Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The West Philippine Sea and Subic Bay

Business Mirror

Two headlines appeared Sunday morning on the web site of the Daily Inquirer.

The top message was: “Aquino: Filipinos starting to taste ‘true freedom.’”

Underneath was: “US not coming to PH aid vs China.”

I wonder if anyone realized the irony of those two statements being together in light of it being the day Filipinos celebrate Independence Day, freedom day, from Spain and, in effect, also from the United States?

As the word war between China and the Philippines grew more intense, a presidential spokesman reminded the people not to worry, as the US and the Philippines signed a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1951. That treaty obligates each country to come to the other’s defense in the event of an invasion.

The Chinese government could send People’s Liberation Army Navy nuclear submarines to the middle of Manila Bay and park People’s Liberation Army tanks around the Rizal Monument and the Obama administration would caution the Philippines to use restraint and pursue all diplomatic means to avoid conflict.

“The US does not take sides in regional territorial disputes,” said the US press attaché.”

Now that is “true freedom,” or at least freedom from what some fear as a US neo-colonial empire.

However, the hypocrisy of the US Embassy statement is astounding. Wasn’t Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait a “regional territorial dispute”? Seems to me that Iraq was saying then that Kuwait was stealing Iraqi oil. In fact, Iraq also claimed Kuwait was actually a part of Iraq, based on historical records going centuries back. Does that sound familiar to some current claims on some disputed ocean west of Manila?

That part of the ocean claimed by PHL is now called the “West Philippine Sea” by the government. And Vietnam says you should refer to the area they demand sovereignty over as the “East Sea.” Of course, China simply calls the whole area the “South Sea” or “Our South Sea.”

The US refers to the area as “Not-Our-Problem Sea.”

While the “little” players in the game, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, demand the resources like oil and fishing rights, for China, those are merely a bonus.

The Chinese are only continuing what the Japanese created as a concept between 1895 and 1937 and formalized in the term coined by Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe in 1940: “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” It represented the desire to create a self-sufficient “bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers.” Come forward to the 21st century by substituting “the Chinese” and “American power.”

The eventual goal of the Prosperity Sphere, after conquering these nations and removing Western powers, was to create a series of puppet states from Tokyo to Singapore to include China, Hong Kong, Macau, Annam (Vietnam), the Philippines, the Malay states, Brunei/Borneo and the East Indies Kingdom (Indonesia).

While Japan was looking to secure sources of every raw material from lumber to rubber and oil, China is more interested in the ocean itself.

Name the two busiest seaports on the planet? Singapore and Shanghai. Name the second busiest maritime shipping route in the world? The South China Sea, through the Taiwan Strait to Japan and the Luzon Strait, more directly to North America.

The nation and navy that control the South China Sea control East Asia shipping. The nation with control also can shut down the Chinese economy at any time.

From a strategic economic view, China cannot allow anything less than to have absolute mastery and dominance over the 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean between Singapore and Taiwan.

Prior to the end of 1992, the Yokosuka, Japan, based US Seventh Fleet was the master of those 3.5 million kilometers. While the Seventh Fleet is now no less powerful or mobile, the difference is that no longer does it make regular runs and regular exercises between Japan and the US Naval Base in Subic Bay.

The decision made by the Philippine Senate to end the bases treaty for use of Clark and Subic was the right choice for the Philippines, it was definitely not the best choice for either country. For the US, it was one of the worst military/geopolitical decisions in global history.

A small group of politicians from a “Third World basket case” country, wittingly or unwittingly, understood the importance of Subic better than all the “experts” in Washington, D.C.

The US should have given the Philippines any and everything it wanted and more to retain Subic Bay as a US naval station.

The US cannot assist the Philippines in any dispute over the West Philippine Sea even if it wanted to do so.

While the Philippine decision in 1992 was correct, nonetheless, the Philippines now stands alone, unaided, and may suffer consequences from US arrogance, pride and shortsighted thinking 20 years ago.

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