Michael Mazza writes: In the war’s aftermath, American planners recognized that Southeast Asia would play a similar role in determining the power balance between the United States and its Pacific allies on the one hand and its Eurasian foes on the other. This remains true. As such, the Trump administration should prioritize developing a strategy for the Asia-Pacific region if it hopes to ensure a favorable balance of power. – National Interest
Alfred Thayer Mahan & the Battlespace of the South China Sea. James Holmes, @navalwarcollege. @gordongchang
The Problem of Asia: Its Effect upon International Politics by Alfred Thayer Mahan and Francis P. Sempa.
“..Since then, China has focused on gaining the ability to keep U.S. forces – particularly aircraft carriers – out of its immediate neighborhood. Many analysts believe it now possesses enough weapons technology – submarines, missiles and strike aircraft in particular – that U.S. planners would be reluctant to risk their carriers that close to China’s coast again.
China is believed to have thousands of ballistic missiles aimed at the island, as well as naval weaponry to destroy nearby warships. Some experts believe Beijing might try to regain control of the island sometime in the next two decades.
Beijing’s next immediate goal appears to be expanding its military capability much further out – to a number of potentially energy-rich atolls and islands claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Beijing’s most grandiose claims in the South China Sea were rejected last year by the U.N.’s top international maritime court. China has, however, continued to build and expand, particularly around the disputed Scarborough Shoal. The Chinese military landed on the islands – also claimed by the Philippines – in 2012 and have since built up their presence there.
From these disputed bases, Beijing’s military claims a range of air and sea areas under its jurisdiction, demanding foreign aircraft and ships register with them. American, Australian and other military forces make a point of flouting these rules – which have little international legitimacy – with relative impunity.
No one has a strategy to stop the Chinese. At his confirmation hearings, new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised eyebrows by suggesting U.S. forces might somehow deny China access to the disputed islands. That would almost certainly start a war, however, and the idea has not been mentioned since.
In many ways, what has happened in the South China Sea resembles a more gradual version of what Vladimir Putin’s Russia achieved in Crimea during its 2014 takeover – using armed men without uniform to change the reality on the ground before Ukraine or its allies could react….”