Sat. Jan 29th, 2022

By Ado Paglinawan

Second of Two Parts

It is past the time that we must reposition our independent foreign policy from bad politics to good governance based on lessons learned at the South China Seas especially on the latest resupply fiasco to our troopers at Ayungin (Second Thomas Shoal)Shoal.

Our foreign affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin seems to be losing it, as he goes on top of a choreographed information war, with the Embassies of the US, Japan and Australia in an echo chamber. US Department of State Spokesman Ned Price’s statements flaunting the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty that came out almost simultaneously with Locsin’s tweet, was a xerox from Padre Faura.   

Locsin is unabashed in his deliberate mis-interpretation of the ruling that he now labels as an “Arbitral Tribunal constituted under the 1982 UNCLOS”.  The Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi), the local agent of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) of Washington DC, has stopped using “UN-based Permanent Court of Arbitration award” after former associate justice Antonio Carpio exposed the private arbitral body as merely a “registry” and neither a court or permanent and Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, issued a disclaimer that the United Nations had nothing to do with the ruling.

A fact check will show that assuming the PCA ruling had probity for the sake of argument, rejecting China’s territorial claim to the feature, neither did it bestow to the Philippines any sovereignty over Ayungin, or declared it as our exclusive economic zone.

Worse, it provoked China to resort to customary international law by taking de facto control of the shoal on May 2013. This falls under President Rodrigo Duterte’s earlier confirmation that China is now “in possession of the islands.”

So the “boy” may have his British-American slang, but his further boorish threatening China with the Mutual Defense Treaty could provoke a China hardline leading to war. The dis-proportionate language from no less than the Philippines lead diplomat is nothing but toxic to Philippine-China understanding and relations.

Asian Century

Why? Because the globe we were born in has experienced a major tilt, as my co-Maestro Herman Tiu Laurel puts it – we have now entered the “Asian Century”. 

I have also just read a paper by Kishore Mahbubani entitle “Has the West Lost It?”

The author starts by showing that “In the early twenty-first century, history has turned a corner…yet the West refuses to accept or adapt to this… (new order of things.)”

He continues, “From AD 1 to 1820, the two largest economies were always those of China and India. Only after that period did Europe take off, followed by America.

“Viewed against the backdrop of the past 1,800 years, the recent period of Western relative over-performance against other civilizations is a major aberration. All such aberrations come to a natural end, and that is what is happening now.

“The Western share of the global economy will continue to shrink. The good news for the West is that the global economic pie is not shrinking.”

But Mahbubani offers a reality check: “Now it has to learn to share, even abandon that position (being at forefront of world history) and adapt to a world it can no longer dominate.”

He made it sound like an imperative if the world were to live in harmony and peace.

“So far, the West has failed to produce a coherent and competitive global strategy to deal with the new situation. Instead, it is flailing about attacking Iraq, bombing Syria and baiting China. All this adds to a sense of global turbulence.”

China perfects hypersonics

A top US General, John Hyten, issued a stark warning yesterday that China “launched a long-range missile last summer, it went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle, that glided back to China (impacting) a target in China.”

The launch was confirmed by the Australia Strategic Policy Institute in its October 27, 2021 report:

“Two possible tests—one potentially as early as 27 July and a second on 13 August—involved a Chinese Long March 2C orbital launch vehicle blasting off and flying a south polar trajectory into low-earth orbit. The rocket released a hypersonic glide vehicle that circled the globe in low polar orbit before de-orbiting and landing several kilometers from its target.

Hyten is the vice-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Hyten has sounded the alarm of the “stunning” pace of China in developing advance weapons, while saying at the same time that the Pentagon is unbelievably bureaucratic and slow.

He specifically noted that the missile launched by China, travelled around the globe at a speed five times the speed of sound (Mach 5).

By the end of the decade, he said, China will have more than around 1,000 nuclear warheads, while the US has almost four times that. But the preparedness of US missile defenses, is not on hypersonic gliders but ballistic missiles.

The missile defense battle space is divided between intercepts in the atmosphere, what is called endo-atmospheric, and out of the atmosphere, what is called exo-atmospheric. An endo-atmospheric missile is one that remains within the earth’s atmosphere, i.e., at an altitude below 100 kilometers.

Missile Defense Interceptor Basics against Short-Ranged Ballistic Missiles to Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles

Hypersonics beat ballistics

Unlike ballistic missiles that fly high into space in an arc to reach their target, hypersonic missiles fly on a lower flight path within in the atmosphere, to potentially reach a target more quickly.

Ballistic missiles follow a ballistic trajectory to deliver one or more warheads on a predetermined target. They are used to deliver nuclear, chemical, biological, or conventional warheads. These weapons are guided only during relatively brief periods—most of the flight is unpowered.

An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is a surface-to-air missile designed to intercept and destroy any type of ballistic threat. Commonly used for systems specifically designed to counter intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) of ranges of at least 5,500 kilometers. But threats have also grown into interregional (IR), medium range (MR) and short-range (SR) ballistic missiles (BMs).

Generally, the missile defense against ICBMs are the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System (GMD) and the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (ABMD). Against IRBMs and MRBMs, a combination of Aegis and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) are positioned while for SRBMs, a combination of THAAD and the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC3) is utilized.

Some ballistic warheads have fins and maneuvers to a limited extent, to make it less vulnerable to BMDs, but hypersonic glide missiles are hard to stop, since they fly and maneuver to avoid detection and swerve defensive countermeasures, performing more pronounced turns as they bank horizontally against the atmosphere to elude ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems.

Hypersonic gliders travels inside the atmosphere.

Jeffrey Lewis, a professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, likens gliders to an unmanned space shuttle with a nuclear bomb on board and no landing gear.

The fastest known interceptor missiles of the United States for incoming ballistic missiles during the descent phase of flight, notably THAAD can travel at hypersonic speed of over Mach 8. However, the system is specifically designed to destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles as they descend to earth at beyond (exo) and inside (exo) atmospheric altitudes up to heights of 90 miles or 144 kilometers.

Lewis pointed out that gliders making turns also slows it down, making it considerably slower at about Mach 5 as it approaches its target when compared to ICBM that is helped by the force of gravity. Because of this, the US had initially looked at gliding reentry vehicles for nuclear weapons as not worth it because as they slow down, and as such easier to shoot down.

China tweak blindsides US

What China has introduced is build a lot more silos for ICBMs that travels at up to Mach 25, but at some point releasing multiple reentry vehicles (MIRV gliders). The distinction lies in that these gliders in turn can release anywhere between five to ten warheads, that could either be conventional or nuclear.

The theatre of interdiction, therefore shifts to from outside to inside the athmosphere.

China’s latest Dong Feng-41 has a top speed of Mach 25 and capable of up to 10 mutiple re-entry vehicle (DF-ZF) armed with conventional or nuclear warheads, with an operational range of up to15,000 kilometres (9,300 miles). The distance between China and New York through the Atlantic is 11, 491 kilometers. Through the Pacific, California is 10,762  kilometers from China.

The reason also why the Chinese are not too enthused about building a huge navy is because in the short to medium range categories, China developed a sophisticated  “Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile” (ASBM). This technology stops a perceived threat, way before any suspect ship can come close to its shores.

The Dong Feng 21D can target U.S. and allied surface warships in the Western mutitple reePacific within a radius of 1,770 kms while their DF-26 version can go 3,000 kms up to Guam.    

The Chinese intentionally develop this type of defense because it had been attacked 475 times from its “soft underbelly”- the South China Seas. The same radius obviously applies to its South Asia and North East Asia, its western and eastern flanks, respectively.

According to a US Congressional Research Service report seven years ago dated July 31, 2014, the lack of a test target simulating the Chinese DF-21 ASBM is highlighted.

The US Missile Defense Agency has beyond (exo) atmospheric targets in development, but no program currently exists for an inside (endo) atmospheric target. The endo-atmospheric ASBM target is the Navy’s responsibility, but it is not currently budgeted.

The agency estimates that while provisions for existing exo-atmospheric targeting was $30 million for every target,  the endo-atmospheric target to address China’s short-range DF-21 , and after it the medium-range DF-26 will be more expensive to produce.

CNN reports qualified that in terms of testing on hypersonic gliders for “first strike” posturing, China has done more than a hundred in the past five years, while the US has done just nine tests.

The US will definitely have to fork more dough to catch up with China’s first strike capability, a lot more to build its dome of defenses, if it can still could.

Is it therefore sheer coincidence that the timing of US President’s Joe Biden’s call for “peaceful coexistence” during his Zoom Summit with Xi Jing Pin last November 15, was precipitated the US Department of Defense declassification of China’s hypersonic tests, and not by the tensions in Taiwan?   

The US is hardly showing viability in its pandemic gross domestic product projections, while still reeling as the epicenter of the Covid-19, so how can it afford any catching up in th next five years at least?

China has long achieved its herd immunity, with a few small lapses here and there, and is posting up to 10% post pandemic recovery numbers.

This is bad news for Secretary Locsin who is playing Darth Vader, invoking our aging Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States and provoking a possible Star Wars against China who has been acting like Luke Skywalker building a united and peaceful galaxy.

The force is definitely not with you, Teddy Boy.

WATCH: China’s ‘hypersonic missile’ catches US off guard

(TRT is a Turkish public broadcast service. )

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