Conflict looms in South China Sea oil rush -US Navy Deploying Amphibious Assault Vessels

On February 28, 2012 by stratagem

Phantom Report Notes:

United States of America Empire expansion and using  military force to confiscate natural resources. 

When Lieutenant-General Juancho Sabban received an urgent phone call from an oil company saying two Chinese vessels were threatening to ram their survey ship, the Philippine commander’s message was clear: don’t move, we will come to the rescue.

Within hours, a Philippine surveillance plane, patrol ships and light attack aircraft arrived in the disputed area of Reed Bank in the South China Sea. By then the Chinese boats had left after chasing away the survey ship, Veritas Voyager, hired by U.K.-based Forum Energy Plc.

But the tension had become so great Forum Energy chief Ray Apostol wanted to halt two months of work in the area.

“They were so close to finishing their work. I told them to stay and finish the job,” Sabban, who heads the Western Command of the Philippine Armed Forces, told Reuters at his headquarters in Puerto Princesa on Palawan island.

Over the next few days, President Benigno Aquino would call an emergency cabinet meeting, file a formal protest with China, and send his defense secretary and armed forces chief to the Western Command in a show of strength….

“As Southeast Asian nations run to the U.S. for assistance, Beijing increasingly fears that America aims to encircle China militarily and diplomatically,” said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Northeast Asia Director for the International Crisis Group. “Underlying all of these concerns is the potential that discoveries of oil and natural gas beneath the disputed sections of the South China Sea could fuel conflict.”

The area is thought to hold vast untapped reserves of oil and natural gas that could potentially place China, the Philippines, Vietnam and other claimant nations alongside the likes of Saudi Arabia, Russia and Qatar.

Manila is beefing up its tiny and outdated naval fleet and military bases, adding at least two Hamilton-class cutters this year and earmarking millions of dollars to expand its Ulugan Bay naval base in Palawan.

It’s no match for China’s fleet, the largest in Asia, which boasts 62 submarines, 13 destroyers and 65 frigates, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

China last month launched the fourth of its new 071 amphibious landing ships that are designed to quickly insert troops to trouble spots, disputed islands, for example.

The U.S. Navy has announced it will deploy its own new amphibious assault vessels, the Littoral Combat Ships, to the “maritime crossroads” of the Asia-Pacific theater, stationing them in Singapore and perhaps the Philippines.

Washington’s renewed presence in the Philippines, a former U.S. colony that voted to remove American naval and air bases 20 years ago, follows the U.S. announcement last year of plans to set up a Marine base in northern Australia and possibly station warships in Singapore.

Manila is talking about giving Washington more access to its ports and airfields to re-fuel and service U.S. warships and planes. The two countries will conduct war games off Palawan island in late March — focusing on how to deal with a takeover of an oil rig in the South China Sea….

China has warned oil companies not to explore in the disputed South China Sea, over which Beijing says it has “indisputable sovereignty.” Chinese ships have repeatedly harassed vessels that have tried.

After ExxonMobil discovered hydrocarbons off the coast of Danang in central Vietnam, an area also claimed by China, one of China’s most popular newspapers warned in October that nations involved in territorial disputes should “mentally prepare for the sounds of cannons” if they remain at loggerheads with Beijing.

Read More: Reuters

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