CHINA CLAIMS ANOTHER REEF
Yesterday, the South China Morning Post reported that later this year China will start land reclamation on another disputed reef in the South China Sea. According to the report, China intends to establish an outpost on Scarborough Shoal that would allow China to “further perfect” its air coverage across the South China Sea.
Scarborough Shoal, which the Chinese call Huangyan Island, is a reef that is mostly underwater at high tide, but surrounds an inner lagoon. The highest point is called South Rock, which stands almost six feet above sea level. Including the lagoon, the shoal covers 58 square miles of shoal and sea area.
The Philippines claims the shoal. It lies 143 miles west of Luzon and is located within the Philippines’ 200-nm exclusive economic zone. In 2012 China sent ships to the shoal and essentially jumped the Philippine claim, after a two-month standoff between Chinese naval ships and the Philippine Navy. China maintains patrol ships near the shoal to chase away Filipino fishing boats.
Scarborough Shoal is not part of the Spratly or Paracel island groups. Its location and potential size after reclamation operations make it an ideal site for establishing an air defense site or for building another air strip. An air surveillance and air defense site would fill a large gap in perimeter air defense coverage of the sea areas over which China claims sovereignty. An air base at this location would place Chinese aircraft in range of Manila without aerial refueling.
For reference, Scarborough Shoal is 376 nm from Woody Island, the main Chinese military base in the Paracels, and just over 500 nm from Fiery Cross Reef air strip in the Spratlys. The distance to Manila is 191 nm.
Sovereignty over Scarborough Shoal is one of the issues in the Philippine case before the international tribunal under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. As it concerns the Philippines, the leak to the Hong Kong media reinforces the longstanding message that China will ignore any finding by the tribunal.
By making the decision, Beijing puts the US on notice that China intends to halt unapproved overflights and freedom of navigation operations. Construction of an air defense installation or an airstrip on Scarborough Shoal would support the judgment that China intends to establish an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over most of the South China Sea.
Either the Philippines and the nations opposing Chinese expansion and exploitation stop them now, or it will be too late. My guess is that nobody has the spine to stop the Chinese and they will continue to grab whatever they want.
OBAMA’S HOMELAND IS BUILDING A WALL
Kenyan Interior Secretary Joseph Nkaissery said on 24 April that Kenya will resume construction of a 700-kilometer (435-mile) security wall along its border with Somalia. Nkaissery said the wall will help keep out al-Shaba’ab elements attempting to infiltrate from Somalia and will bar unwanted persons from illegal entry.
Kenyan authorities announced in March 2015 that they intended to build a barrier with checkpoints and limited access along the entire border from Mandera, in the north, to Kiunga, in the south, based loosely on the Israeli barrier wall project. Construction began by November, but the project stalled for lack of funds and came under criticism as a waste of public funds.
The terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013 and the al Shaba’ab attack at Garissa University in April 2015 exerted strong pressure on the government to improve security. Ethnic Somalis live on both sides of the border and move back and forth easily. The barrier will control population movements, which have served as cover for al Shaba’ab terrorists.
I find it fascinating that Obama and the Pope have not called on the Kenyans to build bridges (for terrorists to cross) instead of a wall.
MEANWHILE IN THE USA
Trump scored a victory winning every county in each of five states voting in the Republican Primary yesterday. The margin of success exceeded everyone’s expectations. The “never Trump” crowd remains in denial.