They’re building up some real muscle over there in the South China Sea,
specifically on tiny specks of isles named for an English seaman who captained
prisoner ships in the 1840s.
That would be Dick Spratly, and the islands and reefs that bear his name could
be the next hair trigger in Asia.
As David Letterman might have said about cuts of meat, it really is time to get
to know your Spratly
For example, these aren’t Jenner’s chromosomes.
Nor are they errant amoeba or paramecia.
These are satellite photos of the aforementioned microscopic Spratlys, which are
claimed by China and other countries nearby, including the Philippines, Vietnam,
Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
China is trying to big foot them all and it could be the next big conflict in
Maybe even the world.
Not only is there an abundance of fish and marine resources, but there are also
oil reserves deep down beyond the ocean floor.
The Philippines, in particular, is concerned because of its claim to Thitu
Island (also known as Pagasa Island, adjacent to Sandy Cay).
The Philippines’ ragtag navy defending its Spratly holdings includes a rusted
ship that’s run aground, a kind of placeholder to let people know that it has
more than just dibs on Thitu and the other islands in what the Philippines calls
the West Philippine Sea.
But a constant threat to the southwest of Thitu is nearby Subi Reef, where China
has been reclaiming land and has installed a three-story building.
Last week, the U.S. Navy and an embedded CNN crew
activity on another of the eight Spratlys claimed by China, Fiery Cross Reef.
The Navy’s operation unveiled an early warning radar installation, military
barracks, a lookout tower, and a runway long enough to handle every aircraft
in the Chinese military.
It was referred to as China’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier.”
When the surveillance plane was detected, China sent out a loud warning, which
in turn seemed to inspire this week’s military status White Paper.
Said China spokesman Col. Yang Yujun to reporters: “There are people
deliberately stirring up such discussions, with the aim of smearing the
Chinese military and raising regional tensions–we can’t rule out an intention
to find excuses for justifying future action by certain countries.”
And that would be who exactly? The Philippines? Or its ally the U.S.?
Meanwhile, China dismisses building on the reefs, saying it was no different
than the construction of homes and roads in a new subdivision.
Yeah, but your subdivision might have a Wal-Mart nearby. This one has its own
Chinese military airstrip.
This weekend, U.S. and China defense officials are scheduled to meet at a
Expect more Spratly rattling.
As for the Philippines, it will hope its ally can do some good.
In the meantime, the revelations of China’s buildup in the Spratlys only
confirm what many Filipinos have long known.
China’s not backing down, and it’s only getting more aggressive. It’s making
some American Filipinos, like New York resident Loida Lewis, extremely
concerned with some of the recent actions by the Philippine government.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert
Del Rosario (left) listens to Ms. Loida Nicolas Lewis of U.S. Pinoys for Good
Governance. Philippines Ambassador Jose Cuisia (right) joins the conversation
(USPGG photo by Eric Lachica)
Lewis notes China never disputed the Philippines’ claim to the Spratlys, which
was submitted to a UN Tribunal. But once the Philippines wins there, Lewis
fully expects China to ignore the decision and make the Philippines enforce
In a letter to Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino, Lewis wrote:
China knows that possession is 99% of the law. That explains the rush of
China to reclaim the land in the West Philippine Sea knowing full well that
when the UNCLOS Tribunal decides in favor of the Philippines, the United
Nations is powerless to execute its judgment against China.
Lewis is also concerned that this month the Philippines is even thinking about
joining China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
Lewis said that would be “like a father receiving funds knowing that the
funder is raping his daughter. He ignores that he and his daughter belong to
one family. The Republic of the Philippines is one country, and we cannot
separate financial gain from territorial integrity!”
Lewis and her group, the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, have been calling
for a boycott of Chinese goods since last year to help publicize their cause.
Another protest will take place on June 12, Philippine Independence day.
Multiple demonstrations are planned for
Walmart, Macy’s, and Apple stores in cities around the country, including New
York, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco.
It’s largely a symbolic act. But Lewis wants the world to know the Spratlys
are no joke.
It’s time to get to know your Spratlys.
Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page. The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.