sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Saturday Summary

A Personal Note

If there was no global warming the Phoenix Valley would be a balmy 75 degrees (high) during the summer with lows around 70, like Honolulu in winter. Alas. Al Gore and Barack should have fixed that, but they didn't...

In Japan

Japan's Defense Ministry reported that the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets to intercept 13 Chinese military aircraft that flew near Okinawa prefecture on 2 March.

The Ministry said the latest scrambles occurred from Thursday morning to the afternoon. It said the Chinese aircraft came from the East China Sea and passed between Okinawa's main island and Miyako Island before heading toward the Pacific Ocean. 

The Chinese flight included one early-warning plane, six suspected fighter jets, and six bombers. All of them later flew back toward the East China Sea. The aircraft did not violate Japan's airspace.

The Xinhua News Agency reported fighters, bombers and early warning aircraft flew through the Miyako Strait, northeast of Taiwan, and into the Pacific. The aircraft then carried out drills with Chinese warships in the area to improve interoperability. The Chinese called the activity routine.

The Chinese have chosen to use the Miyako Strait for air and naval transit to the Pacific Ocean without violating any state’s territorial airspace or sea. In one incident in September, Japanese aircraft intercepted multiple flights totaling 40 military aircraft over the Strait. In December, the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning and its escorts transited the Miyako Strait en route the South China Sea.

The Defense Ministry reported that the Air Self-Defense Force scrambled fighter jets more than 1,000 times in 2016 against Chinese and Russian aircraft. None of those aircraft violated Japanese airspace, but Japan scrambled fighters to “check them out.”

The previous high number of scrambles was 944 in 1984, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, during the Cold War. The trend of Chinese transits and Japanese intercepts will continue to increase.

Is a war between China and Japan inevitable? There was a time when I thought not, but the tea leaves produce a fear less clear picture these days. China demands that all of Asia pay tribute to its awesomeness that all lesser vassals deliver whatever it wants. The Japanese are less likely to cede things without a fight than other Asian nations. What form that war would take and the extent to which China is willing to push things is also unclear.

Turks vs Kurds

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said on 2 March, “We will strike the YPG (Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units) if they do not retreat. We have not yet started our operation in Manbij.”

Turkey also said it wanted to work with its allies to capture the Islamic State capital of Raqqa, but has ruled out any operation alongside the Kurdish militia. “Let’s be realistic ... To carry out this operation with YPG is to risk Syria’s future,” he said.

“We do not want our ally the United States to continue cooperating with terror organizations that target us.”

This is another manifestation of the fundamental differences that fracture the anti-Islamic State forces. Turkey said months ago that the presence of Syrian Kurdish militias west of the Euphrates River was a red line for Turkey. Now that Al Bab has been liberated, the Turkish government is under pressure to enforce its red line. More clashes between proxy militias are likely.

Syrian reaction to Turkey’s threats. To thwart any Turkish offensive against Manbij, the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds are cooperating. The Manbij Military Council has transferred control of some of the villages on the outskirts of Manbij to the Syrian government and army. 

 The Syrians repeatedly have demanded the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from Syria. Now they have taken action to raise the stakes for Turkey. For example, should Turkish and Turkish-backed forces attempt to attack Manbij, they would face Syrian army units as well as the Syrian Kurds. That would risk a fight between forces of a NATO member and Russia, as well as Syria..

In other military developments, Syrian forces claim to have liberated Palmyra. They said that the Islamic State fighters fled.