(Eagle News) – China’s real intention or “grand design” in establishing air and naval bases in the South China Sea is to continue to enforce the nine-dash line, although this was already invalidated by a recent ruling of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
This was according to Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio who detailed how China increasingly creeped into territorial waters of other countries, including that of the Philippines since 1946, or after World War 2.
In a special lecture held at the New Era University on Friday, March 9, Carpio detailed the actions of China that allegedly were designed to enforce this nine-dash line so China could use all the areas within for economic and military purposes.
This he said had become pretty obvious after China had expanded its presence in the South China Sea since World War II and more recently set up air and naval bases in Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs which are all being claimed by the Philippines also.
“So what is China’s grand design in the South China Sea. The grand design of China is obvious now. China wants to control the South China Sea for economic and military purposes. China wants all the islets, reefs, rocks, fisheries, oil gasoline resources within the nine-dash line,” the Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice explained in his lecture.
Carpio detailed how in the last 70 years, specifically from 1946 to 2017, China had made its move to expand its territory to include those which are considered under the exclusive economic zone of other ASEAN member nations, including the Philippines.
“China really claims 85.7 percent of the South China Sea. Of course, that’s against international law,” Carpio noted.
-Hainan, China’s southernmost territory-
He explained that China before 1946 only considered the island of Hainan as its southernmost territory, citing historical records of China from the Tang to the Ching dynasty.
“Before World War II, during the entire Chinese history – from the Tang to the Ching dynasty, the southernmost territory of China was Hainan,” he said during his lecture at NEU Hall.
“China never stationed a single sailor or soldier in the South China Sea, outside of Hainan. Not in the Paracels, not in the Spratlys, not in the Scarborough Shoal,” he said.
The acting Supreme Court justice, who has studied the issue of the South China Sea as part of his advocacy, said that before World War II, no country occupied the Spratlys.
With the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese seized the Paracels island which was previously occupied by the French. Japan then put up a submarine base in Itu Aba which is the largest island in the Spratlys. In fact, that submarine base was used by the Japanese in the invasion of the Philippines.
-China makes it move after 1946-
But when the Japanese forces were defeated, China made its move, Carpio said.
“When the Japanese forces left the South China Sea, China seized half of the Paracels. The other half was regained by the French and the South Vietnamese inherited it,” he said.
This was under the so-called Koumintang government.
In 1946, China also seized Itu Aba.
“For the first time in China’s history, China moved its defense perimeter outside of Hainan and peeked into the nine-dash line,” Carpio explained.
In 1974, China seized the other half of the Paracels from the South Vietnamese and the latter suffered casualties in the battle that ensued after the Vietnamese navy, in an inspection tour of the islands, saw Chinese military presence in the area.
This is now known as the Battle of the Paracel Islands — a military engagement between the naval forces of China and South Vietnam in the Paracel Islands on January 19, 1974 – which was an attempt by the South Vietnamese navy to expel the Chinese navy from the vicinity.
After 13 years, in 1987, China then set up a radar weather station in Fiery Cross reef. Fiery Cross Reef, also known as Kagitingan Reef, is also within the country’s extended continental shelf, said Carpio.
“At that time, China said we are putting up a radar weather station here in Fiery Cross Reef to help UNESCO in its global oceanic survey,” explained the Supreme Court acting chief justice.
“So it was a very harmless move, nobody objected because China was being very kind. China said we will help the world in its global oceanic survey,” he said.
But from then on, China did not stop there. In 2014, it started reclamation activities in the reef and later transformed it as a naval base.
In 1988, China also seized Subi Reef from the Philippines, Carpio said.
“It was never even reported in the papers. We were not familiar with the law of the sea at that time,” he noted.
In that year, China also Johnson South Reef and had a skirmish with the Vietnamese soldiers who were protecting it, killing 69 Vietnamese soldiers in the process.
In 1995, China seized Mischief Reef from the Philippines which was widely reported in the papers. The Philippines only filed a diplomatic protest and was not able to drive away the Chinese, especially in view of what happed in the once-Vietnam controlled Johnson South Reef where China killed 69 Vietnames sailors who were trying to defend it.
Mischief Reef was a reef or coral atoll surrounding a large lagoon, and is located 250 kilometres (130 nmi) west of Palawan Island of the Philippines. It is reportedly rich in yet unexplored oil and gas fields.
China initially built structures on stilts in the area. The Philippine government protested these actions, but the Chinese government rejected the protest and said that the structures were shelter for fishermen. In 1999, another wave of protests from Manila occurred when China added more structures to Mischief Reef.
In 2012, China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines, and this was also widely reported in the papers.
In 2013, China then seized Locunia Shoal from Malaysia.
Carpio explained that this was how China expanded outside of Hainan towards the nine-dash line.
-China’s air and naval bases-
In the years that followed – 2014, 2015, 201 — China started to build air and naval bases, fortifying, militarizing its seven geologic features that it occupied in the Spratlys, he said.
“So why is China building its air and naval bases here, China will enforce the nine-dash line as its national territory, eating up 80 percent of our EEZ,” Carpio said.
“So that is what happened in the South China from 1946 to the present. China kept on pushing towards the nine-dash line, now with air and naval bases,” he said.
“The only reef that China occupies but has not built an air and naval base, is Scarborough Shoal, and my assessment, China will do that within the next five years,” the Supreme Court acting chief justice said in his recent lecture at the NEU hall.
-Setting up an air defense ID zone-
Carpio explained that China wanted to impose an “air defense ID zone” within the South China Sea, so it needed to put up a naval base in Scarborough shoal.
China needed a “triangle of air bases,” said Carpio, and a base in Scarborough Shoal would complete that, he said.
With this, he said China can monitor the entire South China Sea, it can declare an air defense ID zone.
It’s all a military strategy, where China needed to have an air and naval base that would ensure protection for its exit point in case it needed to fire nuclear armed submarines that will reach continental USA, said Carpio.
“Why? Because these nuclear armed submarines carry missiles, and China needed these submarines to retaliate against the US if the US will preemptively strike mainland China, destroy all the ICBMs of China, China can fight back with this nuclear armed submarines,” he said.
“And if China can fight back with nuclear armed submarines, a surprise attack by the US will be useless.”
“Now, the problem is these nuclear armed submarines, their missiles have a range of 7,500 kilometers, if those missiles are fired in the South China Sea, they will not reach continental USA, because that’s about 14,000 kilometers away,” Carpio explained in his lecture as he presented slides.
He explained that for China, it was important to secure Basi channel, an important passageway between Batanes and Orchid Island of Taiwan.
“So you have the Basi channel here, an international waterway, so these nuclear armed submarines must exit the Basi channel, fire their missiles in the mid-Pacific to hit the entire continental USA,” Carpio said.
So China has to protect its exit point here. That means it will have to build an air and naval base here, to protect it. That’s why I’m saying, China will have to reclaim Scarborough one day to have its air and naval bases. So that’s the geopolitics of the region,” he said.
The Supreme Court magistrate also explained another reason why China would need an air defense zone in the South China Sea.
“Of course today, you have US Poseidon planes flying here in the South China Sea. Those Poseidon planes can drop torpedoes from the air, destroying all the submarines of China, because those Poseidon planes can detect submarines under water,” he said.
“China therefore would need an air defense ID zone to drive away the US Poseidon planes, and also to drive away US warships and submarines operating in the South China Sea,” Carpio explained.
Last January, when the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest over the recent constructions done by China in Fiery Cross Reef, China maintained it was doing so because it was their “own territory.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China “is conducting peaceful construction in our own territory”, and that Beijing “has the need to build necessary territorial defense equipment”.
-Carpio: PHL should not concede sovereign rights –
Acting Chief Justice Carpio said that the Philippine government should have a stronger position on this and not concede ownership rights to China. He said and that the Philippines needs the help of the other countries in the world to convince the Chinese people that what had been taught to them regarding the nine-dash line was false.
“When the tribunal ruled on the nine-dash line, it was invalidated,” said Carpio.
“We cannot concede co-ownership with China. And the President cannot concede sovereign rights.”
He said that while China still would not want to recognize the UNCLOS ruling, the Philippines should still find a way to convince China that militarizing the South China Sea would not be good for China and even the ASEAN region.
“We should now bé telling the world help us enforce the ruling. That’s the only way. We must explain to the Chinese people what was told to them is totally false.
(Eagle News Service)