There has been “news” that China has been causing trouble in the South China Sea.
Reports note that “Philippines and China are contesting sovereignty over a small group of rock formations known as Scarborough Shoal. The shoal, known in the Philippines as the Panatag Shoal but which the Chinese call Huangyan Island, is about 124 nautical miles off the main Philippine island of Luzon, near a former US navy base in Subic Bay”. It goes on to say that “a Philippines Navy surveillance plane spotted eight Chinese fishing boats in the shoal and Manila’s largest warship, a US Hamilton-class cutter, was sent to check on the Chinese presence. Two Chinese surveillance ships arrived soon after the crew from the warship inspected the fishing boats on Tuesday. The surveillance vessels were then placed between the warship and the fishing boats to prevent the arrest of any fishermen”. It vitally adds that “Tension has risen in the past two years over worries China is becoming more assertive in its claims to the seas”.
Worryingly China seems to think that it has a right to claim the entire South China Sea for itself, this was seen when “A statement issued by the Chinese embassy said 12 fishing boats had taken shelter from harsh weather in a lagoon. It said the Philippine ‘gunboat’ blocked the lagoon entrance, preventing the Chinese surveillance vessels from ‘fulfilling the duties of safeguarding Chinese maritime rights and interests’. It said the embassy immediately contacted the DFA and ‘reiterated China’s sovereignty over Huangyan Island, (and) urged the Philippine side to stop immediately their illegal activities and leave this area'”.
Others have reported how tensions are rising “as China warned the United States that its joint naval exercise in the region has raised the risk of armed confrontation”. It goes on to report that “An article in the Liberation Army Daily warned that the standoff could turn into full-on conflict and said it was largely the fault of the US, which has been staging joint military exercises in the region with the Philippine navy”, the report concludes that “China has developed long-range ballistic missiles with a range of 2,700km (1,680 miles), known as ‘carrier-killers’, which seem aimed at keeping a lid on any attempts by the US navy to gain maritime dominance in the seas around China”.
While all this is going on “the Philippines has announced an enlarged estimate of gas reserves in the Reed Bank, a disputed area of the sea near the island of Palawan. Collectively, this activity raises the temperature among China and its neighbors, not to mention the U.S”, adding “the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that some 20 billion barrels of oil underlie the South China Sea. Yet Kang also sees hydrocarbons and fish as a “pretext” for discord. The Philippines, Taiwan, China, Vietnam and the others, Kang says, would quarrel regardless of the presence of oil or fish”.
It is no wonder that Secretary Clinton has turned to the Navy, when she “signaled the Obama administration’s embrace of the vision set forth in the U.S. Navy’s Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, the 2007 strategic guidance document linking maritime power to the success of the liberal international order, and may have tipped the administration’s hand with regard to how the defense realignment of the next decade will play out”.
The writer reassuringly adds that “The U.S. Navy’s ability to conduct multifaceted relief operations in the Asia Pacific littoral (a capability that the Chinese Navy currently lacks) highlights the persistent utility of a U.S. leadership role; the U.S. Navy effectively makes itself an indispensible part of any major multilateral maritime operation”.
He finishes writing, “Regional navies undoubtedly already note the contrast between the U.S. Navy’s focus on partnership and Bejing’s confrontational attitude in the South China Sea”.