In an editorial entitled "China’s Missile Provocation," The New York Times says of China's decision to install two HQ-9 short-range missile batteries on Woody Island:
"China’s decision to station surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea is the latest in a series of provocative acts that is fueling regional tensions. This unwise move raises new doubts about President Xi Jinping’s pledge not to 'pursue militarization' in a vital waterway and passage for $5 trillion in annual trade.
. . . .
The United States makes no claim to territory in the South China Sea and takes a neutral position on the competing claims [of China, Vietnam and Taiwan]. It has rightly pushed all countries, especially China, to stop militarizing land masses and adding to them. It has also promised to recognize the claims of whichever side wins the arbitration case.
Regardless of that outcome, it is essential for the United States, working with its allies, to ensure the free flow of navigation and to continue sending ships and planes across the sea, in accord with international law."
Fascinating. You will recall that Obama called Chinese President Xi earlier this month in the hope that Xi would curb North Korea's nuclear and rocket testing. Xi is going to pressure North Korea? Don't count on it. As reported by Javier C. Hernandez in a January 15, 2016 Times article entitled "After Nuclear Test, China Resists Pressure to Curb North Korea":
"Since coming to power in 2012, Mr. Xi has pushed the limits of Chinese foreign policy, challenging America’s influence in the Pacific and using China’s financial heft to win allies across the globe. But while Mr. Xi has taken a tougher approach than his predecessors on North Korea, he has resisted inflicting crippling punishments on the North, an ally for six decades and a valuable counterweight for Beijing to American military might in Asia."
Xi of course partnered with Obama in reaching the unsigned nuclear agreement with Iran. And you will also remember how, in a January 17, 2016 editorial entitled "A Safer World, Thanks to the Iran Deal," The New York Times sang paeans to Obama's "visionary determination," which led to his unsigned nuclear deal with Khamenei. This editorial was written one day after Obama lifted sanctions stemming from Iran's nuclear program, yet on the same day that Obama imposed sanctions on 11 persons and companies tied to recent Iranian ballistic missile tests. A confused chickenhearted message to Tehran? You bet! Will Iran halt its ballistic missile program as a result of sanctioning 11 persons and companies? Not a chance.
In fact, as reported today in a Times of Israel article entitled "Pending Iranian Space Launch Contrary to U.N. Nuclear Resolution" by Bill Gertz:
"Iran is expected to conduct a rocket test this month in violation of the recent UN resolution on the Iranian nuclear deal that bans long-range missile tests, according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Intelligence agencies are closely watching preparations in Iran to test a Simorgh space launch vehicle that U.S. officials say is the base for Tehran’s covert program to develop long-range nuclear missiles.
The large liquid-fueled rocket was developed with North Korean technology and was observed on a launch pad at the Semnan satellite launch center, located about 125 miles east of Tehran.
UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which outlines implementation of the recent Iranian nuclear agreement, prohibits Iran from conducting nuclear ballistic missile tests for the next eight years."
Obama will act decisively to prevent the launch? Again, not a chance. He will hand it over the UN, whose member states are only interested in cementing commercial agreements with Tehran, after the recent release of more than $100 billion of Iranian frozen assets.
Which brings me to yesterday's US Government Accountability Office assessment of the Missile Defense Agency's development of a ballistic missile defense system (BMDS) to defend against attacks from North Korea and Iran. The GAO writes (my emphasis in red):
"MDA Has Not Demonstrated Through Flight Testing That It Can Defend the U.S. Homeland Against the Current Missile Defense Threat
DOD’s August 2015 report stated that the BMDS is capable of defending the U.S. homeland against the threat of a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack from countries such as North Korea and Iran. According to recent testimony from senior DOD officials, the warfighter remains confident in its ability to protect the nation from a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack. However, several key aspects of this capability have not been demonstrated through flight testing. In May 2015, we reported that MDA previously conducted three successful CE-I intercept flight tests and achieved a major milestone when it performed its first successful intercept test with the CE-II, the first of several needed successful intercept tests to fully demonstrate the CE-II works as intended. Some of the capabilities that both MDA and the warfighter have identified that need to be demonstrated include intercepting a target representative of an intercontinental ballistic missile and performing a salvo intercept where two or more interceptors are utilized against a single target. The salvo capability is particularly important because, during a ballistic missile attack, the warfighter intends to launch a salvo of interceptors to increase the probability of successfully intercepting the incoming missiles and to overcome anticipated in-flight reliability failures.
According to a March 2015 assessment by DOD’s Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), GMD has demonstrated a partial capability against small numbers of simple ballistic missile threats launched from North Korea and Iran; GMD flight testing, to date, was insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists; and a quantitative assessment of GMD’s operational effectiveness is currently not possible."
Or stated otherwise, an effective American BMDS is years and billions of dollars away after Obama, intent upon avoiding confrontation, allowed North Korea and Iran to perfect their ballistic missile capabilities. Yikes!