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  • It's late February earlier this year, and somewhere above the Spratly Islands in the

  • South China Sea, a US Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft is conducting routine surveillance of Chinese

  • ships and installations along the group of remote reefs and man made artificial islands.

  • These islands have been built by China over the last two decades, as the nation lays claim

  • to what it calls territorial waters- despite the fact that this territory is hundreds of

  • miles from the Chinese coast and has been declared illegal by an international court

  • ruling at The Hague.

  • China however rejected the ruling, and continued to build up its military presence on these

  • faraway islands, reclaiming land from the ocean and building runways long enough to

  • accommodate Chinese war planes, radar and radar jamming installations, and missile batteries.

  • With the international community rejecting China's illegal claim to the area, the United

  • States has routinely engaged in surveillance and freedom of navigation exercises in order

  • to delegitimize the Chinese claim and to keep tabs on military developments in the area.

  • Today, a Navy Poseidon spy plane is approaching one of these artificial islands when from

  • thousands of feet below it, a Chinese navy destroyer suddenly targets the American plane.

  • Using an extremely powerful military-grade laser, the destroyer aims straight at the

  • cockpit, sending dazzling light into the aircraft and temporarily blinding the pilots.

  • Undeterred, the US plane continued its mission, but for a brief moment the world hung on the

  • edge of its next major war.

  • This incident is incredibly, not a rare case.

  • As US ships and planes have pursued freedom of navigation exercises and intelligence gathering

  • missions in the area, they have been routinely intercepted by Chinese ships and planes.

  • But why is this going on, and how could it lead to World War III?

  • Since 1947 China has laid claim to what it calls territorial waters within a nine-dash

  • line created by the Chinese government at the time.

  • This line extends from the southern Chinese coast almost one thousand miles all the way

  • to the coast of Borneo, and extends to Vietnam and the Philippines coast as well.

  • The claim is not just illegal, but incredibly ludicrous- it would be like the United States

  • claiming as territorial waters the entirety of the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Venezuela.

  • China however is undeterred, and in the early 2000s began a campaign of island building

  • by reclaiming land from the ocean and building upon pre-existing reefs.

  • This was at first an attempt to legitimize its claims, as no nation can claim water around

  • an island feature unless that island can be proven to support human life.

  • China's answer was to shortcut that clause in international maritime law by creating

  • an island where one didn't exist, and then setting up troop barracks and flying in supplies.

  • Surrounded by neighbors much weaker than itself, while the island building actions were condemned,

  • they weren't challenged militarily.

  • The last time a nation had dared to stand up to China was in 1988, when Vietnamese forces

  • were dispatched to drive away Chinese incursion into an island within their own economic exclusion

  • zone.

  • A confrontation between Vietnam and the Chinese led to China killing over 60 Vietnamese marines

  • and destroying three Vietnamese navy ships.

  • China officially occupied the reef and has held it ever since.

  • A similar incident was in the making later in 1994 with the Philippines, but the Philippine

  • government, remembering the killing of Vietnamese marines and sailors by the Chinese, decided

  • to back down and allow China to occupy features within its own territorial waters.

  • But why does China want all this massive amount of ocean territory even when it's so far from

  • home?

  • Well, that's because this area of the world is relatively undeveloped by the gas and oil

  • industry and is home to some of the world's largest energy reserves that are still relatively

  • untapped, rivaled only by the waters around the North Pole.

  • The US Energy Information Agency estimates that there are about 190 trillion cubic feet

  • of natural gas and 11 billion barrels of oil in the area, with a 2012 US geological survey

  • estimating that an additional 160 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 12 billion barrels

  • of oil are still undiscovered.

  • This equates to trillions of dollars in untapped wealth, and China is willing to go to any

  • lengths to ensure it gets it.

  • To add to the economic prize of the region, the area is also home to some of the world's

  • largest remaining fisheries, and Chinese fishing vessels are already plundering the territorial

  • waters of the nations that ring the South China Sea.

  • These fishing vessels have used water cannons to force the fishing ships of other nations

  • away, and with Chinese navy warships never far away, so far nobody has bothered to fight

  • back.

  • Only the United States has the military might to challenge China's illegal claims, and it

  • has done so repeatedly.

  • Undertaking what is internationally known as freedom of navigation exercises, US ships

  • and planes have routinely moved through waters that the Chinese military claims as its own

  • around the many artificial islands China has built in the region.

  • Under normal international law military war ships of other nations must pass through the

  • territorial water of a sovereign nation as quickly as possible through the most expedient

  • route possible.

  • The US, in a bid to delegitimize the claims by China, has instead opted to sail its ships

  • in a zig-zag pattern through the disputed waters, purposefully not sailing as expeditiously

  • as possible nor taking the most direct route possible.

  • This places China in a difficult position, as it can't legitimately claim national sovereignty

  • when the warships of another nation flagrantly disregard that sovereignty.

  • And unlike the small fleets of Vietnam, Borneo, Malaysia, the Philippines, or Burma, the US

  • Navy isn't so easily bullied away by Chinese ships.

  • Instead, China has been forced to respond with everything short of outright force, often

  • shadowing US ships with its own, or intercepting US Navy planes on approach to the illegal

  • bases China has built in the region.

  • While so far this hasn't led to a serious incident, thanks on the part by restraint

  • exercised on both sides, this year's laser-flashing incident was indicative of China's willingness

  • to push the issue- with potentially catastrophic results.

  • Had the US pilots been physically looking in the direction of the laser flash, the high

  • powered beam could have permanently damaged the vision of the aviators, potentially putting

  • the entire aircraft at risk.

  • So what if then if the US Navy had lost the entire crew of a P-8 Poseidon?

  • For the US, that would have meant the death of at least nine American sailors, as each

  • P8 carries mission support crew including intelligence personnel handling many of the

  • plane's extremely sensitive instruments.

  • With US ships in the region already on high alert around Chinese installations and ships,

  • the loss of an entire aircraft to direct hostile action by China could have immediate consequences.

  • In all likelihood, the US would attempt to use restraint and authorize only a tit-for-tat

  • response, likely targeting and destroying an expensive, but unmanned Chinese military

  • installation along the disputed island chains.

  • If the Navy P8 had been instead shot down by an actual Chinese weapon, and not just

  • accidentally downed by blinding the pilots, the response would be far different.

  • The US faces a very serious choice.

  • If it refuses to take retributive action, then it threatens to at last fully legitimize

  • Chinese claims to the area, not to mention lose major international face as it essentially

  • bows to China as the superior Pacific power.

  • This is... unlikely to say the least, and an actual shootdown of a US plane by Chinese

  • forces would likely lead to an overwhelming military response.

  • That response however would be limited to the specific installation the attack originated

  • from, in a bid to allow China the option of not escalating the conflict into all-out war.

  • China would have to accept the loss of what would likely be several missile batteries

  • and a radar and communications station, along with the men manning those resources- or it

  • could choose to escalate the conflict.

  • Escalation would be unlikely however, as simply put, the US is by far the superior power in

  • the Pacific.

  • While China can threaten US forces with a large stockpile of ballistic missiles, its

  • navy is simply no match for the firepower of the US Navy- and most importantly, China

  • has not yet demonstrated that it has the ability to keep its targeting networks for its ballistic

  • missile forces operational past first-contact with American forces.

  • Even if somehow China's ballistic missile kill chains remain intact, an extremely dubious

  • proposition, its total stockpile is limited, and once those missiles run out it will be

  • up to the Chinese navy to fend off the US's Pacific forces, which would by then be bolstered

  • by ships from the Atlantic fleet.

  • This is a task it is simply not equipped to undertake.

  • Further complicating problems for China is the US's vast fleet of submarines, an asset

  • that is routinely overlooked by military planners on both sides- and that's something that the

  • US's silent service, as it is known, is more than happy with.

  • With an extremely limited anti-submarine warfare capability, China's navy would be decimated

  • by this undersea fleet, and with the vast majority of its trade coming through the ocean,

  • an economic blockade of China would lead to catastrophic consequences for the nation.

  • In the end, it's in the best interest of both sides that no such conflict takes place.

  • While the US would doubtlessly emerge victorious, it would be a costly victory with the greatest

  • losses the Navy will have endured since World War II.

  • With China as its greatest trading partner, the US economy would take a huge hit as well,

  • though unlike China the US could redirect much commerce elsewhere.

  • Still, a full armed confrontation between the two nations would have dire consequences

  • for the world, and is not a proposition either side wants to see.

  • And yet, China continues to build upon and expand on what detractors have taken to call

  • landlocked aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, unwilling to obey international

  • law and continuing to bully its neighbors.

  • This leaves not just the fate of the South Pacific, but the very peace and stability

  • it currently enjoys, hanging in the balance, and this time it's China whose actions will

  • determine what the history books say about war in the 21st century.

  • If this scenario seems far-fetched, perhaps it's not as far off as one might think as

  • an armed confrontation very nearly occurred between the US and China back in 2001.

  • On April 1st of that year a US navy reconnaissance aircraft was operating near yet another disputed

  • Chinese encampment, this time on the Parcel Islands, when it was intercepted by two Chinese

  • J-8 fighters.

  • In a bid to intimidate the Americans, one of the J-8 pilots undertook two high-speed

  • flybys of the big US plane, but on the third attempt the pilot completely misjudged his

  • skills and rammed straight into the American EP-3E.

  • The impact split the J-8 into two pieces, and severely damaged the American plane which

  • was sent into an uncontrolled dive.

  • Incredibly, the American pilot was able to recover the aircraft, and severely damaged,

  • it immediately sent a distress signal to a nearby Chinese airfield.

  • The Chinese ignored 15 distress calls and finally, the American plane simply decided

  • to land on the Chinese runway regardless of permission or not, as the pilot did not believe

  • he could keep the plane aloft any longer.

  • The only casualties of this incident was the Chinese pilot, who was likely crushed to death

  • on impact and unable to eject.

  • Immediately after the incident, and despite the US releasing flight data from the onboard

  • recorder, China claimed that it was the US plane which caused the collision, by purposefully

  • turning into the passing Chinese plane.

  • This claim was in short, ludicrous, and largely ignored by the international community- especially

  • since China never released the flight data from its own aircraft black box.

  • Things in the South China Sea remain tense, and a major incident between the two nations

  • is only one provocation away.

  • What happens next is largely in China's hands, but one thing is for sure- it is unlikely

  • to back down from its claims in the South China Sea, and sadly, conflict seems likely.

  • Want to learn more about China's ambitions in the region?

  • Then check out Real Reason Why China Wants To Expand.

  • Or click this other video instead!

It's late February earlier this year, and somewhere above the Spratly Islands in the

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中國向美機發射脈衝光,為什麼? (China Fired Laser at a US Aircraft, Why?)

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    Summer 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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