The PRC now is exploring Scarborough Shoal with the intent to expand its control over the South China Sea and to pose a more proximate threat to an American ally, this one the Republic of the Philippines. Scarborough Shoal, as most of you know, is just 120 nautical miles from the Philippines 200 nautical miles from the capital, Manila. Scarborough also is 470 nautical miles from the PRC.
In posing this challenge to the Philippines, the PRC also is making an in-your-face move against the US, with the intent of separating the RP from the US and of showing to the rest of the nations in the region just how little is the value of aligning with us. The Obama administration is answering that challenge in just the way the PRC is anticipating—with timidity [emphasis added].
The six US aircraft that flew near Scarborough Shoal on April 19 are based at Clark [AB, 50 miles NW of Manila]. The four A-10 Thunderbolt fighters and two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters “conducted a flying mission through international airspace…providing air and maritime situational awareness,” the US Air Force statement said.
None of the US flights flew to within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough, according to a US official, which would have amounted to a legal challenge to China’s claims on the shoal, but the proximity of the flights was clearly intended to send a message to Beijing.
A message was sent, all right. By deliberately not challenging the legality of the PRC’s claims, the Obama administration said most clearly, “We accept your legal rights; we’re just making a feeble face-saving gesture. Please.”
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