- - Sunday, September 18, 2016


The red-carpet treatment was given to every world leader attending the Beijing G-20 economic summit meeting Sept. 4-5, 2016, which was hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping. Everyone, that is, except for the president of the United States of America. There were no stairs for President Obama to emerge from the usual front door of Air Force One. The White House entourage, including the press photographer, were deliberately harassed.

Such an obvious snub, which was seen all over the world, was clearly planned by his Chinese host Xi Jinping. The message that was being sent was that China no longer believes it necessary to be subservient, or even respectful, to the United States. China is clearly superior. It must be remembered that in China “losing face” is paramount. While President Obama tried to downplay the significance of this obvious “slap in the face,” he should have remembered that he was in Beijing representing the United States, as well as the de facto leader of the free world. The treatment by the Chinese was clearly unacceptable. Since the Chinese refused to act as a responsible host, then the president should have ordered Air Force One to immediately depart Beijing. Had he done so, I am confident the Chinese would have found the appropriate stairs for our president to disembark.

China, emboldened by our failure to act as a great power, has totally rejected the The Hague “Court of Arbitration” ruling which declared that China has no legal claim to the implementation of their “Nine-Dash-Line.” It has announced that it plans to continue its militarization of disputed atolls in the South China Sea (SCS). Further, China is conducting an eight-day combined exercise with Russia in the SCS, with the objective of “combined island defense.” The real purpose of the exercise is to send a message to the United States that the South China Sea belongs to China and that Russia will help China defend the contested atolls if need be. It is a clear challenge to our “Freedom of Navigation” tradition and to respecting international law.

China, I believe, is attempting to set the stage for a contrived incident to goad us into a confrontation. The most likely area will be their illegal claims to the Scarborough Shoals, which is only 128 nautical miles from Subic Bay, clearly well within the Philippines declared economic zone.

In order to prevent open hostility, we, along with our allies, need to take both overt and covert actions to raise the level of “deterrence significantly” not only in East Asia but in the Middle East as well. Iran, also emboldened with the unsigned nuclear agreement fraud, plus planeloads of cash, has threatened to shoot down two U.S. Navy unarmed reconnaissance aircraft and has continued to harass our naval forces in the Persian Gulf. Further, with North Korea conducting its fifth nuclear weapons test most likely with Iranian nuclear scientists and engineers present, our adversaries sense they can push the envelope in the last months of a failed Obama administration.

Normally, a U.S. administration would take action and preposition forces to signal that should Iran or China initiate an incident, they will pay a devastating price. In the words of that great lady, Margaret Thatcher, “This is not the time to go wobbly, Mr. President!”

Tactical nuclear weapons should be installed on all capable deployed naval forces. A carrier strike group should be deployed to both the Mediterranean and Arabian Sea areas. U.S. Army ATACMs should be deployed to Oman. If there is a political problem with deploying ATACMs to Oman, then we should deploy them aboard several amphibious ships. Tests have shown that this is a viable option.

In the Western Pacific, SCS region, we have a more complicated situation as a result of recent remarks and actions taken by the new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Aside from his insulting remarks about our president, he is clearly not a fan of the United States. He counts the leader and founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines as his friend, even though the Communists are still killing large numbers of Filipinos. As a diehard leftist, he often cites the U.S. terrible colonial occupation of the Philippines and tries to tie the ethnic conflict in Mindanao to that occupation. However, he fails to mention the sacrifice of 55,000 Americans who gave their lives to liberate his country from the brutal Japanese occupation. Since he was born in 1945, he certainly should also remember the visit of the hospital ship USNS Mercy to Zamboanga in 1987, providing medical assistance to thousands of Filipinos regardless of their religion.

Clearly Mr. Duterte has bought into Chinese propaganda, and been captured by Chinese financial and political interests. However, he has stated that he intends to honor the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) concluded by his predecessor with the United States. Brig. Gen. Restitudo Padilla, spokesman for the Philippine Air Force, stated that the alliance remains “rock solid” and plans for 2016, 2017 and beyond remain unchanged.

Our real allies in the Philippines are the people who overwhelming support the United States. Despite Mr. Duterte’s uncontrolled ravings, the United States needs to remain calm but firm with Mr. Duterte. We should not make any rash moves which could destroy the extraordinary progress made by the EDCA. China’s quest for global power, which threatens all democracies, begins with its attempted takeover of the South China Sea. Our strategic position in the region must be protected and strengthened through cooperation with our allies, including the Philippines.

James A. Lyons, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.

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