China and Philippines: The reasons why a battle for Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island seems unavoidable

Map of the location of the island in the South China Sea

Map of the location of the island in the South China Sea

Following the report of China’s plans to occupy Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island (Chinese troops to seize Zhongye Island back from the Philippines in 2014), the author gives his reasons why it will likely occur.

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.

As the Island is located roughly in the middle of the area, if China builds an air force and naval base there, it will more easily control the sky and sea in the claimed area.

Taiping Island, the largest island there with a larger area, is a better choice. 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.

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.

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.

You can read about this in my post: “South China Sea Disputes: Lucky China; Unlucky 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. (Refer to the last five paragraphs of my post “South China Sea Disputes: Chinese Strategy.”

There is a post at which gives the following background information:

“Eugenio Bito-onon Jr, mayor of the Kalayaan island group, part of the contested Spratly islands administered by the Philippines, recently confirmed that the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has deployed new air force troops in rotation to the disputed island of Thitu, according to Jaime Laude in a report for the Manila-based Philippine Star on Jan. 5.

“Known as Pag-asa in the Philippines and Zhongye island by both China and Taiwan, Thitu is the second largest in the Spratly island chain in the South China Sea and the largest of all Philippine-occupied Spratly islands.

“Laude said that the air force troops were deployed to Thitu island by naval aircraft, which will give the residents of the island a chance to visit Kalayaan aboard the returning plane. He added that China’s maritime expansion into the South China Sea continues to put pressure on the Philippines, and the Philippine Navy have also been stationed in the area to defend the islands.”

Editor’s Note: Additionally, Wikipedia explains the First Island Chain, and it’s importance in China’s military strategy:

The first island chain perimeter (marked in red)

The first island chain perimeter (marked in red)

“The first island chain refers to the first chain of major archipelagos out from the East Asian continental mainland coast. Principally composed of the Kuril Islands, Japanese Archipelago, Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan, the northern Philippines, and Borneo; from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the Malay Peninsula. Some definitions of the first island chain anchor the northern end on the Russian Far East coast north of Sahkalin Island, with Sahkalin Island being the first link in the chain. However, others consider the Aleutians as the farthest north-eastern first link in the chain.

“The first island chain has its purpose in Chinese military doctrine. The People’s Republic of China views the first island chain as the area it must secure and disable from American bases, aircraft and aircraft-carrier groups, if in defending itself it must tactically unleash a pre-emptive attack against an enemy. The aim of the doctrine is to seal off the Yellow Sea, South China Sea and East China Sea inside an arc running from the Aleutians in the north to Borneo in the south. According to reports by American think tanks CSBA and RAND, by 2020, China will be well on its way to having the means to achieve its first island chain policy.

Source: FXCharter – China Plans To Seize South China Sea Island From Philippines, Says ‘Battle Will Be Restricted’
Source: Wikipedia – First Island Chain

Categories: Defence & Aerospace

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

33 replies

  1. The U.S. were not removed by the Philippines,but decided to leave after the removal of their puppet Ferdinand Marcos was deposed. Also the eruption of Mt Pinatubo sealed the fate of the Philippines.It is a shame that Mr Yee is yet another empty vessel when it comes to researching cause & effect on U.S. vacating the P.I.


    • Many months before the expiration of the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 intense negotiations between the governments of the United States and the Philippines began. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Friendship, Peace and Cooperation between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines. This would have extended the lease of the American bases in the Philippines.

      On September 13, 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected the ratification of this treaty, citing a number of reasons for the rejection. This was a devastating blow to the Aquino administration, who were strongly pro-treaty and even called for a referendum by the Filipino people; a move that was declared unconstitutional.

      The American Flag is lowered and Philippine flag is raised during turnover of Naval Station Subic Bay.
      In December 1991, the two governments were again in talks to extend the withdrawal of American forces for three years but this broke down as the United States refused to detail their withdrawal plans or to answer if nuclear weapons were kept on base. Finally on December 27, President Corazon Aquino, who had previously fought to delay the U.S. pullout to cushion the country’s battered economy, issued a formal notice for the U.S. to leave by the end of 1992. Naval Station Subic Bay was the U.S.’s largest overseas defense facility after Clark Air Base was closed.

      I am sorry that I got the idea from the above three paragraphs of Wikipedia’s description, which according to you is incorrect. I suppose that you would revise it to enable people to know the truth if what you wrote were the truth.


    • This comment’s a bit late, but nevertheless–chankaiyee’s post is more accurate and factual than your halfwit assumptions, Arthur Gain. The eruption of Mt Pinatubo and consequent burying of the bases under tons of volcanic ash was just the convenient catalyst for what was then a failing dialogue between US and Philippine officials. A lot of the disagreement had to do with the amount that the US had to pay for the lease. The Americans saw it as an affront; after all, why ask them to pay a lease when it was the Philippines that was freeriding on American military power for their national defense?

      Marcos being deposed had nothing to do with the bases. Marcos was deposed in 1986, the bases left in 1991. If anything, Pres. Corazon Aquino was another reliable “puppet” if you want to couch it in those terms. Aquino was US-educated, and was from a politically elite and wealthy family. Her family was sheltered in Boston while Marcos exiled her husband for being anti-Marcos. She was handpicked by US Amb. Bosworth and the CIA to replace Marcos when the latter was deposed. The original plan was for the coup d’etat leaders Juan Ponce Enrile and his cabal of military officers to lead a junta to replace Marcos. That’s why Corazon Aquino’s administration was plagued by 7 coup d’etats. But no worries; every time there was a rebellion, guess who saved the day? The US military based in Clark and Subic. A lot of times, all it took was for the US Embassy to phone the coup leaders and say that the US would not recognize any illegitimately installed governments to stop the rebellion nonsense.

      As for the eventual eviction of the bases, that was the result of talks breaking down over matters like lease payments, term of stay, land use rights, the amount of annual military aid (in monetary terms), the legal status of US soliders (US wanted them to be subject to US law, not Philippine law, making them immune from prosecution for any crimes committed on Phil soil). The resurgent and shortsighted emotional reasoning that pervaded the halls of Congress and Senate decided that the Philippines no longer needed the security provided by Uncle Sam. Two years later, we discovered that China had stabbed us already–by building new installations on Mischief Reef. That’s how a whole new chapter of this Sino-Philippine conflict was started. Personally, between imperialistic US hegemony and an opaque, dictatorial Chinese hegemony, I’d rather much go with the former. China can’t handle human rights in its own backyard properly; how much more little countries like us?


  2. I’m scared!!!!!!


  3. Do yo have any legal basis that China has the right to own those islands? Let’s talk the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in which China is also a signatory.


  4. China’s J-20 Fighters are just for demo. In actual combat against the U.S. F-22, this J-20 will disappear as if it see’s a monster coming to eat them.



  1. Chinese troops to seize Zhongye Island back from the Philippines in 2014 | China Daily Mail
  2. CHINA READY TO INVADE SOUTH CHINA SEA ISLANDS BY FORCE: Sudden major move of Chinese troops this year to recover Zhongye Island by force. | These Christian Times
  3. Neocons Call for U.S. Military Action Against Al-Qaeda in Iraq | Ron Larsen's Freedom Train
  4. Why China can’t take over the world | China Daily Mail
  5. What If China Did Invade Pag-asa Island? | Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs
  6. The reasons why a battle for Zhongye (Pag-asa) Island seems unavoidable | Global Balita
  7. Interventions Watch: January 2014 | Techrights
  8. China steps up appeal to West in Japan propaganda battle | China Daily Mail
  9. Britain could miss out on crazy, pointless war with China, says important American | China Daily Mail
  10. China’s deceptively weak (and dangerous) military | China Daily Mail
  11. Chinese media claims: Japan has plans to force down Chinese jets; Chinese jets chase away Japanese jets | China Daily Mail
  12. Philippine leader calls for international help against China’s aggressive sea claims | China Daily Mail
  13. US tells China to adjust its territorial claims in the South China Sea in accordance with international law, or prove the claims | China Daily Mail
  14. China to build South China Sea military base in waters claimed by Philippines and Vietnam | China Daily Mail
  15. US will help Philippines in conflict against China | China Daily Mail
  16. China: Is the absence of an emperor proof of the existence of a republic? | China Daily Mail
  17. Obama seeks to avoid “clash of civilisations” between China and the West | China Daily Mail
  18. Will China seize Pag-asa Island in 2014? | GeoPolitical Forecasts
  19. Philippines offers US forces access to military bases | China Daily Mail
  20. Philippines says U.S. obligated to help in case of attack by China | China Daily Mail
  21. In 1933 China didn’t know where Spratly Islands were; now they want to fight the Philippines for them | China Daily Mail
  22. China continues advance into South China Sea; military base to be built on artificial island | China Daily Mail
  23. Roger Mickelson’s History Today 6.19.14 | Sandia Tea Party
  24. China planes ‘violated Taiwanese airspace’ | China Daily Mail
  25. With J-20 fighters on artificial islands, China plans to dominate the South China Sea | China Daily Mail
  26. Philippines moves fighter jets into South China Sea | China Daily Mail

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