A Return to Cam Ranh Bay?
May 24, 2016 3 Comments
Last week, Jane Perlez had an article in The New York Times speculating about the return of US Forces to Cam Ranh Bay, in Vietnam. It’s an interesting thought, and not nearly far-fetched as it sounds to ears that remember the sixties.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that nations usually don’t have friends, they have interests. But in the same way, that Great Britain is the United States’ friend, China is Vietnam’s enemy. It’s something that goes back a thousand years, and as always: The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In addition, we should remember that likely in the late forties, in a misguided intention to support imperial France, we threw away a potential ally in Ho Chi Minh, who had been known to quote the Declaration of Independence fervently. It wasn’t Truman’s finest hour.
And so led the way to a war, which we fought badly, and lost. Although I would say we lost in Washington, not on the field. But we lost. And so our relations have been rather sour for a long while. From the article.
Vietnam’s needs dovetail with those of the United States, which has been encouraging maritime states in Southeast Asia to better defend themselves, an effort partly aimed at keeping the United States from being dragged into a direct naval conflict with China.
The prospect of access to Cam Ranh Bay, where the Vietnamese have built a new international port, provides another enticement for lifting the ban.
An American presence there would allow United States forces to use the port on the western edge of the South China Sea, complementing American facilities in the Philippines on the sea’s eastern edge.
“If the United States can get regular access to Cam Ranh Bay, it would be very advantageous to maintaining the balance of power with China,” said Alexander L. Vuving, a Vietnam specialist at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu. “If something happens in the South China Sea, it takes a while for the U.S. to get there. China can get there more quickly.”
The Vietnamese, who shun alliances and forbid foreign bases, have made clear they would not entertain exclusive use of the facilities by the United States but would allow it to share the base with others. Singaporean and Japanese vessels this year were the first to use the facility.
That all makes sense to me, we’ve talked many times here about how important the area is. It sits on one of the major shipping lanes in the world, see also what we said here. Understand this, the US (and Royal) Navy’s ability to contest this area is exactly what led the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor, and Singapore. The same can happen with China.
Along the same lines, China is increasingly finding that its moves are being resisted, peacefully so far, but things are stirring, and alliances are shaking, another case in point: India. From Kevin Knodell.
Washington and New Delhi are getting a lot more serious about military-to-military ties. As the United States and India become more wary of an increasingly assertive China, the two countries are gradually edging closer together.
On May 16, American and Indian met for a “maritime security dialogue” in New Delhi. “The dialogue covered issues of mutual interest, including exchange of perspectives on maritime security development in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region as well as prospects for further strengthening cooperation between India and the United States in this regard,” stated an Indian Ministry of External Affairs press release.
Washington and New Delhi are also close to formalizing a historic military cooperation agreement hazily called the “Logistics Support Agreement” — or LSA. The agreement would allow the two militaries to use each other’s land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repairs and conducting operations.
American and Indian officials agreed to hold the summit during an April visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Despite regular meetings and joint military training, the United States and India are not allies in any formal sense. India was officially unaligned in the Cold War but kept close relations with the Soviet Union — and the United States backed arch-rival Pakistan.
But there is a slow yet historic realignment underway. First of all, the United States and India are both growing warier of China’s rise as a major regional military power. Second, the U.S.-Pakistani relationship has deteriorated during the course of America’s decade-and-a-half-long war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan is the world’s top recipient of Chinese weapons.
via: Watch Out, China
So for all the silliness in Washington, we appear to be in some respects still acting properly as the world’s premier maritime power, ensuring the freedom of the seas for all, hopefully, some gestures will be enough, and likely they will if it’s obvious that gestures are not the only thing in the cupboard.
There’s a word for that. It’s called deterrence.