MANILA, Philippines – After a Chinese media report on China’s alleged plans to seize the Philippines’ Pagasa Island (known as Zhongye in China) this year, the same author of the news article cited possibilities why the confrontation is unavoidable.
“Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island, the second largest in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands, has an area of 0.33 square km, and is of great strategic significance for China if it wants to control a vast part of the South China Sea that it claims to be its territorial waters,” wrote Chan Kai Yee in an article titled “China and Philippines: The reasons why a battle for Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island seems unavoidable” that was published in China Daily Mail website on January 13.
Pagasa Island is China’s top agenda in the South China Sea because Taiping Island, the largest island in the Spratlys is controlled by Taiwan.
“As it is controlled by Taiwan and there has so far been no prospects yet of reunification between mainland China and Taiwan, seizing Zhongye Island from the Philippines is China’s top priority in the South China Sea,” Chan said.
“The world’s largest aircraft carrier, the Ford, costs $12.8 billion to build but has only a deck area of 0.026 square km. An air base established on Zhongye Island will be a dozen times larger and cost much less, but it is unsinkable and has a very long service life,” he added.
The Chinese author also said that “it’s a pity” that the Philippines drove away the United States away in the past, which could have benefited them greatly.
“The Philippines might have benefited greatly if the US had built an air base there to facilitate the US pivot to Asia and to counter China, but it is a pity that the Philippines drove the US away long ago,” he also said.
The Philippines was once the US Navy’s largest base in Asia. The Americans ended its presence of about 90 years in Subic Bay in 1992 after the Philippine Senate rejected the renewal of the US-Philippines Military Bases Agreement.
Talks between the Philippines and the US that started last year are still underway on the increased rotational presence of American troops here.
It is meant to build a “minimum credible defense” amid rising territorial threats in the South China Sea.
Chan sees this as an advantage as US will have to deal with less Japanese and US aircraft and warships in the East China Sea if the US diverts its assets near the Philippines.
“Another advantage for China in taking the island is that the US and even Japan may divert some of their aircraft and warships to the area near the Philippines, and thus enable China to deal with less Japanese and US aircraft and warships when there is a war between China and Japan and possibly the US in the East China Sea,” he said.
Chan earlier reported of China’s detailed plans to seize Pagasa. His story translated a report of news platform Qianzhan (Prospects) in Mandarin.
“Relying on US support, the Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Zhongye Island, a Chinese island that it has illegally occupied for years,” Chan said in the previous report “Chinese troops to seize Zhongye Island back from the Philippines in 2014″ dated January 11.
Meanwhile, the Defense department declined to comment on the Chinese media report.
“We do not comment on unofficial statements and unverified reports,” Defense spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez told INQUIRER.net in a text message.