Most people have never even heard of the Spratly’s, they are a group of small islands in the middle of the South China Sea. As with other seemingly worthless pieces of real estate in the middle of nowhere there is strategic value in ownership. The Spratly’s have been haggled over for many years. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have all made claims on the island chain as part of the ongoing territorial dispute.
The haggling has heated up in recent years. The Philippines want to keep it as a tourist attraction, a great idea for the well healed visitor. China, on the other hand views the Spratly’s as a strategic location for both defensive and offensive purposes.
There is an old saying, possession is 9/10 of the law. China certainly seems to have heard this. In the past two years they have increased the land mass by 2000 acres by dredging sand from the sea floor.
This land reclamation seems to be in order to set up an air base.
The landing strip as described is long enough to accommodate all existing Chinese Air Force assets.
600 miles south of the mainland, it is a great place for China to exert its might in the region.
I think that the US has little appetite for another conflict. Afghanistan and Iraq didn’t go as planned, Russian relations are at an all time low, Cold War II is looming. ISIS seems to be hell bent on creating a Persian Caliphate. Iran wants a nuke, North Korea has nukes.
I doubt that either the US or China have much interest in a rumble. There is too much money at stake. But what is the solution?
I asked author Robert G. Williscroft for his ideas. He is uniquely qualified for the mission, a Cold War warrior who published Operation Ivy Bells and a Sci-fi book The Starchild Compact that looks at the Caliphate in the near future.
RW: My experience was the Cold War, this new development is disturbing. China is a huge trading partner, Apple, Wallmart, and just about every major company in the US would go bust without the products made in China. Obviously, the dynamics here are different, but the underlying conundrum is fundamental. We need each other, but with the current political climate here at home, the Chinese clearly believe that we are unlikely to draw a red line. They see their gain by developing the Spratlys worth the relatively small risk that we will do anything about it. Any incoming administration will be faced with a fait accompli.
But you must be concerned about the ‘land Grab’, how or should we interfere?
RW: Tricky question, I don’t think the current US administration has the intestinal fortitude to interfere. One has only to look to the Middle East to see why. It is true that China holds a lot of good cards right now, but there are other games in town. If we were to open very public discussions with the Koreans and Malaysians about in-country manufacturing high-tech facilities, and with Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia about significantly extending their dry-goods manufacturing, I think we would get China’s attention. They really do need us. Unfortunately, the current US administration simply does not understand how to use our leverage.
Robert Williscroft knows far more than I do.
Robert G. Williscroft was a submariner for 20 years, his book Operation Ivy Bells details his time fighting the information war against the USSR, more recently he has released a Sci-Fi book The Starchild Compact . Could terrorism make it into outer space?