Chinas’ military buildup
China’s military buildup has become a serious concern to its neighbors in the region. Chinese leader Xi Jinping claimed it’s a self defense measure after a century of humiliation at the hands of Western powers who occupied China. Chinese defense expenditures, placed at $215 billion in 2016 leaped three times its previous amount as Beijing builds fighter jets, aircraft carriers and a modern army complete with high tech weapons to play catch up with the United States,
The Chinese budget for military spending is still three times smaller than that of the US whose pivot to Asia and the Pacific indicates Washington’s strategic stakes in the battle for prospective oil, minerals and gas under the South China Seabed. The US rebalancing of American forces from Europe to Asia also reinvigorates its self-proclaimed role as a Pacific naval power. The US west coast faces the Pacific Ocean while its eastern seaboard the Atlantic Ocean. This move plus the armed strength of US allies—Japan, South Korea and Taiwan—is seen by Beijing as an attempt to surround China with a ring of steel. Xi in his address to the Chinese communist politburo, the top echelon of the Beijing leadership , said the People’s Liberation Army must be upgraded to keep it at par with US forces.
Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile read it right when he said the implication of the Chinese buildup could force Japan to match the muscle flexing of the giant neighbor it once occupied. The Stockholm Institute for Peace also said China’s military buildup would trigger an arms race in the region. Japan and South Korea, two of America’s staunchest allies in Asia, have no recourse but to prepare against a rising China’s quest for hegemony in the region. Throw in Taiwan which China considers a renegade province and you have an alignment of forces that has heightened tension in Southeast Asia.
North Korea, the closest ally of China, meanwhile, has not let up on its threat to wipe out its enemies from the map of the world. His continued testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles and sending them across Japan might have already crossed the red line that could tempt the US to unleash a preemptive strike into the heart of Pyongyang.
Technologically advanced Japan for all we know already possess a nuclear bomb but keeping it under wraps. Constrained from having an army except for self defense under the conditions and terms of its surrender to the US in World War II, Japan has been trying to amend its Constitution to modernize its own army, air force and naval fleet in the light of a rising China that is already dominant in the region.
Its decades long territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands which the Chinese call Diaoyu is another factor in the historical enmity between Beijing and Tokyo. Then there is the territorial dispute between Vietnam and China over the resource-rich Paracels which has erupted in a naval skirmish several years ago which adds to the explosive situation in Southeast Asia.
Malaysia and the Philippines are also contesting China’s sweeping claim of the entire South China Sea. Manila though is a placid player with President Rodrigo Duterte already locked in the embrace of China’s Xi Jinping who has showered the Philippines with money and weapons to fight terrorism and the drug menace.
Roque draws flak
New Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque continues to draw flak from the opposition. The latest barb came from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV who said Roque has been infected by Duterte’s profane-fueled mouth .
“Nasapian ng masamang espiritu.” [he has been seized by evil spirits], said Trillanes in reaction to Roque’s threat to throw hollow blocks and adobe bricks at critics who throw stones at President Duterte. Before attending his first press conference with Malacañang reporters, Roque pleaded to them to “be gentle.” Roque probably realized he could not afford a confrontational “give them hell” attitude.
Someone must have warned him not to bring it on against the press who would be glad to accept the challenge Roque also denied in a phone interview with CNN Philippines’ Pinky Webb that he accepted the presidential spokesman position as a long-term agenda to run for senator in the 2019 elections.