South China Sea thoughts?


Well-Known Member
While the Indonesian government and media try to not make a big fuss out of it, part of the Indonesian EEZ north of the Natuna islands is claimed as part of Chinese territorial waters. So I am not surprised at all that Indonesia is putting more a presence in the Natuna islands.


Well-Known Member
Ananda, I like the part in the article which mentions Malaysian ''provocations'' as well as Ligatan and Sipadan islands :D Not to get off-topic but Indonesia has also placed a surface search radar on Sebatik island which is shared by both countries.

Even Indonesia (as the article above) which officially did not participate as claimants, decide it's teritory facing SCS (Natuna Islands) are more security sensitive than other bordered disputed area such as Ambalat.
Indonesia has no choice in the matter. Not only is Natuna located close to the disputed areas but any problems in the Spratlys will also inevitably Indonesia. The decision to base the TNI-AL's new SSKs in Sulawesi is also no coincidence; aimed not only to deal with possible future problems with Malaysia over Ambalat but also elsewhere further west.
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Active Member
I have a question for the aussies here. I stumbled across this article yesterday.

Why China and America are Headed Toward a Catastrophic Clash
Why China and America are Headed Toward a Catastrophic Clash*|*Hugh White

"Asia today therefore carries the seeds of a truly catastrophic episode of mutual misperception. Both Washington and China are steadily upping the stakes in their rivalry as China's provocations of US friends and allies become more flagrant and America's commitments to support them become more categorical.

Both believe they can do this with impunity because both believe the other will back down to avoid a clash. There is a disconcertingly high chance that they are both wrong."

There is a lot more to the article than the quote I posted but the overall theme is very pessimistic. My question is this: Does this represent the prevailing view in Australia?


Grumpy Old Man
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
There is a lot more to the article than the quote I posted but the overall theme is very pessimistic. My question is this: Does this represent the prevailing view in Australia?
My view - this is turning into a self fulfilling prophecy.

5 years ago there was a prevailing perspective that this would get ugly 2025-2030 - i think quite a few would be advancing that to 2020-2025 now

1 year after the more positive assessment (2030) the chinese ramped up their posturing in region

Its basically gone to custard since 2010


Well-Known Member
It seems I can't send a PM yet, otherwise I would. This is also too long for a visitor message.

Despite the widely circulated news that there were 21 dead in the riot, this was not confirmed. The original Reuters story was based on the testimony of an unidentified doctor, who may have made a mistake given the chaos at the time. Note that Reuters was careful to say "up to", something that other agencies did not always note.

A week later Xinhua confirmed 2 Chinese citizens were killed in the riots and a possible two other waiting confirmation of identity. This meshes with South China Morning Post's claim of 4 Chinese dead.

The Wikipedia entry on the riot has a link to Kyodo News saying 3 deaths confirmed by Vietnam, 4 by China, but this link is behind a paywall, so I don't know what it actually says.

The total confirmed casualty directly caused by the riot seems to be 4 dead and over a hundred injured. Barring further news, we ought to use this number.

This does not detract from the points you elaborate, but to prevent future readers from getting argumentative over the actual number of casualties, you may want to change that.
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As I said earlier in this thread, an evolving security landscape has forced Kuala Lumpur (and I'm sure the Malaysian members of the forum can add to this) to adopt a nuanced strategy, of courting China while preparing for the worst. In this regard, Malaysia is pursuing a three-fold strategy, as follows:-
Indeed. Malaysia is very worried. I have friends in the RMN and MMEA; a few months ago they told me that incursions by Chinese ships in Malaysia's EEZ in the Spratlys have been on the rise. Apart from sending a political message and testing Malaysian reaction times, the presence of Chinese ships are also intended to distract RMN and MMEA ships from Chinese trawlers operating in the area. As standard script is played out whever a Chinese ship is detected. The Malaysians - sometimes using a Chinese speaker - inform the Chinese via radio to leave. The Chinese usually ignore the Malaysians but eventually leave after a while. To date, Chinese ships however have not acted aggressively towards Malaysian ships: this can change however. It also remains to be seen how Malaysia will react if China - despite close bilateral ties and increased trade - take things up a notch further by becoming more ''aggressive'' or ''assertive'' in areas claimed by Malaysia in the Spratlys.

It also interesting to note that since the early 2000's China has been aggressively trying to market its defence products to Malaysia. Despite offering generoous payment terms, transfers of technology and the possibility of licensed production; Chinese companies have met with little success. One reason is that the MAF's leadership is reluctant to buy 'Made In China: to date only a small batch of FN-6 MANPADs have been bought. An offer for the FN-6 to be produced locally if the KS-1 was bought was never taken up. More recently a Malaysian company has signed an MOU to market the LY-80E MR-SAM. I'll be extremely surprised if this leads to a firm order being placed. Military exchanges have included PLAAF delegations visiting Malaysiia, Malaysian observers viewing PLA exercises, naval ships from both countries making visits, etc. Both countries have also agreed to hold their first bilateral exercise. Whether this actually leads to increased defence cooperation in the long run or is just a symbolic move remains to be seen.

This was from a discussion I had with a defence writer on his blog -

For instance, at the 13th IISS Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue) that took place from May 30 & June 1 in Singapore, Dzirhan Mahadzir, Malaysia Correspondent for IHS Jane's Defence Weekly bluntly asked Lt Gen Wang Guanzhong, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the PLA: “Gen Wang, you mentioned China doesn’t undertake provocative action. I was wondering, then why is it always my friends in the RMN are scrambling their ships to intercept yours in our waters?” He asked this after Lt Gen Wang in his address had given the clearest exposition of China's controversial nine-dash-line claim to the South China Sea. China, he said, discovered the islands in the South China Sea as early as the Han Dynasty; the nine-dash-line was drawn and declared in 1948, 46 years before 1994, when the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was ratified. Moreover, UNCLOS has no retrospective effect. He added an extra sting in his bite—the US has not ratified UNCLOS. It is generally accepted that the nine-dash-line is not consistent with UNCLOS, the gold standard for assessing disputed claims to maritime areas. But China's clearer position on the nine-dash-line should add impetus to the conclusion of talks for a binding ‘Code of Conduct’ for the South China Sea, which would at the least enshrine the norms of behavior concerning freedom of navigation in the high seas & EEZ jurisdiction.

Thus, when the US proposed the Raptors’ deployment, Putra Jaya saw this as tantamounting to killing two birds with one stone: i.e. getting close to the US; & ‘engaging’ China constructively by sending a strong signal to Beijing about Malaysia’s options on maintaining a ‘coalition of the willing’. Though Malaysia does not see China as an immediate military threat, it has sufficient reason to be worried.
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New Member
A brilliant PR gimmick by the Philippines and Viet Nam. The beer,was flowing freely per local media and everyone had a good time. Naturally, China subsequently branded the event a "farce"..

PH, Vietnam hold sports fest in Spratlys | Manila Bulletin | Latest Breaking News | News Philippines

Aimed at fostering camaraderie and friendly relations, Philippine and Vietnamese naval forces yesterday staged a day-long sports festival in one of the disputed islands in the Spratlys.

The interaction between the navies of the two countries was held amid rising tensions shaped by China’s growing assertiveness in the South China Sea.

China claims sovereignty over some 90 percent of the potentially oil and gas-rich South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

In a joint statement, the Philippine Navy (PN) and the Vietnamese People’s Navy (VPN), said the event “serves as a proof that disputes do not hinder development of practical and tangible cooperation between the two navies. Conversely, this also serves as a model of cooperation for the other navies to emulate.”


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Staff member
US to directly challenge China over islands

U.S. Military Proposes Challenge to China Sea Claims - WSJ

The U.S. military is considering using aircraft and Navy ships to directly contest Chinese territorial claims to a chain of rapidly expanding artificial islands, U.S. officials said, in a move that would raise the stakes in a regional showdown over who controls disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has asked his staff to look at options that include flying Navy surveillance aircraft over the islands and sending U.S. naval ships to within 12 nautical miles of reefs that have been built up and claimed by the Chinese in an area known as the Spratly Islands.
Well it looks like the US going to apply direct pressure. I am also suprised how much activity China is putting into the area. They are very busy.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Could China's huge sand constructions compel the Japanese to re-evaluate their decision about US forces on their homeland?
I think everyone is re-evaluating everything.

Building of sand islands and oil platforms to assert its sovereignty has never really been done before. If its successful, many other countries will follow suit and build islands on any shallows they have.

Several countries have reconsidered their relationship with the US.


Well-Known Member


Super Moderator
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As Greg Austin points out on 22 May 2015, there are "4 Reasons Why China Is No Threat to South China Sea Commerce":

"First, China does not need the Spratly Islands to threaten north-bound shipping in the South China Sea. It could do so easily (if it wanted to) without controlling this disputed island group. China’s Southern Fleet is headquartered in Hainan, which sits in a commanding position opposite the Philippines in the area that overlooks the northernmost egress from this semi-enclosed sea. China’s mainland province of Guangdong has 4,300 km of coastline that forms one side of this sea egress. The distance between this coastline and the Philippines coast is around 800 km and this area is in relatively easy reach of China’s maritime military assets...

Second, China almost certainly imports as much oil through the South China Sea as, say, Japan, and possibly more. According to BP, China’s oil imports in 2013 were 282 million tonnes, compared with 178 million tonnes for Japan...

Third, the historical precedents for a campaign against commercial shipping in open ocean areas are extremely small in number since 1900. There have been none since Germany lost hundreds of submarines in the Second World War in its attempt to shut down seaborne trade and block naval access to Britain. In the month of May 1943 alone, Germany lost 46 submarines. In fact, a modern campaign against civil shipping is judged by most naval experts to be most effective as the vessels leave port or approach the destination ports, or narrow straits, rather than in open ocean areas (such as around the Spratly Islands)...

Fourth, the South China Sea (via the Malacca Strait) is a route of convenience (and lower cost) for shipping bound for Japan from the Indian Ocean. If there was a threat in the South China Sea, all shipping could simply avoid the Malacca Strait, divert south of Java, pass through the Sunda or Lombok Straits, enter the Java Sea and then the Philippines Sea to the east of the Philippines, never having entered the South China Sea. The added distance and time would be more costly but the viability of this additional route in a conflict would undermine the value of any anti-shipping campaign focused around the Spratly Islands. This route is fairly consistently used by many larger oil tankers."​
For the US to shift the dispute from the realm of diplomacy to a realm in which it threatens the use of force, it loses twice. One, the US loses the immediate issue of impeding China's continuing reclamation works in the South China Sea. Two, the US loses credibility to both China (as a potential adversary) and Japan (it's ally). The costs of losing credibility are high, because these losses make it much more likely that future threats will be ignored and the US, as the threatening state will have to actually exercise its power. Unfortunately for the US, thanks to a unbroken string of mis-steps, the Obama administration's credibility at present is at an all time low.
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Well-Known Member
otherwise I predict the hand justice will come down and China will suffer huge set backs in it's push for imperial expansion.:flash
I think we also have to look at things from a Chinese perspective. We've been so conditioned to hearing about Chinese "aggressiveness","assertiveness" and "bullying" that we often fail to ask what is it China really wants? An objective observer can also point out that other claimants have also made moves that can be construed as "aggressive". From a Chinese perspective they can argue that the U.S. has no business dictating what China can or can't do and that it's the U.S. that is behaving like a imperial power and that it smacks of double standards as the U S. has also done its share of "bullying" in the past; in pursuit of its national interests.

Where this all eventually leads to is anyone's guess but what's for certain is that China is not going to back down; regardless of how many P-8 flights are made and how much focus is devoted to the U.S. "pivot" to the region. There is a theory that what China wants is for the smaller states to acknowledge China's status as a new power and for these states to stop depending on Uncle Sam and looking up to Uncle Sam as the sole dominant power. According to this theory, China will then make certain concessions, whilst maintaining it's claim of sovereignty in the Spratlys.

In the shorter term, I feel we can safely assume that once the "Great Wall of Sand" has been completed, that China will be in a better position to safeguard its claims in the area and that we'll be seeing a rise in Chinese commercial fishing and exploration activity in the area.


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Staff member
But the US just can't stand by and let itself and it's allies get bullied and dictated to by what is undeniably a weaker military force.
You seem to favor a strategy that is the least costly, that requires the least political effort on the part of the Americans, and fastest, which translates to the least effective.

In a speech in Washington DC on 16 April 2015, China’s ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, laid out Beijing’s view on the South China Sea. First, China will defend its sovereignty and maritime rights, even while it exercises restraint. Second, China seeks to resolve disputes through diplomacy. Third, on the specific issue of the upgrading of Chinese facilities in the South China Sea, this activity is “well within China’s sovereignty.” Finally, China’s overall foreign policy is “defensive in nature.” Therefore, in seeking to resolve the South China Sea disputes, Beijing seeks to co-operate with all regional states, and “particularly with the U.S.”

Further, the Global Times reports that on 26 May 2015, China's Ministry of Transport hosted a ceremony on to mark the start of work on the two 50 metre tall multi-functional lighthouses on Huayang Jiao and Chigua Jiao islands, to enhance navigational safety in the South China Sea. Wu Shicun, president of the government-affiliated National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said the lighthouses were among the first of planned civilian-use facilities in the region. "The reefs are located near an important commercial shipping route, so there will be continued development to maintain the security of those shipping lanes," he told Reuters.

Bullying is bullying;
So it's Ok Taiwan to teach the Philippines who is boss, but not China? While the Philippines tries to position itself as law abiding, the country does not always observe its own laws; and, on occasion, its agents engage in criminal acts of killing foreign nationals, while acting in an official capacity. In a second criminal killing at sea incident, the Philippine coast guard patrol (in Maritime Control Surveillance 3001) shot and killed a Taiwanese fisherman in May 2013. This resulted in Taiwan imposing economic sanctions against Philippines until the Philippine Government issued a formal apology, commenced investigations on the criminal act, compensated the fisherman's family; and the parties reinstated talks over fishing rights in the overlapping EEZ areas. Taiwanese sanctions against the Philippines were only lifted after the Philippines complied with these four conditions.

As CSIS reports: "Philippines, Taiwan engage in coast guard stand-off. The Philippine and Taiwanese coast guards became involved in a stand-off in the Luzon Strait on May 25 when a Philippine Coast Guard vessel interdicted a Taiwanese fishing boat it alleged was fishing in Philippine waters. Philippine authorities attempted to tow the fishing boat to shore but were confronted by a Taiwanese Coast Guard ship, which eventually negotiated the fishing vessel’s release. The Philippines and Taiwan are negotiating a fisheries agreement for waters claimed by both in the Luzon Strait."

Further, as far back as 1999, the Philippine Navy has been ramming and/or sinking Chinese fishing boats (incidents reported on 23 May 1999 and on 20 June 1990). The most recent reported incident of the Philippine Navy ramming a Chinese fishing boat that I know of was on 19 October 2011, which resulted in Manila issuing an apology to the Chinese embassy.

the issue may be dressed up as a US versus China spat but in fact it is already affecting the economy of the Philippines and no doubt other adjacent nations who rely on those waters for trade and fishing.
China is still learning, that its gambits in the Spratly Islands do not remotely serve its interests. Diplomacy by the US was working. However, US interests is not served by exaggerating the military threat. As William Johnson writing for Reuters noted on 21 May 2015:

"Today the United States doesn’t have the resources in place for a major effort in the area unless it is willing to take some very great risks... A military confrontation holds little prospect of success.

In order to justify an aggressive approach, the United States must determine that the creation of these islands is threatening some vital U.S. interest. The claim that the new islands are disrupting the United States’ freedom of navigation is a red herring. To date, China has done nothing in the South China Sea to disrupt shipping. It has countered activities by other countries who assert their ownership and control in the region, notably Vietnam and the Philippines, and has asserted its own ownership and control by intercepting fishing vessels and placing oil rigs in the area. Yet none of these actions have disrupted shipping in the region. It is disingenuous for the United States to claim that by using military force to counter the island-building, it is asserting the freedom of international shipping to sail close to rocks and submerged reefs — an action no merchant vessel is likely to take.

Another flawed justification for U.S. military involvement is to defend peace and stability in the region. There have so far been no major military confrontations in the disputes between the five other countries that lay claims to the South China Sea... As long as the disputing countries are not coming to blows, the United States would be rash to risk a fight with a nuclear-armed China over China’s pursuit of its claims.

A final hollow justification for military action is that the United States needs to reassure its partners and allies in the region. The only U.S. ally that is a party to the dispute is the Philippines... The United States has always stood by its treaty obligations, but will not commit to defending disputed grounds in the South China Sea, because it doesn’t consider them Philippine territory.

A better approach is to strengthen American diplomatic efforts, taking full advantage of the upcoming U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the subsequent state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. "​

Tough for the Philippines, and there is very, very limited sympathy within ASEAN for a country that chose to disband it's air combat capability in 2005 by budget choice, with a navy that is armed like a coast guard. Beyond the fact that the Philippine Senate voted not to renew the lease to US bases in 1991 (resulting in their closure), we also have to look back to some events in the 2003 to 2004 period for another example of this lack of reliability by the Philippines. On 20 May 2003, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) spoke of "unshakable resolve" in their support for the US in the White House on the 'War on Terror' (after the US invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003). In return, the Bush II Administration provided Philippines with US$1 billion in benefits on the generalised system of preferences, increased quotas on textiles from the Philippines and a US$200 million special line of credit. Unfortunately, James Tyner (2005), writing on "Iraq, Terror and the Philippines will to War", described their approach at page 94:-

(i) as "a member of the Coalition of Opportunists", who tried to capitalize on the Iraqi reconstruction efforts and angle for a piece of the action. Tyner quoted the then Philippines Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo as saying: "We have the names of 1 million workers, from skilled mechanical engineers to crane operators, with passports and are ready to go... But, when it comes to skilled labour, we definitely have the value added..."; and

(ii) fourteen months later, that "unshakable resolve" collapsed. In April 2004 a Filipino was abducted and in July 2004, another Filipino truck driver was abducted. In GMA administration's attempt to get the 2nd Filipino abductee released, Philippines gave in to the demands of the abductors and ordered the withdrawal of the Philippines' 51-strong contingent from Iraq. Subsequently, the GMA administration also banned Filipinos from working in Iraq.​

The above incident clearly demonstrated to the Americans that when the going gets tough, the Philippines get going. Following the short but sharp down turn in the relations with the US (after the withdrawal of the AFP contingent from Iraq), Manila upgraded its relations with Beijing. This included annual defence talks and a visit to China by GMA in September 2004. In return the PRC donated US$1.2 million in heavy engineering equipment to the Philippines (6 bulldozers and 6 motorgraders).

Despite the ups and downs of the US-Philippines relations, the US is traditionally interested in access for its forces (through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed on 28 April 2014 in Manila), which if I am not mistaken still subject to a local legal challenge under the present Aquino administration. A spokesman for the Philippine Supreme Court had previously said that the case, filed in May 2014, was still pending, and that the court has yet to decide when it would even open the hearing. The plaintiffs—a group of 12 academics, activists, lawyers and ex-lawmakers—likened the US-Philippine alliance to "an unequal and exploitative love affair," and argued that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement violated the country's constitution because it had not been approved by the Philippine Senate.

I predict the hand justice will come down and China will suffer huge set backs in it's push for imperial expansion.:flash
I can also predict that you will be proven wrong. Some aspects of what China is doing is merely counter productive and not necessarily helpful in establishing itself as a leader of the region with its smart power initiatives, such as, President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy concept: “One Belt, One Road” (1BR) and the planned establishment of China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Coincident with the Boao Forum on Asia Annual Conference and Xi Jinping’s keynote address emphasized China’s common destiny with Southeast Asian and other neighbors. A new action plan on 28 March 2015 suggesting steps to be taken under the rubrics of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road initiatives. As published in Comparative Connections on 15 May 2015, Robert SutterChin-Hao Huang notes that there are both economic and strategic benefits.

The perceived economic benefits are:
• China’s massive foreign exchange reserves are better employed in infrastructure development and investments abroad in Asia than being employed to purchase US government securities and other low-paying investments abroad.
• Asia’s massive need for infrastructure meshes well with China’s massive overcapacity to build it after 30 years of rebuilding China. It will allow competitive Chinese construction companies to continue productive growth in building Chinese-funded infrastructure in neighboring countries.
• Connecting remote western and southern regions of China with neighbors through modern infrastructure will serve to develop these regions more rapidly and help bridge the wide economic development gap between interior and coastal provinces in China.
• The infrastructure will allow many Chinese industries with excess capacity, or facing higher wage demands, or more stringent environmental restrictions in China to relocate to nearby Asian countries and continue to prosper and develop.
• Connecting with neighbors will facilitate trade and the increased use of the Chinese currency in international transactions.
• Developing trade routes including road, rail, and pipeline connections to China from the Arabian Sea through Pakistan, from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar, and overland through Central Asian states and Russia will reduce China’s vulnerability to possible interdiction of sea-borne shipments of oil and other needed goods. In particular, Chinese strategists worry about such vulnerability of imports and exports passing through the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca.​

The perceived strategic benefits are:
• South China Sea territorial disputes and Chinese intimidation and divisive tactics in dealing with ASEAN and its member states have led to what some commentators see as “negativity” in recent China-Southeast Asian relations. These initiatives improve Chinese influence and image.
• The initiatives are an effective way to use China’s geographic location and large foreign exchange reserves in crafting policies and practices that offset US efforts to advance its regional influence and standing through the rebalance policy in Asia.​

Further, in March 2015, 57 countries (including US allies like the UK, Germany, France, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand and Australia), applied to join China’s new AIIB before the deadline for joining as a founding member. The new bank will have authorized capital of $100 billion, to be used in infrastructure projects throughout Asia. China says AIIB is expected to begin operations by the end of 2015, although some delegates are uncertain if every member country will be able to win legislative approval for the Articles of Agreement (or charter) that quickly.

For details on broader developments in the region, see this June 2015 CSIS study, titled "Southeast Asia's Geopolitical Centrality and the US-Japan Alliance."
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Active Member
To put things in a more positive light, the current actions by both sides have been constrained and hold hope that things may get better.

Ultimately the US isn't going to go to war with China to defend the Phillipine's fishing grounds or Vietnam's oil/gas fields.
However, nations have demonstrated a habit of calling America's bluff when it comes to conflict. It's important that China understands that the US will go to war, just as it's important the US understands that China will too.

These events help make that reality obvious to both sides.

From a US perspective this exchange assists in several goals.

First, China understands that the American's primary concern is Freedom of Navigation, the other disputes are "local issues".

I see this as similar to the 1956 Suez Crisis. China is going to dominate the SCS but needs to understand that attempting to disrupt shipping to either South Korea or Japan in a future dispute will bring an American response.

Secondly, it reinforces America's status as a reliable ally. By demonstrating a willingness to get involved they reassure nervous friends/allies. Nervous allies might jump ship, or worse, attempt something themselves and start a conflict that neither China nor America wants.

Thirdly, it attempts to make clear to the wider world that resolving disputes diplomatically is a better option if they are willing to confront even China for aggressive actions.

Finally, there are two big dogs who need to sniff each other out. A bit of barking and growling is expected. America isn't going to be leaving the Western Pacific no matter how badly the Chinese would like it.


Well-Known Member
China is going to dominate the SCS but needs to understand that attempting to disrupt shipping to either South Korea or Japan in a future dispute will bring an American response.
China has no desire to disrupt shipping ; why would it? China does a lot of trade with Japan and South Korea. Not only would disrupted shipping bring Uncle Sam in but it would also be counter productive to China's interests.

America isn't going to be leaving the Western Pacific no matter how badly the Chinese would like it.
The Chinese are realists and are under no illusions that the U.S. will leave the Western Pacific. What China desires is to be acknowledged as a new power and for other [smaller countries] to acknowledge this.

I have friends who have served on ships deployed to the Spratlys and who have also served on the reefs there. In recent times there has been a sharp increase in Chinese fishing activity in the area and quite often, the presence of a Chinese Marine Surveillance ship in waters claimed by Malaysia are intended to attract the attention of Malaysian naval ships to enable Chinese fishing trawlers to go about their work uninterrupted.

Malaysia has been lucky compared to Vietnam and the Philippines, as Chinese ships intercepted usually leave after a while and don't act aggressively. It also helps that the reefs occupied by Malaysia are the furthest - compared to others - from the Chinese mainland. Once the Great Wall of Sand is complete we will no doubt see the Chinese deploy helicopters and maybe even MPAs there. Reclaimation works undertaken there will also enable Chinese ships to increase their periods of deployment in the area.
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Well-Known Member
I would be surprised if China didn't move weapons into the area as a self-defence move. What would really upset [if that's the right word] other countries would be if China placed land based anti-ship missiles there. They could still do so and say it's for self-defence and that others have no right complaining as the missiles are on Chinese territory. Interestingly, Vietnam has placed Israel Military Industries Extra 300mm MRBLs on its reefs.


Active Member
China has no desire to disrupt shipping ; why would it? China does a lot of trade with Japan and South Korea.
That is certainly true today but there are two scenarios where that calculation may change.
A hot war between North and South Korea could force China to picks sides, especially as the Russians may step in with support for North Korea if China doesn't.

Alternatively, there is a strong desire in China to settle a score with the Japanese. A Chinese leader looking to shore up domestic support may decide to play that card a bit harder, particularly over the Senkaku islands.

Neither is likely now or in the near future but as China becomes more powerful both become viable options if they believe the US will hesitate.