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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Hypersonic missile menace: China’s military might vs. Philippine resolve

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“In the high-stakes chess game of the South China Sea, the moves made in the coming months will be critical”

THE South China Sea is once again a powder keg of geopolitical tension.

At the center of this brewing storm are the Philippines and China, with recent claims by Philippine Senator Imee Marcos that China has hypersonic missiles aimed at 25 targets within the Philippines.

While China neither confirms nor denies these allegations, it reiterates its stance of peaceful development and defensive national policy, promising to act if threatened.

China’s strategy unfolds

China’s strategy in the South China Sea has long been marked by a combination of diplomatic overtures and assertive military posturing.

Historically, China has claimed nearly the entire South China Sea through the controversial “nine-dash line,” a claim rejected by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016.

Despite this ruling, China has continued to build artificial islands and military installations, solidifying its presence in the region.

Recent actions highlight China’s aggressive tactics.

The June 17 incident involving the BRP Sierra Madre, where Chinese coast guard personnel used bladed weapons and clubs against Filipino boats, underscores the lengths China is willing to go to assert its claims.

By framing its actions as defensive and lawful, China seeks to justify its incursions and strengthen its narrative of protecting sovereignty against perceived provocations.

Philippines’ strategy

The Philippines, under Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro’s leadership, has adopted a firm stance against China’s provocations.

Teodoro’s distinction between peace and appeasement echoes historical lessons where appeasement led to further aggression rather than resolution.

The Philippines’ strategy involves maintaining a robust presence in its Exclusive Economic Zone and demanding accountability for China’s aggressive actions, such as seeking reparations for damages caused during the June 17 incident.

The Philippines’ approach is also informed by its historical experiences, including the 2016 arbitration victory.

Recent collaborations with the United States, such as joint military exercises and the hosting of US military assets, signal a strategic pivot towards strengthening alliances to counterbalance China’s assertiveness.

Assessing strategic dominance

China’s upper hand lies in its significant military capabilities and its established presence in the South China Sea.

Its strategy of incremental encroachments, backed by a powerful military, presents a formidable challenge to the Philippines.

The ambiguity and flexibility in China’s approach—neither confirming nor denying missile claims—adds to the psychological pressure on its neighbors.

However, the Philippines holds several cards.

The 2016 arbitration ruling provides a legal basis to challenge China’s claims, garnering international support.

The Philippines’ alliances, particularly with the United States, offer a strategic counterweight.

Furthermore, the global community’s growing concern over China’s aggressive postures can lead to increased diplomatic and economic pressures on Beijing.

Recommendations

For the Philippines:

Strengthen Alliances: Continue to bolster alliances with the United States and other regional powers. Joint military exercises and strategic partnerships can enhance defense capabilities and deterrence.

Legal and Diplomatic Efforts: Leverage international legal frameworks and diplomatic channels to rally global support against China’s actions. Consistent advocacy at international forums can isolate China diplomatically.

Public Communication: Maintain transparency with the public and international community about the incidents and the Philippines’ responses. Clear communication can counter China’s narrative and build domestic and international support.

For China:

De-escalation Measures: Engage in genuine dialogue with the Philippines and other claimant states to de-escalate tensions. Confidence-building measures and adherence to international laws can foster regional stability.

Transparent Policies: Clarify military intentions and reduce ambiguity to build trust and prevent miscalculations that could lead to conflict.

In the high-stakes chess game of the South China Sea, the moves made in the coming months will be critical.

While China’s formidable presence casts a long shadow, the resilience and strategic alliances of the Philippines provide a beacon of hope for a balanced and peaceful resolution.

The world watches closely, holding its breath, as the tension simmers and the future of the region hangs in the balance.

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