Sharing the world’s waters
The 23rd International Seapower Symposium, which took place recently at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, offers a forum for the top military maritime authorities from more than 100 countries to come together to discuss issues of mutual interest. The leaders discuss such matters as shipping lanes through the Arctic, countering raids by pirates or cooperating on humanitarian missions.
“Make no mistake; this desire to sail together in support of our fellow citizens -- regardless of the winds, waves and weather around us -- is the current that has drawn us here to Newport,” said Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations.
The symposium bubbled into the news when China summoned its delegate, Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, home from Newport amid growing tensions with the United States. It was one step in a series that highlighted the increasing disagreements between this country and China.
With the help of an enormous trade imbalance, China has been massively increasing its military, leading some American strategists to fear a day could come in the not-too-distant future when China, with its huge population and economy, will have hegemony over the United States.
Apart from the tariffs imposed by the White House to counter Chinese trade practices, the countries have disagreed about a range of military issues, including who controls the South China Sea, where China has built airstrips and warned other countries not to interfere with the waters it considers its own. The United States, by contrast, has long been a proponent of free movement on the seas.
The Treasury Department recently sanctioned China’s military procurement agency for buying military aircraft and missile systems from Russia. China, in turn, refused the United States’ request to have the amphibious ship Wasp call on Hong Kong.
Still, while the United States and China are increasingly at odds, it remains valuable to have a global summit of naval forces and coast guards.
Navy secretary Richard V. Spencer, a host of this year’s symposium, described its goal of promoting international maritime cooperation:
“We seek a true partnership based upon the concept of shared risks producing shared rewards,” he said. “A partnership in which no single nation is the expert and the ability to lead resides within all of us. When we work together this way, we can produce an equation where one plus one equals three and everyone benefits.”
The symposium also provides an occasion to reflect on the significance of the Naval War College itself. The naval research, education and leadership center has been graduating students since 1885. Today, according to the college, about 300 active-duty admirals, generals and senior service leaders are alumni.
“Every day, our allies and partners join us in defending freedom, deterring war and maintaining the rules which underwrite a free and open international order,” Spencer said.