War in Scarborough Shoal?
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - April 16, 2016 - 10:00am

The announcement that there will be joint US-Philippine patrols in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is the result of China’s plan to build a base in the Scarborough Shoal located  only 123 miles from the Philippine island of Luzon.

US Senator John McCain, chair of the US Senate armed services committee believes that China’s plan to build on Scarborough is meant to secure existing gains in the region and pursue new forms of coercion. In a recent op-ed published in the London based Financial Times, McCain said: “This [plan] could include further reclamation and militarization at strategic locations such as Scarborough Shoal, attempts to expel another country from a disputed territory, or the declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in all or part of the South China Sea.”

There is a report that Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue of Chinese activities in the Scarborough shoal during a recent meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Washington D.C. According to the report, Wang told Kerry that Chinese expansion in the Scarborough would take place.

China’s plans for the Scarborough shoals were actually confirmed when a Chinese website posted a detailed dredging plan for Scarborough including a runway, power systems, residences and harbor capable of supporting Chinese navy warships. I have seen the graphic of the website. The airport and runway are on the northern end of the proposed artificial island. There is also a water treatment plant with three Chinese guided missile frigates at a wharf at the southern opening of the Shoal.

One of the first to voice concern was Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Richardson who told Reuters last month: “I think we see some surface ships activity and those sorts of things, survey type of activity going on. That’s an area of concern...a next possible area of reclamation.”

China’s rapid expansion plan is also in anticipation of an international court’s ruling on the Philippine claim to parts of the Spratlys. The ruling is expected to be in favor of the Philippine claim. China clearly intends to defy any favorable ruling and establish de facto control over disputed territories.

The US-Philippine joint patrols now bring to the forefront another hot button issue. If Philippine naval vessels and personnel are attacked by Chinese maritime vessels, will the United States actively support and protect those Philippine vessels and personnel?

China has accused the United States and the Philippines of starting a new Cold War. This argument is clearly disingenuous. China’s territorial aggressions and its refusal to follow international rule of law has triggered this renewal of Cold War mentality. Hopefully, this cold war will not lead to a “hot war” especially over the Scarborough Shoal and Philippine territory.

Japan: Awakening of sleeping giant

Japan is the third largest economy in the world. It has the capability to become a major force far beyond its present role now. In the 1970s and up to the 1980s, Japan was considered as the next Pacific superpower. But during the past quarter-century, Japan turned insular and isolationist while the world struggled with crisis in the Middle East; genocides in Africa; NATO-Russian confrontation in Eastern Europe and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. While most of the world became targets of extremist terrorist violence and suicide bombers, Japan remained a calm and peaceful society.

This is not new in Japanese history. Until the 19th century, Japan remained a closed society and relationship with the outside world was limited and severely controlled. During the first half of the 20th century, Japan became an imperialist power and suffered a humiliating defeat during the Second World War. In 1947, its constitution abolished the right to wage war and the country became an economic superpower.

Today, Japan is facing security challenges that are posing as immediate threats to its political and economic stability. The preservation of two vital sea lanes of transportation and communication – East China Sea and South China Sea – is forcing Japan to assume a bigger burden in defending the area from further territorial aggressions by China.

The problem for Japan is that the gap between the military capabilities of the two nations has become extremely wide. The recent Chinese military budget estimate was $216 billion while Japan’s budget was $45.8 billion. China’s coercive behavior in Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and the building of artificial islands and bases in the South China Sea has seriously endangered the freedom of navigation in these lanes through which most Japanese trade and energy sources pass.

In a recently passed legislation – March 29, 2016 – Japan now has set three new conditions where it is allowed to use force. The most relevant measure states: “ When an armed attack against Japan occurs or when an attack against a foreign country that is in a close relationship with Japan occurs and as a result threatens Japan’s survival and poses a clear danger to fundamentally overturn people’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Japan now must confront the realities of the new world order with an aggressive China as a new military superpower. Japan can either continue to depend on the United States and its allies to defend Japanese interests in the region or it can contribute its fair share of the burden by joining an alliance of countries, including the Philippines, that seeks to preserve international law in the conduct of geopolitical affairs. Like Germany in the European Union, it is my conclusion that Japan will eventually have no choice but to accept a greater share of leadership in this part of the world.

Summer creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout : April 23, 30, May 21, 28 and June 4 (10:30am-12nn except June 4, 1:30pm-3pm)

Wonder of Words Workshop:  May 2, 4, 6, 10, 11 and 13 (1:30-3:30pm for 7-10 years old and 4-6pm for 11-17 years old) with guest authors, Manix Abrera and Mina Esguerra.

Classes will be held at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street. For registration and fee details, 0917-6240196 / writethingsph@gmail.com

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Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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