Battleland

New Garrison, Old Troubles in the South China Sea

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China Daily

Yongxing Island

China’s newest military garrison in the contentious South China Sea is largely a political show and won’t significantly raise the threat of armed confrontation in the region. Which is not saying much, since that threat is already darned high and is certain to get worse.

Chinese authorities announced this week that they would station troops on Yongxing Island, a speck of land about 220 miles (350 km) southeast of Hainan Island. China has designated Yongxing as the capital of a newly created administrative region called Sansha. It is intended to extend Chinese administrative control over the resource-rich Paracel, Spratly and Macclesfield Bank island groups. Those islands — known in China as Xisha, Nansha and Zongsha, respectively — are variously claimed by China and five neighboring countries and have been the source of increasing confrontations in the region.

The official Xinhua news agency said the Sansha military garrison will be responsible for guarding Yongxing, conducting disaster-relief and rescue operations, and “carrying out military missions.” No details on troop levels or what that last bit might include.

Yongxing, also called Woody Island, measures less than one square mile (2.6 sq km). It has a small airfield and artificial harbor and a permanent population of about 1,100. Virtually all food, water and supplies must be taken in by ship or plane.

Retired U.S. Rear Admiral Mike McDevitt, a former carrier-battle-group commander with experience in the South China Sea, says establishing a garrison on the island won’t alter the military balance or signal imminent hostilities. Any significant military operations in the region, he says, would be mounted from Hainan, where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has major air, land and sea bases, rather than from tiny, salt-soaked Yongxing.

“Putting garrisons on Woody Island or elsewhere in the Paracels would effectively maroon these guys, so the only advantage would be just showing the flag — to say, ‘We are serious,’” says McDevitt, a former director of East Asia Policy at the Department of Defense and now a senior fellow at the Center for Naval Analyses near Washington, D.C.

Tetsuo Kotani, a maritime-security specialist at Tokyo’s Japan Institute of International Affairs, says China already effectively controls the Paracels through its naval forces and scattered island outposts. Even if troops on Yongxing were assigned surveillance equipment or even antiship defenses, he says, it would do little more than duplicate capabilities China already has nearby.

“They’re basically just sending a political message. I’m not sure what other role those troops could play,” says Kotani.

Whether it’s all part of a carefully synchronized strategy by Beijing or a messy improvisation by fractious government ministries remains unclear. In a report issued in April, the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, attributed much of tension in the South China Sea to poor coordination among 11 different Chinese agencies that have responsibility for security or maritime affairs.

“Some agencies are acting assertively to compete for a slice of the budget pie, while others such as local governments are focused on economic growth, leading them to expand their activities into disputed waters,” the report says. “Their motivations are domestic in nature, but the impact of their actions is increasingly international.”

Indeed, China’s State Council established the Sansha district in late June, apparently to retaliate for a law passed by Vietnam declaring the entire Paracels as their own. No mention was made of a military garrison until it was announced this week, in something of a surprise, by China’s Central Military Commission.

Regardless, the potential for trouble is real.

Philippine news media reported this week that China has begun building a military airstrip at a place called Subi Reef, in the Spratly Islands. That’s just 12 miles (20 km) from where the Philippines has its administrative headquarters for what it claims as its part of the Spratlys — altogether a collection of some 750 islets, atolls, reefs and sandbanks spread over some 175,000 sq. mi. (453,000 sq km). That’s about the size of California and Texas combined.

The Philippines says a flotilla of 10 Chinese fishing boats escorted by at least two PLA navy frigates and other maritime patrol boats have begun fishing — illegally, according to the Philippines — at the Subi Reef as well. Emotions are still running high in both countries after China forced the Philippines to back down last month from a confrontation at the Scarborough Shoal, and after China squelched an attempt earlier this month by the ASEAN alliance to fashion a formal code for resolving the territorial disputes.

Both the Philippines and Vietnam have said they won’t recognize China’s Sansha district.

The U.S. is trying hard to stay out of the territorial disputes. The U.S. says its sole concern is ensuring that sea lanes remain open and trade unimpeded. The Navy is in the process of shifting 60% of warships to the Asia-Pacific region — just to make sure.

Kotani says it’s all getting rather dicey.

“The tension in the South China Sea is increasing, and I think that will continue. No country has any reason to back off right now,” he says. “China is increasing its military posture in the South China Sea and the United States will continue its presence there as well. So there is always the possibility of an accidental clash that can easily escalate into a large-scale conflict.”

Maybe that’s the message of the garrison at Yongxing.

34 comments
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I_Heart_China
I_Heart_China

damn lot of hate here for China, forget the past, the future seems pretty clear, this world will be owned and operated by China, USA, and Russia, either way you gonna have to join one. Good luck boys and girls!!! hahaha...

I am a Chinese Canadian and lived here most of my life, I read what the west sells me, I hear from what my family in China says, if it hasn't already been said, there appears to be a lot of misinformed people in this world, this leads to a lot of hate, usually the cause of war, everyone needs to look at both sides and form their own opinion.

VietAlwaysStrong
VietAlwaysStrong

Chinese believes in no God, and lives without laws and regulations.  Thieves , robbers, and pirates. You will receive consequences, not from the rest of the world; but from your own people. Good luck China. On the side note, Vietnam is the only country in the world stands up against China, and it will happen again and again. 

johnkrats
johnkrats

One well placed typhoon will take care of that place.  That's why no one except a lunar person has built anything there.  They will drown in a day.

disqusdamnuserid
disqusdamnuserid

Stop your whining - Viets/Flips, the strong always take what they want. 

The Europeans - Spain/France/Britain -  having being doing that in the past, the USA is doing that now. So it's a matter of the strong vs the strong to challenge each other to determine the outcome. Question, is how far is the USA willing to challenge China? Certainly Vietnam and Philippines cannot make that challenge and they both know it. They can only hope to draw in the USA into the fray to make the situation more complex.

Hai Le
Hai Le

So why don't Ch]nks just go ahead and take everything then? Stupid?

disqusdamnuserid
disqusdamnuserid

...most of it has  already been taken by the Europeans/Americans. China is taking the very little that's left. 

Shitsmoothsays
Shitsmoothsays

 Because Chinks dont think they are strong enough to get into a fight backed up by US and Japs. Got it?

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

 What's your hurry?

Hai Le
Hai Le

I'm not in a hurry stupid.  I'm just asking disqusdamnuserid if he says "everybody should just shut up" and "the strong always take what they want" then what the hell are the Ch]nks waiting for?!

IAF101
IAF101

China is basically pissing on all ASEAN nations particularly Vietnam and Philippines. 

Today, nobody in ASEAN can challenge China. Some are openly working for China like Cambodia for money. Others just don't care about ASEAN and only look out for themselves. 

Recently China auctioned off oil blocks that Vietnam claims and this is only the beginning. Soon, unless South China sea nations are willing to risk their livss to defend their claims, the Chinese will "bribes" or "bully" their way. 

Hang Dang
Hang Dang

F-China . We are oversea vietnamese ready to coming home and fight to defend our motherland to our last drop of blood as our ancester have done in thousand years war with China.

disqusdamnuserid
disqusdamnuserid

Useless to macho talk. Vietnam has fallen further back in military strength than  the time they fought China in the 70's.  Actually, rather, China has progress and advanced so much further militarily than Vietnam that a conflict will be very much be one sided so much so that China may rule over Vietnam for another 1,000 years. 

Hai Le
Hai Le

What aspect of military strength has Vietnam fallen further back?

Rape the pigs
Rape the pigs

You're masturbating! Learn some hidtory.  Weak or strong,  since Vietnam kicked Ch]nks out in 939.  Ch]nks 'd tried hard to get back again but got kicked out every time with a bloody ass.  This time won't be an exception.  

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

Text excerpt: “Yongxing, also called Woody Island, measures less than one square mile (2.1 square km). It has a small airfield and artificial harbor and a permanent population of about 1,100. Virtually all food, water and supplies must be brought in by ship or plane.”

Uhh... and a single ship's cargo hold feeds 1.100 people for how long?

If a person eats and drinks 1 kg (~ 2 pounds) of food and liquids per day, that's:

1.100 people on that island x 1 kg x 365 days = 401.500 kg (401,5 tons) of food per year.

Only 401,5 tons of food needed per year for a garrison of 1.100 ??!

1) The very, very smallest container ships in the World (so-called “feeders”, which collect containers from many small harbours and concentrate them in few big harbours) already carry 300 – 500 tons of cargo! Picture of such a typical feeder:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi...

But if you further divide these 401,5 tons of freight into several short boat trips, because of the perishable foods that don't last one year, would anyone even build such a SUFFICIENTLY TINY freighter today for the minuscule cargos that result then?

2) Even THE SMALLEST LANDING CRAFT or hovercraft can take the weekly 8-tons-rations there, too (and China has TWO FLEETS of them) !

But if you're exceptionally hungry, then

3) A SINGLE Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane of the Chinese Air Force will also take those 401,5 tons there in only 8 annual flights x 50 tons of payload (= only once every 1,5 months!)

or – supposing that that island's runway is under constant repair for a whole year –

4) ONE  SINGLE Chinese Airforce Mil Mi-8 helicopter could also drop those 401,5 tons of food on the island in 133 flights x 3 tons of payload (= once every 3 days = even fresher food). Since Super-Power China apparently gambles its existence on the conquest of these tiny islands, it will certainly (and easily) pay even this small price to sustain them. Better, it doesn't even have to: I'm sure that whatever natural riches are included in Woody Island's / Yongxing's 200 miles wide E.E.Z. will pay the daily meals for those 1.100 men several times over! Like a few, daily tons of freshly caught fish, for example.

Is there even enough space on that tiny land speck to accomodate a whole tanker's oil for the island's only electric generator?

What a completely imbecilic argument of this article against basing a regiment on an island!

Plus, what's the opposite of (quote from the text) an “artificial harbour” ?

A “natural grown” harbour? A “biologically cultivated harbour” ? A “hand-carved harbour” ?

An U.S. American harbour?

God, how much the bickering U.S. Propaganda contorts itself logically and linguistically just to denigrate the rivals of the U.S.A. somehow, anyhow... petty, pathetic.

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Text excerpt: “Retired U.S. Rear Adm. Mike McDevitt, a former carrier battle group commander with experience in the South China Sea, says establishing a garrison on the island won’t alter the military balance or signal imminent hostilities. Any significant military operations in the region, he says, would be mounted from Hainan, where the People’s Liberation Army has major air, land and sea bases, rather than from tiny, salt-soaked Yongxing. (...) 'Putting garrisons on Woody Island or elsewhere in the Paracels would effectively maroon these guys (...)' ”

Who said “these guys” were merely rifle-toting infantrymen?

Woody Island / Yongxing lies 220 miles southeast of the large Hainan island, almost in the middle of the upper half of the South China Sea:

http://www.bjreview.com.cn/Cov...

But being 220 miles further out on the high sea is a very nice range increase for all types of military sensors and effectors: Otherwise, all land- (= Hainan-) based maritime surveillance and submarine-hunting ships amp; helicopters (even submarines) would have to travel an additional 220 miles out + 220 miles back again = more 440 miles than now! That's wasting a day-long submarine journey for nothing!

If you search in the entire South China Sea for any other, even more central places to position aircraft, missile boats, submarines, long-range radars, land-based missiles etc. on, you won't find any, except the odd shoal, coral reef or sand bank. That's the problem (purely geographically speaking).

Is Woody Island / Yongxing maybe too small, too surveyable, not defended and fortified enough against air attacks?

Not if you plan to use (to expend, to dispose of) that tiny island some day

1) merely as a “trip-wire” = to warn China's mainland of an impending air and / or naval attack from that direction (and all attacks by sea against China can happen only from TWO possible directions: South = where Woody Island / Yongxing lies, or East)

or

2) as a perfectly placed launch pad for an unexpected, massive salvo that desinfects the whole, crammed South China Sea in 3-D.

For some strange reason I don't hear that scornful, retired U.S. Rear Admiral Mike McDevitt (described by “Battleland” as a “former carrier battle group commander with experience in the South China Sea”) deriding the U.S. presence on its many United States Minor Outlying Islands either.

Petty, pathetic... again. U.S. Americans are such bad losers.

omegafrontier
omegafrontier

Please let the Freedom of Navigation be our intention in the Pacific.  Let's not get caught in these historically and nationalistic border disputes of other nations. It's futile and it doesn't serve our purpose.

Sam_boy
Sam_boy

China is the NAZI of 21th century. Soon your evil way will be stop. Your country will be humiliated again like history. Your arrogant way will not go for long.

Sam_boy
Sam_boy

China is the Nazi of 21th Centuries.. Soon your evil way will be stop and you will fall and everyone will laugh at you. Vietnam will defeat you again and you never learn. Japan will land to Nanking and Genghis Khan will impregnate all your women again.

Heterotic
Heterotic

The Phillipines are owned by China.

flipvin
flipvin

hey chinaman .big talk from the newest  imperialist. historically beaten back  by the koreans, vietnamese and conquered by japan. and still at it assuming you own all of asia. don't you know all your copied military equipment will break down as soon as you fire them. you will kill yourself! USA! USA! all the way! 

disqusdamnuserid
disqusdamnuserid

more specifically, by Hong Kong over the 40,000 maids employed there.

flipvin
flipvin

good for them but you guys have thousands of illegal chinese working in here in the states by way of cargo containers and slipping through the mexican borders. and you know what they don't care to go back over there in china.

Xuan Thu
Xuan Thu

A Chinese maps published by the Qing dynasty in 1904 found that Hainan Island is China's southernmost point, not two archipelagoes of paracel islands and spratly islands. 

China invaded and took control paracel islands and spratly islands in 1974 and 1988.

Hang Dang
Hang Dang

Talking is good but action will count to the aggressive /bullying  neighbor-China. We vietnamese is ready to fight and defend our main land and islands that our ancester have fought and gave to our generation to keep. That's our vietnamese responsibily at home or oversea. We're all Vietnamese .

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

You've missed the point of this article altogether. What's happening on Woody Island / Yongxing has nothing to do with China's neighbours.

China doesn't need to put 1.100 remotely supplied soldiers on a small, flat island and even to build a 1,5 km long airstrip right in the ocean (!), certainly not with Hainan close-by, because of “Vietnam” (with whom China even shares a land border) or “the Philippines” or other midgets at its feet.

If things really came to a head, fat bully China would simply start fishing and drilling oil right in front of all neighbour countries' most paradisiacal beaches – and they wouldn't dare to do a thing about it but watch. No “military support” coming from Woody Island / Yongxing needed here.

Does China just want to explore the riches found in Woody Island's / Yongxing's entire E.E.Z. ? Then Chinese companies can already do that at will, too, because this island is already Chinese (or: In Chinese hands...), and none of its neighbours seems inclined today to rip it away again from China.

Naah: So much costly, permanent, MILITARY personnel and infrastructure is clear overkill for daily Police or Coast Guard duties. And there isn't even a single, imminent threat to China's national integrity in the World that justifies so much pre-positioning of military forces.

The almost complete militarization of this tiny island can only be just a (just another...) small preparation for a conflict with a much more powerful adversary, which is China's last obstacle on the road to unrestrained regional hegemony. À la Imperial Japan.

Only their Pearl Harbour II is still missing. But maybe it's already planned in detail.

Don't get fooled by the way the U.S. American brass and Press rushes to downplay China's military build-up on this small island, although the U.S. Navy is the only plausible explanation (target) for that, probably just because of diplomatic jitters. It's an ostrich's most natural reaction.

3Dot14159265358
3Dot14159265358

Or do it the other way: rejoin China amp; all China has is yours.

patriot2008
patriot2008

China is upping the ante no doubt. The US should act quickly unless it wants to lose control in the next five or ten years to China over the misnamed South China sea and indeed in the whole Asia Pacific region. China is increasingly taking whole chunks of the world's resources in places as far as Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. This is the greatest forseeable threat to America and the whole free world in the near future. China has the capability of really degrading the American way of life more than any terrorist, meaning the loss of jobs and the downfall of American industry

ClieMate
ClieMate

America should stop doing bussiness in China and move it to somewhere else.

You sell the communist a rope and that rope will be use to hang the US.

America should plan strategically. As you can see, it is slowly poisoning the whole world.

Jane Kim
Jane Kim

Is it Yongxing or Yongxin? The spelling is different in the second and fourth paragraphs. Feel free to delete this comment once you fix the error. 

Shuami
Shuami

 It's Yongxing.

Jude Lanado
Jude Lanado

why?

freefallingbomb
freefallingbomb

Do you work at McDonald's, or what?

The Chinese alphabet has 4.000 characters, while the English alphabet has only 26 . Therefore, each English character – I prefer to say each Latin character – like that missing “g” at the end of “Yongxin” statistically translates 153 Chinese ADDITIONAL , DIFFERENT characters.

And how many Chinese words (like city names) could you write with 153 ADDITIONAL characters (even if the Chinese vocabulary has the same size as ours) ?


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