’s.
The relations between Tibet and Bhutan have historically been about monks. The establishment of Bhutan as a separate domain, Druk Yul, in the 17th Century under the Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, was set off by the rejection of his claims to be the head of the monastic order headed by his Gyare clan. This claim was rejected by the 5th Dalai Lama, which led to the Zhabdrung being offered shelter in Bhutan and a series of battles that would end up establishing Bhutan’s independence.
In 1864 another war erupted, this time with the British. Ashley Eden, who had negotiated an agreement with Sikkim that stripped the Chogyal of his powers and utterly eviscerated the sovereignty of the Himalayan kingdom, was sent to negotiate a similar treaty with the Bhutanese. Instead he encountered Jigme Namgyal, the Black Regent. Namgyal forced Eden to sign a different treaty – one which committed the British to return the Assamese Duars already forcibly occupied by them.
Eden’s treatment was used as a pretext for war for Britain to forcibly capture the territory they wanted – ideal for growing tea, an enormously costly cash crop of that time, one for which the Opium Wars against China had also been launched. The ensuing Duar Wars are considered victories by both Bhutan and Britain. Bhutan lost the Duars, but retained its independence, even being paid a rent (though a small amount) by the British Empire for the Duars.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi with the 3rd king’s family. Credit: India House, Thimphu
In 1903 another war loomed when the British wanted to send the Younghusband expedition to Tibet. Caught between the two powers, Ugyen Wangchuck, the son of Jigme Namgyal, initially prepared for war against the British. It was his cousin and close advisor, Ugyen Dorji, a well-established trader based out of Kalimpong, who advised against this. Ugyen Wangchuck’s father-in-law also advised against it. Listening to their advice, Ugyen Wangchuck became the key facilitator for the Younghusband expedition, negotiating on behalf of both the Tibetans and British. He was one of the few that tried to keep some semblance of order in an expedition in which the British machine gunned Tibetans armed with muzzle loaders, some of whom were just trying to get away from the field of battle at Chumik Shenko.
It was this expedition, and the laurels that Ugyen Wangchuck won as a negotiator for both the power in the north – Tibet – and the power in the South – Britain – that set the stage for him being formally invested with kingship in 1907. The Tibetans, who had never in their history turned to Bhutan for help, offered him new ceremonial headgear in a mark of great respect. The British offered him knighthood, making him a Knight Commander of the Indian Empire.
This is the history of independence that the 3rd King of Bhutan, the Druk Gyalpo Jigme Wangchuck, carried forward when he welcomed Nehru to Bhutan in 1958. The King would have been well aware of what was going on in Tibet and its potential ramifications for Bhutan, which Mao claimed as part of Tibet. This was partially based on the defeat of Bhutanese forces by the Tibetan ruler Pholhanas in 1730 and 1732, invited into the country by the then Penlop (Governor) of Paro Valley, and the subsequent dispatch of Bhutanese leaders to kowtow before the Qing throne.
It is therefore why Nehru’s promise to Bhutan in September 1958, at his first speech to the Bhutanese public in Paro, was so important:
“Some may think that since India is a great and powerful country and Bhutan a small one, the former might wish to exercise pressure on Bhutan. It is therefore essential that I make it clear to you that our only wish is that you should remain an independent country, choosing your own way of life and taking the path of progress according to your will.”
It was based on this promise that Indian assistance to Bhutan, initially by helping fund Bhutan’s Five Year Plans, began. At that time Bhutan had no currency of its own, and was the country with the lowest per capita GDP in South Asia. Today Bhutan’s per capita GDP is $2,870 while India’s is $1,850. That growth has been facilitated by Indian assistance, but is based on Bhutan’s freedom to develop the way it wanted.
In recent times that freedom has been what has come under strain, most obviously when the Indian state abruptly, and without any explanation, stopped a subsidy for LPG in Bhutan in 2013, between the first and second round of the Bhutanese general elections. The LPG subsidy had an immediate impact, the ruling party lost, and the LPG subsidy was resumed, again without any real explanation. This was seen by many Bhutanese as undue interference. But while the action may have generated much talk, evidence of its efficacy – if that is what one can call so ham-handed a move – is slight.
Nehru with Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. Credit: India House, Thimphu
Bhutan has two rounds of elections, with a run off between two leading parties in the second round. (In 2008 there were only two parties registered, so there was no run off.) In the first round of the 2013 elections, the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa, the governing party, received 44.5% of the vote, with the three Opposition parties, two of whom merged together after the first round, received the rest. In the second round, after the withdrawal of the subsidy, the DPT received 45% of the votes. The impact of the subsidy removal may have had more impact on commentary than voter share, much of which is determined by local issues. Bhutan experienced a painful currency crisis that had deeply eroded the DPT’s popularity. After the elections the former Bhutanese prime minister first accused the Bhutanese Election Commission of misconduct, and when directed by the king to direct those complaints to the chief election commission, resigned his post as a member of parliament. Such moves indicate that issues within Bhutan – as in every other country – have a greater impact on politics than any external meddling.
None of this should be used as an excuse for Indian high-handedness vis-à-vis Bhutan, but just goes to show that Bhutan has acted based on its own self-interest. It has done so as well when it comes to managing its foreign relations. The security and diplomatic support that Bhutan receives from India allows it to focus on issues of its core concern. The 4th King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who abdicated in 2006 in favor of his son after ruling for 34 years, had all the necessary weight to conduct foreign policy differently if he wanted to. He could have been a very prominent actor on the world stage, and certainly has enough personal connections with high-ranking diplomats to play that role even now, instead he focused almost entirely on internal issues. His son, the 5th King, Jigme Khesar Wangchuck, became one of the few heads of state to address the joint houses of parliament in Japan in 2011. He too, could easily be an important international actor, and yet both father and son have chosen to play their roles in a low key manner, and Bhutan has avoided international entanglements, while strengthening the country internally. Part of that strengthening is the hydropower dams, built by grant and aid by India, which supply India with cheap electricity and Bhutan with much needed revenue. Neither of these actions, of diplomacy, or economic planning, are examples of “vassalage”, of a state forced into a subservience by its larger neighbor. Instead it has been a complex and delicate furtherance of Bhutanese sovereignty that keep Bhutan secure and prosperous, leaving it free of the meddling that has compromised the sovereignty and security of its Himalayan neighbors – Sikkim, Tibet and Nepal.
Nehru and Indira Gandhi on yaks. Credit: India House, Thimphu
The key question for those following the stand-off at Doklam is going to be this one: how will Bhutan continue to exercise its sovereignty? The challenge that China is throwing is not a merely military one, but rather the question of whether Bhutan’s old deal with India, or whether Chinese partnership will allow Bhutan greater freedom, and greater sovereignty.
One answer to this is obvious. In Tibet the Potala palace has been reduced to a tourist attraction. The 14th Dalai Lama cannot visit, and is regularly vilified in the domestic press. Monasteries are severely constrained. Over the last few years more than a hundred Tibetans have immolated themselves. Although this has drawn scant criticism by global actors, such actions have their impact in Bhutan, where the monastic order is an important actor. Just this last week, the Nobel Laureate and long advocate for democracy, Liu Xiaobo, died in Chinese incarceration.
Yet the news from China is not all bad, nor is the news from India all good. As China invests in the grand Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and Bhutan’s neighboring mountain state, Nepal, dreams of using BRI to link with the world, many admirers of China’s development model in Bhutan compare this to the situation in India’s northeast, where annual floods displace millions of poor, and atrocities by state forces and militants are as common as the entrenched poverty. Today Bhutan faces the challenge of managing its two gigantic neighbors, both of whom face massive internal challenges themselves. In the 18th Century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Gorkha King who unified Nepal, described this challenge as being like a yam between two boulders. Bhutan chose a different path, one that now means it stands as a peaceful anomaly in the midst of the contested border between the giants of Asia.
It will take great skill and wisdom to resolve this challenge from the power in the north and the power in the south. Bhutan has done this before, becoming not a yam to be crushed, but a bridge of understanding between vastly different cultures and polities. Nevertheless that incident led to massacres and was based on aggression, an outcome of colonial policies and fears. Today, as two Asian powers face off with Bhutan at the center of this delicate situation, the outcome will show whether the Asian century has a chance to be a peaceful one, or whether it will replay the violence of the colonial period. Much of that depends on how India and China, as well as Bhutan itself, manages its sovereignty. It is no small thing, and should not be ignored. To misquote George W. Bush, it would not be wise to underestimate Bhutan.
RED DRAGON, INDIA, BHUTAN BORDER STAND-OFF – RESPOND BY DEPLOYING SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
On behalf of Special Frontier Force, I demand the United States, India, and Tibet to respond to Red Dragon’s incursions into Bhutanese territory by deploying Mobile Reserve Force(MRF) of Special Frontier Force; ‘MRF’ refers to the Brigade of Special Forces on Reserve Duty at Headquarters Establishment No. 22 during 1970s.
RED DRAGON CLAWS CLASP BHUTAN, MAKING INDIA VULNERABLE
India needs to show strength by taking appropriate action to ensure a Chinese retreat from Bhutanese soil.
It is no secret that China has been asserting its dominance for the last 50 years on land, sea and even in space. Every one of its actions have been executed with machine like precision, its modus operandi being that it disputes or blatantly disregards internationally agreed upon borders, cherry picks treaties that coincide with its agenda, encroaches on foreign territory by building infrastructure in disputed areas and then claims its rights by citing evidence of that very same infrastructure it built, thereby refuting legitimate claims of other nations. The past and current actions of China with regard to claiming Tibet, aggressive posturing in the South China Sea, China’s race to space programs all attest to these methods of Chinese aggression.
In its latest stand-off with India, China is once more flexing its muscles and creating a flash point. India and China are currently facing off in disputed Bhutanese territory, in a region, which is very strategic to India. This territory is near the tri junction area, i.e., the meeting point of Tibet (China) to the north, Bhutan to the east and Sikkim to the west. An understanding of the local geography and topography is paramount for the gravity of the situation to sink in so that India can devise a long-term military offensive and defensive strategy. The map below (Map 1) gives a birds-eye-view of the location of the current standoff:
Where is the Current Standoff Taking Place?
There is much confusion as to the location of the current standoff, especially within media reports. It is sometimes reported that the standoff is in Sikkim or in Doklam, etc. but the exact location is never explicitly mentioned in reports. The actual standoff is taking place in the Doklam plateau region, which is not in Indian territory, but in western Bhutan; however, China claims that this plateau is part of Tibet and thus rightfully theirs. Part of the confusion that surrounds the location is in the name, as many areas in the region have similar sounding names. For example, there is Dhoka La, Doklam and the Doklam Plateau (the differences are noted below) – thus you can see where the confusion probably stems from.
As I have mentioned, the current standoff is in Bhutanese territory (Doklam Plateau), which is clearly south of the internationally recognized tri-junction at Bantang La (refer to Map. 2 – the meeting point of India, China, and Bhutan). The narrow plateau, highlighted in blue, between Sikkim to the west and the Chumbi Valley to the east and north, is called the Doklam Plateau and is clearly not in Chinese territory. Chumbi Valley is very narrow and steep and can be easily fired on, if necessary, by Indian troops stationed on the mountain ridges that border Sikkim and look down onto the valley. Thus the valley is not suited to station troops of the PLA (People’s Liberation Army). It is of utmost importance that Indian forces keep Chinese troops at bay and out of the plateau as the area could be used by the Chinese to mount an attack on the strategic Siliguri Corridor of India. The Siliguri corridor (Map. 1) is the only access way for India to reach its north-eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Mizoram and thus is of critical importance.
Map 2 – shows the area of the Doklam Plateau in blue, on the western border of India and the eastern border of Bhutan and South of Tibet. This is the prize that the Chinese dragon is eying.
However, ‘Doklam’ in the north (see Map. 3), is also in Bhutan, although the Chinese have slowly but surely encroached this area and see it as part of Tibet. The Doklam Plateau is 30 kilometers south of ‘Doklam’ and is clearly recognized as part of Bhutanese territory internationally. It is on the Doklam Plateau where the Chinese snake is slowly creeping in. Hence this aggressive posturing by China doesn’t bode well for India.
History of Chinese attempts
This standoff commenced when the Chinese tried to extend some of their roads further south into the Doklam Plateau. The Chinese claim that Gymochen (Map. 4) is the tri-junction area and not Bantang La, and this justifies their claim to the Doklam plateau. The Chinese have justified their claim by citing the Convention of 1890 between the British and Tibet, as the legal basis for their claim over the territory. The Convention of 1890, cites that the tri-junction is at “Mount Gipmochi” (which is further south of Tibet, as shown in Map 4) as opposed to Bantang La. However, the location of Gipmochi itself is not explicitly clear from existing documents. However, China has conveniently claimed that Gipmochi is indeed Gymochen, but the description in the treaty of Gipmochi does not at all match the topography of Gymochen.
Despite China’s glaringly false claims, you might still be wondering why India is facing off with China in Bhutanese territory. This is because India and Bhutan signed the India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty in 2007. India, in an attempt to defend Bhutanese territory as per the agreement, invoked Article 2 of the treaty, which states that “Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other.” This has been the basis for Indian presence in this standoff.
In 1996, during the 10th round of border negotiations between China and Bhutan, the former offered to exchange the Pasamlung and Jakarlung valleys which have an area of 495 sq. km for Sinchulumpa, Dramana, and Shakhtoe (western Bhutan which has an area of about 269 sq. km and which encompasses Doklam Plateau). Bhutan did not accept this offer. This would have been a sweetheart deal for China as it would give them the strategic Doklam Plateau in exchange for relatively unimportant valleys (for the Chinese anyway) in the north of Bhutan. They wanted the strategic Doklam Plateau, as this borders Sikkim, overlooks the Siliguri Corridor (One of India’s vulnerable chicken necks) and can be fired on by artillery from the Doklam plateau. This is why the Chinese are so keen on getting their hands on the Doklam plateau. Already, China has claimed more than 10% of Bhutanese territory over the years. In addition to this, Bhutan, in 2007, essentially gave up claim to Kulakangri, the tallest mountain in Bhutan as a goodwill gesture to China. China, however, took it as a matter of entitlement and gave no response to the Bhutanese. China today wields control deep inside internationally recognized territories of Bhutan and has been slowly creeping further south.
According to Bhutan, both Doklam and Doklam Plateau belong to Bhutan. According to the Chinese (refer map 5) they claim a vast area that encompasses Doklam and Doklam Plateau and everything in between connecting them both. Besides, China claims strategic points in Bhutan, enveloping and clasping it, thereby getting access to vulnerable points in India. Doklam Plateau will give China access to Sikkim and the Siliguri corridor, while territory claims in eastern Bhutan will give China easy access to Arunachal Pradesh, increasing India’s vulnerability even more.
China has built many border posts in Bhutanese territories and has slowly pushed them farther into Bhutan’s territory from all sides. Much of Doklam Plateau is controlled by the Chinese forces as they have built roads in some parts of the plateau. From Map 6, you can see the extent of the roads in Bhutan that the Chinese have already built-in classic Chinese aggressive operating style.
One example of China’s slow but steady encroachment into Bhutanese territory can be seen in two satellite images of the same location of a road leading to a border post, one in 2005 and then 11 years later. In those 11 years, the road and border post went over 1.7 km deeper into its neighbor’s territory.
The current standoff was the result of China trying to extend their roads to get full control of the Doklam plateau. Just because India stopped the Chinese from encroaching more into the plateau does not mean that this standoff is a win for India. To regain some semblance of control, India must go across the international border into China’s Chumbi Valley thereby cutting PLA troop supply lines (as indicated in Map 4). This would make the PLA troops in Doklam Plateau isolated and would make them to surrender or retreat. Then India could withdraw from Chumbi and gain full control of Doklam Plateau, and even Doklam to the north.
There are two main reasons for China’s successful takeover of territories in India and Bhutan. Firstly, the lay of the land on the Chinese side gives them the edge, as it is much easier to access these remote border territories from the Tibetan side. Secondly, China has invested much more into the development of transportation infrastructure in these areas than either India or Bhutan. China, as Map 6 shows, is light-years ahead in building durable roads in these terrains with alternate routes for back up, all of which help China solidify their claims to the land and help with mobilization of troops and supplies.
My own road trips within Uttarakhand have demonstrated to me the appalling state of Indian roads in less inaccessible terrain than the Doklam region – so you can imagine that further north along the Indian borders. On the way to Badrinath for example, the roads lack any controlled drainage in mountain terrain and are carved away every year during the monsoons leaving pothole-ridden roads covered in loose gravel.
And this was the state of the very critical artery road on the way to Badrinath leading up to the strategic Mana Pass at the Indo-Chinese border.
With Bhutan’s inability set up an effective resistance, the onus is on India to protect India’s interests while safeguarding Bhutan’s territories. China’s invasion of Tibet has increased India’s vulnerability and this is probably one of the first in the series of provocations that are yet to come. India needs to also show strength by taking appropriate action to ensure a Chinese retreat from Bhutanese soil, not just in Doklam Plateau, but also in all other border areas. India then should provide Bhutan with military and infrastructure support to secure its borders. This is a tall order, especially given the terrain and India’s passive stance when it comes to securing borders within its control let alone the borders of a friendly neighbor. With each passing day, China is nibbling away territory, engulfing Bhutan entirely. Perhaps it is time for India to show its offensive and aggressive side, if it indeed has one. China needs to understand that India has a zero tolerance policy for Chinese aggressions along its borders. There is no other way!
UNFINISHED VIETNAM WAR – THE ART OF KNOWING YOUR ENEMY – AMERICA’S ENEMY IN VIETNAM
In my analysis, Vietnam War remains “Unfinished.” Firstly, the United States must define the term “ENEMY” to Know Enemy. United States recognized the threat posed by Communism to wage War to arrest the spread of Communism in South Asia. For that reason, United States began Vietnam War in response to threat posed by Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China.
The threat posed by Communism in Asia endures as Communists are still governing Tibet, the second largest nation of South Asia. United States has no choice other than that of Knowing People’s Republic of China as “ENEMY.” The Enemy remains Undefeated. The Enemy is alive, not in Vietnam, but in Tibet.
NORTH VIETNAM AND PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA SIGN AID AGREEMENT ON AUGUST 07, 1967
The North Vietnamese newspaper Nhan Dan reports that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has signed a new agreement to give Hanoi an undisclosed amount of aid in the form of an outright grant.
Chinese support to the Communists in Vietnam had begun with their backing of the Vietminh in their war against the French. After the French were defeated, the PRC continued its support of the Hanoi regime. In April 1965, the PRC signed a formal agreement with Hanoi providing for the introduction of Chinese air defense, engineering, and railroad troops into North Vietnam to help maintain and expand lines of communication within North Vietnam. China later claimed that 320,000 of its troops served in North Vietnam during the period 1965 to 1971 and that 1,000 died there. It is estimated that the PRC provided over three-quarters of the total military aid given to North Vietnam during the war.
Congress passes Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
The U.S. Congress passes Public Law 88-408, which becomes known as the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, giving President Johnson the power to take whatever actions he deems necessary to defend Southeast Asia including “the use of armed force.” The resolution passed 82-2 in the Senate.
THE COLD WAR IN ASIA – THE BATTLE AGAINST SPREAD OF COMMUNISM
United States supported Nationalist China during World War II to prevent Communist takeover of China.
However, by 1944, the US relations with Nationalists cooled off. In August 1946, US placed embargo on further shipment of US arms to Nationalist China. The loss of China to Communists on October 01, 1949 resulted in the founding of the Republic of China in Taiwan (Portuguese Formosa) by Chan Kai-Shek and the Nationalists. It did not cause the end of Cold War in Asia. It continued to manifest itself with armed conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
I concede that The Cold War in Asia has not manifested as major armed conflict across Tibetan Plateau. It does not mean that there was no effort to checkmate the spread of Communism to Tibet. The United States and India tried to contain Communism that provoked Communist China’s attack across Himalayan Frontier during October 1962. The Communists claimed initial success of their armed aggression but declared unilateral cease-fire on November 21, 1962 to withdraw PLA forces from captured Indian territory.
In 1971-72, Nixon-Kissinger tried to normalize US – China relations without securing success in Vietnam. That was not the last chapter of The Cold War in Asia.
Spread of Communism in Asia poses the same threat it had initially posed on October 01, 1949. Nations defending Freedom, Democracy, Peace, Justice, and Harmony have no other choice; they remain resolved to engage, to contain, to resist, to confront, and to combat the danger posed by Communist takeover of China.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE
HOW LONG CAN CHINA AND INDIA AVOID WAR IN THE HIMALAYAS?
A remote corner of the Himalayas has become the unlikely scene of a major power standoff between China and India. Now entering its seventh week, the standoff centers on the tri-junction border shared by China, India, and Bhutan referred to as Doklam in India and Donglang in China. Neither side is spoiling for a fight, nor are they ready to back down anytime soon considering the security concerns, domestic political pressures, and regional reputational stakes. A series of quiet diplomatic interactions has not restrained the brinkmanship or ultimatums and the risk of a major armed clash between two Asian heavyweights remains.
China and India have sparred along the Himalayan border for decades, including a brief war (and clear Chinese victory) in 1962. In areas like Aksai Chin or Arunachal Pradesh, long-standing disputes still play out in regular diplomatic arguments. Yet until recently there seemed to be a settled status quo in the comparatively peaceful tri-national border area, which has special strategic significance, lying as it does above the 14-mile-wide Siliguri valley, or the “chicken’s neck,” that connects northeast India to the rest of the country. As it turns out, both sides had very different visions of just what that status quo was.
The clash of perceptions has left them both smarting, and dialed jingoistic language up to 11. To China, Doklam is its own sovereign territory based on treaties, tacit agreements, and de facto control. India considers Doklam a disputed territory and contends that any changes to the territory’s jurisdiction must be made in consultation with India per a 2012 understanding between the three parties.
Thus, when roughly 100 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers arrived on the Dolam plateau (an area within Doklam) on June 16 with bulldozers and earth moving machinery to improve and extend an existing Chinese road, a company-sized unit of Indian soldiers crossed into Dolam from a nearby Indian army post and interdicted the construction team. The Indian soldiers formed a “human chain” to physically obstruct the road-building project and urged the Chinese to “desist from changing the status quo.”
Since the Indian interdiction on June 18, PLA construction has halted and both sides remain at an impasse. Between 300-350 Indian troops have pitched tents near the standoff site and dug in for the long haul, supported by supply lines and 2,500 reinforcements. China recently threatened to move its own reinforcements into the area and conducted live-fire military exercises in Tibet. While Indian officials have voiced interest in dialogue, official Chinese statements demand India’s unconditional withdrawal before any talks can begin. After issuing a complaint against Chinese actions on June 20, Bhutan has otherwise remained studiously ambiguous as to its views of the standoff.
The Doklam standoff stems from China’s and India’s deep-seated suspicions about the other’s intentions. Conventional wisdom on international politics guides states to confront, not appease, those attempting to revise any status quo, lest it encourage further belligerence. But identifying exactly who the revisionist side is, and what the status quo was, is notoriously difficult in any case, because the definitions are vague and under-theorized. And it is especially hard amid the murky legacies of empire that make up the Himalayan frontiers.
For China, India’s military deployment into a disputed region is revising norms of sovereignty as well as long-standing public and private agreements. China believes its own actions and demands are sanctioned by existing agreements and understandings, and that India is subverting those agreements for unprecedented military deployments on foreign soil.
For India, China’s attempts to construct roads in disputed territories appears consistent with its previous “salami-slicing” maneuvers of unilaterally revising unsettled borders for territorial aggrandizement and expanded influence in the region. India believes China is deliberately exploiting the ambiguity of existing territorial disputes to expand its borders, influence, and offensive capability while its own actions are more explicitly legitimated by other treaties, arrangements, and security imperatives.
The historical and diplomatic ambiguity around the border has also created plenty of space for both sides to feel self-righteously aggrieved. China contends it has unquestioned sovereignty over Doklam based on an 1890 treaty between Great Britain and China delimiting the border between the Indian state of Sikkim and Tibet, as well as the boundary point with Bhutan. As both India and China have accepted this treaty, India had no legitimate grounds to cross the border and thus its actions constitute an “invasion” of Chinese territory. Secondly, China argues even if Doklam is disputed, India is still inappropriately interfering with and prejudicing a bilateral dispute between Bhutan and China.
India concedes its troops crossed an international border but into Bhutan, not China. India’s interdiction is furthermore justified by another treaty, India’s 2007 treaty of friendship with Bhutan, and both countries’ interest in halting China’s attempts to unilaterally revise the status quo. As several analysts have pointed out, the vagaries of colonial cartography and internal contradictions within the 1890 treaty mean it can actually be interpreted to support both Indian and Chinese claims.
Adding to the confusion is Bhutan’s ambiguous position. As a tiny Himalayan kingdom sandwiched between the region’s two major powers, Bhutan has enjoyed a “special relationship” with India since 1949 that some might describe more as suzerainty. While the 2007 India-Bhutan Friendship Treaty updates the 1949 agreement to accord Bhutan greater autonomy, India still wields considerable influence over Bhutan’s foreign policy. To justify its recent military actions, India has invoked an article which states that neither country will allow its territory to be used for activities that harm the other’s national security interests.
To date, however, Bhutan has yet to clarify whether India acted independently or at Bhutan’s request for military assistance in Doklam. China has argued that, absent a clear invitation, India lacks legitimate grounds for its involvement. India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has used more circumspect language like “coordination,” and has flubbed opportunities to clarify Bhutan’s request. It is possible Bhutan privately requested help or that India coerced its way into the dispute for its own security interests as it did in Sri Lanka in 1987.
Another point of contention is private diplomacy among the various actors. While not publicly brandished as justification, our sources suggest (and some reporting seems to corroborate) that PLA actions in Doklam may be based on a private understanding between China and Bhutan. Both countries have at least seven disputed territories between themselves and reports indicate Bhutan may have implicitly agreed to cede Doklam to China in the late 1990s — a period when China was busily cleaning up its frontiers — in favor of territorial gains on its northern border.
Thus, China deems its road-building in Doklam legitimate within this private, pre-settlement agreement, and fearing such a settlement, India’s military “invasion” seeks to challenge that agreement and Bhutan’s sovereignty. It is possible India was privy to this private Chinese-Bhutanese agreement over Doklam and may have tried to thwart it. Regardless, India would likely maintain that no formal agreement means no final settlement. In its diplomatic demarche to China on June 20, Bhutan stated that Chinese actions violated its 1988 and 1998 agreements prohibiting alteration of the status quo before the completion of negotiations. Moreover, another private and superseding 2012 agreement between India and China purportedly required the consultation of all three countries before a final determination on the tri-junction is made.
China also implicitly contends it has had a decades-long presence and effective jurisdiction over Doklam where Tibetan herdsman bring their livestock to graze. According to Chinese records, the PLA began patrolling Doklam once a year since 1975 and gradually extended its geographical coverage southward.
India argues the remoteness of Doklam, its harsh winters, and poor infrastructure mean China has not always exercised de facto control over the area. Bhutanese herdsman have also traditionally used Doklam as a grazing land, and security forces from all three countries have regularly patrolled the area, leading to occasional confrontations. China destroyed two Bhutanese military posts in 2007 and allegedly constructed Chinese posts at the same spot. One unofficial map circulated by Chinese bloggers even refers to a “line of actual control” between China and Bhutan, implying Bhutan exercises de facto control of Doklam.
China is also arguing that India’s actions are unprecedented. To China, India has not only interfered in a bilateral dispute but escalated it by deploying forces across a recognized international border into a third country. Indeed, even Indian observers have acknowledged Doklam is the first time India has engaged Chinese forces from the soil of a third country. Upending established norms of sovereignty through force in the name of self-defense could permit future “adventurism.”
Yet India’s argument is that it was responding to unprecedented Chinese revision of borders through road construction (both hardening and extension) in disputed territory. Such moves would create permanent facts on the ground with grave implications for Indian national security.
In our estimation, Chinese claims are vulnerable due to the ambiguity of treaty language, private agreements, and de facto possession claims. But Indian claims are by no means less vulnerable given the unprecedented nature of India’s actions on the plateau and Bhutan’s deafening silence. Both sides’ views of the status quo may appear to themselves entirely justifiable, yet to their adversary as thin gruel.
Seven weeks into the crisis, the continued impasse — and increasingly caustic rhetoric — indicates the potential for escalation remains high. The Indian national security advisor’s recent visit to Beijing did not yield any breakthroughs, contrary to some reporting. Aggressive signals of resolve like military exercises or mobilization or perceived windows of tactical opportunity in a different sector of the disputed India-China border could lead either side to miscalculate, resulting in accidental or inadvertent escalation. And any shooting that begins on the border could even expand into other domains like cyber- or naval warfare.
Despite the challenges, there are several possible resolutions in sight if both sides — and third parties trying to defuse tension — strive to understand what might seem like mutually incompatible perspectives.
For example, India could find alternative ways to grant Beijing a “win” by softening its position on China’s “One Belt, One Road” project, both sides could pursue international arbitration, or both sides could wait until harsh winter weather force both sides forces to quietly draw down.
Another “off ramp” to deescalate the crisis is a back-channel agreement with Bhutan appearing as the public arbiter, allowing both sides to save face. The most obvious solution, as many have identified, would be a mutual withdrawal and return to pre-June 16 positions – something which may already be slowly happening, as both draw back troops. For both sides to save face, the public narrative of their back-channel dialogue could rely on Bhutan.
For example, India could claim Bhutan “thanked” India for its support and commitment to upholding the bilateral friendship treaty, but after deploying its own monitoring force, Bhutan requests that India withdraw its forces. This would allow India to withdraw without appearing to bend to Chinese demands, send a message that China’s salami tactics will be challenged, and buttress its credibility with states concerned with Chinese encroachment. For its part, China can claim India withdrew first and quietly halt road construction until a final settlement is reached between itself and Bhutan. This would give all sides, including Bhutan, a face-saving exit necessary to appease domestic audiences. At the same time, India and China will have exchanged clear signals on just how serious they are about the border — and how dangerous assumptions about the other side can be.
Photo credit: DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY/AFP/Getty Images
THE COLD WAR IN ASIA – UNFINISHED VIETNAM WAR
In my analysis, the border tensions between India and Communist China are mere symptoms of ‘The Cold War in Asia’.
Nations of ‘Free World’ were alarmed by the spread of Communism into Asia. United States spent billions of dollars to prevent Communist takeover of China. Having failed to do so, United States pursued a policy of containing the spread of Communism in Asia. In the battles of Korean Peninsula, and Vietnam, Communists prevailed with support from Soviet Union and Communist China.
India’s border tension problems began with Red China’s illegal occupation of Tibet since 1950. During 1960s and 1970s, the United States and India had opportunity to launch Tibet Campaign to defend Freedom, Democracy, Peace, and Justice in Asia. Most unfortunately, during 1971-72, Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam Treason placed ‘The Cold War in Asia’ on ‘back-burner’.
I am not surprised by Communist China’s military assertiveness for the US withdrew without accomplishing ‘War for Peace’ Mission fervently advocated by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower in December 1956 while on visit to India.
CHINA’S TOUGH STANCE ON INDIA DISPUTE RAISING CONCERN ACROSS SOUTHEAST ASIA, ANALYSTS SAY
Beijing’s handling of protracted conflict in Himalayas has had a spillover effect in the region and fueled suspicion
Vehicles travel along a mountain road near the Nathu La Pass, an open trading post in the Himalayas between India and China, in Sikkim, India. Photo: Bloomberg
The protracted border dispute between China and India in the Himalayas has created a “spillover effect” as China’s neighbors become unsettled by its tough handling of the escalating conflict between the two Asian giants, foreign policy experts have said.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Indian counterpart Smt. Sushma Swaraj are scheduled to attend the Asean foreign ministers’ meeting in Manila later this week. And while the North Korean nuclear crisis and South China Sea disputes are expected to dominate the meeting, analysts will also be keeping a close eye on how members of the 10-nation group interact with China and India.
Hostile border dispute with India could damage China’s global trade plan, experts warn
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations generally regards a robust Indian presence in the region as a useful deterrent against China, which has been increasingly assertive in its approach to handling territorial issues, as has been the case in the Himalayas.
The disputed Doklam region (called Donglang by China) on the India, Bhutan and China tri-border. Graphic: SCMP
Are China-India trade ties turning sour amid border standoff?
China and India last week held their first substantial talks since the dispute broke out more than a month ago in the Doklam region, where the pair shares a border with Bhutan. Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi met Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval in Beijing, though neither showed any signs of backing down and tensions remain high.
Also last week, China’s Defence ministry issued its strongest warning yet to India, with a spokesman saying Beijing had stepped up its deployment along the unmarked border and would protect its sovereignty “at all costs”.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a political scientist at the Manila-based De La Salle University, said the stand-off in Doklam had had a “spillover effect” by fueling suspicion among countries that are caught in separate territorial disputes with China.
Dispatch from Doklam: Indians dig in for the long haul in standoff with China
“People are asking, if China is really peaceful, why are there so many countries having disputes with China?” he said.
Such sentiment may create fertile ground for Southeast Asian countries to leverage China’s influence with engagement with India.
Vietnam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister, Pham Binh Minh, has called on India to play a greater role in the region and to partner with Southeast Asian countries on strategic security and promoting freedom of navigation in South China Sea.
India Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at a BRICS leaders’ meeting with the bloc’s Business Council in Goa last October 16. Photo: AFP
A few days after Minh spoke, Vietnam granted Indian Oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension on its plan to explore a Vietnamese oil block in an area of the South China Sea contested by China and Vietnam.
Analysts said recent developments have wide strategic implications – pointing to how Asia is increasingly defined by the China-India rivalry and the renewed tensions between the two Asian giants.
How India border stand-off gives China a chance to burnish its global image
Nisha Desai Biswal, former US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, was quoted by Indian media PTI as saying that China needs to acknowledge that “there is growing strategic and security capability across Asia” and that “India is a force to be reckoned with”.
Wang Yi on Tuesday backed Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s idea of forming joint energy ventures in the disputed South China Sea, warning that unilateral action could cause problems and damage both sides.
A Chinese soldier, left, is shown next to an Indian soldier at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India’s northeastern Sikkim state. Photo: AFP
Duterte on Monday said a partner had been found to develop oil fields and exploration, and exploitation would restart this year.
However, analysts warn that India’s strong position in the standoff has strengthened the hawkish voices in the Philippines who seize opportunities to criticize Duterte’s détente policy towards China and “push forward the narrative that the Philippines needs to be careful on how to approach China and its territorial expansion”, Heydarian said.
Explore the China-India border standoff
Under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Act East” policy, India in recent years has formed strategic partnerships with Southeast Asian countries including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and Northeast Asian countries including Japan and South Korea.
During the “India-Asean Delhi Dialogue IX” early this month, Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi remained committed to enhancing maritime cooperation with Asean as well as upholding freedom of navigation and respect for international law in the region.
A Chinese soldier gestures as he stands near an Indian soldier on the Chinese side of the ancient Nathu La border crossing between India and China. Photo: AFP
Heydarian suggests that India’s upgrading of its strategic partnership with Asean and increasing its strategic presence in the South China Sea could be a way of pushing back against China.
Even a non-claimant Southeast Asian state such as Thailand “would see the benefit of China being challenged in the South Asia theatre”, said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, an international relations scholar at Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University.
“India’s standing up to China can only be a boon for Southeast Asian countries even when they don’t say so openly,” he said, “Any major power keeping China in check can only yield geopolitical benefits to Southeast Asia as the region is wary of China’s growing assertiveness.”
China is being ‘unusually aggressive’ in border row
But Pongsudhirak also said that India, a “latecomer to Southeast Asia’s geopolitics”, still lacks strategic depth in terms of military reach and economic wherewithal. “But in combination with other middle powers like Japan, India can have a significant impact in Southeast Asia’s power dynamics,” he said.
Despite Southeast Asian countries’ welcoming attitude, India has remained cautious towards more strongly engaging with the region, observers said.
An Indian Soldier stands at the Nathu La border crossing between India and China in India’s northeastern Sikkim state. Photo: Handout
“Southeast Asia is a natural extension of India’s security horizons in light of its growth as a regional power,” said Rajesh Manohar Basrur, a South Asia specialist with Nanyang Technological University.
Basrur said that while competition with China is a major driver of India’s engagement with Southeast Asia, India’s commitment to the region remains limited with measures amounting to no more than “symbolic acts such as military exercises, [to] generate a strategic environment aimed at building up political-psychological pressure on [China].”
Why India is cool towards China’s Belt and Road
Sourabh Gupta, a senior specialist at the Institute for China-America Studies in Washington, said that as India tries to limit fallout from its Doklam intervention, it will not want to expand the theatre of conflict or widen the geography of competition in the short-term.
“But I can foresee India making a qualitatively greater effort, albeit quietly, to build up Vietnam’s naval and law enforcement capacity to confront and deter Chinese assertiveness,” he said.
Gupta also warned that the situation in the South China Sea could lapse into even further conflict.
Chinese troops hold a banner which reads, “You’ve crossed the border, please go back.”
“India and China have a fairly rich menu of boundary management protocols which effectively translate into engagements between very lightly armed personnel from either side when a standoff breaks out,” he said.
“That is different from the situation in the South and East China Sea where engagement protocols are still very rudimentary and could see sharp escalatory spirals.”
THE DECLINE OF AMERICAN CENTURY – THE RISE OF EVIL RED EMPIRE – THE COLD WAR IN ASIA
In my analysis, Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam Treason caused the ‘Decline of American Century’ and the ‘Rise of Evil Red Empire’. I ask my readers to remember July 15, 1971 as “Black Day to Freedom” , the Day on which US President Nixon publicly announced his decision to befriend Communist China while Americans were bleeding and dying in Vietnam to combat the spread of Communism in Asia.
Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam Treason initiated Doomed American China Fantasy in 1972. Since that time, USA as a global power is on steady decline, while Red China remains in hot pursuit of her doctrine of Expansionism, a State Policy of using Military and Economic Power to subjugate people and control natural resources in weaker nations of Asia, Africa, and Europe.
DOOM DOOMA DOOMSAYER
Military & Defense
China held a massive military parade showing off its might — and it could surpass the US by 2030
China’s president, Xi Jinping, presiding over the country’s massive military parade in inner Mongolia. CCTV
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday presided over a massive military parade from an open-topped jeep, declaring, “The world is not peaceful, and peace needs to be defended.”
And as China’s show of force demonstrates, Beijing may have the will and the strength to replace the US as the world’s defender of peace.
“Our heroic military has the confidence and capabilities to preserve national sovereignty, security, and interests … and to contribute more to maintaining world peace,” Xi said at the parade, one day after US President Donald Trump lashed out at Beijing for its inaction regarding North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
China’s massive military modernization and increasing assertiveness have irked many of its neighbors in the region, and even as the US attempts to reassure its allies that US power still rules the day, that military edge is eroding.
China showed off new, mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles that it says can reach the US in 30 minutes, along with its J-20 stealth interceptor jets. And Xi inspected thousands of troops drawn from the 2 million-strong People’s Liberation Army’s on its 90th anniversary.
The historian Alfred McCoy estimates that by 2030, China, a nation of 1.3 billion, will surpass the US in both economic and military strength, essentially ending the American empire and Pax Americana the world has known since the close of World War II.
Soldiers marching to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of China’s People’s Liberation Army. Xinhua
But China could achieve this goal patiently and without a violent struggle. China has employed a “salami-slicing” method of slowly but surely militarizing the South China Sea in incremental steps that have not prompted a strong military response from the US. However, the result is China’s de facto control over a shipping lane that sees $5 trillion in annual traffic.
“The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, may already be tattered and fading by 2025 and, except for the finger pointing, could be over by 2030,” McCoy wrote in his new book, “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.”
China unveiled its J-20 stealth fighter at an air show in November. China Daily/via REUTERS
China’s J-20 jet also most likely borrows from stealth secrets stolen from the US through a sophisticated hacking regime. Though China hasn’t mastered stealth technology in the way the US has, the jet still poses a real threat to US forces.
Meanwhile, the US is stretched thin. It has had been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years and in Iraq for 14, and it has been scrambling to curtail Iranian and Russian influence in Syria while reassuring its Baltic NATO allies that it’s committed to their protection against an aggressive Russia.
Under Xi, who pushes an ambitious foreign policy, China’s eventual supremacy over the US seems inevitable.
DOOMED AMERICAN CHINA FANTASY – THE COLD WAR IN ASIA
US President Donald Trump just tasted bitter reality of ‘Doomed American China Fantasy’ while Red China’s People’s Liberation Army Stands Up for Communism.
The Cold War in Asia is not over. Communist China demonstrated her resolve by helping North Korea to conduct Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Test and held Army Day Parade to showcase Communist Party Military Power at a military base in inner Mongolia that vividly portrays Battlefield.
United States must wake up to the reality of Unfinished Vietnam War in Asia. To defend Freedom, Democracy, Peace, Justice, and Harmony in World, United States must stand upright to contain, to engage, to resist, to confront, and to battle against Evil Force of Communism.
China’s Xi calls for building elite forces during massive military parade
Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard
Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) raise a Chinese national flag during the military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS
BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Xi Jinping told the military on Sunday to transform itself into an elite force, as he oversaw a parade with flybys of advanced jets and a mass rally of troops to mark 90 years since the founding of the People’s Liberation Army.
China’s armed forces, the world’s largest, are in the midst of an ambitious modernization program, which includes investment in technology and new equipment such as stealth fighters and aircraft carriers, as well as cuts to troop numbers.
Xi presided over the large-scale military parade at the remote Zhurihe training base in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region, where he inspected troops from the back of a jeep, an event carried live on state television.
Traveling down a long strip lined with tanks, missile launchers and other military vehicles, Xi, wearing military fatigues and a field cap, greeted thousands of troops.
Xi, who oversees the PLA in his role as head of the powerful Central Military Commission, repeatedly shouted, “Hello comrades!” and “Comrades, you are working hard!” into four microphones fixed atop his motorcade as martial music blared in the background.
The troops bellowed back: “Serve the people!”, “Follow the Party!”, “Fight to win!” and “Forge exemplary conduct!”.
Tanks, vehicle-mounted nuclear-capable missiles and other equipment rolled by, as military aircraft flew above, including H-6K bombers, which have been patrolling near Taiwan and Japan recently, the J-15 carrier-based fighters and new generation J-20 stealth fighter.
“Today, we are closer to the goal of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation than any other time in history, and we need to build a strong people’s military more than any other time in history,” Xi told the assembled troops in a short speech that did not yield any new policy announcements.
Xi said that the military must “unswervingly” back the ruling Communist Party.
“Always listen to and follow the party’s orders, and march to wherever the party points,” he said.
Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) take part in a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at the Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, July 30, 2017. China Daily via REUTERS
Xi said that the world was not peaceful, but he did not mention any specific hot spots, such as territorial disputes in the South China Sea, Taiwan, or tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles programs.
Unlike a massive 2015 parade through manicured central Beijing to mark 70 years since the end of World War Two, Sunday’s spectacle had fewer frills.
Thousands of troop marched in combat garb, not dress uniforms, and vehicles kicked up clouds of dust as they rounded sections of the base’s track.
It was the first time China has marked Army Day, which formally falls on Aug. 1, with a military parade since the Communist revolution in 1949, state news agency Xinhua said.
It was also the first time Xi has reviewed troops in the field like this, Xinhua added.
Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement that the location for the parade embodied a “dust-covered battlefield atmosphere” for the 12,000 troops who participated.
The country’s military is more nimble and technologically proficient following reforms to make it more compact and responsive, and less reliant on its sheer troop numbers, Xi said last week.
China has not fought a war in decades and the government insists it has no hostile intent, but simply needs the ability to properly defend what is now the world’s second-largest economy.
However, China has rattled nerves around Asia and globally with its increasingly assertive stance in the East and South China Seas and its military modernization plan.
Some of the military reforms have also been controversial at home. Sources with ties to the military say Xi’s announcement at the 2015 parade to cut 300,000 troops has caused unease within the ranks.
Reporting by Michael Martina and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill and Sam Holmes
U.S. flies bombers over Korean peninsula after North Korea missile test
James Pearson and Jack Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) – The United States flew two supersonic B-1B bombers over the Korean peninsula in a show of force on Sunday after Pyongyang’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), the U.S. and South Korean Air Forces said.
North Korea said it conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Friday that proved its ability to strike America’s mainland, drawing a sharp warning from U.S. President Donald Trump.
The B-1B flight was in direct response to the missile test and the previous July 3 launch of the “Hwasong-14″ rocket, the U.S. statement said. The South Korean air force said the flight was conducted early on Sunday.
The bombers took off from a U.S. air base in Guam, and were joined by Japanese and South Korean fighter jets during the exercise, according to the statement.
“North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability,” Pacific Air Forces Commander General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy said in the statement.
“If called upon, we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing”.
The U.S. has in the past used overflights of the supersonic B1-B “Lancer” bomber as a show of force in response to North Korean missile or nuclear tests.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un personally supervised the midnight test launch of the missile on Friday night and said it was a “stern warning” for the United States that it would not be safe from destruction if it tries to attack, the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
North Korea’s state television broadcast pictures of the launch, showing the missile lifting off in a fiery blast in darkness and Kim cheering with military aides.
China, the North’s main ally, said it opposed North Korea’s missile launches, which it said violate United Nations Security Council resolutions designed to curb Pyongyang’s banned nuclear and missile programs.
“At the same time, China hopes all parties act with caution, to prevent tensions from continuing to escalate,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
One of two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flies a 10-hour mission from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, into Japanese airspace and over the Korean Peninsula, July 30, 2017. U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jacob Skovo/Handout via REUTERS.
Trump “Very Disappointed in China”
However, Trump said he was “very disappointed in China”.
In a message on Twitter, he said: “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet…”
“…they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!” he said in a subsequent tweet.
The Hwasong-14, named after the Korean word for Mars, reached an altitude of 3,724.9 km (2,314.6 miles) and flew 998 km (620 miles) for 47 minutes and 12 seconds before landing in the waters off the Korean peninsula’s east coast, KCNA said.
Western experts said calculations based on that flight data and estimates from the U.S., Japanese and South Korean militaries showed the missile could have been capable of going as far into the United States as Denver and Chicago.
David Wright of the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists wrote in a blog post that if it had flown on a standard trajectory, the missile would have had a range of 10,400 km (6,500 miles).
North Korea said on Sunday it had been forced to develop long-range missiles and nuclear weapons because of hostile intent by “American imperialist beasts” looking for another chance to invade the country.
“In case the U.S. fails to come to its own senses and continues to resort to military adventure and ‘tough sanctions’, the DPRK will respond with its resolute act of justice as already declared,” its foreign ministry said in a statement.
DPRK is short for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It did not specify what action it would take.
The missile test came a day after the U.S. Senate approved a package of sanctions on North Korea, Russia and Iran.
The foreign ministers of South Korea, Japan and the United States agreed to step up pressure on Pyongyang and to push for a stronger U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution.
Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Sam Holmes
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