Sunday, June 19, 2011

Malaysia, US Navy Conduct Joint CARAT Anti-Submarine, Simulated Amphibious Landing Exercise

Malaysia and US Navy launched the CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) naval exercise in the South China Sea. Navies from both countries carried out a rare joint anti-submarine exercise and joint amphibious landing exercise with simulation practice to repel the imagined invading enemy.
This kind of CARAT military exercise led by the United States has been going on in this region for 17 years. But this is the first time the United States deployed an attack submarine to participate in the joint military rehearsal in this stage of 2011 CARAT Malaysia. Naturally, this CARAT joint military exercise has once again become the focus of attention in the Asian-Pacific region.
On 11 June's CARAT naval operation on the sea, the United States dispatched the US Navy attack submarine USS La Jolla (SSN 701) to conduct a combined military exercise with the Malaysian Navy. In order to carry out the joint anti-submarine operation, Malaysia sent out Malaysian Navy frigates KD Lekir (F26), KD Lekiu (FF30) and KD Terengganu (F174), a new generation patrol vessel and the United States sent out US Navy ships USS Howard (DDG 83) Aegis destroyer and USS Ford (FFG 54) frigate in this joint military rehearsal.
Strengthening Military Capability
We believe only the navies in the countries surrounding the South China Sea understand the significance of the appearance of the US attack submarine USS La Jolla (SSN 701) in the South China Sea. The appearance of the US attack submarine signifies that the United States has further expanded the presence of its military power in the South China Sea. The deployment of the US attack submarine has also positively strengthened the joint CARAT anti-submarine capacity between the United States and countries surrounding the South China Sea.
On 13 June, CARAT Malaysia joint military exercise on the sea entered its final climax. After the end of the joint anti-submarine operations between the US and Malaysian navies, Malaysia's No. 10 Airborne Force and the US Marine Corps re-grouped into a combined landing force and boarded the 11 'AAV-7' amphibious assault vehicles to attack the strategic positions of imaginary enemies on shore.
The 11 'AAV-7' amphibious assault vehicles came out from US Navy's amphibious assault landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46). They waded through the water and landed on the pre-designated landing spots; launched direct attack and occupied the enemy's valley.
Recently, the fight for maritime territory has created stormy conflict in the South China Sea. As such, it is an open secret that the CARAT joint military exercise led by the United States is a simulation exercise based on the virtual military conflicts in the South China Sea. In this regard, all parties have focused special attention on this round of CARAT joint military exercise operation with the United States.
Close Observation
This year, only four reporters are invited to have close observation of the CARAT joint military exercise. The Chinese Press is the only Chinese language newspaper invited to observe the CARAT operation. The other three reporters are representatives from some military magazines. This is the second time China Press is invited and that with some arrangement, the China Press reporter was able to follow the media group to go on board the US Navy's amphibious assault landing ship USS Tortuga (LSD 46) to cover special report on the ship visit.
The CARAT media group arrived and stationed in Mersing's Tanjong Resang Beach on 11 June. This is the location of the 'troop landing' rehearsal venue. The media group was able to cover the CORAT combined landing exercise between the navies of the two countries.
On 12 June at 1.00 p.m. (GMT 0500) after the combined military landing rehearsal was completed, the media took the AAV-7 amphibious landing vehicle and returned to the amphibious assault landing ship USS Tortuga for overnight rest. It was in the morning of 13 June that the media began to carry out formal report and or interview with participating crew personnel.
China Press is indeed thankful to the Malaysian Joint Force Operation, the US Embassy in Malaysia and the officials and crews from the USS Tortuga to provide the convenience and facilities to cover the report on the 2011 CARAT Malaysia operation.
Formation of CARAT Multilateral Partnership Fleet
This year is the 17th anniversary of the US led CARAT Joint Military Exercise. The fact as we observe is that is that after 17 years of uninterrupted joint military exercises and rehearsals, the CARAT operation has already allowed the United States and Southeast Asian countries to establish a 'CARAT multilateral partnership fleet' for the South China Sea.
The original participating countries in the CARAT joint military exercise led by the United States include Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei. But in 2010, this joint military exercise has expanded to include Bangladesh and Cambodia.
The format adopted by the CARAT joint military exercise is very unique. This joint military exercise organized by the US Navy with countries in the Southeast Asian region will allow the US fleets to circle one round of the South China Sea while carrying out joint military exercises with countries within the South China Sea region. Without fail, the United States will faithfully carry out such joint military exercises with all the eight participating countries at specific time every year.
Over the years, the US Armed Forces has shown that it has sufficient capability and capacity to, regardless of whether it is in a bilateral or multilateral environment, gather the multilateral forces of surrounding countries to carry out combat operations either in Southeast Asia or in the South China Sea,
There is only one overall conclusion of our media coverage for the CARAT joint military exercise: this conclusion is that whether people accept the fact or not, after 17 long years of accumulative combined military exercises with one another country, this 'CARAT Multilateral Partnership Fleet' has already provided positive contribution in the maintenance of peace and stability for the South China Sea.
Open Question to China
Of late, the maritime sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea has continued to heat up. In addition, the sky covering the South China Sea has also gathered many dark clouds due to the unusual change of climate above the South China Sea. As such one cannot help but to ponder if this is a sign that a big military storm is also in the making there.
As I looked into the South China Sea on the deck of USS Tortuga, I kept thinking about the current situation in the South China Sea. I kept thinking and recalling Chinese Navy Chief Wu Shengli's remarks when he proposed the 'Harmonious Sea' initiative in 2009.
But can we really trust the 'Harmonious Sea' initiative proposed in 2009? This was the question raised by many defence officials from different countries at the Shangri-La Dialogue held in Singapore recently.
In fact the friction between China and some Southeast Asian countries over the territorial disputes in the South China Sea has not reduced after the 'Harmonious Sea' initiative was proposed by China in 2009. Instead, the conflict and confrontation in the South China Sea have the tendency to intensify.
In 2009, there was the friction between some Chinese fishermen and the US Navy; in 2010, China's fishery patrol vessel violated Malaysia's maritime territory near Malaysia's island in the group of Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and was expelled by our Malaysian Navy. in May 2011; of late, China also 'took turn' to engage repeated confrontation with the Philippines and Vietnam over maritime territorial issue thus creating tension in the South China Sea until today. In the end, Vietnam carried out live-fire military exercise in the South China Sea hand as a gesture 'to lay its card out' to China.
At the recently held Shari-La Dialogue, some participants had openly criticized China of 'saying one thing but taking an entirely different action.' Has the Chinese authority really reflected on why the dialogue participants could have such comments on China?
If China continues to engage conflict with Southeast Asian countries over the sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea, there is no way for this region to resolve the sovereignty and maritime dispute in the South China Sea. Instead, such conflicts can only deepen Southeast Asian countries' suspicion on China. Such a development trend will be a blow to the credibility of the 'Harmonious Sea' initiative in the South China Sea as proposed by China.

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