WHY is China risking a major war, even a nuclear one, by deploying cruise missiles on South China Sea outposts? The US has warned that there will be consequences with this move by China. If the US launches a pre-emptive strike on these island outposts using its stealth bombers with JASSMs, China will surely retaliate against US air bases harboring said bombers in Japan, South Korea, Australia, and even Guam. China has the capability of obliterating these US air bases in a matter of 15 minutes or less with their DF26 and DF17 ballistic missiles with hypersonic glide vehicle warheads. And this could easily lead into a nuclear war between the US and China and the extinction of the planet.
Here are the reasons why:
1. Since 2005, the US had been conducting biennial naval exercises with Australia which they call “Talisman Saber”; primarily involving the naval blockade of the Malacca Strait and other vital choke points in the area (i.e., Lombok, Sunda, Makassar, etc.). Basically, this is in line with Alfred Thayer Mahan’s doctrine of controlling the vital choke points to control the oceans. The straits mentioned are where most of China’s oil and foreign trade pass through; a naval blockade of these straits can force the entire Chinese economy to grind to a halt. Hence, China’s very own survival as a nation depends on preventing any foreign power from conducting such a naval blockade (and Japan and New Zealand have joined some of those past exercises). That was their reason for building those artificial islands – to prevent such a naval blockade. Now, the US and its allies will think twice before conducting such blockade because those islands can accommodate more combat aircraft (J-20s, Su-35s, J-31s), ballistic missiles (DF17s, DF26s, DF21Ds), and air defense systems (S-400s, HQ-9s) than all of the US aircraft carrier strike groups combined, and counter such planned blockade.
It is often said that geography is immutable; in this case, China has modified its geographical disadvantage and turned it into an advantage with the building of those artificial islands. And China seems determined to defend them at all costs, even if it means engaging in a nuclear exchange with the US and its allies. China had prepared itself for the coming of this kind of event a long time ago, when Mao enjoined the entire Chinese nation: “Dig tunnels deep; store grains everywhere; and never seek hegemony.”
China has created more than 5,000 kilometers of strategic tunnels and an underground metro system in almost all major Chinese cities. No other country in the world possesses such massive passive defense or “new great wall” against nuclear attack.
2. The second reason is the Scarborough Shoal, with the nearby Manila Trench passes. The trench is the only portion of the South China Sea that is deep enough where US nuclear attack submarines can approach surreptitiously and launch a first strike against China’s east coast where China’s population and industry are concentrated. Because of its proximity, China will have no time to react against such first strike. In a matter of minutes, the entire Chinese nation and civilization can be driven to extinction!
So, what is the best strategy for Philippines given such circumstances? I believe that a neutral stance and a “win-win” approach are still to the Philippines’ best interest.
A neutral stance means the removal of the EDCA bases in the Philippines, because US forces using those EDCA bases such as nuclear submarines, destroyers, and aircraft carrier strike groups can carry nuclear weapons. If the US uses the EDCA bases as launching pads to attack those islands or the Chinese mainland itself, and nuclear weapons are used, the retaliation from China would also be nuclear in nature. Have our leaders thought about this?
A “win-win” approach, on the other hand, would involve the approach that the Philippines uses in negotiations with China in resolving our sea dispute. Insisting on our so-called victory at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague will get us nowhere. It will only agitate and anger our negotiating partner and we will surely end up with nothing but headache and war.
If war is what we really want, then we pursue what Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and former Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario are strongly advocating by insisting on the PCA ruling. This is the “win-lose” approach. But if we want peace and joint prosperity with our neighbor, we support President Duterte’s position of a “win-win” approach.