There is a price to not reading history – you don’t grasp the fullness of the present because the context that we see now is obscured by a lack of information. America doesn’t teach young men and women to study history, and they often fail to grasp even the simplest events with an eye toward context and precedence. (sorry for the lapse into a sermonette)
Various news outlets including Fox News have put out reports featuring satellite imagery showing two batteries of a mobile air defense missile system on a beach at Woody Island in the Parcel Islands, in the South China Sea. According to the imagery readout, a beach on the island was empty on 3 February, but the missiles were visible by 14 February. An unidentified US official said the system appears to be the HQ-9 air defense system, which has a range of 125 miles (200 km).
Over the weekend, The Diplomat magazine reported that China also is building a helicopter base at Duncan Island in the Parcels. Vietnam also claims the Paracel Islands. I can only guess that you didn’t know that in 1974, the Republic of Vietnam’s naval forces were defeated by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy in a sea battle not far from Duncan Island, ending Vietnam’s presence in the Paracels. After that battle, China controlled the Paracel Islands.
The presence of the HQ-9 launchers on the beach is a strong sign that China wants the US and other states with imaging satellites to be aware of China’s air defense capability. In that context, China’s exposure of the equipment carries a latent threat. Deploying air defense systems on the islands that it occupies is a prudent defensive precaution. On Woody Island, it is a military requirement because it contains China’s first military base in the South China Sea. Combat and patrol aircraft have deployed there in the past and will be deployed there again in the future.
Other military defensive measures will be detected on all the islands and islets on which China has made improvements in the Paracel and the Spratly Island chains. With multiple claimants to the islands and to their sea and seabed resources plus periodic US freedom of navigation naval missions, militarization of the islands has been inevitable. The Chinese are serious about defending their claims to ownership of the Sea and its islands and resources.
I mention this on my blog so that you readers will have the proper context and will understand the serious nature of Chinese claims.
America’s absence from the national stage during the era of ObamaNation led to our abandonment of traditional allies in the area and encouraged Chinese expansion and hegemony. Once done, it’s exceptionally difficult to see undone. Elections have consequences and China’s expansion in the face of a weak United States is inevitable.
I reflect on the expansionist dreams of the Empire of Japan in their invasion of Manchuria in 1931. I do not suggest that history is repeating here, only that there is danger when we see national expansion and annexing vast territory — and building the means to defend it.