The theme of the 2013 Conference is Naval Diplomacy and Maritime Power Projection: The Utility of Navies in the Maritime Century, which is designed to capitalise on the presence of many foreign navies in Sydney for the International Fleet Review
The theme will examine the contemporary utility of navies as tools of statecraft, from hard and soft power perspectives. It will also explore, in a dedicated session, the notion of ‘a maritime school of strategic thought;’ a debate that has emerged in Australia in 2012, ahead of the promulgation of a revised National Security Statement and Defence White Paper.
Excerpts from the official blurb on its website.
The Naval Powers Conference comes at a time when the Obama’s aggressive policy called ‘pivot to Asia’ is starting to take effect. This policy means that the US will be paying more attention to the Asia Pacific area after a period of concentrating on or being distracted by the Middle East. When the US was involved in the Middle East they invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and assisted in the destruction of Libya. This record of violence and destruction in the Middle East is very worrying if the US is applying its attention to our area.
The most basic feature of the Pivot is to bring 60% of US Naval assets into the Pacific and this feature is well under way with more aircraft carriers being moved into the Pacific.
The pivot has let loose a rush to increase navies across the region, with the allies of the US particularly Japan, South Korea and Australia ‘beefing up’ their navies to suit the imperial dictates of the US.
Japan Unveils the Izumo, Its Largest Warship Since WWII, Amid Tensions With China
Japan has a ranking as the third biggest navy in the world before the launching of the above ship. It is maintaining and extending its number of bases for the use of the US Navy.
South Korea comes in 9th in the world for navy hardware. ROK is building a new Naval Base on the island of Jeju again as part of the US pivot. This base building ignores the unique maritime environment of which Jeju is.
Australia too with the prospect of 12 submarines and three possibly 4 Air warfare destroyers and other items at present due to be purchased is engaged in a massive naval build-up.
The conference talks about hard and soft power perspectives for the navy. What are soft options? Gunboat diplomacy where the mere presence of military hardware is enough to bring nations to obey the US or the west’s orders. Hard perspectives? These must be the use of weapons on small nations.
Where else in our region is the US acting in a preparatory way for war?
From the North Pacific to the India continent the US has measures either in place, being constructed or being negotiated to station troops, materiel and make new bases.
The US itself has started building a massive naval base on the Island of Guam which is basically a colony of the US. The new base will house pens for nuclear subs, and places for large warships including aircraft carriers as well updating auxiliary facilities such as US Air Force aerodrome and hangars.
The US has reimposed itself on the Philippines with previous bases being reactivated and put at the disposal of the US military. The former base at Subic Bay has hosted 68 US naval ships so far this year. The US has also conducted a large number of military exercises on the Philippines. Many Filipinos now say their whole country is a US base now.
There are similar advances in the following countries Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myamar even Vietnam has been approached for a naval base. Of course the US is also very involved in encouraging India to become part of the so called ‘pivot’.
This is the regional atmosphere we are facing as the Naval Powers Conference gets underway, it can only lead to facilitating more tension in the region.
What is the basic focus of the pivot?
We agree with the commentators who say that these measures are aimed at ‘containing China’, a position that can only harm Australia and region.
The strategic thinking behind this pivot is for the US to increase the pressure on China. Our region’s Malacca Straits near Singapore is what is known as a choke point where a large number of cargo ships go through narrow straits. Through this strait go about 85% of China’s fuel and the US is aiming to choke off China’s trade should it feels the need to.
What is Australia’s Role in the pivot?
Australia has cooperated with the pivot firstly by stationing of 2500 US Marines on our soil. There is talk of further inroads by the US onto our land with bases for US navy assets in Darwin and Fremantle WA which could include nuclear submarines. On top of this was the suggestion that the Cocos Islands could house a base for US drone activity for the region.
The US has requested that the Darwin Marine component be hurried up so that the 2500 number can be reached sooner than expected. The US has just announced (Aug 23, 2013) it will be setting up a new naval force to support the marines in Darwin. It is called the Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG). With this force the US is aiming to support the marines in Darwin to go to war.
What impact this will have on the region?
In regard to Australia it is not in our interest to be on bad relations with China as it is our major trading partner. Chinese finance is kick starting our fuel industry both oil and gas in the North West of the country. As well many of Australia CEO’s are alarmed that Australia’s military policy is threatening their economic well being. The whole of Australia’s population stands to benefit from good relations with China. As well our relations with our neighbours will be negatively effected by our support for the US’s bellicose attitudes and policies.
Australia’s interests are also threatened by exorbitant spending on the military as it robs other parts of our community such as health and education to pay for naval assets. These purchases can only further increase tensions between our numerous Asian Pacific neighbours as we resort to gunboat diplomacy instead of diplomacy.
Ultimately we need to remind everyone of the worst case scenario for our region. The worst possible outcome we could face is a nuclear exchange between the US and China which is what all of us in the region would seek to avoid. However, Australia in its blind support of the US is bringing closer this scenario rather being a positive influence for peace in the region.
The Navy has to have conferences to improve its skills and all understanding of its job in our region. So why object?
While this conference is held in prestigious surrounds and has an air of respectability, the reality is quite different. This conference is an occasion for the agents of the shadiest and most evil industries to strut their stuff. This is a golden opportunity for the arms trade, the dealers of death and destruction to promote their wares. These are the war profiteers who feed on misery and destruction. Arms Trade corporations from all countries are implicated in a range of corruption scandals in their own countries in other countries. Their work often include arming both sides of a conflict as they did in the Iraq war. We object to the conference on the grounds it is an arm trading fare with a particular emphasis on maritime component.
This conference is NOT an academic exercise, it rather a combination of arms fair and academia which tries to obscure its sinister purpose.