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Defence & Aerospace

China and Philippines: The reasons why a battle for Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island seems unavoidable


Map of the location of the island in the South China Sea

Map of the location of the island in the South China Sea

Following the report of China’s plans to occupy Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island (Chinese troops to seize Zhongye Island back from the Philippines in 2014), the author, Chan Kai Yee, gives his reasons why it will likely occur.

Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island, the second largest in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, has an area of 0.33 square km, and is of great strategic significance for China if it wants to control a vast part of the South China Sea that it claims to be its territorial waters.

As the Island is located roughly in the middle of the area, if China builds an air force and naval base there, it will more easily control the sky and sea in the claimed area.

Taiping Island, the largest island there with a larger area, is a better choice. As it is controlled by Taiwan and there has so far been no prospects yet of reunification between mainland China and Taiwan, seizing Zhongye Island from the Philippines is China’s top priority in the South China Sea.

The world’s largest aircraft carrier, the Ford costs $12.8 billion to build but has only a deck area of 0.026 square km. An air base established on Zhongye Island will be a dozen times larger and cost much less, but it is unsinkable and has a very long service life.

The Philippines might have benefited greatly if the US had built an air base there to facilitate the US pivot to Asia and to counter China, but it is a pity that the Philippines drove the US away long ago.

You can read about this in my post: “South China Sea Disputes: Lucky China; Unlucky Philippines.”

Another advantage for China in taking the island is that the US and even Japan may divert some of their aircraft and warships to the area near the Philippines, and thus enable China to deal with less Japanese and US aircraft and warships when there is a war between China and Japan and possibly the US in the East China Sea. (Refer to the last five paragraphs of my post “South China Sea Disputes: Chinese Strategy.”

There is a post at fxcharter.com which gives the following background information:

“Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, mayor of the Kalayaan island group, part of the contested Spratly islands administered by the Philippines, recently confirmed that the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed new air force troops in rotation to the disputed island of Thitu, according to Jaime Laude in a report for the Manila-based Philippine Star on Jan. 5.

“Known as Pag-asa in the Philippines and Zhongye island by both China and Taiwan, Thitu is the second largest in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea and the largest of all Philippine-occupied Spratly islands.

“Laude said that the air force troops were deployed to Thitu island by naval aircraft, which will give the residents of the island a chance to visit Kalayaan aboard the returning plane. He added that China’s maritime expansion into the South China Sea continues to put pressure on the Philippines, and the Philippine Navy have also been stationed in the area to defend the islands.”

Editor’s Note: Additionally, Wikipedia explains the First Island Chain, and it’s importance in China’s military strategy:

The first island chain perimeter (marked in red)

The first island chain perimeter (marked in red)

“The first island chain refers to the first chain of major archipelagos out from the East Asian continental mainland coast. Principally composed of the Kuril Islands, Japanese Archipelago, Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines, and Borneo; from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the Malay Peninsula. Some definitions of the first island chain anchor the northern end on the Russian Far East coast north of Sahkalin Island, with Sahkalin Island being the first link in the chain. However, others consider the Aleutians as the farthest north-eastern first link in the chain.

“The first island chain has its purpose in Chinese military doctrine. The People’s Republic of China views the first island chain as the area it must secure and disable from American bases, aircraft and aircraft-carrier groups, if in defending itself it must tactically unleash a pre-emptive attack against an enemy. The aim of the doctrine is to seal off the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and East China Sea inside an arc running from the Aleutians in the north to Borneo in the south. According to reports by American think tanks CSBA and RAND, by 2020, China will be well on its way to having the means to achieve its first island chain policy.

Source: FXCharter – China Plans To Seize South China Sea Island From Philippines, Says ‘Battle Will Be Restricted’
 
Source: Wikipedia – First Island Chain
 
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About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

Discussion

29 thoughts on “China and Philippines: The reasons why a battle for Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island seems unavoidable

  1. The U.S. were not removed by the Philippines,but decided to leave after the removal of their puppet Ferdinand Marcos was deposed. Also the eruption of Mt Pinatubo sealed the fate of the Philippines.It is a shame that Mr Yee is yet another empty vessel when it comes to researching cause & effect on U.S. vacating the P.I.

    Posted by Arthur Gain | January 14, 2014, 10:34 am
    • Many months before the expiration of the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 intense negotiations between the governments of the United States and the Philippines began. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. This would have extended the lease of the American bases in the Philippines.

      On September 13, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the ratification of this treaty, citing a number of reasons for the rejection. This was a devastating blow to the Aquino administration, who were strongly pro-treaty and even called for a referendum by the Filipino people; a move that was declared unconstitutional.

      The American Flag is lowered and Philippine flag is raised during turnover of Naval Station Subic Bay.
      In December 1991, the two governments were again in talks to extend the withdrawal of American forces for three years but this broke down as the United States refused to detail their withdrawal plans or to answer if nuclear weapons were kept on base. Finally on December 27, President Corazon Aquino, who had previously fought to delay the U.S. pullout to cushion the country’s battered economy, issued a formal notice for the U.S. to leave by the end of 1992. Naval Station Subic Bay was the U.S.’s largest overseas defense facility after Clark Air Base was closed.

      I am sorry that I got the idea from the above three paragraphs of Wikipedia’s description, which according to you is incorrect. I suppose that you would revise it to enable people to know the truth if what you wrote were the truth.

      Posted by chankaiyee2 | January 14, 2014, 3:51 pm
    • This comment’s a bit late, but nevertheless–chankaiyee’s post is more accurate and factual than your halfwit assumptions, Arthur Gain. The eruption of Mt Pinatubo and consequent burying of the bases under tons of volcanic ash was just the convenient catalyst for what was then a failing dialogue between US and Philippine officials. A lot of the disagreement had to do with the amount that the US had to pay for the lease. The Americans saw it as an affront; after all, why ask them to pay a lease when it was the Philippines that was freeriding on American military power for their national defense?

      Marcos being deposed had nothing to do with the bases. Marcos was deposed in 1986, the bases left in 1991. If anything, Pres. Corazon Aquino was another reliable “puppet” if you want to couch it in those terms. Aquino was US-educated, and was from a politically elite and wealthy family. Her family was sheltered in Boston while Marcos exiled her husband for being anti-Marcos. She was handpicked by US Amb. Bosworth and the CIA to replace Marcos when the latter was deposed. The original plan was for the coup d’etat leaders Juan Ponce Enrile and his cabal of military officers to lead a junta to replace Marcos. That’s why Corazon Aquino’s administration was plagued by 7 coup d’etats. But no worries; every time there was a rebellion, guess who saved the day? The US military based in Clark and Subic. A lot of times, all it took was for the US Embassy to phone the coup leaders and say that the US would not recognize any illegitimately installed governments to stop the rebellion nonsense.

      As for the eventual eviction of the bases, that was the result of talks breaking down over matters like lease payments, term of stay, land use rights, the amount of annual military aid (in monetary terms), the legal status of US soliders (US wanted them to be subject to US law, not Philippine law, making them immune from prosecution for any crimes committed on Phil soil). The resurgent and shortsighted emotional reasoning that pervaded the halls of Congress and Senate decided that the Philippines no longer needed the security provided by Uncle Sam. Two years later, we discovered that China had stabbed us already–by building new installations on Mischief Reef. That’s how a whole new chapter of this Sino-Philippine conflict was started. Personally, between imperialistic US hegemony and an opaque, dictatorial Chinese hegemony, I’d rather much go with the former. China can’t handle human rights in its own backyard properly; how much more little countries like us?

      Posted by Ed Abadilla, Phil. Army (ret) | September 14, 2014, 4:49 pm
  2. I’m scared!!!!!!

    Posted by Santi Kampilan | January 14, 2014, 12:08 pm
  3. Do yo have any legal basis that China has the right to own those islands? Let’s talk the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in which China is also a signatory.

    Posted by Wilson | June 10, 2014, 1:27 pm

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  21. Pingback: In 1933 China didn’t know where Spratly Islands were; now they want to fight the Philippines for them | China Daily Mail - May 4, 2014

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