GUEST BLOG: Ben Morgan – Pacific Intelligence Update


A simple explanation of this week’s military and political developments in the Pacific


This week Hiroshima hosted the G7 foreign ministers.  A meeting rife with tension, Russia posturing in previous weeks to influence Japan’s commitment to the Ukraine War, Sino-American tensions running high and French President Emmanuel Macron making ill-considered comments last week that suggested Europe saw the Pacific as China’s sphere of influence.

The meeting looks set to establish new policy positions and key points to look out for are:

  • The United Kingdom’s Pacific agenda. After leaving the EU, the United Kingdom is looking for markets and through AUKUS is demonstrating its desire to be relevant in the Pacific.  The nation’s military and economic goals synchronising. 
  • The leaders made clear statements of support for Ukraine, condemned Russian nuclear threats and promised severe consequences for any use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.  
  • The forum also reaffirmed their commitment to Taiwan, countering the statements made by Macron last week.

This important forum contributed to collective security and deterrence in the Pacific by re-affirming its commitment to Ukraine; and to Taiwan.  This strong support means that there is a significant consequence economically for China if it tries to invade Taiwan, disincentivising this approach and encouraging peaceful dialogue. 

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Taiwan Update

United States warship transits the Strait of Taiwan

USS Milius, an American destroyer sailed through the Strait of Taiwan on 16/17 April.  The transit is a demonstration of United States commitment to free passage through this important water way.  

Although, China claims Taiwan; and therefore the strait. By law the middle of the strait is international waters; so any nation’s vessels should be able to use it at any time.  

Normally, American warships exercise the right to free passage through the Taiwan Strait monthly. And; although this seems like a provocative action, it is not uncommon in international disputes for a major power to enforce these rights because it benefits all nations by keeping trade routes open so maritime commerce continues even if there is local tension.  

Taiwan purchasing more land-based anti-ship missiles

Taiwan is currently negotiating the purchase of an extra 400 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.  Harpoon is a well-tested and accurate anti-ship missile able to hit an enemy vessel at a range of about 120-200 km depending on the model.  Taiwan intends to use the missiles in land-based batteries as a deterrent to Chinese amphibious operations.  Saturating any landing attempt with accurate missiles fired from mobile hard to target launchers. 

United States plans new embassy in Vanuatu

The United States recently announced plans for a new embassy in Vanuatu. A year after re-opening it embassy in the Solomon Islands.

The new embassy is part of the wider Sino-American battle for influence in the region.  A permanent American diplomatic (and intelligence) presence in Vanuatu will monitor Chinese activity in the country and provide the diplomatic infra-structure to challenge any activity that is not in the interests of the United States and its allies. 

This is a small move in the larger Pacific chess match. However, it is important because any war in the Pacific will predominantly involve air, naval and long-range precision guided weapons; all of which require bases. Being situated south of the Solomon Islands, roughly between New Caledonia and Fiji; Vanuatu is a valuable base for any power aiming to control the Coral Sea.  Control of the Coral Sea allows Australia’s eastern seaboard to be isolated.  So, in future expect to see lots of Sino-American diplomacy and information war throughout this part of the Pacific. 

New Zealand signs defence arrangement with Australia 

The Chiefs of the Australian and New Zealand armies signed a new cooperation agreement this week, Plan ANZAC.  A bilateral agreement that is designed to improve inter-operability and is described in official statements as “enabling the two armies to exchange views and share situational awareness, capability, training and readiness.” 

In plain language, this agreement will bring the Australian and New Zealand armies closer together making sure that their soldiers can work together easily; in either peace or conflict.  Increasingly, Australia has become more integrated with the United States. Both countries sharing command doctrine, procedures, weapons systems, training together and importantly developing shared digital networks.  New Zealand has taken a different path and this agreement reflects a desire to bring the two army’s levels of capability closer.

Further, as we have discussed in previous articles this agreement is part of a wider competitive strategy. The United States and its allies racing to build a regional collective security structure isolating China; and denying China ‘entry points’ into the region.  Immediately after signing the deal, both army chiefs will travel together to Fiji and Vanuatu aiming to encourage both countries into similar arrangements.  It is likely that we will see more of these joint diplomatic advances into the Pacific in coming months. 

Russian North Pacific Fleet commander changed after fleet readiness check

On 14 April, Sergei Shoigu Russian Defence Minister authorised a surprise readiness check for the Russian Pacific Fleet.  Obviously, the fleet’s readiness was found wanting because on 20 April Russian state media announced that Admiral Viktor Liina, currently commanding the Baltic Fleet would assume command of the Pacific Fleet. 

This change and the readiness check are important activities to note because they demonstrate Russian interest in the Pacific.  Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going well; and Putin desperately needs to demonstrate that rather than being a country with an economy about the same size as Australia’s (13 or 14th largest in the world) and the second-best army in Ukraine, Russia is still a super power on equal footing with China and the United States.  

A key Cold War metric of super power status was ‘force projection;’ or the ability to deploy military power globally. It seems that Russia’s activity in the Pacific is an attempt to build relevance; especially with potential ally China by demonstrating Russia’s global reach. 

Relationships, climate change and United States Pacific strategy

On 20 April, the United States announced that its Department of Defence recently completed a climate change assessment tool to be used by the United States and some of its allies to assess the impacts of climate change and prepare for the future.  The countries involved in the programme are Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

For people interested in geo-politics and strategy this is an important initiative because it is a sign that the United States military recognises the impact of climate change; and is preparing for it.  It is also likely that the initiative; or similar initiatives will start to be implemented in the Pacific.   Cooperation with the United States over climate change is a form of ‘soft power’ that can be used to build and strengthen relationships between America and Pacific nations. 

The day before, speaking to the House Security Committee the commander of United States forces in the Indo Pacific Region, Admiral John C. Aquilino discussed the asymmetric advantage that America enjoys in the region because of its network of allies and partners.

Admiral Aquilino, was upfront about the level of risk in the region saying that “War is not inevitable, and it’s not imminent. However, this decade presents a period of increased risk.” 

His testimony discussed the importance of building strong alliances and relationships in order to mitigate the risk. Admiral Aquilino’s testimony reflects the United States strategic policy of collective security, or the idea that by working together a group of likeminded nations can deter future aggression.  And; working together over climate change is likely to be one aspect of this approach. 


Ben Morgan is a bored Gen Xer and TDBs military blogger 


  1. Lest we remember

    “The Chiefs of the Australian and New Zealand armies signed a new cooperation agreement this week, Plan ANZAC…..
    ….. Immediately after signing the deal, both army chiefs will travel together to Fiji and Vanuatu aiming to encourage both countries into similar arrangements.” Ben Morgan

    The same week?

    The very same week that Australia granted new path to citizen rights and other benefits to Kiwi expats. What else can this be but a bribe to soften our nation’s nuclear free policy. Now these dirty corrupt war mongering traitors have joined up and are off to lean on our Pacific Island neighbors to pressure them to also give up their long opposition to nuclear proliferation in the Pacific.

    This is all being done in preparation for war.

    A war we don’t want and should have no part of.

    We the people didn’t agree to this and weren’t consulted.

    Our expats may get better treatment in Aus. New Zealand may no longer be treated as a dumping ground for 501s.
    But we will pay in war and nuclear proliferation and contamination of our region.

  2. “The United Kingdom’s Pacific agenda. After leaving the EU, the United Kingdom is looking for markets and through AUKUS is demonstrating its desire to be relevant in the Pacific. The nation’s military and economic goals synchronising.”

    The British Empire both economic and military returns to the Pacific

    With the declining fortunes of the British Empire after WWII and the rise their replacement of number 1 global hegemon by the US, New Zealand once a junior Partner to British imperialism, was unceremoniously dumped as “Britain’s off shore farm” when the UK joined the European market, sending New Zealand’s economy into a tail spin.

    Now that the UK has ditched the Common European market, in partnership with the US, the Britain has revived their imperial interests in this region.

    British imperialism has not the slightest legitimate right to this region of the world. And never did have. And still doesn’t have.

  3. “Emmanuel Macron making ill-considered comments last week that suggested Europe saw the Pacific as China’s sphere of influence.” Ben Morgan

    France the European imperialist state that sent state sponsored terrorists to this country to bomb and murder. And still harbours and protects these terrorist murderers to this very day. By excusing the Chinese imperialists, Macron is trying to assert France’s own imperialist colonialist interests in this region independent of the US. Unlike the UK the French imperialists have not completely tied their imperial interests to the US. But just like the UK this nuclear armed European imperialist state has no legitimate interest in this region. And never has had. And still doesn’t.

    All these competing and hostile imperialist states are preparing for war, for a new redivision of the world. All the better if this war is conducted in our region far from their shores.

    They all need to be told to keep their dirty nuclear navies out of the Pacific.

  4. “The Department of Defense, the entity that is the US war machine, is the largest institutional contributor to global warming on planet Earth,”

    ….. “So stop babbling about AUKUS having anything to do with defending Australia or its shipping lanes, or defending anything at all besides the US empire’s last desperate hopes of securing unipolar planetary hegemony.

    AUKUS is not a defence partnership because it’s got nothing to do with defence, and it’s also not a defence partnership because it is not a “partnership”. It’s the US empire driving Australia to its doom, to nobody’s benefit but the US empire.

    AUKUS exists to manage the risks created by its existence, and the same is true of ANZUS and all the other ways our nation has become knit into the workings of the US war machine.”

    “The US has been in charge long enough to make it clear that the world order it dominates can only be maintained by nonstop violence and aggression, with more and more of that violence and aggression being directed toward major nuclear-armed powers. The facts are in and the case is closed: US unipolar hegemony is unsustainable.”

    • “So stop babbling about AUKUS having anything to do with defending Australia or its shipping lanes, or defending anything at all besides the US empire’s last desperate hopes of securing unipolar planetary hegemony.” Awakesky

      I pretty much agree that AUKUS is not a defensive pact. At the heart of AUKUS is a fleet of nuclear powered submarines stationed in Australia to patrol the Pacific. No way could these weapons be described as defensive.
      Analysis of the submarine warfare conducted by the US in the Pacific during WWII, shows that submarines were pretty ineffective against Japanese capital warships. Mostly they were used to sink civilian merchant vessels and disrupt Japanese trade. The slaughter was enormous. From having one the biggest civilian merchant shipping fleet in the world before WWII, Japan was left with only about three or four tramps steamers. The tactic of the US submarine crews was to sink any ship that looked Asian and then surface and machine gun the survivors. The US submarine war against Japanese civilian shipping was incredibly racist. The slaughter got so bad that any civilian vessel looking even slightly Asian including allied shipping by China and other Asian allies even fishing boats and wooden sampans were sunk and their surviving crews machine gunned in the water.

      The same submarine warfare against civilian shipping was used by the German U-Boats in the war in the Atlantic. (probably with a little less racism), despite this the numbers of civilian seafarers killed was greater than in the navy, air force, or army.

      German U-boats attacked unarmed merchant vessels in the Atlantic in what they called “Wolf Packs”. US submarines attacked Japanese unarmed merchant vessels in the Pacific in what they also called “Wolf Packs”.
      The name and tactic it describes are synonymous with this type of warfare.

      There can be little doubt that the primary role of the nuclear powered submarine fleet proposed for Australia will also be to target civilian shipping.

      Less we remember:

      What I find disturbing about your analysis Awakesky, is that you seem to be implying that a world led by “multilateral” powers China and Russia would be an improvement. Every capitalist economy is expansionist, every expansionist country is racist. To want to exert your influence and control over other territories or peoples you must first believe you are more exceptional and better than them.

  5. Taiwan is Chinese. You know as well as anybody as a Marxist that it was the last resort of Chang Kai Sheks Nationalists against Maos Communists. This is not an imperial issue, it’s a national issue.

    • Only a fantasist would believe that Taiwan is a threat to China. Even when Taiwan was controlled by the Kuomintang who avowedly wanted to reconquer China, they were never in any position to realise this ambition.
      The Kuomintang dictatorship is no more. Chiang Kai Shek’s Chinese Nationalists no longer run Taiwan, it is a democracy with an indigenous Taiwanese leadership.

      You can believe what you want about Taiwan being part of China. But this does not justify a brutal invasion of Taiwan similar to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine.

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