There’s a lot of controversy over what China is doing in the South China Sea but there seems to be very little in the way of perspective – the recent “water attack” was not a hostile act by a military nation, it was a Chinese Coastguard ship deterring another nation from building on a disputed island, something the US seems to be keen to prevent China, but quite ok with others, doing.
The truth, if anyone cares to look into it, is that in 1999, the Philippines illegally beached a landing craft on an uninhabited shoal and are now attempting to deliver building supplies to fortify it.
Many will argue, because Western media wants them to, that China is being aggressive. China, according to Chinese media, wants only one thing – that the shoal be left alone. Notwithstanding legals claims that several parties have over the region, China isn’t doing the wrong thing.
Putting this specific incident aside and looking at the broader picture, many people are critical of China’s “expansion” into the South China Sea, but their criticism has three problems: one is, the expansion fails to consider China’s situation; another is, when looked at in a broader sense, it’s minor; and, according to former Premier Li Kejiang, it’s not military. It’s merely assumed by Western “experts” to be so.
It’s frequently reported that China could use these bases for military purposes. China denies it does. As far as can be ascertained, only one military plane has ever landed in the region and that was a humanitarian mission in 2016 to airlift three sick people. On the other hand, USA has militarised the Pacific.
It’s clear the USA sees China as a threat. Discussions about, and reasons for, that are wide and varied but not articulated here. However, when the USA considers a country a threat, that country better take care.
Overall, the USA has 375,000 troops in the Pacific region to “counter China”. That’s more than twice the 156,000 soldiers who stormed Normandy’s beaches on D Day.
The USA military occupies 30% of Guam, with 7,000 troops. It has 23 bases in Japan and Okinawa and a further 15 bases in South Korea. They are currently building four military bases in the Philippines, with more in Micronesia and Palau, and, with Australia, are refurbishing an older base in Papua New Guinea.
More worrying, they have US troops operating inside China – which, after 12 months of US government denials, was admitted by the Taiwanese government to be true. This is after successive presidents, Nixon, Carter and Reagan, all promised not to. Furthermore, Reagan issued a 1982 communique stating USA would not increase arms sales to Taiwan and specifically stated USA would reduce weapon sales to zero in order to achieve a peaceful settlement. It seems current American presidents cannot be trusted to keep the words of their predecessors.
It’s not just presidents but congress too: for 38 years, over 7 Congressional sittings USA made Congressional Resolutions, it would not interfere in China’s sovereign affairs specifically in relation to Taiwan.
Moving away from the Pacific, the USA is active in Africa too; in fact, they have 29 military bases operating in 15 African countries to “defend US sovereignty”, in Africa!
They invaded and occupied Iraq because they thought their “national security” was threatened. But the US invasion of Afghanistan was out of spite; recovering from a 20-year war and, economically speaking, barely out of the middle ages, Afghanistan wouldn’t give up Bin Laden without evidence. Resulting in US punishment of an invasion and another 20 years of war.
Earlier, they went to war in Vietnam and in Korea and they dropped more bombs in Laos and Cambodia than the entire ordinance dropped in the Second World War. Calling the bombers “US Arial Surveillance”, presumably because the US had signed a Neutrality Agreement in the UN. The bombing of an officially recognised neutral country is surely something the International Criminal Court should investigate but the US would sanction the court and potentially invade the Hague if they did. So, for now, it’s just another example of US presidents not honouring the commitments of their predecessors.
With the benefit of hindsight, we know, all of the above wars were either avoidable (to stop the spread of communism) or the reason for them was a lie; not one was justified, none was a physical or military threat to the US.
Once we understand the fact that the US “Department of Defense” will invade any country it deems a threat, whether real or not, and is currently surrounding China with "defensive" island chains we might start to look at China’s defensive military in a different light.
The South China Sea could be used as a modern-day version of the Great Wall; a defensive fortification but it’s tiny in comparison to the US build-up around China. There are just two airstrips. That’s it!
Deceptive reporting suggests that China has “fully militarised three islands”, but we’re confused by the naming. Claims that China is militarising Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, Meiji Reef, Panganiban Reef and the Spratley Islands, abound in Western media but they’re the same place. What media doesn’t tell us is that China has built only two airstrips. One on reclaimed land between two islands and another nearby, that’s it; only two airstrips.
The Fiery Cross airstrip is 345 metres shorter than the Darwin Military airstrip which, like Darwin Port, is being extended to accommodate a bigger US military presence. Guam has two runways; both are longer than Fiery Cross. The other airstrip, on Meiji Reef is even shorter. And, with the exception of the medical evacuation in 2016, no military plane has landed on either of them.
The USA, or any other country, shouldn’t feel threatened by China. There are a lot more things in the Pacific to worry about than the potential military use of China’s airstrips. For example, there’s the real military presence in the Pacific and off the coast of China of an unknown number of nuclear powered and nuclear armed submarines, two Aircraft Carrier Strike Fleets and their attendant armadas are in the vicinity and 375,000 troops are nearby. They are all a long way from home and itching to defend their shores against what they perceive is a threat. If that’s not cause for concern, then nothing is!
Photo Credit: By SurfaceWarriors is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
The views and informations expressed in the article are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect the views of The International. We believe in providing a platform for a range of viewpoints from the left.
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