Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

China’s five-clawed dragon asserts ownership over East Asian waters

December 9, 2012

Under the new leadership of Xi Jinping and the Committee of Seven, China is taking aggressive new steps to become a major maritime power. These steps are linked to the revival of nationalism as a major theme in Chinese rhetoric.

Indeed, Premier Xi has adopted ‘revival of the nation’ as his first major slogan. His instrument will be naval supremacy and his target will be East Asian waters. Only the United States Seventh Fleet stands in his way. And with Barack Obama in office, that is a weak reed indeed as a basis for any kind of war-related deterrence.

Several East Asian countries are at risk in this unfolding Chinese ‘lebensraum‘ aggressiveness.  Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines are foremost among them.

Effective January 1, 2013, China has authorized its maritime ‘police’ to board and to seize foreign vessels in waters surrounding the Paracel Islands.  Ownership over these islands is claimed by Vietnam. Hanoi has already stepped up maritime patrols in this region. Chinese fishing vessels cut the cables of Vietnam’s seismic survey ship last week.

On November 30, China communicated to  the government of the Philippines its intention to station Chinese vessels permanently at the Scarborough Shoal.  Ownership to this Shoal i claimed both by China and the Philippines. The area was the scene of a military standoff earlier this year.

China continues to challenge Japan’s control over the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyus by Beijing.  Chinese maritime surveillance and fishing vessels loiter outside the 12-mile territorial limit, periodically crossing inside in a show of maritime muscle.

The question confronting the threatened nations is how to respond to the claws of the Chinese dragon.  Failure to contest China’s deployments risks conceding territorial claims under international law, such as that is. An overly aggressive response might provoke a shooting war. Only Japan would stand any chance of winning such a war, and that only with U.S. support.

Time to wake up from your campaign trail high, Mr. President and to send out some unambiguous messages to Beijing concerning  just where the United States stands on matters affecting  the Pacific theater. Time also to commission some new flat-tops to patrol those vulnerable waters.

Hat Tip: ‘China’s Nationalist Wave’, The Wall Street Journal,  December 8, 2012




Nine Chinese dragons seek to impound the South China Sea

May 17, 2012

While President Obama is wasting time, sleeves rolled up, on a seemingly endless, self-adulatory electoral campaign grounded on a faux concept of fairness, a very different concept – might is right – is flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, where Beijing’s territorial claims are rubbing up against competing claims from several south-east Asian countries.

The latest confrontation is with the Philippines. In April 2012, a Philippine naval ship attempted to detain several Chinese vessels that were fishing near disputed islands known as Scarborough Shoal in the Philippines and as Huangyan Island in China.  Chinese marine surveillance ships quickly arrived on the scene to shut down the Philippine intervention. Chinese newspapers last week demanded that the People’s Liberation Army Navy should teach the Philippines a lesson. Some speculated that China is preparing for war.

Last year, marine surveillance ships from China clashed with both Philippine and Vietnam seismic vessels, again with China imposing its will on its weaker neighbors. Neither the philippines nor Vietnam can credibly challenge China’s expansionary designs on the South China Sea, at least without powerful international support.

“The problem for the Philippines, as with Vietnam…is that China claims virtually the entire strategic waterway.  It produced an infamous ‘nine-lashed-line’ map marking the waters it claims – like a huge lolling tongue licking its neighbours’ coastline.” David Pilling, ‘The nine dragons stirring up the South China Sea'”, Financial Times, May 17, 2012

Pilling suggests that Chinese aggression is especially dangerous because it is multi-headed rather than the consequence of a carefully evaluated policy by the Standing Committee of Nine:

“the reality may be messier – and more dangerous.  that is because a proliferation of agencies – not the Chinese government itself – may be pushing the boundaries of China’s policy.  These are the dragons that are ‘stirring up the sea.’  They include Customs law Enforcement, China Fisheries Law Enforcement Command, the Maritime Safety Administration, China Marine Surveillance, and so on.” ibid.

In such a multi-level game competing agencies have an incentive to keep tensions high in order to attract bigger budgets.  The arms race being conducted by these competing agencies is especially dangerous because their ships are easily deployed and they do not operate under strict rules of engagement.

I seem to remember that another overly- election-focused United States president – FDR – ignored similar signs emanating from Japan in the run-up to the 1940 presidential elections . His ignorance and lack of foresight led to the avoidable disaster of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Maybe President Obama should roll down those shirt-sleeves, button up his cuffs, and abandon the campaign trail in order to complete the job for which he was elected in November 2008.



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