Inquirer article (condensed)


Original article with maps and photos
eastwind journals 165
By Bernie Lopez
Permission is granted to re-publish with credits and notification.
Disclaimer – the views in this article are the author’s alone.


we pray for peace Lord
in a troubled world
as we return to Your fold
forgive us our sins
as we forgive others


they wait for me to stumble and err
so that they can pounce on me
take their vengeance and prevail
but the Lord is with me
my mighty champion
my  enemies will not triumph
they will be put to shame
and wallow in confusion forever
Jeremiah 20:10-11


The geopolitical premise is that there seems to be no solution yet on site. First, China will never submit to a court where they may lose. Philippine efforts at The Hague will lead to nowhere. Second, China is in despair for energy to keep its economic growth afloat, without which there may be one cosmic crash never before seen in human history. Third, China fears US ‘encirclement’ due to Obama’s Pivot to Asia, which will bring 70% of US naval forces into the Asia Pacific. China believes confrontation with the US is inevitable, and they are preparing feverishly for it. They will resort to brinkmanship in facing the US Navy in the Spratleys. They are right now militarizing the Spratleys on a massive scale, pouring billions of dollars.


China is working feverishly to put up what is perceived as three large naval bases with long runways at Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef and Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal in the Spratleys, and at Woody (Yongxing) Island in the Paracels. They are working 24/7 before they are pre-empted by a US initiative. This is a geopolitical game changer that may craft the destiny of the Asia Pacific. This development implies 1) rapid military escalation on both sides in the next ten years, not to mention Japan’s participation, 2) the inevitability of a US-China naval showdown, 3) the Philippines becoming a major collateral damage. The Filipino will be a pawn in a battle of giants, and may die for Pivot to Asia which is not to his interest.


China is building structures in six other reef facilities (there may be others) – 1) Mischief (Panganiban), reputed to have oil and gas, 2) Johnson South (Mabini or Chigua), near Johnson North controlled by the Vietnamese, 3) Kennan, 4) Gaven (Burgos), 5) Cuarteron (Calderon/Huayang), and 6) Subi (Zamora). Military observers say this is tantamount to a full scale invasion of marine territories of Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and the Philippines. (See map and photos.)
Click photo to blow up.
Fiery Cross (Kagitigan) Reef, perceived future naval base no. 1.

Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal, perceived future naval base no. 2.

Woody (Yongxing) Island, perceived future naval base no. 3 (Paracels)

The 3 perceived naval bases forming a strategic triangle.


Mischief (Panganiban) Reef

Johnson South (Mabini / Chigua) Reef.

Kennan Reef.

Gaven (Burgos) Reef.

Cuarteron (Calderon / Huayang) Reef.

Subi (Zamora) Reef.

In late July 2015, a US Navy P8 surveillance plane reported 2,000 acres reclaimed by China in just two years of massive dredging and reclamation at Fiery Cross. China admits Fiery Cross can host a military facility, and says, if the US tries to stop them, there will be war.


The naval base at Woody would protect oil rigs close to Vietnam. Fiery Cross and Second Thomas are seen as strategic central bases. Fiery Cross has a 3-kilometer runway which can host warplanes and missiles with a range of 1,000 kilometers or more. China is also building a 300-meter deep-sea port that can accommodate undersea nuclear missile silos and nuclear submarine berths, similar to those at the old Subic naval base, a carrier refueling depot, and a large rapid deployment force.


Once completed, China’s perceived twin naval-air-force bases at Fiery Cross and Second Thomas could easily dwarf the US Subic-Clark Field bases. China will have a military edge over the entire South China Sea on a 2,000-kilometer radius, with satellite-driven radars, mobile twin-hulled mini-carriers with deadly drones, stealth warplanes that can reach Subic or Clark in minutes. The P8 surveillance was suspected to have originated from Clark Field.


The 8 defense locations the US wants on Philippine soil, if approved by the Supreme Court under the new mutual defense deal called EDCA, will pit China’s Fiery Cross and Second Thomas naval bases against the eight EDCA US defense system, exposing Philippne population centers near the eight EDCA points if there is a war.


China knows the US is helpless to pre-empt the twin naval bases, that is why it is so brazen as to continue rapid militarization. China knows the US cannot afford to go to war at this time. All it can do is sit and watch, make diplomatic threats, continue daredevil surveillance and report progress to the international media. Meanwhile, China is pouring billions of dollars on the Spratleys.


Counter-Game Changer – Naval Blockade


The US is also capable of brinkmanship. A possible US counter-game-changer is a pre-emptive naval blockade of the Fiery Cross and Second Thomas naval-bases-to-be, similar to that during the Cuban Crisis, to stop construction. The blockade can pre-empt a future bigger war, but it can also trigger a sudden all-out war.


To China, a US naval blockade is ridiculous and is not going to happen. Will the US have an Admiral Patton in response? The US must keep in mind that the glory of carrier duels against Japan in World War II is all gone. With the advent of intelligent missiles, carriers are now vulnerable. A naval war today will be far more deadly with Mac-10 missiles, invisible nuclear subs and killer stealth-drones. It is in fact unpredictable, considering that both sides have secret weapons no one knows about. China’s arsenals have secretly grown ten fold in the last two decades. (Read more on China-US confrontation at carrier killer and carrier becoming obsolete at xxx).
The Ground Force Factor


Any US-China confrontation in the South China Sea will essentially be naval – warships, carriers with warplanes, subs, missiles. The presence of Chinese troops at Fiery Cross and the eight other reefs can be a critical factor since the US cannot just send troops, as evident in Syria against the ISIS. Rapid mobilization of troops in strategic reefs and isles is essential in a major confrontation within scattered islands in a vast area.


The Filipino can be the major collateral damage, reduced to a David in between two Goliaths with no slingshot on hand in his own backyard. The US may pressure President Aquino to field more Filipino troops in the absence of American troops. This would make the Filipinos pawns in a war of giants. We are not talking of bravery here but lives in a one-sided battle.


The best Filipinos can do at this time is continue and expand ground surveillance and intelligence teams to report real time developments. In Second Thomas Reef, where Filipino soldiers occupied an abandoned hospital ship named BRP Sierra Madre, they reported Chinese naval encroachments, as they happened.


As of this writing, the Philippines occupies ten reefs, all with troops – 1) Flat Island (Patag), 2) Lankiam Cay (Panatag), 3) Loaita Island (Kota), 4) Nanshan Island (Lawak), 5) Northeast Cay (Parola), 6) Thitu Island (Pag-asa), 7) West York Island (Likas), 8) Commodore (Rizal), 9) Irving Reef (Balagtas), and 10) Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin).


The scant scattered presence of Filipino troops in ten reefs can easily be over-run by large Chinese forces or naval fire during heightened conflict. China will not hesitate to be a bully, as in Tibet, unmindful of its international image. Filipino troops may be ‘safe’ for now, until there is a confrontation.  (Source – China-Spratley-Presence).


Meanwhile, Japan has ‘re-interpreted’ its Peace Constitution to allow troops and defense systems on foreign soil. In partnership with the US and the Philippines, Japan plans to build defense systems to keep the Taiwan and Luzon Straits open, vital for oil ships enroute to Japan, from being closed by China. Japan is the dark horse that may tip the balance. If China attempts to close Taiwan or Luzon, war is inevitable, as in Egypt trying to close the Suez. (Read more on Philippine–Japan mutual defense at inquirer-ph-japan-defense-treaty.
China is not Invincible


China reportedly has a powerful lobby against a new bill defining Philippine territory. Chinese companies are secretly fielding Chinese labor in Philippine contracts. Some have been interviewed by Media.


In a heightened conflict, there are two scenarios. First, Chinese locals may participate in favor of China, as in Japanese farmers in Mindanao during World War II giving intelligence information to the Japanese invading forces. Second, Chinese locals may become a target, like the Japanese Americans in California and Hawaii during World War II. Protests against local Chinese can easily happen in the Philippines, which has by far a larger Chinese population, most having have been integrated into Filipino society for centuries now. Another factor is – local Chinese controls about 40% of the local economy.


In Vietnam, a Chinese oil rig 260 kilometers from the Vietnam shore east of the Paracels, was harassed by Vietnamese water cannons, resulting in a ‘bumping war’ with Chinese naval ships. This triggered massive violent protests against Chinese residents in Saigon. China was forced to evacuate them quickly. The oil rig was eventually abandoned. China is not that invincible. They can succumb to people power pressures, but they can also retaliate by simply boycotting Philippine exports, like what they did to our bananas years ago.


Can the Filipino match the Vietnamese bravado and brinkmanship in defying the giant? Can a massacre of Filipino troops in the Spratleys trigger racial violence in Manila? How will the Filipino react when push turns to shove?
Towards a Nuclear Confrontation and World War III


The optimists say there will be no war because both sides cannot afford one at this time. True, but for how long? When an energy crisis or a deep recession occurs, will push come to shove? The pessimists say World War III is just a matter of time. China is courting anti-American Islamic nations for trade, and may yet dominate the Middle East, using bread not bullets, unlike the Americans. War may fuel the global economy, but it may also fuel global financial meltdown or an apocalyptic nuclear holocaust.


a time for valor
it is the time to be brave
throw caution to the wind
be radical and incisive
for a crisis of vast proportion
is descending upon us
without warning it will come
like a thief in the night
to snatch away our inner peace
our joys and pleasures
our health and wealth
but most importantly
our children and their children
ariel / eastwind



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