ABSOLUTELY not, even if we give the Americans 10, even a hundred more of our military installations that they can use as their bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) for a war they’ll fight in Asia.
Already, China has responded to our giving the US four more of our military bases by escalating their presence in the disputed areas.
The Philippine Coast Guard has reported that several Chinese vessels — a Navy and Coast Guard ships with 40 “Chinese militia vessels” — have anchored in the past several days 8 to 15 kilometers off our Pag-asa Island, which it said “was well within that island’s territorial waters.”
Interpreting the expanded EDCA as an acceleration of its “encirclement” by the US, China will most likely retaliate: A classic case of blowback.
What’s very sad is that the US can’t help us in our territorial and maritime-area disputes with China now, nor when they have their troops stationed in nine of our military camps. This is because it is not party to these disputes. In short, we’re just being used by the US in its geopolitical strategy against China, to prevent its rise as a superpower. If it does interfere, that would trigger a war with the superpower, with China having the high moral ground because of its claims of sovereignty over the disputed islands. In contrast, the US has no territorial claims in the South China Sea; it has no business really being in the region, except for its self-appointed role as the world’s policeman during the heyday of its hegemony in the world.
What government claims as areas within our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and more recently as our territorial waters around Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), which Chinese vessels reportedly have been “intruding” into, is, from the Chinese viewpoint, part of their sovereign territory they call Nánshā Qúndǎo (Nansha archipelago that is a part of their Hainan province).
For the Chinese, their sovereignty over Nansha (and two other island groups) had been established 2,000 years ago and reaffirmed in the modern era through such government documents as China’s 1948 Map of the Location of the South China Sea Islands, the 1958 Declaration of the Government of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea, and the 1992 Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone.
For the Chinese, it is the Philippines that had illegally annexed Nansha (and called it the KIG) in 1978 when the strongman Ferdinand Marcos unilaterally declared it as ours, through Presidential Decree 1596. Marcos justified this by claiming that the area was terra nullius (“nobody’s land”) that is not owned by any nation, or at least no country has exercised sovereignty over it for many years.
How could Marcos be so bold as to do this? Because China was in shambles at the time, having just ended its disastrous “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.” It was a very poor country with a GDP per capita even as late as 1990 (the first year such data are available) of $981, a third of our $2,662.
Marcos also cleverly knew that China would not dare take the KIG by force, as the US — which had two military bases in the country — would not hesitate to come to its defense. After all, Marcos had authorized US oil companies to undertake exploration of gas and oil in the Reed Bank, which was made part of the KIG.
As we have been doing now, China as well as Vietnam which also claims the area, sent numerous notes verbale to protest Marcos’ annexation of Nansha. As China is doing now, we threw its protests to the wastebasket.
In short, there is a territorial dispute between China and the Philippines (as well as Vietnam). The entire world, even the US, recognizes this dispute and won’t take sides, as they can’t, over such disputes. The ruling of the arbitration panel that heard the suit that the Philippines brought against China involves EEZs, not which country has the legitimate claim of sovereignty. Forget those ignorant arguments and pronouncements that our EEZ encompasses the KIG.
But we pretend there is no dispute, insist that “what is ours is ours,” and that the world should take our side against what we claim is the “bully” or the Goliath we are contending with. That’s not how the world works.
After 50 years, things have changed. China, because of its successful government-supported industrialization, has become the second biggest economy in the world, its GDP of $19,338 more than twice our $8,982. With the growth of its economy, it had the revenues to spend for its military capability. It now has the largest military in the world, and has nuclear bombs with the delivery systems for these. It is arguably the second or third most armed country in the world. We aren’t even included in the lists of military powers of the world.
In short, China has become both an economic and military superpower, now competing with the US, with territorial disputes, sorry to say, with nations much weaker than it.
And if you were a superpower, would you give up your claim that the Spratlys which you had sovereignty over for 2,000 years (at least its people believe this) but which the now weak Philippines annexed in 1978? The Communist Party of China would be overthrown by its nationalist people if it did so.
Worse, you’d get angry if a third party exploits that dispute to demonize you, and use it as an excuse to contain your rise as hegemonic power in the region. Which is exactly what the US is doing, with its “containment and encirclement” program against China that Chinese leader Xi Jinping denounced the other day.
In a rare display of direct criticism of the US, Xi in a speech said that “Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented severe challenges to our country’s development.” Note that the speech was made on March 6, or roughly a month after the Philippines announced that it would give the US four more military camps, on top of the five agreed upon during the Aquino 3rd administration. Did that finally make Xi blow his top to denounce China’s “encirclement”?
Xi’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, followed up Xi’s strong statements, saying the following day: “The United States actually wants China not to fight back when hit or cursed, but this is impossible.”
China actually might have been provoked by the expansion of the EDCA: It is flexing its muscles to signal to us and the US that as the Chinese foreign minister said, China will fight back against the “encirclement.”
Instead of helping us defend what we claim are our sovereign rights in the South China Sea, the expanded EDCA has only provoked the Chinese to take concrete actions to assert its claims forcefully.
If you doubt Xi’s claim that the US is undertaking a containment and encirclement campaign against China, read the following excerpts from an article in Foreign Policy (FP) magazine, a reputable US publication founded in 1970, titled “Surrounded: How the US is Encircling China with Military Bases.” The prescient article was published back in 2013.
The US military is encircling China with a chain of air bases and military ports. The latest link: a small airstrip on the tiny Pacific island of Saipan. The US Air Force is planning to lease 33 acres of land on the island for the next 50 years to build a “divert airfield” on an old World War 2 airbase there. But the residents don’t want it. And the Chinese are in no mood to be surrounded by Americans.
The Pentagon’s big, new strategy for the 21st century is something called Air-Sea Battle, a concept that’s nominally about combining air and naval forces to punch through the increasingly formidable defenses of nations like China or Iran. It may sound like an amorphous strategy but a very concrete part of this concept is being put into place in the Pacific. An important but oft-overlooked part of Air-Sea Battle calls for the military to operate from small, bare bones bases in the Pacific that its forces can disperse to in case their main bases are targeted by Chinese ballistic missiles.
Saipan would be used by American jets in case access to the US superbase at Guam “or other Western Pacific airfields is limited or denied,” reads this Air Force document discussing the impact building such fields on Saipan and nearby Tinian would have on the environment there.
Specifically, the Air Force wants to expand the existing Saipan International Airport — built on the skeleton of a World War 2 base used by Japan, and later the United States — to accommodate cargo, fighter and tanker aircraft along with up to 700 support personnel for “periodic divert landings, joint military exercises, and joint and combined humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts,” according to Air Force documents on the project.
This means the service plans on building additional aircraft parking space, hangars, fuel storage tanks, and ammunition storage facilities, in addition to other improvements to the historic airfield. And it’s not the only facility getting an upgrade.
In addition to the site on Saipan, the Air Force plans to send aircraft on regular deployments to bases ranging from Australia to India as part of its bulked-up force in the Pacific. These plans include regular deployments to Royal Australian Air Force bases at Darwin and Tindal, Changi East air base in Singapore, Korat air base in Thailand, Trivandrum in India, and possibly bases at Cubi Point and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines and airfields in Indonesia and Malaysia, a top U.S. Air Force general revealed last month.
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Book orders: www.rigobertotiglao.com/shop
This Post Has One Comment
The WPS dispute must be resolved by the claimants because interference from parties with selfish interests benefits only the self-appointed mediator. In case a war breaks out, the US won’t care if we all die. Look at Vietnam and Ukraine, the pakialameros are not worried about Ukraine or Russia, but how the US will remain as superpower. Vietnam knows this and they did the right thing. Their country is free and they have occupied their claimed territories at WPS.
Comments are closed.