China Expands Its Sphere in the South Pacific
China is once again working to expand its reach in the South China Sea. Its latest target is the ...
China is once again working to expand its reach in the South China Sea. Its latest target is the Philippines. Recently China sailed a warship, two surveillance vessels and fishing boats into an area occupied by the Philippines’ military, causing an outcry from Philippine officials on Tuesday last week. While this small conglomerate of ships may pose little immediate threat, this is just the latest step in China’s expansion in the Pacific.
The controversial area these vessels entered was the Ayungin Shoal in the province of Palawan, a shoal that is part of the heavily contested Spratly Islands. According to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, the shoal is part of Philippine territory as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (unclos). However, these islands are also claimed by China, Brunei, Vietnam and Malaysia.
While this intrusion prompted Filipino President Benigno Aquino iii to announce plans to upgrade the country’s aging navy, China isn’t planning to wait around for that; it has already been busy making its presence felt in the island region. China is said to have recently been constructing military structures in the Union Bank, a group of islands that are also within the territorial boundaries of the Philippines as defined by unclos. China has also established itself on a number of other islands in the region, including Mischief Reef and Subi Reef.
While the Spratly Islands have been contested for decades, this is the second time in less than a year that China has made headlines over territorial disputes. Late last year, China and Japan butted heads over the Diaoyu islands (called Senkaku in Japan), a dispute that is still ongoing.
The implications of these advances go far beyond just territorial acquisition. This is yet another move to expose America’s unwillingness to face Chinese expansion.
The United States has an agreement with both Japan and the Philippines that says it will come to their aid should they be attacked. But right now, the U.S. has no desire to commit to another war, especially against such a power as China. The Philippines can talk big as much as it wants, but without the backing of the U.S., it knows it doesn’t stand a chance in a conflict with China.
But why should America care about a nation like the Philippines? Should America even be concerned with the Pacific?
The Philippines is America’s first line of defense against an attack from Asia. After the Philippines, all there is are small, inconsequential island chains, followed by Hawaii. Beyond that, it’s a straight shot to the American coast.
The Philippines is vital to controlling the Pacific. World War ii proves that. Back then, the U.S. didn’t see the importance of defending the Philippines, but Gen. Douglas MacArthur was there, calling for America to intervene against Japan. You can see this history and the importance of the Philippines in the recent Key of David Web Exclusive “Japan Wants Military—U.S. Yawns, Ignores History.” Sadly, nothing has changed since World War ii. Just as America did not realize the strategic importance of the Philippines back then, it doesn’t fully appreciate it today. Only now, America doesn’t have a General MacArthur to wake us from our stupor.
Don’t expect the Chinese to back down from any of these disputes. Who’s going to stop them?