Thursday, January 28, 2010

China to lead SHADE's anti-piracy patrols off Somalia

In November 2009, China expressed interest in playing a “lead role” in the fight against Somali pirates. (here) They requested to co-chair SHADE (Shared Awareness and Deconfliction) jointly with the EU and US-led Combined Maritime Force, headquartered in Bahrain.

After receiving support from the EU delegation, China is now approved to lead SHADE's anti-piracy patrols off Somalia. This effort will also require Chinese warships to patrol a sector of the special transit corridor through the most dangerous part of the Gulf of Aden and it also means China will need to send more than the three ships currently deployed off the Horn of Africa. Naturally, there are political complications for such a development and they can be summarized as follows.

First, there are those who view any Chinese military development, especially in the Indian Ocean, with suspicion. By operating under an international framework China’s effort can be seen as a positive step in alleviating suspicion.

Second, others see China’s military growth as “natural.” Writing in the current edition of the Atlantic monthly, Robert Kaplan argues that “as a great continental nation’s economy grows, it begins to trade more with the outside world and develops interests it did not have previously” (here) and that the Chinese build up mirrors what the United States once did. In that light, China is following a natural growth path. This group is less concerned about a PLAN “misadventure” in the region as long as its posture is not overly aggressive.

Lastly, there is also a group of critics who charge that China has enjoyed a free-ride provided by the United States Navy in protecting international waters (here). With 2.4 Trillion dollars in the Bank, China should constitute a greater share of the MOOTW burden. Unlike the previous two groups, this group would welcome greater Chinese participation in protecting the "liberal trade" system that the world enjoys.

Political considerations aside, in order for the PLAN to support an expanded naval deployment, it would require a greater fleet reserve at home. As a general rule, to maintain a task force of three ships on-station, the PLAN would need to keep a total of 9 ships on reserve: three on training, three on crew rotation and maintenance, and three on-station. That requirement could provide the justification the PLAN seeks for naval build up at home and abroad (expect to see more Type 054A frigates on order). Second, the PLAN would need to increase their C2 assets in order to communicate with other members of SHADE. The current fleet PLAN is not equipped with the extensive communication gear that can deal with a 40-nation strong Maritime Force. A PLAN overseas naval base in Djibouti seems to be an ideal location to host such a C2 asset. (here)

All in all, China’s mission to fight pirates is becoming "historical" indeed.

China to lead anti-piracy patrols
PLA Navy officials agree to expanded role co-ordinating international efforts off Somalia
Greg Torode Chief Asia correspondent in Singapore
Jan 28, 2010
China has won approval to lead the co-ordination of international anti-piracy patrols off Somalia - an unprecedented expansion of its historic deployment of warships to the Indian Ocean.
The effort will also see China send its warships to permanently patrol a sector of the special transit corridor through the most dangerous part of the Gulf of Aden. The pledge means that China needs to send more than the three ships it keeps deployed off the Horn of Africa to protect vital trade routes linking Asia to Europe.

PLA Navy officials reached agreement last week over its expanded role with major international navies at a meeting of the so-called Shade grouping in Bahrain, officials at the meeting said.

Shade, or Shared Awareness and Deconfliction, has been jointly headed by European Union forces and the US-led Combined Maritime Forces.

More than two years old, Shade meets monthly to maximise co-ordination and communication among the 40-odd navies now protecting shipping off the Horn of Africa.

While some nations operate as part of international flotillas under the banner of Nato, the EU or the CMF, some operate independently, including China, India, Russia, Malaysia and Iran.

Currently only Nato, EU and CMF ships patrol inside the corridor.

By committing to provide an "enduring" presence in the corridor, China will be eligible to lead as part of a new rotating chairmanship, which will switch every three to four months. It is expected to take charge by the middle of the year.

The move is expected to force India and Russia to seek a greater role, as they try to match a growing Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean.

Captain Chris Chambers, director of operations for the CMF, confirmed China's new role yesterday at a shipping conference in Singapore.

"There has been major progress in communication and co-operation with navies that once didn't really speak to each other," Chambers, a US naval officer, said. "China will get a chance to chair the Shade ... it is a very positive development.

"It will open the door for other independent nations to come in."

Other officials at last week's Bahrain meeting said the PLA was reporting back to Beijing for political approval before a formal announcement could be made.

Both Western and Asian naval officials are backing the move, knowing they are struggling to deal with a worsening piracy situation off Somalia, a failed state where pirates operate with no fear of law enforcement or other government intervention.

While the Gulf of Aden situation has eased under naval pressure, pirates are now attacking ships off Somalia's east coast, travelling more than 1,000 nautical miles into the Indian Ocean to seize ships, putting a wider range of shipping at risk. "It is getting desperate and there is no solution in sight," one foreign naval official said. "Anything China can do to offer more practical help will be taken up at this point. This deal is a straight win-win."

While helping to tackle a worsening international crisis, fighting piracy allows China to quietly develop an Indian Ocean presence - something military analysts believe could be highly strategic to its ambitions to create a navy with wide global reach.

Typically, hijacked ships are taken to pirate lairs on Somalia's east coast. The ship and crew are kept under armed guard but are generally unharmed until the owners can arrange a ransom, which now range between US$2 million and US$7 million.

China began pushing for a broader role after the hijacking in October of mainland bulk carrier the De Xin Hai. The ship, steaming to India with a load of South African coal when it was captured northeast of the Seychelles islands, was released late last month after the payment of US$3.5 million in cash.

The De Xin Hai was the first mainland ship to be captured since Beijing's historic deployment of warships to the area in December 2008.

That deployment marked the first time the Chinese navy had ventured into potential conflict beyond its home waters in centuries.

The PLA warships never attempted to attack or intercept the pirates, with PLA officials later insisting they were too far away at the time.

The warships - two destroyers and an armed supply ship - run regular escorts from convoys of ships registered in Hong Kong, Taiwan and on the mainland. Ships of other nations can join the Chinese convoys.

When not involved with convoys, the Chinese vessels have also assisted other international efforts. China's convoys sail near the transit corridor, keep in contact with it but have not been part of it. Now it has agreed to keep a single ship in the corridor for a month at a time, China will be assigned a 60 nautical mile stretch of ocean to permanently patrol.

Chinese officials have repeatedly suggested that individual countries should be given set areas of ocean to take responsibility for - a concept already in operation inside the corridor.

Commander of Chinese naval escort taskforce visits No. 465 EU naval escort fleet

(Source: MOD) 2009-11-24

Wang Zhiguo (L), commander of the Chinese naval 3rd escort fleet, talks with officials of the European Union (EU) navy 465 formation during his visit to the Dutch frigate "Eversten" at the invitation of the European Union (EU) navy 465 formation in the Gulf of Aden, Nov. 22, 2009. (Xinhua/Guo Gang)

Wang Zhiguo (L), commander of the Chinese naval 3rd escort fleet, talks with officials of the European Union (EU) navy 465 formation during his visit to the Dutch frigate "Eversten" at the invitation of the European Union (EU) navy 465 formation in the Gulf of Aden, Nov. 22, 2009. (Xinhua/Guo Gang)

  On the morning of November 22, local time, Rear Admiral Wang Zhiguo, commanding officer of the Chinese naval escort taskforce and deputy commander of the East China Sea Fleet of the Navy of the Chinese PLA and his 6-member party were invited to visit the "Eversten” guided missile frigate of the Dutch Navy and flagship of the No. 465 European Union (EU) naval escort fleet. Commodore Pieter Bindt, commanding officer of the No. 465 EU naval escort fleet, warmly received the Chinese guests.

   During the talks, Commodore Bindt mainly introduced the escort organization mode and coordination mechanism of the EU naval escort fleet.

  Commodore Bindt noted that the International Cooperation and Coordination Conference for the Escort in the Gulf of Aden held in Beijing on November 6-7 was a testimony of the Chinese side’s stand of actively participating in regional escort and deepening international cooperation and the EU maritime troops appreciated the active attitude adopted by the Chinese side.

  Wang Zhiguo said in the talks that in the face of the current tough situation in the Gulf of Aden and the waters off the Somali coast, the common efforts of the multi-national escort navies were required to ensure the security of the merchant ships.

  Wang also said that the Chinese naval escort taskforce will continue to maintain and strengthen the exchanges and cooperation with the naval escort forces of relevant countries and international organizations and do a good job in escort.

  After the talks, accompanied by Commodore Bindt, Wang Zhiguo and his party visited the "Eversten” frigate and watched the anti-pirate drill of the light and heavy weapon shooting staged by the officers and men of the No. 465 fleet.

  According to the agreement reached by the Chinese and Dutch navies, China and Holland dispatched two young officers respectively to the warship of the other side to conduct a two-day-long on-board study and exchange.

  By Zhu Da, Xu Yeqing

Commander of Chinese naval escort taskforce visits U.S. guided-missile cruiser “Chosin”
(Source: China Military Online) 2009-11-23

Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, commander of the No.151 taskforce of the U.S. Navy, is presenting the emblem of the guided-missile cruiser “Chosin” to Rear Admiral Wang Zhiguo, commander of the Chinese naval escort taskforce.

  On the morning of November 19, at the invitation of Rear Admiral Scott Sanders, commander of the No. 151 taskforce of the U.S. Navy, which was performing escort task in the waters of the Gulf of Aden, Rear Admiral Wang Zhiguo, commander of the third Chinese naval escort taskforce and deputy commander of the East China Sea Fleet of the Navy of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, flied to the guided-missile cruiser “Chosin” of the U.S. Navy for a visit together with his 5-member party and conducted exchanges. This was a return visit to Rear Admiral Sanders and his party’s visit paid to the “Zhoushan” warship of the Chinese naval escort taskforce on November 11.

Editor:Yang Ru


Daniel Hartnett said...

not sure if you can read Chinese (I assume so), but a posting this morning by the Chinese MoD says that the Chinese Gov has yet to decide whether to chair SHADE or not.

Article link (in Chinese)

HMS said...

The next battle grounds will be very asymmetrical warfare: economy, cyberspace, urban/guerrilla warfare, anti piracy/littoral and sort. The likelihood of a large-scale warfare will still be there but will almost certainly be shadowed by that of the above.

China is using the SHADE opportunity to horn up experience in bluewater and brownwater/littoral order of battle. Whether the China will lead the SHADE or not is less important than the participation in the [PLA's first] international exercise/ naval maneuver. By this standard it's a significant step forward for the PLA/PLAN.

Coatepeque said...


Thanks for the link but at the same time, the PLA daily posted this follow up

Principled consensus on escort missions reached between China, EU, NATO, CMF

(Source: Xinhua) 2010-01-30

  BEIJING, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Principled consensus was reached between China, European Union Naval Force, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), China's Ministry of National Defense said on Friday.

  The consensus, outlining the shipping escort cooperation based on "areas of responsibility" in the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), was approved Thursday at the the plenary meeting of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia in New York, said a statement from the ministry.

  Previously, China had suggested cooperation be based on "areas of responsibility" under the UN Security Council resolutions while EU, NATO and CMF proposed coordination guidelines of the IRTC.

  China and the three parties conducted rounds of consultations at the contact group meeting, international coordination meeting in Beijing and the Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) system meeting in Bahrain.

  The final principled consensus absorbed components of "areas of responsibility" in escort missions cooperation and the coordination guidelines of IRTC, showcasing concerted effort by all parties.

  China always takes a positive and open attitude towards international cooperation on shipping escorts, and would like to cooperate with countries and organizations in line with UN Security Council resolutions for peace and stability in the Gulf of Aden and Somalia waters, said the statement.

Editor:Chen Jie

Daniel Hartnett said...

Interesting, thanks. That helps to put it in a bit more light. Below is the translation of the article I mentioned above (bearing in mind I'm not a prof. translator).

From what I can tell from your article and this one, it appears that maybe all they agreed to was just to divide up the areas to patrol. No official Chinese agreement for the PLAN to lead SHADE meetings--at least not yet anyway.

China Daily Article (translated from Chinese):

National Defense Official: China maybe will assume rotating chair of Somalia-maritime area escorts


China Daily News: On Jan 29, a [Chinese] Ministry of National Defense official leaked to a China Daily reporter that China “might assume the rotating chair of the Somalia maritime-area escort [group].” This official also expressed that China already reached an agreement with the other navies of the European Union to divide up the escorts of the international recommended transiting corridor in the Gulf of Aden.

According to the Hong Kong South China Morning Daily’s Jan 28 article, titled “China to lead antipiracy patrols,” at last week’s monthly meeting in Bahrain of the international antipiracy group “Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE),” China won the right to “lead and coordinate” the escort missions of each nation in the region of Somalia.

The South China Morning Daily stated that this move means that China must send more than three vessels to the maritime region of the “Horn of Africa.”

When answering on the issue of what “to lead and coordinate” means, the Ministry of Defense official said that actually it just “means that China might assume the rotating chair of the Somalia escorts.” But at the same time, this official indicated that the actual start time for holding this position and the length still have to wait for each nation to have further discussions.

This official denied the statement that China will send more naval vessels to this maritime area, calling it “incorrect.”

At the same time, the former director of the Comprehensive Bureau of the Naval Equipment Proving and Research Academy, Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo, stated that any talk of China “leading” the escorts is just media misstatements. “The United States and Europe won’t put naval exchanges under Chinese leadership,” said Yin Zhao. He also emphasized that so-called leadership “actually is just a coordination mechanism,” and that it is merely chaired by someone for a short period.

Furthermore, on the topic of a “dividing up the escorts,” the Ministry of Defense official stated that China already reach an agreement with the navies of the European Union that are participating in the escorts.

He said that China originally advocated for “dividing up the escorts” in the Somali maritime area, but the navies of the E.U. advocated merely for “international recommended transiting corridor” in the Gulf of Aden, the final result of which was both sides yielded a bit, and within these routes divvied up the escorts.

According to a BBC report, Somali pirates are responsible for 217 incidents last year. They [more stats about piracy in the region—not translated].

In order to improve the escorts’ success and decrease the probability of successful piracy, China’s permanent vice delegate to the UN, Ambassador Liu Zhenmin, gave a speech last November 18 concerning the Somalia piracy issue to the UN Security Council, suggesting that the naval forces of each nation participating in this maritime area’s escort [missions] should “divide up the escorts.”

Editor: Zhang Haizhou

Coatepeque said...


Thanks for the translation job. Lets wait and see.

saim said...

What remarkable post! I think getting a bit of experience behind you writing for student magazines and websites is probably a good idea as well, just to familiarise yourself with what might be expected of you.

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