Fonop and the Next World War

By Erick San Juan

USS Fitzgerald

USS Fitzgerald

Our country has its own share of security problems, both from local and foreign threats and we are suffering the backlash of the global war on terror where the stage for these terror groups/network has reached our soil. As we tried to finish this nightmare in our country’s history, the threat outside is still very much alive. I am talking about the South China Sea.

According to a June 30 report from Reuters – “China has built new military facilities on islands in the South China Sea, a U.S. think tank reported on Thursday, a move that could raise tensions with Washington, which has accused Beijing of militarising the vital waterway.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), part of Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said new satellite images show missile shelters and radar and communications facilities being built on the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

The United States has criticized China’s build-up of military facilities on the artificial islands and is concerned they could be used to restrict free movement through the South China Sea, an important trade route.

Last month, a U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in a so-called freedom of navigation operation, the first such challenge to Beijing’s claim to most of the waterway since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

China has denied U.S. charges that it is militarising the sea, which also is claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Trump has sought China’s help in reigning in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, and tension between Washington and Beijing over military installations in the South China Sea could complicate those efforts.

China has built four new missile shelters on Fiery Cross Reef to go with the eight already on the artificial island, AMTI said. Mischief and Subi each have eight shelters, the think tank said in a previous report.”

Some pundits observed that because of the ongoing North Korea’s nuclear and missile ops, Trump Administration is easy on China due to Beijing’s help in resolving the said issue peacefully for it is well known that NoKor is a friend of China.

“But the Trump administration needs to make it clear that the current balance of power in Asia, while uneasy, is acceptable, but Chinese hegemony is not.”

That is the argument Ely Ratner makes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs:

“In recent years, however, China has begun to assert its claims more vigorously and is now poised to seize control of the sea. Should it succeed, it would deal a devastating blow to the United States’ influence in the region, tilting the balance of power across Asia in China’s favor.” […]

“U.S. policymakers should recognize that China’s behavior in the sea is based on its perception of how the United States will respond. The lack of U.S. resistance has led Beijing to conclude that the United States will not compromise its relationship with China over the South China Sea. As a result, the biggest threat to the United States today in Asia is Chinese hegemony, not great-power war. U.S. regional leadership is much more likely to go out with a whimper than with a bang.”

The commentary comes amid uncertainty regarding the Trump administration’s foreign policy in the region. Many have noted that North Korea has distracted Washington from the issue of the South China Sea, with some speculating that Trump is holding off pressure on that issue – as he implied he has with trade – in exchange for help on the Korean peninsula.

The foreign policy establishment, led by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, tried to reassure allies in the region this week that the US is not ceding influence in the Pacific to China.

Speaking to lawmakers on Wednesday Mattis said of naval exercises that” This (Freedom of Navigation exercise) is our policy. We will continue this.” He added, “could it change if circumstances change? Of course, but right now Secretary Tillerson and I give him the military factors — and we’re in league together on this, so I don’t think anything is going to change.” (Ibid)

Freedom of navigation (FONOP) has long been a major issue for Uncle Sam because the SCS where China has claimed almost all of the area based on its nine-dash line theory and now that it has been militarizing the area, the threat on fonop is for real. No matter how China puts it, the reclaimed area is now militarized and for a very obvious reason that it was built.

“When reporting on the South China Sea, it has become commonplace for media around the world to draw upon think tank research detailing China’s developing military capable facilities in the region.

Some use the information to bolster campaigns to convince the US Trump administration that China presents an imminent threat to the country’s interests, including freedom of navigation. But the deepening drumbeat for the US to militarily confront China in the South China Sea should be considered with a healthy dose of skepticism.

One report by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies describes China’s latest construction projects in the South China Sea, concluding that it “can now deploy military assets including combat aircraft and mobile missile launchers to the Spratly Islands at any time.”

This is fact. But the AMTI director also warned in a subsequent interview to “look for deployment in the near future”. This implies that China intends to use these facilities to do so. This is supposition.” (Source: Mark Valencia posted @atimes.com)

The threat of war is for real and this fonop issue will be the spark that will light the tinderbox to the next world war.

Please wake up to reality!


One Response. Have your say.

  1. This situation is worrisome
    Help us Lord…

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