September 24, 2016

Prospect of Philippine Thaw Slows China’s Plans in South China Sea

Featuring CDR Thomas Shugart, USN

Source: The New York Times

Journalist Jane Perlez

BEIJING — China’s next big target for construction of an artificial island in the South China Sea has long been assumed to be a cluster of rocks poking above sapphire waters near the Philippines.

For several years, Chinese Coast Guard vessels and fishing trawlers have hovered around the reef, known as Scarborough Shoal. Giant dredges, suitable for building a military base, were recently rumored to be on their way there.

But the election last spring of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has since showered threats and epithets on the United States, has changed China’s calculation.

That does not mean China has given up on the long-term goal of what could be a vast military base on Scarborough Shoal. But for the moment, the plans appear to be postponed.

More important for Beijing right now, Chinese analysts say, is friendship with Mr. Duterte and an effort to wean his country away from its treaty alliance with Washington. Transforming a shoal right under his nose would ruin any chance of that, these analysts say.

Read the full article in The New York Times.

  • CDR Thomas Shugart, USN