Sunday, February 18, 2018

Will China Fight to Fence Off the South China Sea?

China is building island military bases in the South China Sea (sometimes literally building the islands). We say it won't affect our fleet's actions. That applies to peacetime, of course.

China keeps building up its ability to assert control over the South China Sea, which China claims is almost entirely their territorial waters. A Philippines paper publicized the Chinese island-building:

On February 5, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published a series of aerial photos of China’s seven outposts in the Spratly Islands. The photos, most of which were taken in late 2017 by an unspecified patrol aircraft from an altitude of 5,000 feet (1,500 meters), offered glimpses of Beijing’s military facilities at a level of detail rarely seen before. They also reinforced a message that AMTI delivered most recently in December: these artificial islands now host substantial, largely complete, air and naval bases, and new construction continues apace despite diplomatic overtures between China and its fellow claimants.

Our Navy says that this won't affect us:

A Navy officer aboard a mammoth U.S. aircraft carrier brimming with F18 fighter jets said Saturday that American forces would continue to patrol the South China Sea wherever “international law allows us” when asked if China’s newly built islands could restrain them in the disputed waters. ...

“International law allows us to operate here, allows us to fly here, allows us to train here, allows us to sail here, and that’s what we’re doing and we’re going to continue to do that,” Hawkins said on the flight deck of the 95,000-ton warship, which anchored at Manila Bay while on a Philippine visit.

That's peacetime access, of course. Assuming one of our ships doesn't ram an island, China can't stop us from sailing there at will no matter how many island bases China builds and no matter how loudly they complain.

Now if China shoots at our ships or sends their maritime militia to ram and foul our ships sailing in the South China Sea, that's another matter altogether.

Then we'll have to neutralize or capture those island bases.