February 29, 2016

US would need massive military bases in the Philippines to alter South China Sea equation

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has a map showing the coverage of China's airplanes and missiles based on islands in the South China Sea.

One of China’s highly developed islands in the northern part of the South China Sea, Woody Island, has been equipped with surface-to-air missiles and fighter aircraft. These moves have come just as many defense analysts have predicted for years and are likely an indication of things to come for China’s other island outposts throughout the South China Sea.

There is also evidence that China is installing a high-frequency long-range radar array on Cuarteron Reef, one of their handful of manmade islands in the south-central part of the South China Sea. This radar type is known to be used for detecting aircraft and ships at extreme ranges far over-the-horizon and can theoretically detect some stealthy aircraft under certain circumstances. It is just one of many other sensors popping up on this island and others, although the existence of such a capability provides even more evidence that China is actively seeking an aggressive anti-access, area denial strategy over the South China Sea.

China has begun an extensive construction operation in the South China Sea’s Paracel Islands, following years of work building artificial islands in the Spratly Archipelago.

Chinese construction crews are working on a helicopter base on Duncan Island, which has required land dredging that has “increase[d] by 50 percent the area of Duncan Island.” In addition to the base, The Diplomat finds evidence for the beginnings of a number of new, potentially military facilities in the region. Construction appears to have begun in earnest in early December 2015.

The Philippines has offered the United States eight bases where it can build facilities to store equipment and supplies under a new security deal, a military spokesman said on Wednesday, amid rising tension with China over the South China Sea.

Last year, the Philippines and the United States signed the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) granting Washington increased military presence in its former colony, rotating ships and planes for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

"The list has been prepared many months ago when we had earlier discussions," Colonel Restituto Padilla told reporters, saying five military airfields, two naval bases and a jungle training camp were offered to the United States.

"These are still subject for approval and we're going to hold final discussions about these areas."

Three of these bases are on the main island of Luzon in the northern Philippines, including Clark airfield, a former U.S. air force base, and two are on the western island of Palawan, near the South China Sea.

The Americans are also seeking access to three civilian seaports and airfields on Luzon, including Subic Bay, a former U.S. Navy base, a senior defense official told Reuters.

Indonesia base

Indonesia plans to strengthen its capability to defend its land and waters in the South China Sea, namely the Natuna Islands around which the country has declared an exclusive economic zone that overlaps with China’s “nine-dash line” maritime claim its defense minister.

According to Ryamizard, Indonesia plans to deploy a fleet of jet fighters and three corvettes to the islands, revamp its naval and air force base and deploy more troops.

Indonesia currently has about 800 service members in Natuna. Next year, the number will rise to about 2,000.

SOURCES - Japan Times, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Reuters, Breitbart

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