Party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley L. Acedillo of Magdalo emphasized the importance of understanding the motive in China’s presence on areas the Philippines deems it owns.
“It is important to us to understand why China wants to break out of the first island chain, and go out as far as the second island chain,” said Acedillo, a Philippine Military Academy alumnus. He added that, once the first island chain is firmly in their hands, the Chinese would move on to the second island chain.
“They’re doing that by actually setting up island fortifications and actually, at the same time, developing what we call ‘anti-access-area denial’, or A2AD, weapons,” he
said in an exclusive interview with the BusinessMirror
Acedillo further explained the A2AD is a security strategy that allows China to launch a preemptive strike against a perceived threat.
“The security strategy is called ‘defense in-depth’; the farther you can defend your borders, the better,” he said.
‘Island Chain Strategy’
ACCORDING to Acedillo, the “Island Chain Strategy” is divided into first, second and third island chains. The imaginary first island chain begins on the Kuril Islands in southern Japan, running all the way down to Borneo and the northern portion of the Philippines. The key part of the first chain would be Taiwan.
The second island chain is formed by the Ogasawara Islands and Volcano Islands, also in Japan, in addition to Mariana Islands, a United States territory. As it is within the middle portion of the Pacific Ocean, it acts as a second strategic defense line for the US. The third island chain is the final part of the strategy. It begins on the Aleutian Islands and end in Oceania. The key part of the third chain would be the Hawaiian Islands of the US.
“So we should understand why China is doing this,” Acedillo said. “It’s not just a whim.
Why they’re developing their economy is precisely to strengthen their military.”
Roots of desire
ACEDILLO explained that the root of all of China’s desire to acquire control of the South China Sea and the Western Pacific Ocean could be traced back to 1939, the start of the “Century of Humiliation”. The desire transcended into 1949, when Mao Zedong founded the People’s Republic of China.
“In this period, China collapsed as an empire, and was forced to give major concessions to the great powers in the subsequent treaties,” he said, noting that all of the powers that invaded China came by way of the sea.
“They [China] have many natural barriers on land, mountains, barren lands, desserts, snow, etc., etc. But there is no defense from the sea, so they want it now protected.”
According to reports by American think tanks CSBA and RAND, by 2020 China will be well on its way to having the means to achieve its first island-chain policy.
Once China has secured the area bounded by the three island chains, the People’s Liberation Army could prevent the US Navy from proceeding from it bases in Guam and Hawaii to assist Taiwan, the CSBA and RAND reports said.
ANDREW Erickson, a professor with the China Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College, has written that the Chinese Navy operates the world’s largest conventional submarine missile force.
“The vast majority of those missiles having the right range appear to be targeted at various US and allied military bases in the region, almost all of which are somewhere along the first island chain,” Erickson said. “The chain traditionally has made use of existing geography, but you could argue that China is now making its own island chain—as a springboard for itself and to create a barrier to others.”
Erickson said he has not yet seen Chinese sources referring “to this artificial island-construction development as an ‘island chain- type thing’.”
“But if we look at it conceptually, we’re really talking about similar things,” he said. “That’s one reason, I think, there’s so much US, regional and allied concern about Chinese activities in the South China Sea.”
BATONGBACAL said military hydrographic and oceanographic surveys are needed by maritime powers in order to obtain accurate information about the ocean environment so that military vessels, especially submarines, can best take advantage of that environment in battles.
“The undersea terrain, underwater currents, thermal layering, saline differences, water temperatures, etc., are all environmental factors that can play pivotal roles in the movement and detection of undersea and surface vessels,” Batongbacal said. “[A] knowledge of sea conditions provides a skilled ship/submarine commander with enormous tactical and strategic advantages.”
He added, “China is known to be expanding the reach of its naval power, both on the surface and under the sea.”
“It can, therefore, be expected to undertake military hydrographic and oceanographic survey activities in all ocean areas that it expects to operate in,” Batongbacal said. “The Benham Rise region, being a possible area of approach for naval forces coming from the Pacific, is obviously one of those potential areas of operation.”
To be concluded