Discussion on Growing Gray Zone Challenges in the East China Sea
A Special Launch Event for No Safe Harbor: Countering Aggression in the East China Sea by Patrick Cronin, Daniel Kliman, and Harry Krejsa
This record of the proceedings held on March 29, 2018, at the Center for a New American Security, have been edited for clarity.
CARA ABERCROMBIE, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR SOUTH AND SOUTHEAST ASIA, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
DR. PATRICK CRONIN, SENIOR DIRECTOR, ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY PROGRAM, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY
ADMIRAL JONATHAN GREENERT, U.S. NAVY (RET.), FORMER CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS, U.S. NAVY
DR. DANIEL KLIMAN, SENIOR FELLOW, ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY PROGRAM, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY
YUKI TATSUMI, SENIOR ASSOCIATE AND DIRECTOR, JAPAN PROGRAM, STIMSON CENTER
ERIC SAYERS, VICE PRESIDENT, BEACON GLOBAL STRATEGIES LLC
DAVID SEDNEY, SENIOR ASSOCIATE, INTERNATIONAL SECURITY PROGRAM,CSIS
RADM MIKE MCDEVITT, U.S. NAVY, (RET.), SENIOR FELLOW, CENTER FOR NAVAL ANALYSES
LIEUTENANT GENERAL WALLACE C. GREGSON, JR., SENIOR DIRECTOR, CHINA AND THE PACIFIC, CENTER FOR THE NATIONAL INTEREST.
ALI WYNE, POLICY ANALYST, RAND CORPORATION
ALEXANDER SULLIVAN, ADJUNCT FELLOW, ASIA-PACIFIC SECURITY PROGRAM CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY
DON CLINE, SENIOR DIRECTOR, GOVERNMENT SOLUTIONS, ELBIT SYSTEMS OF AMERICA
JONATHAN WARD, FOUNDER, ATLAS ORGANIZATION
CRONIN: Hello, I'm Patrick Cronin, director of the Asia Program. We are here today for two purposes.
First, we want to talk about a general problem that is a persistent and growing challenge that the United States and its allies face globally, but also especially in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. That's the gray zone-challenge of hybrid or irregular warfare designed to stay beneath the threshold that would trigger an armed response. The concept defined differently by different people with different terminology, but putting semantics aside want to delve into the conceptual challenge of how governments -- and allies in particular -- respond to this rising challenge.
Secondly, we then want to look at gray-zone challenge applied to a specific case study: the East China Sea, especially around the Senkaku Islands. Last December we conducted a tabletop exercise with dozens of experts, professionals, and officials from Japan and the United States. That exercise was dubbed, "No Safe Harbor," and it is also the title of our new report.
The U.S.-Japan alliance faces a growing gray-zone challenge, not just in the East China Sea but elsewhere, as well. So we want to talk about the report and the exercise, and we have some great people here to do that.
I also want to call out our friend and colleague, Dr. Mira Rapp-Hooper, who's not here today. At the commencement of this project, Dr. Rapp-Hooper played a pivotal role in conceptualizing this project and the exercise. Dan Kliman, Harry Krejsa, and I were also heavily supported by the heads of the defense and European program teams: Dr. Jerry Hendrix and Julie Smith. We were able to build off successful tabletop exercises they had completed and remain proven models.
Some very bright practitioner-thinkers join us. The first to speak is Cara Abercrombie, who's a career Senior Executive Service official at the Department of Defense and currently assigned as a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Cara had had to think through these issues from a defense policy perspective when she was deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia.
Then we'll turn to retired Admiral Jonathan Greenert, whose distinguished Navy career culminated in his elevation to become to become the 30th chief of naval operations. Admiral Greenert also co-chaired with former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work our U.S. team within the exercise, so he has insights not only about the Navy as it evolves to deal with this challenge but also impressions from the tabletop drill itself.
I will then turn to my exceptional colleague, Dr. Dan Kliman, a senior fellow here who's also just been recently out of OSD policy and is also a naval reservist, and he'll take us through some of the chief insights of this exercise as we release this report today.
And then I want to give Yuki Tatsumi of the Stimson, a chance to speak about her role on the Japan team in the exercise. Whereas the Japan team struggles with more legal and political issues, maybe, than the U.S. team moving forward with strategies, processes, and actions. It was a palpable contrast.
With that introduction, I want to turn to Cara. Thank you.
ABERCROMBIE: Thanks, Patrick, and thanks for inviting me to speak here.
I do have to put out my disclaimer. I am still a U.S. official, but I'm at Carnegie for the year, so the views I express today are my own and not those of the U.S. government.
And I want to compliment CNAS on the tabletop exercise. I got to play on Team USA, and it was an embarrassment of riches, the officials you had. It was the National Security Council dream team, and it was a lot of fun. I wish I could have that dream team every day.
So just a few -- a little bit of a scene-setter: what we see in the South China Sea and South Asia from a gray-zone perspective. And there are a lot of parallels with what's going on in the East China Sea, but again, drawing from a definition that is -- has been documented by many academics.
You know, we're seeing efforts to change the status quo below the threshold to provoking conflict or confrontation by using means of asymmetry, ambiguity, and incrementalism.
Regarding asymmetry, particularly in the South China Sea, China is resorting to nonmilitary vessels, the coast guard, the maritime militia, and in some cases fishing vessels for a variety of actions. They are conducting reclamation activities, providing escort services to fishermen in contested waters or even other nations' territorial waters, challenging oil rigs in disputed waters, or just challenging non-Chinese military presence in the South China Sea.
In terms of ambiguity, there has been a general lack of transparency about overall intent with what was going on in terms of land reclamation activities, at least a few years ago. It's quite evident today.
But the diplomatic rhetoric coming out of Beijing masked actions on the ground. For example, we had President Xi Jinping standing in the Rose Garden in 2015 saying, "We have no intent to militarize the features in the South China Sea," and yet today, although there is no offensive military equipment on these features, they are positioned and able to be rapidly militarized and support military capabilities on quite short notice. That's a fact.
And so what we've seen in the end is an incremental shift in the status quo in the South China Sea. We've seen multiple levers across the spectrum of governmental power used to assert the Chinese position or coerce others into acquiescing to China's will. For instance, China has proffered legal interpretations that differ from the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. Most notably, this includes turning away from the July 2016 Hague tribunal ruling that asserted that many features in the Spratly Islands do not warrant territorial seas.
China rejected out of hand The Hague tribunal ruling. We've seen the use of media to pursue their position. We've seen economic coercion in the background, too. Financial pressure is made more compelling by the region's growing dependency on Chinese money and investment in infrastructure development.
A few things make the South China Sea a more complicated region, perhaps, than the East China Sea. You have a large number of claimants; it's not just two countries and -- and a case where Japan's got the U.S. alliance.
There are multiple claimants. They are not always on the same page. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) unity has been sporadic and, frankly, has fallen apart in recent years on the issue of resolving the disputes in the South China Sea. Tensions amongst some of the claimants contribute to this, as well.
The claimants in the South China Sea are less capable than the powers in the East China Sea. Many of them are not able to see the situation because they lack the maritime domain awareness to be aware of what's happening in their backyards, let alone coordinate with one another or share that information. There's also a lack of trust.
So again, unlike the East China Sea, we have seen a dramatic change in the status quo in the South China Sea.
In South Asia, given what's happened to its east, India, in particular, is quite concerned about the potential for status quo challenges within the Indian Ocean region and in its backyard. Again, similarly, there is a lack of transparency of intent behind some of the large-scale loans for infrastructure development projects.
The Sri Lanka case of Hambantota Port is quite well known. A loan turned into an option to lease the port for 90 years, which is, in effect, resulted in a loss of Sri Lankan sovereignty of that area.
There are indications that the government of Maldives has offered China islands for use for developing a port and possibly a base.
Large-scale projects and loans to Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan are concerning to India, as well. They challenge India's traditional leadership role in the region.
And then, of course, the most explicit example was the standoff between Indian and Chinese forces in Bhutan last summer. Bhutan has a special relationship with India. India was invited in to prevent the Chinese from constructing a road through the disputed territory in Bhutan.
The standoff concluded peacefully. They reached a diplomatic resolution.
But the fact is, reports indicate today that the Chinese have fortified their position on the Chinese side, reinforcing infrastructure, providing landing pads, et cetera. So there is concern within India that should another effort be made by the Chinese to build a road through disputed territory they would be better positioned to succeed.
CRONIN: Cara, excellent. Great comments.
Cara, you highlight some of the differences between the South China Sea and the East China Sea. One of the similarities, however, is how China justifies its actions. Although the United States and other regional actors see Chinese assertiveness as revisionist, Beijing argues that it is pursuing historical rights. As China gains capabilities and confidence, there is a fear that Beijing will be able to impose its will unilaterally if there's an opportunity. Countering this trend will require a delicate balance between defense and diplomacy: denying China the opening for adventurism, and then providing an alternative opportunity for China to engage in risk reductionce that we're looking to achieve.
We now turn to Admiral Greenert.
GREENERT: Thanks, Patrick. And again, thank you for the invitation to No Safe Harbor. It closely coincided with another tabletop exercises, Pacific Trident sponsored by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, that was done in Japan and involved provocations on the Korean Peninsula and in and around Northeast Asia involving Japan, the U.S., and the Republic of Korea. My comments are intertwined with both of these exercises.
Regarding No Safe Harbor, Cara mentioned we in the U.S. team had a -- a great group and I completely second it.
We had the right people and that allowed us to put -- to have an approach -- you've heard this term DIME: a comprehensive approach encompassing diplomacy, information, the military, and economics. We were able to establish the dialogue, and in case we -- the participants -- were wondering, "Who are these folks?" the lightbulbs went on very quickly.
You need a constellation of people and institutions. You need a Department of State because responses to gray-zone challenges require diplomats in addition to defense forces.
You also need homeland security officials, because you're going to need all kind of authorities and many of them reside there. You may need congressional resolutions, national intelligence, the National Security Council, lawyers, and people with embassy experience to understand what's going on the ground. You need these different types of expertise because an inherent part of gray-zone operations is the absence of information and truth.
We had all of that on Team USA in the exercise. When you put all of that expertise around the table and develop a rhythm, it's quite powerful.
And the clear message is for these sorts of things you need all of that and you need the dialogue and you need to get after it sooner than later. We in the military need to exercise that.
This was about, in many cases, Article V, the defense clause of the U.S.-Japan security treaty. It started right off with, "Well, my goodness, I think we're in Article V." And as we looked around it became clear: "OK, what do we do about this? How do we implement it? We have to start breaking this down into an operational and almost a tactical element.
We may not be exercising it with three-dimensional things with our militaries, but what kind of people have to be involved in this and how soon does that need to occur? What kind of information-sharing networks and processes do we need to put in place for this now so that we can have these conversations and understand when we're there?
So clear and away, one of the recommendations we came out with was for the Department of Defense to take a look at Article V. We subsequently pulsed the U.S. Pacific Command, which acknowledged that it was delving into the issue. We need to start breaking this down, and how does it go into the whole plan for the defense of Japan, and not be afraid to start exercising it. So that's one big take-away.
The collaboration needs to be both international -- that was obvious, and we were able to do that well in this game because over decades we have nurtured the means to communicate at a lower level through the midgrade and upper level. When I say ‘midgrade,' I'm talking about generals and admirals.
And then that led to diplomats who were wondering. "What are you people doing down there?" And they got involved, and this bore fruit quickly to say, "What is going on?"
And then you could quickly find out, well, we know what's going on. You know why we know what's going on? Because we share each other's networks. And we started this a long time ago.
And this fed over to the next tabletop exercise in the Korean area. Participants in that exercise said, "You know, we see the value of this, and the value of this is greater than the risk in this." And we can control the risk in today's understanding of networks and controlled networks.
Then there's the interagency. The country team has to have a leader.
Those were the key parts, and when we started understanding that, we moved along reasonably well. It began to work like a machine.
In thinking about the gray zone, one point is that it's not geolocation. It's a phenomenon somewhere between peace and conflict. Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who think that there's a chart out there that says, "This is the gray zone." The ambiguity of terminology encourages this kind of thinking, as we frequently use terms such as gray ops or hybrid warfare. There is also geographical ambiguity as you think about disputes in the East China Sea, South China Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and elsewhere.
As long as that ambiguity exists, both in our approach to it and the approach of our allies, others will find an opportunity to exploit the gray zone.
The parties involved in a gray-zone situation don't have a structured means to communicate. For example, the Chinese and the Japanese militaries have a way to talk to one another, but it's formalized and infrequent. The problem with that is when you need to communicate, you can't because you don't know how to talk to each other routinely.
My experience has been right shortly before I retired in my last job we were able to put together a thing called the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, CUES, but it means: How are we going to talk to each other when we occur -- when we pass in the air or on the sea between China and all the Western Pacific navies? We got together in that.
And that whole idea was to help preclude miscalculation. You can apply that in other terms about this gray-zone area.
The domains of gray-zone ops tend to be maritime -- well, they're international, it's not so much territory; cyber, where the rules are not agreed upon or followed; failed states -- Syria, Yemen, pick them; or, as I mentioned, perhaps areas of dispute.
To deal with gray zone operations, first, you have to be present. How do you influence or know what's going on if you aren't there? You need to be there to shape and react quickly.
Two, you have to have engagement: engagement with the potential adversary, and with your allies so that you're in sync quickly. And you can't do that unless you're engaging.
Three, you have to have an alliance, even if it's ad hoc, or a means to gather it. Even the simple ASEAN protocols that take place can be effective.
Demonstrated will to resolve a crisis that occurs or some reef, for instance, may involve letting a potential adversary believe you're willing to go kinetic. You demonstrate that through military training with allies. In my experience, allied training for the use of force is an effective way to help truncate gray operations.
Lastly, rules are important. The willingness to get as many folks to sign up to rules is helpful. Sometimes they're voluntary, such CUES. There are others that are more binding, too. The Incidents at Sea (or INCSEA) talks between Washington and Moscow worked to reduce the number of incidents. And we stopped talking the Russians started buzzing our ships and flying close together.
CRONIN: Thank you, Admiral Greenert.
Let me turn to Dan.
KLIMAN: Great. Thank you, Patrick.
And thank you, everyone, for coming here today, and to those who participated in our tabletop exercise.
I want to briefly walk all of you through some of the key insights that we gleaned from our two days together in December.
First, I would say that a key insight that was very heartening was the overall cohesion of the U.S.-Japan alliance. And to kind of air what we did as we were structuring this tabletop exercise, we were looking at how could we create seams between the United States and Japan?
And we tried to be creative about it in the exercise, including feeding in conflicting intelligence regarding Chinese intentions to the U.S. and Japan teams. So we kind of did everything possible to probe potential seams.
And we enlisted a very energetic group of people to play the China team, which also tried to drive wedges wherever they could work within the alliance.
What was very impressive throughout the exercise was the display of U.S. and Japan solidarity. There were never real wedges that succeeded. Intelligence was shared very quickly even it was sensitive. And overall the alliance was coherent throughout an escalating series of crises in the East China Sea.
From our perspective, this is probably partly rooted in reality and would play out in a genuine crisis. Many of the players on the U.S. and the Japan side have been senior U.S. or Japanese officials, and so we thought that level of kind of solidarity and trust is very much a real-world phenomenon.
But at the same time, we acknowledge that there were some artificial constraints in this exercise. For one, there were no ponderous, real- bureaucracies that would prevent information exchange and coordination. Second, there were no formal disclosure requirements, and you could exchange intelligence immediately if both parties wanted to.
So while there weren't real seams that we saw in the exercise, we certainly saw the potential for some to open up had this been a kind of real-world series of confrontations.
There are a few areas in particular that we identified through the course of the tabletop exercise (TTX). One was the potential for dissimilar perceptions of China to Great Britain between the U.S. and Japan. Certainly, Beijing in a crisis has every incentive to telegraph different intentions to the United States and Japan, and even in the course of our exercise there were questions of, is Beijing simply trying to save face or does it want to change facts on the ground?
Again, as I mentioned before with the exchange of intelligence and rapid coordination, this seam never opened up, but it's certainly quite plausible that in the real world the United States and Japan might have very different perceptions of what Beijing's objectives are in a crisis.
The second potential seam that we identified is very divergent decision-making styles.
And here the U.S. team was very much focused on strategic considerations of credibility, maintaining its alliance with Japan, imposing costs on China, and avoiding war. It was very decisive and acted quickly.
The Japan team, particularly initially, when there were very kind of new, novel questions posed about how would you deal with unmanned underwater vehicles around the Senkakus, operated in a very legalistic fashion. Its decision-making cycle was quite slow.
Overall, participants from both teams agreed this was probably a real-world dynamic. The U.S. would be more looking at strategic considerations and quick; Japan, at least initially, would be more legalistic. And this, again, is a potential seam that might open in a genuine crisis.
Another area of potential friction between the U.S. and Japan was uncertainty over which ally should lead to a confrontation or crisis with China over the Senkaku Islands.
The U.S. team really from the outset saw Japan as in the lead; the U.S. role of very diplomatic and limited military support. And from the American perspective, there was a clear decision that they did not want to make this a kind of U.S.-China confrontation.
The Japanese team, as well, initially wanted to lead. But also, given its slower decision-making cycle, tended to look for, at least, to the U.S. for some guidance on the way forward. And this became more of an issue as we went into I would say a higher-level confrontation where -- that revolved around cyber. The Japan side had insufficient capabilities compared to the U.S., and this capability disparity very much began to impel the U.S. to take the lead even if it didn't want to.
The fourth of these seams, which Admiral Greenert has already touched on, was what triggers Article V? Article V of the Mutual Security Treaty refers to an armed attack on Japan.
In the TTX we had things like unmanned underwater vehicles sit on the seafloor around the Senkaku Islands, cyber spoofing of GPS, and also cyber penetration of power grids servicing U.S. and Japanese bases in Okinawa but not disruption. These are untraditional armed attacks, and there were a lot of questions throughout the exercise: Would this invoke Article V? If it did, what would that mean in concrete detail?
And then lastly, but relatedly, a potential seam is really on readiness to deal with unmanned vehicles in the gray zone, that U.S. and Japanese policymakers and scholars have dedicated great attention to thinking about certainly maritime militia as well as Chinese coast guard. But the use of unmanned vehicles is -- it's a new thing. China will probably -- moving forward; it's certainly a tool that China could employ.
And in the game there were a lot of questions about, if you have unmanned vehicles operating around the Senkakus is this -- sort of what does this mean for Japanese administrative control -- questions that were not fully answered.
I want to turn now to some crisis dynamics with China that were illuminated by the TTX. One of these, which perhaps was not surprising but useful to see, was the tension between imposing costs on China for its behavior, but also being able to de-escalate.
For both the U.S. and the Japan teams this was a real concern. They wanted to deter future Chinese aggression through some cost imposition. At the same time, they wanted to maintain off-ramps to avoid war.
The U.S. team erred on the side of cost imposition, I think very explicitly thinking about what happened in the South China Sea, the construction and altering of artificial islands, and wanted to avoid something like that kind of below U.S. credibility in the East China Sea.
The Japan team was a little bit more cautious on the side of de-escalation. And from our perspective this made sense, given that China's strategy in the game, and I think real-world, might also be to essentially have Japan trip up, to have a sort of uncoordinated escalation that would leave it isolated from the U.S. and also internationally.
Another fascinating dynamic that we identified in the game was the ability to change domains in a crisis to regain strategic advantage vis-a-vis China. China tried to use its decision-making cycle to put the U.S. and Japan on a kind of reactive cycle.
The U.S. ended up breaking out of this ultimately by changing domains, punished China for the use of cyber through imposing massive financial penalties. This blindsided the Chinese team. It was not a kind of tit-for-tat response, and as a result, put them on the strategic back foot.
And we thought in the real world, too, this type of changing domain response might be one way -- recognizing that it's democracies, it's countries that really are looking to uphold the status quo -- changing domains may be one way to afford the United States and Japan the strategic advantage at the time of our choosing.
Lastly, but I think very evocatively, given the kind of focus on information operations today in other contexts, the exercise showed us that we should expect aggressive Chinese information operations during a confrontation in the East China Sea. The China team tried to sow confusion among the U.S. Japanese public through various means. For instance, these means include: playing up the benefits of Chinese investment, United Front operations trying to activate Chinese students studying in the U.S., and then later on even when there was a midair collision involving a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese fighter the Chinese tried to use A.I. to doctor the video and show that the Japanese were at fault, which we thought was quite creative.
These are all things that you could definitely see happening going forward, and so information operations is very much what we see an important part of any sort of East China Sea confrontation in the year ahead.
So with that, I want to turn to Patrick to kind of lay out what were some of the recommendations that flowed from those insights.
CRONIN: Dan, that's a great rundown.
The big picture here is that the United State-Japan alliance is the cornerstone for regional security, at least from the perspective of Tokyo and Washington. The whole San Francisco postwar security system in Asia rests in the balance on whether the alliance is going to remain credible in the future.
A seemingly remote place like the Senkakus is exactly where this kind of gray-zone situation could sow doubt about the credibility, the capability, and the response of the alliance. Events could undermine rather rapidly the perception that this security system remains intact and is essential for regional stability.
That's why the stakes are much higher than the intrinsic interests that seem to be at play when you think about five uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. Regional security requires a strong alliance. Even a single incident that calls into question alliance effectiveness could undermine the system.
You also have major relationships, and if the United States-China relationship or the Japan-China relationship descends into outright, open competition that's highly militarized, that has implications for the region and worldwide. On the other hand, if the United States and Japan are pushed around by unilateral changes and revisionism, that also has implications for what other countries are going to be doing in Asia and globally.
So the stakes are very, very high.
A common thread of gray-zone operations is the problem of ambiguity.
There's never going to be perfect clarity. The ambiguity along multiple frontiers will always be ripe for exploitation by an actor seeking to change the status quo. These frontiers could be remnants of historical differences. And that is a big part of what's happening in Asia, given that different countries have historical claims from different periods of history. Different views of history will persist.
Another ambiguous frontier is geographical. Gray-zone operations happen along the seams of geography, whether in Bhutan, the South China Sea, or the East China Sea. The claimants in the South China Sea very much have different views of geographic boundaries.
Another ambiguous frontier concerns the law, like China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea and the 2016 arbitral tribunal judgment.
And technology is still one more ambiguous frontier. Dan mentioned unmanned underwater vehicles. Or look at the recent back and forth involving drones and military actions taken by the United States, Israel, and Iran. Will the United States be the first country to give self-defense rights to robots? The point is that emerging technologies will open up new ambiguities about who is doing what to whom.
Drones add another layer of complexity to the ambiguity of gray-zone situations. Remotely piloted vehicles and unmanned aircraft will be doing a lot more maritime domain awareness in the future. They may also be armed to deter aggression in the first place. There's some preliminary work being done to deploy drones to protect Japan's territorial and maritime boundaries, but there are also looming questions about how China will respond over time.
History, geography, the law, and technology are some of the multiple frontiers in which gray zone operations will develop. What should the U.S.-Japan alliance do in response to these exploited frontiers?
First, the United States and Japan need a common narrative. That narrative needs to makes a clear argument about the objectives, the stakes are, and potential roles and missions. They need to plan on how to respond to operations conducted by surrogates, by paramilitaries, China’s maritime militia, and other white-hulled versus gray-hulled platforms.
Second, the alliance needs to consolidate information and intelligence sharing. The United States and Japan need the kind of joint intelligence fusion center that the United States realized it needed after 9/11.
Third, we need to try to minimize areas of conflict through risk-reduction measures. Of course, if the political will is not there, INCSEA and CUES types of agreements won’t necessarily help avert a crisis. Still, to the extent that governments want to try to avoid escalation, such risk-reduction and confidence-building measures can be helpful in shrinking the areas of potential conflict.
Fourth, there is a need for a persistent security presence. The alliance needs to be more operational, and a joint standing task force would go a long way toward preserving stability. The absence of such a presence is one reason why the seams of the South China Sea are easier to exploit than those of the East China Sea, where the U.S.-Japan alliance deters adventurism. Presence won't stop the little stuff, but it will stop significant revisionism.
In our exercise, we examined three scenarios meant to take place around the year 2022. The take-away here is that the problem in the East China Sea gray zones is apt to keep growing from now until then and afterward as well.
History endures, ambitions remain, and China is becoming more capable. Beijing doesn’t want to start a war, but it wants to alter the postwar security arrangement, and it is willing to use coercion to seek unilateral changes to the status quo. The question is not whether they have a legitimate right to make a competing claim; they do. The question is how they go about it, and that's where we have our differences. If it's coercive and if it's based on unilateral interpretations of the law rather than agreed upon norms and rules, then we have a problem.
That leads to the need for the United States and Japan to do more military exercises in contested zones. There is also a need to think more about how to try to impose costs on misbehavior while seeking to de-escalate a crisis. These contradictory requirements are why responding to gray-zone situations is difficult.
Overall in many ways, the world is headed toward a giant gray-zone situation. Every day more major powers are seeking advantage by trying to escalate to de-escalate. If this becomes the dominant international norm for major power behavior, then that is a problem. The United States and Japan helped to build a successful postwar order, and preserving and adapting the liberal international order should remain a matter of general policy. Gray-zone situations should be kept to a minimum. There are real limits to the use of force to compel competitor to back down. We need to think wisely about how to do this, both nationally and as an alliance.
I want to turn now to Yuki Tatsumi, who in the midst of the exercise was elevated to play the Prime Minister of Team Japan.
TATSUMI: Thank you, Patrick, and thank you for this opportunity to say a few words about my observation on the dynamics of the Japan team and how that might very closely parallel with the actual reality.
Dan talked about the realistic dynamics of the American team. All other teams were, I think, quite realistic. He mentioned the absence of bureaucracies to slow down decision-making. Even so, sometimes the game decision-making seemed too slow to keep up with the pace of events. Team Japan was mainly focused on legal arguments. It was realistic, but it also ensured the Japanese team would be reactive rather than proactive.
Another issue arising from the exercise was the importance of cyberspace. The combination of a
legalistic decision-making style and the speed of cyber technology poses a challenge for Japan. The Japanese system as it currently is structured is grossly inadequate to deal with this emerging technology and their application to military capabilities.
It took Japan team forever to decide what to do with this UUV in the move one. And I can certainly see a similar situation where A.I. engineered this information or cyber spoofing and all that even if it's impacting Japanese homeland security because it's not kinetic, I can easily see a scenario where all the politicians spend hours debating whether this triggers Article V.
So I think that is a fundamental challenge for Japan. Personality matters, as we saw when some of the participants on Team Japan stuck to a legalistic approach. But when there's a crisis decisions need to be made.
But if you think about it, we are all talking about this current debate going on in Japan about Article V and how that might revise and how that might actually enable Japan to do more and be more responsive. Japan needs to move beyond this fundamentally legalistic approach to security issue. That mindset is not changing, at least not quickly.
Lastly, going back to personality matters, we're all very used to Prime Minister Abe, where the national security secretariat is functioning very well, where interagency coordination is strongly led by cabinet office, and where decisions are made rather quickly by the Japanese standard. But we won't have that all the time.
I think existing the alliance coordination mechanism and other institutions that are embedded in the alliance need to be beefed up to absorb some of the leadership that may be lacking in Japan when there are Japanese administrations change.
Those are a few of my thoughts.
CRONIN: Yuki, thank you very much. You capture the essence of what were long hours of legalistic wrangling on the Japan team.
Let’s broaden the discussion. Eric Sayers, you're up first.
SAYERS: Thanks. And congrats on publishing this report. There are too many TTXs and hot washes that occur around town, but if you weren't there, you would not learn from them. Sharing the results in a report is very helpful.
So two comments and one question. We'll start with the question.
The domain-shifting piece or horizontal escalation is interesting. Often it is an idea usually raised by the blue or green team in an exercise. Often the white or control cell on military exercises doesn't allow an economic move, in part because things are moving too quickly; for political reasons, it's going to be too hard to escalate in the economic domain for a single crisis.
So I'd be curious, from the folks who played the U.S. or Japan, what other domains or other means of horizontal escalation you might have considered.
And so on the two comments, oftentimes we think of these crises as single events, and the objective is to de-escalate and find our way through them. But if the National Security Strategy is right, and I think it is, that this is a long-term peacetime competition, this is an iterative competition, and we should look at these events not just as single pieces but a chance to reorganize the chess board each time.
And so the horizontal escalation piece I think feeds into that, and how can we come out of this not just in this event better, but in the theater writ large and our allies and our partners and posture and information and all those pieces.
And then finally, on a more practical side, CSIS has been doing some work on this too with, you know, standing task forces and how do you use U.S. Forces Japan or Seventh Fleet from an operational perspective differently. My recommendation is there's a window that's opening up this year as think tanks talk about this topic.
We're going to have a new PACOM commander and probably a new J3 for Operations at PACOM for the first time in the last three years. And so maybe there is an opportunity to influence gray-zone operational concepts at PACOM.
GREENERT: Eric, had we not had the people that we had in the room we would not have been able to have that kind of conversation.
Would you agree?
GREENERT: I mean, because who knows if we'd be smart enough to call them up. I perceive that we could.
But what I recall about the conversation was we need to figure out accountability here. In the game, the adversary messed with our GPS. So we're kind of angry here, but we've got to call them out on the world stage in some manner, OK?
So we were looking at what international action or regulation of GPS we might be able to achieve through the United Nations or other bodies.
Team USA also wanted to demonstrate our cyber capability to show them, "You know what? We can do things too."
But we didn't want to get into a tit-for-tat dynamic. So in this multifaceted play, the issue of accountability was important.
ABERCROMBIE: And I think because the commercial liners were involved we also suspended flights which would have an economic impact on domestic populations and the very public...
GREENERT: Yeah. Good point, yes.
CRONIN: Any other thoughts on the horizontal escalation?
TATSUMI: One thing that I remember in the discussion on the Japan team is that maybe because of the composition of the team there were few ideas on horizontal escalation. There was more concern about possible Chinese escalation. Everybody remembered after the Senkaku fishing trawler incident, when Japan arrested the commander of the ship, China retaliated.
If we tried to do something like pulling out Japanese companies or whatever, they could retaliate that way. So it was more concern-driven as opposed to how can we take advantage of that potential tool.
CRONIN: Eric, you're right to look at this problem as a continuum and not a single event. In the report, we briefly examine the history of gray-zone challenges near the Senkaku Islands. And as suggested by the new National Security Strategy, rising major power competition is likely to fuel and intensify these challenges.
So not only do we need to figure out how to improve the position on the chess board, but but we need to deal with the crisis at hand and yet think about the long term and where we're trying to lead the system. So you're absolutely right.
SEDNEY: Couple comments-slash-questions. The first is following up on the issue of the overall strategic playing field and your comments that the things are moving in the wrong direction.
In this exercise and even more broadly people talk about it. I think it's acknowledged, certainly in talking to the Chinese, as Mike and I have done. In August we were at something together. They are very confident that the things are moving in their direction and the U.S. is a declining power.
And given that overall context are we just destined to play a losing hand? Are we just trying to stave off disaster rather than even if you're trying to set the conditions for the future, the perspective at least from the Chinese -- and I just came back from a week in India talking to Indian strategic thinkers. Indians also think that the Chinese are up here and the U.S. is declining.
Any recommendations beyond what's in here about what we need to do to reverse that, to push that back?
And then secondly, my impression is that in the crises over recent years, whether it's the Scarborough Shoals in 2012 or the Chinese islands or the Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ, whenever there's a crisis the Chinese seem to come out ahead of us. They're better positioned than we are and then they take advantage of that and move forward.
I don't think it's an accident. As the Chinese will always say, it's not an accident because they've been planning for this.
And maybe this is more for you, Admiral, although a lot of people have -- are we able to learn from that, the fact that the Chinese keep manipulating crises to come out to an advantage?
There are many TTXs. I've been part of them. I'm not sure we learn much from them. Is there a way to learn and improve, so we aren't either the losers or seen as the losers in crises?
GREENERT: Well, in my opinion, we botched the whole South China Sea thing, from Scarborough on down. And what I mean by that is we were not surprised by it. We have satellite imagery. We watched all of that, one.
Two, we made a conscious decision not to ratify the UNCLOS treaty. Now, that's a conscious decision. That's all I'm saying.
And we chose to over-regulate, in my opinion, you know, the freedom of navigation operations and all that went into how much presence and when and why in there. And then it just moved in the direction, to your point, when a crisis, however you want to label it, occurred down there. The Chinese, quote-unquote, "seemed to come out ahead."
Now, I would share with you there are a few other things where they have not come out ahead. When the Malaysian Airline plane went down the Chinese were fumbling, and bumbling and stumbling on that. They weren't good at that and it was embarrassing to them.
Almost every humanitarian assistance disaster relief that takes place out there that requires international action they're either missing in action, or they come in and their fumbling, bumbling and stumbling. So there are areas in which they don't do well.
So I'm hesitant to say, you know, we're just declining in all areas. But you're right about that whole piece down in there.
And, well how do you reverse it? Well, you know, you got to be there, first of all, to do much of anything. And so that's number one. We've got to decide what the right level of presence is and can we sustain it, and do that.
But I think that perception will continue until we engage in a consistent manner D-I-M-E across there and have a strategy that's clear.
And it'd be great to see the U.S. government have kind of diplomatic strategy lessons broadly. So not just rely on cyber or defense or Navy lessons, but also we need that agility for cross-domain thinking, and horizontal thinking requires more actors to be thinking through those lessons.
GREENERT: Well, maybe they do or maybe they also are very worried about their internal security and why they focus on it so much and why they're fixated, or why, you know, Emperor Xi Jinping didn't know what was going on in North Korea until he could get Kim Jong-un to, you know, to China.
I mean, I don't want to, you know, trivialize China's role. It's a big power. But the point is they're not all-powerful, and the region is not -- you don't see people lining up for alliances.
They're lining up for finance. They're lining up for infrastructure because it's available and they're the ones offering it. And that can be a good thing, and Dan's got a big project on that, and it can also be challenging thing. And we're trying to figure out what's good, what's a challenge.
It's the right question. This report, unfortunately, doesn't get quite there, but it's one we're always thinking about.
ABERCROMBIE: But I think I have to echo your comment about engaging across the spectrum, and it's not just a military answer. And I think the U.S. is very good at demonstrating how we've not changed our military posture at all. We've been quite consistent regarding our presence and the level of effort and what we're doing in the region.
But, you know, we did emphasize TPP as the economic anchor of the rebalanced Asia, and so when that didn't go through it seemed to take that leg of the stool away, and we've not done a good job sort of explaining what comes in its place.
But a lot of this I do think is information operations and narrative. You know, the U.S. -- we are very, very highly invested in the region. You know, our FDI levels are greater than China's and most of the countries in the region, but we don't talk about it.
And so it's not so much that we're declining or going away, but China's relative rise.
And so I think, you know, so China's doing a very good job giving a narrative of the sort of preordained rise, but we've not done I think as good a job as we could have.
GREENERT: I don't even go to the pivot -- what pivot line of attack.
CRONIN: But without a strong economic component it's certainly a weaker hand of engagement, you know if you're going to think of a comprehensive strategy of engagement. Until you're in there engaging what's possible -- the United States has made lots of accommodations to changes in international diffusion of power and China, and it's willing to make others based on rules and based on sort of common sort of norms, but a rules-based approach.
And I think the National Security Strategy said it well: The United States is interested in strong, independent sovereign states within a rules-based system. And China's part of that.
But unfortunately, if they want to do that unilaterally then, again, we have to find more effective ways to deal with it.
MCDEVITT: I'm going to return to some of the comments that were made during the briefing of the TTX.
Dan raised the issue of the capability disparity, and I may have misinterpreted you, but while the U.S. wanted Japan to be in the lead, the Americans were chomping at the bit, and meanwhile the Japanese appeared to be dragging their feet, and the U.S. had other things that they could throw into the pot, in terms of the capabilities to do X, Y, or Z.
So it strikes me that one of the things that the alliance needs to address -- we've characterized it as roles and missions, but there is a black hole that's also called capability disparity, and if Japan is rightly seen to be in the lead for defending the Senkakus we have to have an understanding with the Japanese what the U.S. will or will not put on the table from the get-go.
In other words, Japan has the lead, so if China does cyber things to Japan and they can't respond, is the U.S. required to respond? Do we have a moral obligation to respond? Or should we say, "Too bad? You didn't get the capability"?
So those are the sorts of things that I think we need to have a clear understanding of when we talk about Senkakus, Japan has the lead. What can't Japan do regarding military capability? So that seems to me a big hole in the roles and missions are going to come up again in the alliance sometime this year, and that needs to be addressed in some way, shape, or form.
The question was raised about drones, and what about them. It seems to me what military actions people take against drones is being played out in front of us already in the Middle East, so precedents have been set, which my understanding is generally if you see it and it's not yours you can take pot-shots at it.
And certainly when the Iranians took down one of ours we kind of, "Well, you know, what are we going to do about it?"
It seems to me drones in general so far in the Middle East have played out as a free-fire zone. And so that's a precedent being set that undoubtedly we need to think about the Senkakus. If you've got a Chinese drone flying around violating Japanese airspace, why not take a shot at it?
We need to think about it, and the precedent is there.
And then finally, just a thought. Eric laid out the teaser, but let me be more explicit about at least in the game that we did in Japan one of the things that we thought about after the fact was the fact that U.S. Forces Japan is not an operational staff.
And USFJ, well, let me put it in another way: The U.S. needs to have an operational staff in Japan to deal with the defense of Japan. And if it's not USFJ, then it needs to be a standing joint task force that's there in Japan. The reason why it's important to be there in Japan is then the Japanese have something to fall in on and build their own, which they don't.
GREENERT: Eye contact on a daily basis.
MCDEVITT: Absolutely. So that strikes me as something that needs to be -- whether having a new PACOM opens a window of opportunity or not remains to be seen, but the point of it is I understand the complications and how we've gotten tangled up in our underwear with trying to organize command relationships between Japan and Korea and what have you and keeping the Seventh Fleet out of the pot, and all of those issues that are very real operational issues, but we need to think about the defense of Japan not only against China but North Korea.
CRONIN: No, those are excellent points. Dan, do you want to say anything about the capabilities?
KLIMAN: Sure. I mean, briefly, on the capabilities side what we observed was most impactful was simply Japan not having the capability. We've mentioned cyber where it didn't have an offensive cyber capability; there weren't any options that Japanese decision-makers could take, as the U.S. had...
And it forced them to then defer to the U.S. So I think it raises a really good question that does we need to sort of have that conversation now and make those investments so Japan can make more autonomous decisions going forward?
Briefly, on the sort of norms around unmanned vehicles, that's one of our recommendations is to try to develop more clear-cut norms: How do you deal with this?
GREGSON: Well, a matter near and dear to my heart, but on Eric's point earlier, 18 years or some years ago a Japanese colleague in a political context said, "The difference between us, is you Americans look at everything that happens as a dot, a discrete event. To us everything is part of a line." And this gets to what Eric mentioned, that we got to start thinking about.
On the point about establishing some joint operational headquarters out there: Number one, real politic on the America side. Don't make it a four-star because four-star politics are so bloody hard.
Make it a three-star and everybody else will know who's in charge, but most importantly you would have a joint task force headquarters that is operating on a daily basis with the Japanese equivalent, hopefully driving the exercise schedule, and by driving exercises at all levels you force the civilian officials to coordinate and address a lot of the hard questions that Patrick and Dan's and Cara's study here have brought out. You know, TTXs speed up, you know, for civilian permission to do something, et cetera, et cetera, so that we can start practicing all these gray zone things before we face them in reality.
And this in itself, establishing this kind of a command relationship, is a reaction to Chinese pressure, which gets into the asymmetric reaction, which has a value of itself both on both hands here.
Secondly, on getting past the obstacles to do this right now, if Kim Jong-un is providing us a great excuse to be able to greatly enhance our alliance capabilities in Northeast Asia. Right now in the face of and the situation, we're in at the moment is that Kim Jong-un is about one screwdriver turn away from a nuclear missile capability and we're saying, "Well, we'll have agents ashore in 2022." I submit 2022 is not a relevant timeframe for deterrence in this situation.
So starting with alliance missile defense, we start enhancing these capabilities to include establishing the operationally capable headquarters in Japan that I think we have badly needed.
Thanks for the study. I think it's terrific.
CRONIN: Thank you very much for everything, General Gregson. You obviously don't have much confidence in the summitry that's coming up here to reverse that process, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.
Ali, you've been waiting.
WYNE: Dr. Cronin, thank you so much. And as I was saying to a few folks earlier, I think that we often hear about, you know, countering aggression or deterring gray zone challenges in the South China Sea, so I think that this is a very valuable and kind of rare intervention, looking at gray zone challenges in the context of the East China Sea.
I did want to return to some of the comments that have been made about the larger strategic environment because we're talking about-- and return to this word "ambiguity," because I don't think that you can think about the ambiguity of how the United States would respond in a moment of crisis without looking at the broader strategic ambiguity about America's engagement in the Asia Pacific.
I think that there is a concern about America's broader engagement in the Asia Pacific is something that is not unique to the Trump administration. It goes back to the Obama administration; it goes back to the Bush administration. I think that it's part of the longstanding concern about the reliability of America's commitment to the Asia Pacific.
And we see right now that we continue to, I think, over-invest our strategic equities in various crises in the Middle East. We are bogged down in domestic political turmoil, and I think that there also are concerns about our economic wherewithal.
And I want to come back to the point that Cara made, which I think is extraordinarily important, that even if objectively the United States is not in the kind of relative decline that some people believe it to be, or even if America's posture in the Asia Pacific is stronger than many observers believe it to be, China has done a masterful job of shaping this narrative, cultivating this narrative about this kind of this aura of inevitability about its ascendancy. And that is a narrative that, in turn, whether that narrative is objectively accurate, perceptions inform realities, which then inform perceptions.
I just got back from Beijing a few days ago, and this narrative is very strong, and I do think that it's a narrative we have to acknowledge that is grounded, at least in -- in part, in reality, and especially on the economic front. If you are one of China's neighbors, and I'm trying to balance between improving my security ties and diplomatic ties and military ties with the U.S. but also riding the coattails of China's assent, if I'm trying to avoid making a choice, but I'm looking at the long-term trends, economics is the foundation of power.
And if I look at on the one hand we're no longer part of their Trans-Pacific Partnership, China is deploying the Belt and Road Initiative, China is gradually liberalizing the renminbi, it's deploying the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and I think a lot of countries are saying of the American side, "Where is the beef? Where is the U.S. economic response?"
And as much as China's neighbors -- yes, China doesn't have strong allies in the Asia Pacific. China's neighbors don't want to have China overtake or achieve preeminence in the region. They desperately want an enduring U.S. presence.
But if they see that we continue to be bogged down in the Middle East, we can't overcome secular stagnation at home, we don't have a credible geo-economic agenda that we're offering the region, that even those neighbors of China that want the U.S. to be in the lead in the region are going to say again, "Where is the beef? China's the only economic game in town."
I think that I would say that when I think about this study about how do we counter aggression in the East China Sea, I think we have to think about that question within the broader strategic framework. And there's a reality of growing Chinese economic presence; there is the narrative of this kind of inevitable ascendancy. And I think until and unless we can counter that narrative, and until and unless we are able to offer a sustainable and credible geo-economic agenda, counter what China is doing in the Asia Pacific, then I think that both the narrative and the reality are going to go in the wrong direction, thereby preventing us from effectively countering aggression both in the East China Sea and in the South China Sea.
So as we think about how to manage the gray zone challenge, I think we have to root that response in the broader strategic framework of the narrative and also our economic momentum in the region, which I think is unfortunately declining.
CRONIN: Well, thanks for those comments. And obviously, again, the big-picture strategy is very important, and the narrative is very important. Obviously, when you do one exercise in one
region, you're going to be guilty of not doing everything and not able to sort of tie that into an overall strategy. It's more of a glimpse into how a relatively isolated, remote part of the frontier if you will, has implications that are very big, and it's changing, and it's getting more taxing, and you've got to be able to deal with that. It’s a little lower-level, more operation-level.
Perceptions could be outstripping reality in five years' time. Be very interesting to see how much more the Chinese economy slows down, whether they're not overextending themselves very rapidly here, whether the promises are unfulfilled and whether there's a backlash to that, and on and on and on and on.
So there's another whole scenario that I would give, and I'll get my Chinese friends again when I'm there is China later this, you know, next month.
SULLIVAN: Most of the polling shows that the Belt and Road -- that favorable views of China have declined in almost every country in which the Belt and Road Initiative has been active or at least promises have been made. It's early days. But I wanted to return a little bit to this question of cross-domain escalation of the context of the iterated competition that Eric emphasized. And, you know, I very much endorse comments about how can we come out of crises with wins as opposed to just avoiding losses, but also, you know, there are considerations I think that need to attend cross-domain escalation in the context of crises that sort of reverberate in a future competition.
So, you know, the U.S. has an enviable range of power or what you could call prestige resources that are kind of artifacts of a time in which, you know, where we had these institutional powers in various international regulatory bodies and stuff basically that are the mechanisms through which we would instantiate a lot of cross-domain responses, especially when you get into economic realms, but also you could think of others around the Internet and stuff like that. And I think that if you mobilize one of those resources, in a way, I think it's often difficult to target China.
For instance, locking Chinese banks out of the dollar markets will have reverberating effects on all of our allies, and quite severe ones. And in the context of a report that we did with Liz Rosenberg on these issues, you know, I discovered that in the defense planning scenarios there's no economic -- there's no input from Treasury or another sort of economic experts elsewhere in the government as to what the economic effects of our deterrence policies would actually be. And especially when you start getting into intervening directly in financial markets, I think those need to be taken into account.
And so to bring it back to the iterated competition, if we use one of these prestige resources and are then judged by Chinese information operations that makes it ambiguous as to whether they were actually in the wrong or whether they were just the victim of U.S.-Japan aggression, then that creates openings for China to advance alternative standards or institutional forums and erode U.S. leverage in those cases.
Now, regarding currencies, we have a pretty secure position as a reserve currency. The renminbi is not even fully convertible, so we're not going to get that.
But in other areas, we need to think as you put options on the shelf to respond to discrete challenges: Are these wasting assets? And what rises to the level that we would want to use them if they open opportunities for China to set up alternative forums, which seems to be a core element of its geopolitical strategy these days.
KLIMAN: That's a great point. Just briefly, I mean, that touches on one of our recommendations in this report was to essentially have a kind of pre-planned series of counter-narratives that, just like you have military planning, would have a much more deliberate -- again, across diplomatic, economic narratives and understanding where the Chinese would go to inject their narratives and kind of counter that, and so you're not making it up on the fly. But it's a great point.
CLINE: So I'm going to descend to the operation level for a second and talk about a capability and a policy issue. So we spoke about maritime domain awareness and also the challenge of information-sharing, particularly with multiple partners and varying levels of access.
Have you given any consideration to the use of commercially available imagery -- satellite imagery? There's some good commercial -- SARSAT, et cetera, and commercially available decision-making tools. And I think you have the potential there to short-circuit that whole issue with foreign disclosure if it's all commercially drive and you just basically add the element of cooking it up together, and then that in theory could make it very easy to share relatively good-quality maritime domain awareness across the vast array of partners, you know, from treaty allies all the way down to non-treaty partners, like Vietnam as an example or Brunei.
ABERCROMBIE: Sharing satellite and other intelligence is an issue that is actively discussed by our governments.
The overarching barrier is one of political sensitivities and trust, and that's the crux of getting behind information-sharing across countries, which is something that I know our Pacific Command has worked hard to try to, through the form of
even commercially available information sharing.
So the other challenge we've got in the region is who owns maritime domain awareness from a bureaucratic standpoint. You know, who owns this within the capital government? Is it the Coast Guard? Is it the Navy? Is it civilian? Is it military?
And maybe there are multiple nodes, and are they all talking to each other?
And so this is, I mean, you quickly get into the weeds of this, but it is an available and useful resource. But you've got to overcome intra-national and international bureaucratic and trust challenges.
GREENERT: There’s this distrust. At one point we were working with Japan, and the thought was, "Well, once I connect to you what else are you going to suck out of, you know, all of my networks?"
And we're saying, "Why is this commercial?" And even I haven't figured it all out yet, and so there is this ignorance of that.
So if you're accessing it, if you will, as an example, go to the Internet and pull this down. They say, "Well, OK. I can do that." But if it's a connection to somebody else that's hard to get over.
WARD: So quick question to do with the two island chains. Just when you look at (inaudible) sort of his assessments of having sea control of the first island chain by 2000, sea control of the second island chain by 2020, where do we think their real operational capability is in these two island chains, and where is that going, what might it look like?
SAYERS: You know, so the cross-domain thing, great. Let's think about the symmetrical ways to respond like you guys were doing to the commercial airline issue and that, but also the asymmetrical ways that we can get at it from the line and not the dot perspective.
So the next time there is a crisis, what are those things that we'd like to see happen that we otherwise can't do or there isn't a political appetite for? I mean, in the context of this, there's 98 percent of the Chinese students studying here are fine, that's not an issue; but there's that 2 percent, the quarter of the grad students and post-docs at the MIT nanotechnology program sponsored by the U.S. Army that maybe their student visas go away in the context of this.
That gets controversial quickly, but those are the kind of things that we should be on the table as we talk about an I.P. competition and a long-term competition, because this has multiple domains in the competition, too.
SEDNEY: Was there any mention of any third-party U.N., ASEAN, Russia, any other actors being important?
CRONIN: No, but this was an artifact of the game. We wanted to keep the moving parts streamlined.
ABERCROMBIE: I endorse all of your recommendations.
CRONIN: Admiral Greenert?
GREENERT: Gray-zone challenges in the East China Sea give us insights into how to deal with similar problems in the Black Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Gulf of Aden, and elsewhere.
We need to think asymmetrically, look beyond the military and the proportional response to
a gray-zone challenge. We also need to remember that gray-zone situations are not new. In the Cold War and even before then, we were dealing with trawlers, and we were dealing with all kind of not-nearly-as-high technology, but the concept of gray and pushing the envelope is there before.
So other panels within my service, they talk a lot about, "I need new rules of engagement to deal with all this." I say, "You don't want that much rule. There has to be dialogue."
Finally, conceptually I guess I'd look for other scenarios so we can see to the point of dots and not just a single case study.
CRONIN: A wise admonition.
KLIMAN: Slippery point and more strategic, but I think it's a mistake for us to undervalue kind of the utility of our alliances and partnerships in Asia. And the Chinese have their area, but if you look, there are a lot of major allies and partners who see the region, I think, very much as we do, and so we should be mindful of that and, like the study, need to develop those relationships.
CRONIN: I'm sorry we're out of time. Thank you so much for coming.
I do want to thank Harry Krejsa, who has just departed our Asia team for a new post at the Defense Department. I also want to thank the rest of the Asia team. And Melodie Ha, who's our research intern right now, has done a great job in helping us today.
But thank you for coming. Thank you so much for especially chiming in with your insights. Very important. Thank you, Jonathan Greenert and Cara Abercrombie and Dan Kliman. So we're adjourned. Thank you.
More from CNAS
CommentaryIt’s Still Hard to Be America’s Ally
The drive to enshrine a U.S. foreign policy for the American middle class may, in particular, pose new dilemmas for long-term allies....
By Richard Fontaine
PodcastAre the US and China entering a Cold War?
Demetri Sevastopulo, the FT’s US-China correspondent, talks to Michèle Flournoy about the expanded economic and political influence of China and how might Joe Biden break thro...
By Michèle Flournoy
America’s increasing focus on rivalry with China ensures that U.S. Africa policy will continue to be viewed, at least in part, through a China lens....
By David Shullman & Patrick Quirk
PodcastChinaTalk: Japan's China Challenge
Joshua Fitt cohosts the latest episode of ChinaTalk to discuss the relationship and challenges Japan faces with China. Listen to the full episode from ChinaTalk....
By Joshua Fitt & Jordan Schneider