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Choosing Between the United States and China, for a Better Philippines Tomorrow

DF-21D ballistic anti-ship missile "carrier buster" missile
China's DF-21D ballistic anti-ship "carrier buster" missile.
Photo: economictimes.indiatimes.com

ome Filipinos say that the United States and China are moving towards a showdown in the South China Sea and the Philippines' best course of action is to remain neutral and get out of the way.

The United States Navy has been the dominant power in the Pacific for decades. No other navy even comes close. But China is rapidly developing a blue water navy of its own plus sophisticated long-range missile technology that will soon give the Americans a run for their money.

So far China is still not up to par militarily with the U.S. so it is biding its time while rapidly building up its forces and setting up militarily strategic sites all over the South China Sea. The artificial islands it has created there can project military power all the way to the Western Pacific. The runways on many of those man-made islands are not just for civilian aircraft but for military fighter jets, bombers, military transports, and air refueling tankers as well.

Preparing for a future armed confrontation with the United States, China will be playing to win. In their book "Death by China Confronting the Dragon—A Global Call to Action" authors Peter Navarro and Greg Autry point to China's growing arsenal of offensive weapons designed to insure that success:

1. "The Dongfeng (DF) or 'East Wind' 31A. This is a mobile-launched, long range, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is hard to track, harder to spot, and more than ready to deliver a 1-megaton nuclear warhead right to your doorstep."

2. The Jin class nuclear missile submarine with its Ju Lang-2 ICBMs. "These 'Giant Wave' missiles can be armed with multiple warheads capable of frying any city in the United States or Europe" ... or Asia.

3. The "DF-21D ballistic anti-ship missile—a true naval warfare game changer. It's a mobile-launched, Mach 10, solid fueled demon expressly designed to drive America's Pacific Fleet ... right back to the beaches of Hawaii; and this sudden screaming death has just one target—aircraft supercarriers like the USS George Washington."

4. China has a standing army 2.3 million strong. "Its boots on the ground far outnumber the combined forces of Canada, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom."

China's military might at this stage already appears formidable so it is essential that Filipinos weight their options carefully. Is the Philippines ready to appease China by giving up all its claims in the South China Sea (or West Philippine Sea as we Filipinos prefer to call it) in exchange for "friendly" relations with its superpower neighbor? Or will it stand on principle and risk China's wrath?

The United States' commitment to its 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines is "ironclad" according to U.S. President Barack Obama. But he leaves office on January of next year. And besides, where was Obama and his powerful 7th Fleet during the tense 3-month standoff between the Philippines and China in Ayungin (Scarborough) Shoal in 2012. The U.S. stand back then—and probably to this day—is a hands-off approach with regards to territorial disputes. And after that Obama also made sure he looked the other way as China built up one artificial island after another in the Spratlys over a 2-year period. It was only when it became undeniably clear that China's aim was to deny the U.S. Navy the entire South China Sea including parts of the Western Pacific, that the Obama administration finally sat up, took notice and made their now famous "pivot to Asia."

U.S. President Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama. Photo: abcnews.go.com

Already, in his last year in office, Obama is scrambling to undo the effects of his Rip Van Winkle days of sleeping while the Chinese changed the reality in the South China Sea. And like the storybook character, Obama appears to now be taken aback by all the changes that have since occurred in waters where the U.S. Navy once sailed everywhere uncontested.

For Filipinos, it will be a tough decision with long-lasting repercussions. Do we let the Chinese to take what is lawfully ours according to the Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), in exchange for living in peace and harmony inside a Chinese sphere of influence? And then hope and pray that they leave us alone, and not decide to take more islands from us in the future? Or do we demand what is rightfully ours? This would also mean standing with the U.S. and its allies against China.

What we Filipinos of this generation decide might well determine what the Philippines will look like, and what Filipinos will be like for decades—even centuries—to come. We are approaching a fork in the road and we will have to choose which path to take. Published 3/17/2016

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