Thursday, 12 December 2013

China Upping the Ante – Are We Ready? Part 4

By Danny Liew Shan Lee

(The Dragon vs The Eagle. Where should we be in the grand scheme of things? Source: Internet)

In the previous installment, we get to face how our much vaunted FPDA is actually just a granite giant with clay feet.  Make no mistake, the illusion of grandeur that FPDA had on us should be discarded as it has blind-sided us for years, that the British would come and assist us at time of war.

Now that we realized this, would there be any one that would come to our help if China turns belligerent? That it is an open secret that any conflict with China will probably attract the attention of the United States, thus it would not be a surprise that the US will have a special interest in the region.


Why are They Interested in the Region?
Exit Subic Bay, Enter Sepanggar Naval Base

Ever since the Philippines Senate chooses not to ratify the Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation in 1991, the United States had not had a major military installation in the ASEAN region.  Though the Philippines and the US had since signed the RP – US Visiting Force Agreement, the agreement does restrict the US on how it should conduct its forces in the archipelago nation.

While US do have allies in the region, namely Singapore, the lack of a military base in the region had made it difficult for the US to check China’s growing military strength.  Having a military base in Singapore alone would not help US to check China’s march.  As an island, it would be foolish for the US to put all their proverbial eggs in a single basket.   Thus, the US had to search for another country that is willing to accept her military presence in the region.  Plus, the fact that Singapore has high number of PR holders from China had made Singapore not a suitable backyard for US Navy to hide her forces.

Enter Malaysia’s Sepanggar Naval Base.  With a deep sea harbour that could handle the operations of submarine and other naval crafts, the US is eyeing the location favourably. Additionally, the location of the base which is rather isolated makes it a perfect hideout for US Navy to do what it could not do in Singapore; that is if Malaysian government allows it.

The location of Sepanggar Naval Base, plus its proximity to Labuan Air Force Base makes the location as an ideal safe haven for US military to launch aerial attack against China in the event of hostilities.  

But why all the way out to Sepanggar when US could have made do with military bases in Taiwan, South Korea and on Okinawa, Japan?  

Full scale hostility between US and China will probably see China’s military might being thrown hard against Taiwan.  Thus, the breakaway island would probably be lost early on.  South Korea would not be able to help much and may see herself in an unfavourable position as China is likely to use North Korea to handle South Korea.  While Japan would probably be able to handle her defence, her ability to strike back would depend on how close is her relationship with Russia, who happens to have a quarrel with Japan over Kuril Islands.  Plus her distance from China does make her vulnerable to air raids from China.

Military bases located in Malaysia, the Philippines and Guam on the other hand gives the US options of long range strikes supported by aerial refueling capabilities.   

Petroleum, Petroleum, Petroleum
One of the main reasons why there are many countries that are claiming South China Sea as their own is because it believed that underneath the submerged plateau, there are large deposits of undiscovered petroleum.   In view of high petrol prices worldwide, this has made it an imperative for the US to stake its claim via countries that are friendly to her.

How do we know that they are really interested in us?

The US is very interested in us, no doubt.  This can be seen in attempts to have US-friendly individuals being placed into power.  This article will choose not to shed light into this area as this may be seen as being accusatory and unbiased.  (Plus, I choose not to impose my political views onto the readers as national sovereignty goes beyond politics.) 

Another interesting facet not being considered is that the US seems to be extra friendly in terms of sales military assets that they had offered to Malaysia the last few years.  The most important assets offered to-date was the sales of 2 Oliver Hazard Perry class destroyers, which Malaysia decided not to take up due to unspecified reasons.  

In fact, turning down the offer seems to result in the US less enthusiastic in preparing newer offers.  The recent announcement by the Minister of Defence on the formation of Malaysian Marine force was enthusiastically met with an offer by the US to help us set up the proposed units in terms of structure and equipment. 

But, as mentioned earlier, would all these niceties come with strings? Would these offers, while preserving our national sovereignty, result in us losing our voice against the US?   

Conclusion
Malaysia – China does have a special relationship.  It goes beyond ideology, race and religion. The increased belligerence of China’s PLA – Navy when enforcing her naval borders had indirectly stepped on a few toes. But as it is, the current Chinese Presidency seems to be more hawkish than the previous presidents.  Thus would this mean that this stance would be phased out once his term is completed and a newer president is selected?  

Malaysia – FPDA relationship seems to be jovial on the outside, but it has holes.  But this doesn’t mean that since it has holes, we need to discard it.  A beggar would be more than happy to wear a patched up shirt as he could not be choosy.  And that in a way is how our nation’s military being treated today.  Being an important, if not the most important piece that defends our nation’s sovereignty, the budget that our military receives is mere pittance as compared to some of our neighbours, including a neighbour that once threatens us with war. 

Malaysia – US relationship on the other hand does show promises of a better day.  But the fact that the US, via her intelligence agencies CIA and NSA are known to be more than willing to play banana politics, makes her sincerity being questioned.

Therefore, Malaysia, which is the path for us to take?  Should we be the little brother to China or US?  Or continue to live in the fantasy world where all is well?  

3 comments:

  1. Yup, definitely an eye-opening piece. I was especially thrilled reading part 2 about the PLA-Navy "probable" link in the Lahad Datu incident. If true, how very interesting! Keep up the good writings Mr. Liew. I entirely enjoy these informative and analytical articles by you, M. Hanif Ismail and Yusni Yussof.

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