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Flirting With War in the South China Sea

Updated on December 8, 2018
Map showing missile locations and ranges.
Map showing missile locations and ranges.

In the past five years, China has positioned itself as the gatekeeper to the South China sea. The area has numerous islands that the Chinese have occupied and have created air and naval bases on Subi, Mischief , and Fiery reefs. They claim that Scarborough Island is theirs and basically stole the island from the Philippines (since they did nothing to stop them). Off the coast of Vietnam, they have taken Woody Island in the Paracels and proceeded to create an air and naval base. All of the islands they possess now have radar, EW jamming,HQ-9 (similar to the Russian S-300 missiles), and Anti-ship missiles capable of striking out hundreds of miles.

The West, namely America, Australia, have done zero to stop the Chinese. The time has long past as it all started five years ago. Despite the Obama and Trump positions on this area, neither attempted to halt the Chinese when they first started the built up. The only resistance has been sailing in close proximity and claiming the ocean belongs to no one. But, the Chinese are getting more bold about controlling shipping lanes through this area.

When China feels capable in the near future, they could easily shut down the shipping lanes and transit through this area with their numerous assets able to strike using anti-ship missiles. Even American naval units are vulnerable when a swarm of anti-ship missiles attack a single target, as the swarm simply overloads the defenses and it only takes one missile to get through.

One could say, it's a little late now. China can take control of the South China Sea and threaten the world's shipping lanes and challenge the West, if not now, surely within another 5-7 years. They could use this leverage to threaten or bully its more local neighbors in business deals, the exploration and mining of oil and other natural resources claimed by an assortment of countries in the region. If China controls the sea, development of this resources will be difficult unless China is part of it. This has already happened with the Philippines, where China has partnered with them to develop off shore oil reserves.

If China did close the South China Sea, the USN intervention is questionable. The Philippines is no longer an American supporter as it once was. What exactly would the USN do? Bully their way through the area on full alert to challenge the Chinese? Would America take the first shot with cruise missiles striking their bases in that area? Would the Chinese take the first shot by sinking a ship?

China owns much of the American debt. They have economic leverage on the USA, to some degree. What ever happens there in the future is a ticking time bomb that will go off when China becomes a superpower. This is not far off.


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