Crisis in Asia

Foreign ministers attending the Asia Regional Forum – hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Jakarta, this week – agreed on the need for political reform in Burma and a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

Forum attendees included the United States, China, India, Pakistan, Russia, Japan, both Koreas, the European Union and Australia.

Political reform in Burma would require the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest since the Burmese military junta crackdown on her National League for Democracy more than a year ago.

A Korean diplomatic solution would require the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea to agree to “freeze” once again all nuclear programs, peaceful and otherwise. In return, the U.S. would lift decades-long economic sanctions, allowing other nations in the region to provide DPRK appropriate aid.

And compensation. Compensation is required because the U.S .abrogated the original “freeze” agreement in October, 2002 and the DPRK withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty a few months later. Hence, none of DPRK’s current nuclear programs are violations of international laws or treaties.

Secretary of State Colin Powell met DPRK Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun on the sidelines of the Forum to further discuss proposals made at the six-party talks held a week earlier in Beijing

There has been a report – not yet denied – that during the six-party talks the U.S. had suggested applying to the DPRK the Nunn-Lugar nuke dismantlement and fissile-material disposition concept successfully applied a decade ago to states of the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is proceeding to pull back all U.S. troops from the de-militarized zone in Korea, to transfer about a third of all U.S. troops in Korea to Iraq, to base in Korea a dozen F-117 Stealth fighter-bombers and to begin Operation Summer Pulse – the simultaneous deployment of seven aircraft-carrier strike groups to "demonstrate the ability of the Navy to provide credible combat power across the globe."

The U.S. has twelve such groups and typically deploys only three at a time. There has been media speculation that these seven now being deployed are in addition to the three already deployed. If so, virtually every warship the Navy has that is able to go to sea, will be at sea, "combat" ready, and mostly in the Pacific.

That probably means we are about to apply the Bush Doctrine to some other “rogue state.”

But which one?

Do the neo-crazies expect China to take advantage of virtually all our combat troops being pinned-down halfway around the world in Iraq to invade and reabsorb “rogue province” Taiwan?

Well, the war-gamers doubt that China is thinking “invasion.” Taiwan is 120 miles off the Chinese mainland. Think back to June 6, 1944, to the vast armada of ships it took to transport a few divisions of troops and their equipment across the English Channel, which is only about 30 miles in places.

On D-Day there were no German naval or air forces available to oppose the invasion. Total Luftwaffe operations that day amounted to one Me-109 pilot and his wing-man making one machine-gun firing pass at allied troops on one beach.

No, the war-gamers are thinking “blockade.”

A Chinese naval blockade could bring Taiwan to its knees with relative ease and minimal international protest. A sustained interruption of key sea lines of communications would be economically disastrous for the Taiwanese economy, which relies heavily on shipping for its lifeblood trade and energy needs, some two-thirds of which are fulfilled by fossil fuel imports.

China could easily impose and then enforce a successful blockade.

How to enforce? With Russian-made super-sonic sea-skimming anti-ship missiles launched by Russian-made submarines and Russian-made warships.

At present, U.S. warships have no effective defense against the Russian-made Sunburn and Yakhont, both of which travel at Mach 2.5 and execute terminal maneuvers specifically designed to overcome U.S. warship defenses.

China also has several dozen long-range Russian-made Su-30MKK Flanker naval fighters equipped with the Russian-made X-31 supersonic anti-ship missile.

Recall that the Brits very nearly lost the Falklands War because of the Exocet – a French-made air-launched subsonic sea-skimming anti-ship missile. The Argentines had only five Exocets – and no long-range aircraft – but sank two British ships with them, including the vitally important container ship Atlantic Conveyor.

What if the Argentines had had several dozen Exocets and long-range aircraft to deliver them?

Let’s just hope the real neocrazy purpose of Operation Summer Pulse is to get the Burmese junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi.

Author: Gordon Prather

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.