U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told Congress that Chinese plans to add military facilities to a third western Pacific location could lead to a regional conflict.
The defense secretary described the location as “a piece of disputed territory that, like other disputes in that region, has the potential to lead to military conflict.”
Carter responded to questioning about new military facilities being developed by China on a disputed island known as Scarborough Shoal, approximately 120 miles from the location of the former strategic US Naval Base at Subic Bay on the northern Philippine island of Luzon.
Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, “That’s particularly concerning to us, given its proximity to the Philippines.”
Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan (R.) discussed the strategic important of Chinese military development on Scarborough Shoal as completing the third vertex in a triangle of Chinese island building expansion projects that also have included militarization in the Spratly Islands and on Woodly Island in the South China Seas.
The three locations provide China with a triangle of strategically located bases, which enable them to control the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Sullivan said, “The Chinese have already established two legs of that triangle. The fighters and radars are part of that radius that you see around the Scarborough Shoal.”
Sullivan told the Washington Free Beacon he was “very concerned” that the Chinese will operate missiles and warplanes so close to Subic Bay.
“In addition to seizing and building on a shoal long claimed by the Philippines, a militarized Scarborough – with an air-search radar – would give the PRC full overwatch of flights in and out of northern Philippines, and the deployment of coastal defense cruise missiles there would allow the PRC to hold U.S. forces based and operating in the Philippines at risk,” he said. “The strategic implications for U.S. and allied forces operating in Southeast Asia are undeniable.”
Tensions in the region have escalated since the Chinese began dredging the seas and creating their bases for operations in the three locations. The Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Philippines and Indonesian governments have all voiced concerns about the Chinese expansion and consulted the U.S. for support and guidance individually and collectively via ASEAN venues.
The Chinese downplay all concerns. The Chinese characters which comprise the name of the country – middle kingdom – imply it is the center of the world. They feel it is within their right to “re-claim” territories that they believe were once within their control.
Col Wu Qian, spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, called the reports of the build up “media hype.” He referred to Scarborough, which is well beyond Chinese territorial waters, by the Chinese name, Huangyan Island, and said it “is an inherent territory of China and China has the right to take measures to deal with various kinds of threats and safeguard the sovereignty and security of China.”
Although the U.S. officially drew naval forces from Subic Bay, Philippines in 1992, the U.S. Navy began last year to deliver material and personnel for annual joint military exercises with the Philippines as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Former Pacific Fleet intelligence chief, retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, said it appears China, by developing Scarborough, is establishing ‘chokepoints’ on the Luzon Strait.
“When combined with the seven new islands at the southern end of the Spratly Islands, a new naval base at the northern entrance will provide the PRC the ability to effectively control the freedom of navigation and free access to markets for all nations who ply the waters of the South China Sea.”
“To take no action is to cede the entirety of the South China Sea to Beijing and their concepts of ‘freedom of navigation’ with socialist characteristics,” he continued. “Time is hort and action, even in this presidential election year, is required now.”
h/t csmonitor, freebeacon
Join the discussion in the chat room
[flyzoo-embed-chatroom id=’5723c405bb547e1cc00ba2d6′ width=’auto’ height=’640px’]