Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chinese Iranian Squeeze Play?

China's Hu Reportedly Tells Navy to Get Ready for Military Combat
Published December 13, 2011

As tensions grow over local maritime disputes and U.S. influence in the South China Sea, China’s president said Tuesday that its navy should “make extended preparations for military combat,” the AFP reported.

President Hu Jintao told the Central Military Commission its navy should modernize in the interest of national security.

The Chinese navy has grown in recent years from a coastal protection force to one spanning the globe, sending ships as far as the Caribbean on goodwill missions and into the Mediterranean to escort vessels evacuating Chinese citizens from the fighting in Libya.

China said it is considering an offer from the Seychelles to host Chinese naval ships in the Indian Ocean island nation, highlighting the increasing global reach of a navy that recently launched its first aircraft carrier.

The navy also began sea trials in August for its first aircraft carrier, the former Soviet Varyag, towed from Ukraine in 1998 minus its engines, weaponry and navigation systems. China says the carrier is intended for research and training, leading to speculation that it plans to build future copies.

China's military expansion and strong assertions of claims to disputed territory have raised regional concerns, prompting many of China's neighbors to strengthen ties with the U.S. military that has traditionally predominated in the Asia Pacific.

While Beijing has tried to assuage those concerns, it has also asserted its claims with patrols and other physical displays, and on Tuesday dispatched its largest coast guard cutter to the East China Sea.

The 322-foot Haijian will visit Chinese rock outcroppings as well as a gas field claimed by China and Japan. There was no indication it planned to visit other islands that Japan controls but China claims.

George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, downplayed Hu’s comments, saying China has the right to develop its military, according to the report. But he went on to say China should be transparent in the process.

"We have repeatedly called for transparency from the Chinese and that's part of the relationship we're continuing to build with the Chinese military," Little said, according to the report.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Iranian Official Threatens Military Drill Sealing Off the Strait of Hormuz
Published December 13, 2011

A high-ranking Iranian official has said Iran's military will practice sealing off the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil transport channel, in a provocative move that illustrates Iran’s capability of disrupting the world’s oil supply.

The announcement Monday by Parviz Sarvari sent oil prices up about $3 to $100 a barrel based on the speculation of a disruption during the military drills, Bloomberg reported.

“Soon we will hold a military maneuver on how to close the Strait of Hormuz,” Sarvari, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, said in a statement reported by Reuters. “If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.”

Iran has long used the threat of disrupting oil production as a main military deterrent, a sort of economic missile in its silo.
Although Sarvari did not name a specific country making the region insecure, though diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been on the rise recently over the U.S. drone that went down in Iran.

Pentagon Spokesman Doug Wilson responded by saying although he has no information on the exercises, the United States government is committed to the free and safe passage in international waters and anything that interferes with that would be "detrimental."

The report of the planned exercise in the Strait of Hormuz is the latest example of Iranian provocation. In September, Iran’s navy laid out plans to move naval vessels out of the Persian Gulf and into the Atlantic Ocean “near maritime borders of the United States,” the Tehran Times reported.

Iran also has faced international pressure for it's nuclear program. Iran insists the program is for peaceful uses, but in November, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report that Tehran has conducted secret experiments whose sole purpose is the development of atomic weapons. Iran denies that charge.

About 15.5 million barrels of oil a day, about a sixth of global consumption, flows through the Strait of Hormuz, Bloomberg reported, citing the U.S. Department of Energy.

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