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Is China's South China Sea A Forgone Conclusion?

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Thitu Island

Thitu Island

As Chinese continues to become an equal to the USA and other Western countries, it has an appetite to consume more of the worlds resources to feed its desires. It won't be long before their navy is a "Blue water navy" able to transit across vast oceans far from China.

The South China Sea and West Philippine Sea is claimed by China as their territorial waters and from 2012 were allowed to transform many small islands owned by other regional countries into Chinese military bases. For the Philippines, its territorial waters extend out some 200 miles from land and have been breached by China because of the Duterte presidency love affair with China. But with a new presidential election coming in 2022, this probably will change. It seems few within the Duterte government agree with their president's policy with China regarding the South China Sea. For years, Duterte, seldom challenged China about their several seizures of islands with Philippine waters and the oil and natural gas found in various places.

China uses its vast ocean going militia fisherman ships to block and thwart Philippine Coast Guard ships that challenge. When China recently claimed that Scarborough Shoal Reef was also theirs, it finally became apparent to the Philippine government what was up. China wants to build a radar station there, which is within the exclusive waters of the Philippines not far from Manila. Opposition suddenly exploded within the local Senate. In response, China initially, withdrew hundreds of its militia fishing trawlers to appease them. But, as opposition grew within the Philippine government, even Duterte, changed his tune, but not much.

Now, China is mocking the Philippines by keeping over 250 fishing vessels in the area, many surrounding or blocking islands belonging the to Philippines. This action pushes the Philippines even more into the US way and it may get them to invoke the US-Philippine Defense Treaty that Duerte tried to cancel. The Philippines are finally acting more aggressively in their presence and patrols of their waters. Before, they were sporadic, now, some patrols also include the USN or combat ships from Japan or Australia.

Australia has contracted to operate and renovate the former USN base at Subic Bay. This secures the vital port in Western hands (China had expressed interest). While it may not make a difference, the signal is loud as a new president in 2022 will be elected. In addition, the Philippines has decided to strengthen the port on Thitu island into a major military base. This island is large and within the contested Spratly Islands that China was allowed to seize. There is already an airfield there and troop facilities. China usually tries to block the entrance to the port with some 14 militia trawlers.

The Philippines plans to turn Thitu into a true logistical hub for naval ships instead having to travel nearly 500 km to Palawan, the closest Philippine port. The US has expressed interest also in supporting the Philippines and could base some American assets there with their cooperation. US-Filipino troops frequently train together on a yearly basis. All this would to counter the Chinese positions.

Would it make a real difference? No, but it would sent China a real signal that the Philippines is no longer "China's little brother".

Comments

perrya (author) on May 14, 2021:

Looking back at Trump, while he was more vocal against china, he was not willing to use force either. When he did try economic trade force, it was not effective. I think the only way now is to have several nations join in and gang up against china in the SCS and face-off. If china begins to build its radar station on Scarborough, it will become a very dicey situation to deal with. The best way is to pre-emptively station Filipino troops on it and let China violate it.

Ken Burgess from Florida on May 14, 2021:

MG Singh,

The current Administration will talk a tough talk, and do absolutely nothing at all to deter China, in ANY of its efforts.

This Administration in fact will go out of its way to avoid any real confrontation with China, to the point where they will find others to blame where China is the actual culprit.

This will be the most pro-China Administration we have had in decades, in truth, if not in what political propaganda they spout to the American people.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on May 13, 2021:

Perrya, other than taking China head-on I don't see how China can be asked to vacate the islands in the South China Sea. China understands only one language and that is FORCE. Is the US capable to apply it?

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