Herman Tiu Laurel / Phil-BRICS Strategic Studies / July 22, 2020
Last July 4 as President Trump spoke at the U.S. Independence Day celebration and further exacerbated the racial and class divisions in American society. At the same time, as if it did not have enough trouble at home, the U.S. sent two aircraft carriers — the Ronald Reagan and the Nimitz — to the South China Sea allegedly “in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
A week later U.S. through Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a histrionic change in its decades long neutral policy on the South China Sea territorial and maritime disputes. Declaring China’s claims as “completely unlawful” while claiming to “uphold freedom of the seas in a manner consistent with international law, maintain the unimpeded flow of commerce, and oppose any attempt to use coercion or force to settle disputes.”
For Pompeo to question the “lawfulness” of any position on the South China Sea dispute is neither credible nor acceptable in view of the fact that the U.S. is not a party to the law being invoked, the UNCLOS. The U.S. has not ratified the code after decades of sitting on it. Besides, even UNCLOS offers dialogue and negotiations as a mode of resolving disputes which has the higher prospects of the universally and expressed U.N. desire for peaceful, win-win resolutions.
While the U.S. avowedly claims to “oppose any attempt to use coercion or force” its act of sending the two aircraft carriers to the region simultaneous with its hostile declaration casts a heavy shadow over its admonishing against “use of force”. The act smacks of the 19th Century “gunboat diplomacy” the Western colonial powers used to impose hundreds of years of colonialism over many parts of Asia, something Asia will never forget.
The “freedom of navigation” that the U.S. allegedly seeks to ensure by its intensifying naval presence in the region does not square with reality as it is oxymoronic to think the South China Sea littoral states, especially China which depends for 70% of its trade and supply of energy on transit through it (though much less now with alternative routes it set up through Pakistan and Myanmar), would even dream of blocking such “freedom of navigation” there.
It is a timely moment to remind the Filipino people and the world what country has long been conducting naval and military exercises in region to block the freedom of navigation. It is the U.S. which also cows its geopolitical allies (or minions) to join in an exercise called Talisman-Saber. The United States leads this regular military exercise that started in 2003 and goes on today, joined in by Australia, New Zealand and other occasional kibitzing allies such as Japan.
John Pilger, award winning and authoritative journalist, author and producer of the blockbuster “The Coming War On China” in an interview with TeleSur (the inter-South American public new) which you can watch on YouTube said, “In secrecy, the biggest single exercise in recent years – known as Talisman Sabre – has rehearsed an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca, Sunda and Lombok.
Readers can research further with my 2019 article “U.S. FONOPs Coalition: Multilateral Provocation, Not Resistance” (https://asiancenturyph.com/2019/07/20/u-s-fonops-coalition-multilateral-provocation-not-resistance/)
Retired General Victor Corpus periodically writes about Talisman Saber to explain to the Filipino public that this is the reason why China had to reclaim and build islands in the South China Sea, and set up defensive structures thereat. Gen. Corpus also repetitively reminds his readers, just as John Pilger does, of the 800 U.S. military bases surrounding China and how China anticipates this with missiles that can wipe those bases out within minutes of a conflict.
The World Socialist Website (WSWS) also reports on the Talisman Saber, this one as early as 2013 entitled “US-Australian military exercise rehearses for war against China” by James Cogan: “As many as 22,000 American personnel and 16 ships, alongside up to 10,000 Australian personnel and 11 ships, are currently rehearsing in northern Australia and the Coral Sea for the outbreak of a war.
“Talisman Saber exercises have been staged every two years since 2005. They are viewed in the Pentagon and its Pacific Command (PACOM) as one of the most important exercise held in the Asian region… In reality, a central aspect of the US military’s ‘Air-Sea Battle’ doctrine is the offensive deployment of American and allied forces to blockade sea lanes, such as the Straits of Malacca, the Sunda Straits and Lombok Straits, and cut off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials…” https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/07/27/tali-j27.html
The treachery of U.S. foreign policy knows no bounds, this Talisman Saber continued despite China’s constant show of goodwill to the U.S. In 2008 when the U.S. Financial Crisis collapsed the Western financial and economic system China worked to help the U.S. recovery, as the US Congressional Research Service reported in 2009:
“China… holds huge amounts of foreign exchange reserves… the Chinese government … announced plans to implement a $586 billion package… this plan could also boost Chinese demand for imports…. to help stabilize the U.S. economy, China might boost its holdings of U.S. Treasury securities, which would help fund the Federal Government’s borrowing needs to purchase troubled U.S. assets and to finance economic stimulus packages.
In the midst of China help in 2011 the U.S. announced its Pivot to Asia which debuted with U.S. vassal Japan triggering the Diaoyu Island crisis. Japan nationalized and geo-politicalized what was previously privately held by Japanese owners. This was followed by the Aquino administration’s provocation in the Scarborough Shoals arresting Chinese fishermen thereat. Chinese Coast Guard ships aborted the arrests. The South China Sea tension escalated.
The sea vortexes were saw China respond with island building and erection of defensive facilities. The U.S. hypocritically accused China of “militarizing” the sea contrary to previous pledges, but it would have been stupid for China not to respond to the U.S. “Pivot to Asia” which was an unmistakable intensification of the “China containment” strategy which promised the transfer of 60% of U.S. military forces to the region.
China’s island building is now proven successful, it has frustrated U.S. containment timetables and Air-Sea Battle tactics while forcing U.S. to realign strategic plans. Guam and Australia’s Pine Gap and other U.S. bases are now even more vulnerable to China’s missiles and bombing capabilities. Talisman Saber neutralized. The U.S. is reportedly going farther east of the Pacific as Asia Times reports: “US preps for Pacific conflict with Wake Island expansion”.
“Woke” Filipinos know the danger of keeping U.S. presence in Philippine soil especially as the U.S. escalates its anti-China campaign. While the Philippines hosts the extended VFA arrangement any breakout of US-China military conflict will turn the Philippines as a target for pre-emptive or retaliatory strikes. The “un-woke” Filipinos lulled by the American boys in the old Philippine Establishment and media are sleep walking through this peril.
The need to liberate the un-woke Filipinos is ever increasing as the US-China conflict clock ticks closer to midnight. In this regard I see Duterte’s scuttling of the primary instrument of U.S. cultural wars against the Filipino nation, the closure of ABS-CBN, as a key revolutionary event. ABS-CBN has been instrumental in dumbing down the population, promoting the ill-effects of U.S. colonial-mentality, stunting public intellectual growth.
As I close let me cite a contrast: On July 15, 2020 U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim published an Op-Ed piece in local newspapers, “The Philippines’ future floats in the West Philippine Sea” awkwardly portraying the Philippine economy “adrifting”, ignoring other vast Philippine assets such as the Philippine (Benham) Rise and the PHL-China Reed Bank 60/40 joint venture to pump out billions worth of oil and gas. Kim’s was a limpid lure to snap on the SCS bait and trap.
On the other hand, China’s Ambassador Huang Xilian in a three-part interview on the other hard stressed on the upbeat prospects of PHL-China trade and development, the promise of the Belt and Road Initiative, on the fact that PHL and China are top trading partners again in in the 1st five months of 2020 with $ 19.37 billion trade volume, while China’s direct investment reached $ 18.25 million up 82.5% year-on-year.
China is the first country in the world to return to growth in global pandemic crisis, bouncing back in the second qtr. with 3.2% growth.
The U.S. has nothing little to offer as its second qtr.
Its 2020 GDP is projected by various business analysts to contract from between 12% to CNBC’s shocking June 2 estimate of 53%. The U.S. economic crisis is expected to extend to 2023. Though we would all wish that they recover sooner, as of today the U.S. can offer only pomposity and loud-mouthing gunboat pageantry.