2016: China and "South China Sea"

The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 14, Issue 6, No. 4, March 15, 2016.
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.

China Not Leaving the “South China Sea”

Peter Lee

America is learning that the South China Sea is called the South "China" Sea for a reason, despite patriotic efforts in various nations to rename it the "West Philippine Sea" or "East Vietnamese Sea".
At his press conference on the sidelines of the National People's Congress, PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared:

    "China was the first to discover, name, develop, and administer the various islands of the southern          seas. Our ancestors have tilled those fields and toiled there amid hardships for generations. We know      this place and love this place better than anyone else, and more than any other people we wish for        the peace and stability of the southern sea and freedom of navigation."

Wang Yi's flowery rhetoric about China's sole historical claim to all the islands of the southern seas and their development is ahistorical nonsense.

But the second part, about the PRC's paramount interest and growing predominance in the South China Sea is closer to the truth. This is because the PRC is spending a lot of money, effort, and diplomatic capital to make it true.

The People's Republic of China sails through the South China Sea, flies through it, fishes in it, erects towns and airfields, sends in cruise ships and commercial jet liners on regular schedules, patrols it with an armada of coast guard and naval vessels, maintains forward military bases in it, builds faux islands in it, occasionally prospects with in it with its massive semisubmersible drilling rig, dots it with radar stations and lighthouses, relies for it as a vital energy corridor…

For the United States, the South China Sea seems to exist as a blank slate upon which the US seeks to project its narratives amid an intensifying geostrategic competition with the PRC.

Take the immense uproar in January-February 2016 over the PRC placing surface to air missiles "in the South China Sea". The report was floated by a source at the Department of Defense through Fox News, endorsed by a spokesman for Taiwan's Ministry of National Defense, and was the impetus for a global round of hysterics predicated on the claim that the PRC was repudiating Xi Jinping's pledge not to militarize islands in the South China Sea and was escalating "tensions" in the SCS.

As it transpired, the surface to air missiles (whose deployment the PRC never confirmed) were sighted on Woody Island. Woody Island is a real island in the Paracels, an archipelagic cluster near Hainan seized from Vietnam in 1974. There's been an airfield on the base for decades, the PRC expanded it in the last year to host fighter jets on cyclical deployments (permanent basing perhaps exposes the airframes to too much salt-air corrosion) and, indeed, the Admiral of the US Pacific Fleet acknowledged that the PLA put surface to air missiles on Woody Island at least two times previously without the US government raising any objections.  ...



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