July 9, 2010
By: Mark Thompson
If China’s satellites and spies were working properly, there would have been a flood of unsettling intelligence flowing into the Beijing headquarters of the Chinese navy last week. A new class of U.S. superweapon had suddenly surfaced nearby. It was an Ohio-class submarine, which for decades carried only nuclear missiles targeted against the Soviet Union, and then Russia. But this one was different: for nearly three years, the U.S. Navy has been dispatching modified “boomers” to who knows where (they do travel underwater, after all). Four of the 18 ballistic-missile subs no longer carry nuclear-tipped Trident missiles. Instead, they hold up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles each, capable of hitting anything within 1,000 miles with non-nuclear warheads.
Their capability makes watching these particular submarines especially interesting. The 14 Trident-carrying subs are useful in the unlikely event of a nuclear Armageddon, and Russia remains their prime target. But the Tomahawk-outfitted quartet carries a weapon that the U.S. military has used repeatedly against targets in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Sudan.
That’s why alarm bells would have sounded in Beijing on June 28 when the Tomahawk-laden 560-ft. U.S.S. Ohio popped up in the Philippines’ Subic Bay. More alarms were likely sounded when the U.S.S. Michigan arrived in Pusan, South Korea, on the same day. And the Klaxons would have maxed out as the U.S.S. Florida surfaced, also on the same day, at the joint U.S.-British naval base on Diego Garcia, a flyspeck of an island in the Indian Ocean. In all, the Chinese military awoke to find as many as 462 new Tomahawks deployed by the U.S. in its neighborhood. “There’s been a decision to bolster our forces in the Pacific,” says Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “There is no doubt that China will stand up and take notice.”
U.S. officials deny that any message is being directed at Beijing, saying the Tomahawk triple play was a coincidence. But they did make sure that news of the deployments appeared in the Hong Kong–based South China Morning Post – on July 4, no less. The Chinese took notice quietly. “At present, common aspirations of countries in the Asian and Pacific regions are seeking for peace, stability and regional security,” Wang Baodong, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Washington, said on Wednesday. “We hope the relevant U.S. military activities will serve for the regional peace, stability and security, and not the contrary.”
Last month, the Navy announced that all four of the Tomahawk-carrying subs were operationally deployed away from their home ports for the first time. Each vessel packs “the firepower of multiple surface ships,” says Captain Tracy Howard of Submarine Squadron 16 in Kings Bay, Ga., and can “respond to diverse threats on short notice.”
The move forms part of a policy by the U.S. government to shift firepower from the Atlantic to the Pacific theater, which Washington sees as the military focus of the 21st century. Reduced tensions since the end of the Cold War have seen the U.S. scale back its deployment of nuclear weapons, allowing the Navy to reduce its Trident fleet from 18 to 14. (Why 14 subs, as well as bombers and land-based missiles carrying nuclear weapons, are still required to deal with the Russian threat is a topic for another day.)
Sure, the Navy could have retired the four additional subs and saved the Pentagon some money, but that’s not how bureaucracies operate. Instead, it spent about $4 billion replacing the Tridents with Tomahawks and making room for 60 special-ops troops to live aboard each sub and operate stealthily around the globe. “We’re there for weeks, we have the situational awareness of being there, of being part of the environment,” Navy Rear Admiral Mark Kenny explained after the first Tomahawk-carrying former Trident sub set sail in 2008. “We can detect, classify and locate targets and, if need be, hit them from the same platform.”
The submarines aren’t the only new potential issue of concern for the Chinese. Two major military exercises involving the U.S. and its allies in the region are now under way. More than three dozen naval ships and subs began participating in the “Rim of the Pacific” war games off Hawaii on Wednesday. Some 20,000 personnel from 14 nations are involved in the biennial exercise, which includes missile drills and the sinking of three abandoned vessels playing the role of enemy ships. Nations joining the U.S. in what is billed as the world’s largest-ever naval war game are Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Peru, Singapore and Thailand. Closer to China, CARAT 2010 – for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training – just got under way off Singapore. The operation involves 17,000 personnel and 73 ships from the U.S., Singapore, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
China is absent from both exercises, and that’s no oversight. Many nations in the eastern Pacific, including Australia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam, have been encouraging the U.S. to push back against what they see as China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea. And the U.S. military remains concerned over China’s growing missile force – now more than 1,000 – near the Taiwan Strait. The Tomahawks’ arrival “is part of a larger effort to bolster our capabilities in the region,” Glaser says. “It sends a signal that nobody should rule out our determination to be the balancer in the region that many countries there want us to be.” No doubt Beijing got the signal.
June 8, 2010
By Stephen Bernard and Tim Paradis
NEW YORK — Stocks fell to their lowest level in seven months Monday after traders couldn’t shake fears that Europe’s economic problems will derail a global recovery.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 115 points, or 1.2 percent, to its lowest close since November. The Dow lost 323 Friday after the government’s May jobs report fell short of expectations.
Broader indexes logged steeper percentage drops Monday. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index fell 2 percent.
Monday’s drop was a smaller-scale repeat of Friday as traders again dumped stocks in the final hour. That signals traders would rather sell than be hit by surprises, especially because Europe’s business day begins before trading opens in the U.S. Some traders say the slide has been overdone but that the market isn’t likely to find much stability until there is a better sense about how Europe’s economies will hold up under heavy cost-cutting.
With only a sprinkling of economic and corporate news to go on, traders again tracked the moves of the euro. The 16-nation currency hit another four-year low and hurt European markets. The euro fell as low as $1.1878 before rising to $1.1915. A drop in the currency is seen as a sign of flagging confidence in Europe’s ability to rein in its debt without falling back into recession.
September 19, 2009
By Nicholas Johnston
President Barack Obama said tougher financial regulations are needed worldwide to protect consumers, provide economic stability and prevent future crises.
With the leaders from the Group of 20 nations set to meet next week in Pittsburgh, Obama said in his weekly address on the radio and Internet that international cooperation has “stopped our economic freefall.”
“We know we still have a lot to do, in conjunction with nations around the world, to strengthen the rules governing financial markets and ensure that we never again find ourselves in the precarious situation we found ourselves in just one year ago,” Obama said.
The administration has proposed an overhaul of U.S. financial regulations including oversight of the systemic risk large financial institutions pose to the economy, new ways for the government to dismantle failed companies and a regulator to oversee financial products for consumers.
Obama reiterated his calls for Congress to act on his regulatory proposals, which he also made in a speech on Wall Street Sept. 13.
“As I told leaders of our financial community in New York City earlier this week, a return to normalcy can’t breed complacency,” Obama said in today’s address. “Our government needs to fundamentally reform the rules governing financial firms and markets to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
Oversight for Consumers
Obama said a central element to this regulatory overhaul is a new agency to oversee consumer products, including mortgages and credit cards.
“We need clear rules, clearly enforced. And that’s what this agency will do,” Obama said.
Obama said lobbyists for financial institutions are already fighting against new regulations.
“We cannot let the narrow interests of a few come before the interests of all of us,” Obama said. “We cannot forget how close we came to the brink, and perpetuate the broken system and breakdown of responsibility that made it possible.”
In the Republican address, North Carolina Representative Sue Myrick focused on Obama’s health-care proposals, which are being debated in Congress. She said the plan being offered by Obama and congressional Democrats would lead to government-run insurance and that would mean delays in care.
Access to Care
“Every family that confronts a serious illness should have access to the highest-quality care at the lowest possible cost, with no delays,” Myrick said.
Obama has said he favors a government-run insurance program to compete with private insurers. While he has suggested he wouldn’t make it a requirement as part of final legislation, other Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California have said it must be part of any bill.
“Replacing your current health care with a government-run system is not the answer,” Myrick said.
Myrick also said the health-care proposals would lead to tax increases on small businesses that would lead to the elimination of more than 1.6 million jobs.
“This is the worst possible time to be imposing new, job- killing taxes,” Myrick said.