Sunday, January 26, 2014


Chinese Ships Patrol Area Contested By Malaysia RelatedStory by

James Shoal is located in the sea just north of Bruni on this NASA Image Malaysian territory surrounds Bruni. The Chinese province of Hainan is the large island in the upper northwest forming part of the enclosure of the Gulf of Tonkin. China claims all of the Spratly Islands and James Shoal as part of the Spratlys. China took the Paracel Islands by force from Vietnam. There are some disputes over a some of the Spratlys between the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam but the bulk of the Spratlys are territory of the Philippines under UNCLOS and Philippine legislation passed to implement UNCLOS. Legally, where the Philippines might be subject o an unfavorable ruling by a UN tribunal the disputed islands would pass to one or more of the neighboring claimants, not China which has no legitimate claim.  

` The closest point of  undisputed Chinese territory, the Island province of Hainan, is situated relative to the closest point of the Malaysian contiguous territory, near Kinabalu by a separation of over a thousand air miles across a vast sea. There can be absolutely no conceivable legal claim by China to James Shoal, a shallows deep within (80 miles from shore) Malaysia's internationally recognized Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Not only does the sheer distance from China make the Chinese claim impossible but geologically the shoal is considered part of the continental shelf of Borneo, a near Texas sized island shared by three nations with Malaysia occupying the China Seas coast. Under the present United Nations International Law of the Sea Convention  (UNCLOS)there are some allowances for extensions of EEZs beyond 200 miles from the mainland where it can be shown that a nation's continental shelf extends beyond that presumed limit. There is absolutely no provision for a nation to extend its EEZ across open ocean and onto the continental shelf of another nation, under any circumstances.

  Yet in April a maritime surveillance ship of China installed steel markers on the shoal, declaring it territory of China. Worse, this month the Chinese Navy amphibious landing craft CHANGBAISHAN and two destroyers visited the Zengmu Reef section of the Shoal. A ceremony was held aboard ships in which officers and sailors took an "oath of determination" to "safeguard the country's sovereignty and maritime interests", noting that China claims the shoal as its southern national boundary. Then to add insult to injury the ships fired weapons over the shoal, discharging naval artillery within the EEZ of another nation. Frankly given the absolute impossibility of China's claim, the action was a symbolic declaration of war. 


 The principal ship used in the intrusion on to Zengmu Reef was the PLAN's CHANGBAISHAN this is significant. There were also two destroyers escorting the CHANGBAISHAN. Destroyers are sort of general purpose war ships and if China's intention was to run quickly in and claim "patrol hours" to beef up their claims of "effective administration" for their United Nations litigation one destroyer would have been sufficient. By the presence of the CHANGBAISHAN a large amphibious landing ship , air capable and carrying smaller landing craft in a well deck and having marines aboard signals something far more ominous. Where would this amphibious capability be aimed? They certainly didn't plan on sending marines to the shoal, there is no dry land. The Dragon was signaling Malaysia of its willingness to land in their territory and cut off any military threat to their ocean claim within Malaysia's peninsula and big island homeland.  This was a carefully planned, highly symbolic, and aggressive deployment. China is trying to leave no doubt to Malaysia, Singapore, and their neighbors that they must surrender their internationally recognized EEZ assets to the Dragon on demand or be prepared to be invaded and occupied. 

 China has acted almost equally aggressively with the close ally of the United States the Philippines. The relationship of the United States with the Philippines is different and closer than it is with Malaysia. The Philippines and the United States have had a Mutual Defense Treaty since 1952 and despite a disagreement over permanent U.S. bases some years back, the two nations have a very viable Visiting Forces Agreement. More over there are many family ties between the two nations, many American families of Philippine descent have relatives in the Philippines. Many older Philippine citizens have spent some time on active duty with the U.S. Navy. In plain and simple terms the United States and the Philippines relationship is more like family than nation to nation.

 The Dragon has little doubt that an an overt and unmistakable act of war against the Philippines will be considered like a direct attack on Pearl Harbor by a large number of Americans, especially the over whelming majority of Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard veterans (59 million Naval vets alone).  But China keeps the pressure up on the Philippines and the Philippine response has been to beef up their naval and Coast Guard forces and move closer to Japan, the formerly much feared WW II occupier of the Philippines. Japan is attempting to modify its constitution to allow it to enter into reciprocal security arrangements with other nations. The Philippines have publicly lifted objections to Japan's naval build up and have accepted Japanese naval aid in the form of patrol craft gifts and loans. A Dragon misstep in the Philippines or Japanese waters before they reach their publicly stated goal of "driving the U.S.Navy back to Pearl harbor" would be a disaster.

 Presently China has more war ships than anyone, but the U.S.aircraft carrier advantage to China stands at 10 to 1 with the U.S. skillfully operating super carriers while China attempts to learn how to operate its first carrier. Presently the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force is running neck and neck with India for fourth largest navy in the world. Acting in concert with the U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet, Japan and U.S. forces would make rather short work of the Peoples Liberation Army's Navy (Plan) of China any time in the next three to ten years.

 However the obligation of the United States to rush to the defense of Malaysia is not as clear. The U.S. and Malaysia enjoy strong security cooperation and excellent military to military relations but do not have a mutual defense treaty. The U.S. has a Strategic Framework Agreement with Singapore, but again this is short of a mutual defense treaty. More over U.S. Malaysian relations are complicated a bit by Philippine / Malaysian disputes over some of the same islands that China demands. Around the edges of the EEZs of Malaysia and the Philippines the two nations have not formally settled their EEZ boundaries in conformance with UNCLOS guidelines. While the U.S. wishes to maintain neutrality in these matters it could be very sticky to have mutual defense treaties with two or more nations that might conceivably exchange fire over a disputed island or two.

 The Dragon is exploiting the lack of unity of the island states". China claims the entire China Seas East and South as its own private lake out to the last tiny fly specks of land not inhabited including islands within the territorial sea vice EEZ of the Philippines. Once the Dragon has taken the maritime regions of its large island neighbors in clear cut violation of international law, why should it not then go on and occupy these states until they produce a government willing to serve as a vassal state to the Dragon? It is imperative that the Island states from Malaysia to Japan unite, settle all regional differences and present a united front to this hungry beast. While the U.S. may get led reluctantly into a naval shoot out when the Dragon finally steps over the line, it can't lead the effort at regional unity. Even a very few of China's disputes are arguable. Most of the disputes between other neighbors over some of these islands have some merit on both sides. The United States has no horse in the island races. Any U.S. led movement toward regional unity will look at best like the efforts of an interloper, and at worse like imperialism. A united face must be found soon, the dragon is at the door. He has no intention of going away, he has to be driven away, and Malaysia may have just been moved to the appetizer position on the Dragon's table.  For years Malaysia has tried for good diplomatic and trade relations with China. Being separated by a thousand miles a mutual dispute seemed unlikely. Then the Dragon learned to swim.

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