Philippine Daily Inquirer – February 29, 2016
Yolanda (Haiyan) Award-winning Disaster Photos
eastwind journals 178


By Bernie Lopez
Disclaimer – the views in this article are those of the author alone.
Permission is granted to re-publish with credits and notification.


With the recent report from the US and Taiwan of Chinese missiles in Woody Island (Yongxing in Chinese) within the Paracels, China has upped the ante in the future seemingly-inevitable naval confrontation with the US in the South China Sea. This signals ‘Defcon One’, the beginnings of eminent danger and heightened threats.


Woody is strategic to China, commanding a missile range at the heart of the Paracels, the northern portion of the South China Sea. There is oil in this area and China wants it by hook or by crook. A few years ago, China unilaterally built an oil rig a mere 260 kilometers from the Vietnam shore, and in panic, the Vietnamese, in a ‘bumping war’, sent boats with water cannons to harass Chinese naval vessels guarding the oil rig. Vietnam also launched a massive nationwide boycott of Chinese goods, forcing China to abandon the oil rig. With the threat of missiles at Woody, China may revive the oil rig and other oil explorations near the Vietnamese shore.


Together with two other islands in the south within the Spratleys, Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan in Pilipino) and Second Thomas Reef (Ayungin in Pilipino), Woody in the north forms a potential ‘missile triangle’ across the vast South China Sea. All three have long airstrips capable of servicing heavy-load planes, which are the infrastructure for rapid build-up of submarine missile siloes and for quick troop mobilization in case of a confrontation. Missiles from Woody can reach Vietnam in the east and Taiwan in the south, and missiles from Fiery Cross and Second Thomas, if they are the next in missile build-up, can reach the Philippines in the west, especially perceived future US defense revivals of former bases Subic and Clark Field. With missiles at Fiery Reef and Second Thomas, Subic and Clark are just a stone’s throw away.


Scope of China’s potential missile triangle, a military influence on the entire South China Sea.
A geopolitical map of Southeast Asia showing future energy flashpoints.


The Philippine Supreme Court has approved a new mutual defense deal with the US, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which identifies eight strategic defense locations nationwide, including Subic and Clark.


The Vietnamese way is defiance, which historically has fought and won wars over China, France, and the US. The Pilipino way is the opposite, seeking alliance with the US, another giant that can face the giant, a sign of weakness. Only time will tell which is a wiser geopolitical strategy. Either way, there will be huge collateral damage. Defiance rattles China, inducing caution. Alliance with the giant enemy does not.


So far, US psyche-war tactics, like sending warships near Chinese military installations, have failed to stop the frenzy of Chinese rapid military build-up in the entire South China Sea for two reasons. First, China has perhaps a pretty good idea of the latest US missile weapons after hacking into Pentagon websites. They believe they are ahead in the missile technology game, coming up with a Mach-10 missile ahead of the US. Second, China has perhaps new secret weapons that have made it resort to brinkmanship. But there also may be US secret weapons the Chinese do not know about. So there is caution on both sides. China believes the US will be limited to psyche-war and diplomatic threats for now and will not go into a major confrontation.


However, the more the Chinese military build-up continues, the more nothing is done, the more dangerous the situation because this will lead to a bigger future war. China must be pre-empted now, but the US is not in a position to.


Woody Island (Yongxing) as of a few months ago.
Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan) as of a few months ago. (courtesy of

Second Thomas Reef (Ayungin) as of a few months ago.


Modern missiles are a game changer in naval warfare. They can easily take out an entire carrier armada in a heartbeat. Retired Pentagon generals and admirals have admitted that large carrier fleets are becoming obsolete and are vulnerable to new smart missiles that can reach targets in minutes. Gone are the days of massive carrier wars of World War II. The next naval war in the Paracel-Spratelys will involve more of missiles and less of large carrier fleets.


The US is not into territorial claims, which is the role of the small nations defying China, another reason why China is so brave in military expansion. The US only wants free access to international shipping lanes,. Once China closes a trade lane, we go into Defcon Two. The US and Japan, which exports all its oil from the Middle East via the Strait of Malacca, will not permit it. That is tantamount to strangling the Japanese economy.


Fiery Cross Reef (Kagitingan) is perceived by geopolitical analysts as the future central Chinese mega-base.


If China claims territorial rights according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provide for a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone for a claimant, it would theoretically own the entire Paracel-Spratley area, not considering UNCLOS exceptions on conflicting claims. Paradoxically, China refuses to go to court in The Hague, to defend its UNCLOS rights, in fear of losing a legal battle. The Hague decisions require compliance, but China has defiance. It wants the Paracel-Spratley by military force, not by law. Its territorial claims are ridiculously based on ancient maps. Victory at The Hague for other claimants is thus somewhat useless, good only as a psyche-war tactic of international pressure. For the first time in human history, a nation, an emerging superpower, is claiming a vast marine area of planet Earth, almost the entire South China Sea, by military force.

Boycott of Chinese goods worldwide is impossible, considering that China is the biggest trade partner of the US and many other countries. A trade war will cause a global economic meltdown where there are no winners. Is a US-China naval confrontation inevitable?

Article as published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer without photos.
Career Guide for New Grads (Inquirer) 


This photo, which went viral in the Internet a few days after Yolanda struck, shows a BLUE LADY whose umbrella is untouched by violent winds. She and the storm surge in the background disappeared after the shot was taken, said the photographer.


Pope Francis at the Yolanda site during his Philippine visit. In the midst of a storm, he kissed the statue of the blue lady, OUR LADY OF HOPE, symbol of the Pilipino’s Marian devotion in times of disaster.



Graffiti on a stranded ship – FORGIVE US, LORD!.


When you cross turbulent waters, I shall be with you. In the wild rivers, you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned. No flames shall consume you, as I am with you always. For I am the Lord, your God your Saviour, the Holy One. For you are precious and glorious in My eyes and I love you. Isaiah 43:2-8 amdg
%d bloggers like this: