Monday, March 16, 2015

Artificial Islands Could Lead to Real War By Erick San Juan

Artificial Islands Could Lead to Real War By Erick San Juan

In a recent interview, former Air Force officer Rep. Francisco Acedillo, now party-list representative of the Magdalo Party, showed the latest maritime surveillance photos  that revealed how China’s land reclamation is expanding to cover all the seven reefs it occupied.

After China shall have garrisoned the disputed areas in the South China Sea, Acedillo said the arbitration decision and whatever its worth legally, will be irrelevant. The arbitration case will at the end of the day prove to be a policy of no strategy. “How poorly we have prepared for an eventuality of a challenge to the occupation of our islands,” Acedillo said. (Source: China’s latest expansion to deny PH access to Ayungin shoal by Tessa Jamandre, Vera Files)

A policy of no strategy? So, what else is new? Or maybe our ‘amboy’ leaders depended too much on the big brother’s help, which is actually just a big maybe if help will arrive if ever a clash with China will happen.

The rush in the construction of permanent structures by China in the contested area in the SCS (West Philippine Sea) is in line with the decision of the arbitration case filed by our government before the international tribunal that will be released next year.

The following explains why the rush, from Katy Lee’s article at :

There's an international legal fight over what counts as rocks versus islands.

Land reclamation is not in itself illegal, and Beijing points out that it’s not alone in using this tactic — Malaysia and Vietnam have both reclaimed land in the Spratlys.

But the issue is likely to come up at a UN tribunal where the Philippines is pursuing China over the wider territorial dispute. That’s because of a distinction that seems a little ridiculous but actually turns out to matter: the difference between rocks and islands.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the international agreement the Philippines is citing, "islands" have much more significant territorial rights than "rocks." Holders of islands gain what’s called an Exclusive Economic Zone, which infers key rights within 200 nautical miles of the coastline, including exclusive access to energy exploration.

China says the reefs it’s expanding are islands; the Philippines insists they’re a combination of rocks and "low-tide elevations," which carry fewer privileges.

As Gregory Poling (he worked for the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, which was founded by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). He is a fellow with the Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies and the Pacific Partners Initiative at CSIS), explains, the reason this matters is that geographical surveys in the South China Sea have traditionally been really poor. And the more China builds, the less obvious it is whether these snippets of land started off as rocks or as islands. Ingenious!

In any case, whatever the verdict at the UN, China is widely expected to ignore the results and merrily carry on with its building work.”

Actually, Beijing’s geostrategic move in the construction of military facility including a permanent aircraft carrier in the SCS is aimed in protecting its economic interests thereby creating another trade path through the US-controlled Malacca Straits.

Construction of an oil and gas pipeline across Burma and into China’s backyard and planned railway lines through Indochina are prime examples of Beijing actively creating alternative, secure trade routes.

In the South China Sea, its antics include creeping inside the 200 km exclusive economic zones, that all littoral players in the maritime dispute are entitled to – then refusing to have the disputes heard in the international courts.

“At this point, Beijing is building on almost every rock and low-tide elevation it occupies; to do any more would require pushing another claimant off a feature or occupying an unoccupied feature,” Poling said.

The synthetic islands of China in the South China Sea proved to be very beneficial to the Chinese in many aspects – a steady supply of fish and other marine life for human consumption and the great possibility of extracting oil and natural gas. Most of all, the limited freedom of navigation and communication and eventually the control of airspace through the ADIZ in the SCS.

Favorable may be the UN decision, the synthetic islands might create a real war in the offing.

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