Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Small Reef in the South China Sea Could Change the Military Balance in the Pacific, Patriots Tactical

A Small Reef in the South China Sea Could Change the Military Balance in the Pacific

Fighting among rival nations about territorial claims in the South China Sea is nothing new. It is not surprising either, as the water is teeming with a large amount of fish and is said to also hold vast oil reserves under the ocean floor. There have been disputed claims for years between the smaller nations in the region, but nothing like what has come about recently with the military giant China basically redrawing its borders on a map and claiming most of the South China Sea as its own. A small reef near the Spratly Islands has escalated the dispute to a whole new level and quite possibly will change the balance of power in the Pacific in China’s favor.

China already has proven that they are not opposed to butting heads with even some of their largest trading partners in the region to get what they want. There have been incidents and tensions with Japan over some disputed islands in the East China Sea and an extremely tense conflict with Vietnam over the placing of a Chinese oil rig in territorial waters claimed by Vietnam (China has since removed the oil rig). Now the center of attention has shifted to Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea.

The location of Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea

The location of Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea

Fiery Cross Reef is located just 300 miles from the Philippine Island of Palawan. The reef is claimed by the Chinese, the Philippines, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam. It is part of seven reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands area that are controlled by China. China has had some sort of presence on the island since 1988, but it was not until recently that its presence there caught the attention of other nations around the world in a big way.

The Chinese, in the past few years, have undertaken huge land reclamation projects on the Fiery Cross Reef. They have been dredging huge amounts of sand from the ocean floor and are in the process of artificial island building. Most recently, a several story high structure that was thought to be some sort of communications building has been constructed, and there is evidence they are building port facilities, helipads, piers and runways. The Chinese government in Beijing has not hidden the fact that the construction is intended for both military and civilian purposes.

How does this change the balance of power in the region? If anything happened militarily in that area in the past, the distance would have made it tough, logistically, for china to support sustained military action; but, with an airbase and other military presence, that would no longer present a problem. It would put Chinese air superiority fully in charge of the area, only being opposed by countries like the Philippines that do not even have a single fighter jet. It will also bring Australia into the 3500 nautical mile range of China’s biggest bombers and, when combined with their cruise missile range of 2000 nautical miles, it will extend the range that China can strike targets at to over 5000 nautical miles. That type of capability in the South China Sea is a game changer in the Pacific Region, to say the least.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

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Craig Smith

Craig has been writing for several years but just recently made freelance writing a full time profession after leaving behind 26 years working in the swimming pool construction industry. He served four years in the US Air Force as an Imagery Interpreter Specialist in Okinawa, Japan and at SAC Headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. As a staunch supporter of law enforcement personnel, emergency medical technicians, firemen, search and rescue personnel and those who serve in the military, Craig is proud to contribute to the US Patriot blog on their behalf.

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