Desperate Need of Bongbong’s American Friends for The Bashi Channel

By Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

Part One: Towards Our National Insecurity

The Bashi Channel is one of the most strategic yet lesser-known choke points in the Indo-Pacific region, rivaling the Malacca and Taiwan Straits for the title, said an incisive YouTube@Kamome gathering 2.2 million hits in just two weeks.

I will quote the video, freely. Please find the link at the end of this article.

In times of peace, the channel between Taiwan and the Philippines, serves a major passageway for global sea trade and location for the majority of the underwater internet cables connecting Southeast and South Asia with North America and Japan.

But in a conventional war between China and the United States, China’s maritime border security is confronted by the lack of access points larger than 200 miles into the Pacific Ocean. To project its force by water to its first island chain, there are only six international water corridors, four of which are along the Nansei Shoto islands.

Together with the Miyako Channel between the island of Miyako and Okinawa, north of Taiwan, the Bashi Channel south of it, serve as more crucial two passages because they are larger than 50 miles.

For China, these chokepoints are critical to the invasion of Taiwan, the completion of a blockade of the island and connecting China’s shores to the open seas of the Pacific Ocean.

For the United States, America would aim to supply Taiwan’s defense in the north through the Miyako and the south through Bashi in order to enter the South China Seas.

In this context, the Bashi Channel offers ideal conditions for denying each other access from the Pacific Ocean into the South China Sea and vice versa.

Taiwan Lee’s US visit

[Let me intersperse some insights to the video here.] The geo-war scenario the People’s Republic of China (PRC) experienced when it conducted a series of two missile tests in the waters surrounding Taiwan, however, opened wide China’s eyes.

The first set of Dong Feng DF15 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) fired on July 21, 1995 were allegedly intended to send a strong signal to the Republic of China government under President Lee Teng-hui, who was seen as moving its foreign policy away from the One-China policy.

The U.S. government responded by staging the biggest display of American military might in Asia since the Vietnam War, surprising the Chinese. In July 1995, USS Belleau Wood (LHA-3) transited the Taiwan Strait, followed by the USS O’Brien (DD-975) and USS McClusky (FFG-41) on December 11–12, 1995. Finally on December 19, 1995, the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and the seventh fleet passed through the straits.

A second set of missiles were fired on March 23, 1996 intending to intimidate the electorate in the run-up to the Taiwan’s 1996 presidential election.

The Washington Post reported that the USS Bunker Hill CG-52 (which had detached from the Independence battlegroup) along with a RC-135 Intelligence aircraft monitored the launch of 3 CSS-6 (DF-15) missiles from the PRC, two of them into shipping lanes near Kaohsiung and one fired directly over Taipei into a shipping lane near Keelung.

Over 70 percent of commercial shipping passed through the targeted ports, which were disrupted by the proximity of the tests. Flights to Japan and trans-Pacific flights were prolonged by ten minutes because airplanes needed to detour away from the flight path. Ships traveling between Kaohsiung and Hong Kong had to take a two-hour detour.

So finally, U.S. President Clinton sent the USS Independence CV-62 and the fifth fleet, to Japan from its visit to the Philippines, to international waters near Taiwan and the USS Nimitz CVN-68 and the seventh fleet, steaming at high speed from the Persian Gulf, together with Belleau Wood, to again sail through the Taiwan Strait.

On this round, acknowledging the U.S. Navy carrier battle groups’ credible threat to the PLA Navy, the China backed-off. In averting escalation and avoiding war it made an improvement of Vladimir Lenin principle that in making one step backward and exhibiting strategic patience, China actually achieved two steps forward.

Instead of immediately jumping to an arms race involving a military buildup and modernization of its air and naval assets, it went back to the backboards and reviewed its entire defense doctrine. Today, we are seeing the result of a carefully inducted military doctrine in what it calls “active defense”.

What were visible to the naked eyes soon unraveled the People’s Republic ordering Sovremenny-class destroyers from Russia, a Cold War-era class designed to counter U.S. Navy carrier battle groups, allegedly in mid-December 1996 during the visit to Moscow by Chinese Premier Li Peng.

China purchased the stripped hulk Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Riga from Ukraine in 1998 and towed to the Dalian naval shipyard in northeast China. The ship was rebuilt and commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as China’s first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, on 25 September 2012.

Subsequently, PRC also ordered modern attack submarines (Kilo class) and warplanes (76 Su-30MKK and 24 Su-30MK2) in preparation to counter the American navy’s carrier groups.

But beyond those, what we are seeing today is that China has performed miracles not just in economic leadership but in military might.

China Security Lake breached

Previously, as the Kamome video continues – the South China Sea could have been considered China’s lake, with the Peoples Liberation Army holding control over its air and sea spaces.

However, the establishment of U.S. bases in the Philippines has substantially reduced its strategic space, leaving major economic and military hubs, such as Shenzhen, Hong Kong, and Zhejiang, within 600 miles of potential attack from the south.

In the North, U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan are less than 600 miles from major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.

 This situation puts the majority of the Chinese population and industries at risk of being of Tomahawk range, greatly shifting the balance of power in the region.

Four new U.S. bases in Northern Luzon through an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, further improves U.S. deterrence capabilities in the South China Sea, particularly in terms of having air superiority. While the U.S. Navy can maintain its vessels in the area for months at a time, air superiority fighter jets can only sustain operations for a few hours and require extensive maintenance facilities.

Therefore, either the base follows along with the aircraft, like in the case of an aircraft carrier, or a land base within the operational range of the jets is essential.

Before this point, the South China Seas airspace was mostly visited only by long-range surveillance aircraft, like P-8 or the Global Hawk. Last March 2023, F-22 Raptors and F35 Lightnings were deployed in the Philippines for the first time, where they conducted joint exercises with the Philippines Air Force, creating deterrence in the air, especially against the PLA Air Force long-range bombers.

Undoubtedly, the Marcos administration played a pivotal role in facilitating a structured logistical presence of the U.S. in the South China Sea and to the south of Taiwan. [I end quoting the video at this point.]

But China’s response was measured. According to The Diplomat, the Chinese Embassy in Manila has more blame for the US, “To bundle the Philippines into the chariots of geopolitical strife will seriously harm Philippine national interests and endanger regional peace and stability.”

“Shorn of its high-pitched rhetoric about the U.S. attempt to secure its hegemony and selfish geopolitical interests”, The Diplomat reads that the core claim of China’s statement – that Washington’s goal in expanding the scope of EDCA is to curb and contain Chinese power – has the merit of being basically correct.

Pentagon reports to Congress

It could therefore be crucial for China to maintain control over the Bashi area to ensure its strategic space and maritime border security, but the Peoples Liberation Army has already crossed that bridge and has made much commonsensically wiser preparations going forward.

Barely 20 years from the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis, the September 1, 2020 US Department of Defense report to the American Congress speaks of a China developing a military by mid-century that is equal to—or in some cases superior to—the U.S.

“The PRC has marshalled the resources, technology, and political will over the past two decades to strengthen and modernize the PLA in nearly every respect. Indeed, as the report showed, China is already ahead of the United States in certain areas such as:

  1. Shipbuilding: The PRC has the largest navy in the world, with an overall battle force of approximately 350 ships and submarines including over 130 major surface combatants. In comparison, the U.S. Navy’s battle force is approximately 293 ships as of early 2020.
  2. Land-based conventional ballistic and cruise missiles: The PRC has more than 1,250 ground launched ballistic missiles (GLBMs) and ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers. The United States currently fields one type of conventional GLBM with a range of 70 to 300 kilometers and no GLCMs.
  3. Integrated air defense systems: The PRC has one of the world’s largest forces of advanced long-range surface-to-air systems—including Russian-built S-400s, S-300s, and domestically produced systems—that constitute part of its robust and redundant integrated air defense system architecture.”

The Pentagon also testified to the US Congress, “More striking than the PLA’s staggering amounts of new military hardware are the recent sweeping efforts taken by CCP leaders that include completely restructuring the PLA into a force better suited for joint operations, improving the PLA’s overall combat readiness, encouraging the PLA to embrace new operational concepts, and expanding the PRC’s overseas military footprint.”

In addition, China commissioned its second aircraft carrier, Shandong in 2019, the first it built and completed domestically. In 2022, it launched its third aircraft carrier, Fujian.

In air, drone. stealth and cyberwar, China has done well its homework and is currently transitioning from fifth to sixth generation technology.

In an ugly confrontation between the United States and the China, ostensibly for the control of the region, the Bashi Channel will be a vital and essential issue for the United States and the world.

I can agree that to China it will still be important, however for winning the war, it will no longer be a matter of life or death.

To be Continued. Next part: Bongbong’s American Bases Put Our Country in Severe Harm’s Way


<strong>Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan</strong>
Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan

is the anchor of Ang Maestro – the Unfinished Revolution at Radyo Pilipinas1, co-host of Opinyon Ngayon at Golden Nation Network Television, a political analyst, and author of books. His third book, The Poverty of Power will soon be off-the-press. It is a historiography of controversial issues of spanning 36 years leading to the Demise of the Edsa Revolution and the Rise of the Philippine Phoenix. Paglinawan’s past best sellers have been A Problem for Every Solution (2015), a characterization of factors affecting Philippine-China relations, and No Vaccine for a Virus called Racism (2020) a survey of international news attempting to tracing its origins. These important achievements earned for him to be named one of the 2021 international laureates for the Awards for the Promotion of Philippine-China Understanding. Ado, as he called for short, was a former press attaché and spokesman of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Philippines’ Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Facebook





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