The Philippine Navy announced that during the afternoon of April 15, it had observed 55 Chinese vessels in the West Philippine Sea, Manila’s designation for the South China Sea.

China is swarming the waters of the Philippines, hoping to intimidate Manila into surrendering territory.

U.S. President Joe Biden and the State Department keep on issuing warnings, but Chinese leader Xi Jinping continues to ignore them, suggesting that deterrence is failing and that an incident leading to war could occur at any time.

Of the craft spotted on April 15, 48 were from China’s maritime militia, six were from the China Coast Guard, and one was from the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

China’s intrusions that day were spread across the South China Sea. Twenty-six of the vessels were spotted at Scarborough Shoal, six at Second Thomas Shoal, 20 near Pagasa Island, two near Panata Island, and the remaining one at Lawak Island.

Beijing claims all the features and waters inside its infamous “cow’s tongue,” now defined by 10 dashes on official maps, which encloses about 85 percent of the South China Sea. Those waters, the Chinese proclaim, are its “blue national soil.”

China’s expansive claims to Philippine features in that body of water were invalidated in 2016 by a tribunal adjudicating Philippines vs. China, brought under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The U.S. Secretary of State at the time, John Kerry, said Beijing should accept the 2016 ruling but unfortunately also announced that Washington would not take sides.

Backing Beijing’s position on talks, he then pressured Manila to negotiate with China. Mr. Kerry, in short, could not bring himself to uphold the centuries-old U.S. policy of defending international waters and airspace.

Beijing, with virtually no legal support, has consistently maintained that the decision in favour of Manila “is illegal, null, and void.”

“We do not accept or acknowledge the so-called award,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry declared on X, formerly known as Twitter, on April 18.

Second Thomas Shoal, where Manila in 1999 grounded the Sierra Madre, a World War II-era vessel, is now a flashpoint. There, Chinese vessels have recently engaged in rammings, water cannon attacks, and other dangerous acts. On March 5, China wounded four Filipino sailors at Second Thomas.

In response, the State Department issued written warnings – two last month on March 5 and March 23 – that the United States would use force against China to discharge its obligations pursuant to Article IV of the 1951 U.S.–Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.

President Biden has orally issued similar warnings; for instance, on Oct. 25, 2023, and on April 11, when Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited the White House for defence talks, the first ever Japan–Philippines–U.S. trilateral summit.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s words and displays of solidarity have not impressed Xi. His blue, white, and grey hulls – the maritime militia, coast guard, and navy, respectively – have stepped up aggressive tactics.

Has deterrence failed? True, China has not recently landed troops at a Philippine island, shoal, or reef. Yet the persistent pressure applied to the Philippines suggests that Xi is not terribly worried about the United States opposing his adventurism.

Why would he feel so bold? For one thing, the Clinton administration in 1995 did nothing after China seized and later fortified Mischief Reef, 130 nautical miles from the Philippine Island of Palawan and in the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

More recently, China took Scarborough Shoal. Philippine authorities there had lawfully detained Chinese poachers in early 2012, and China’s vessels then swarmed the feature, only 124 nautical miles from the main Philippine island of Luzon and about 550 nautical miles from China’s Hainan Province.

Washington then brokered an agreement for both sides to withdraw their craft, but only Manila complied. Beijing has been in firm control of Scarborough ever since. The Obama administration, while Mr. Biden, then vice president, was in charge of foreign policy, did not oppose the audacious Chinese seizure.

When Chinese leaders, generals, and admirals saw Washington’s failure to act, they began moving against Second Thomas Shoal and other Philippine reefs and islets in the South China Sea, went after Japan’s islets in the East China Sea, and began reclaiming and militarizing features in the Spratly chain.

Mr. Biden as vice president legitimized the worst elements in the Chinese political system by showing everyone that aggression works.

President Biden has also legitimized hostile acts elsewhere following his foreign policy collapse after the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. Since then, Beijing has been waging proxy wars in Ukraine, Israel and surrounding areas, and North Africa. Most importantly, it has increased its war of terror on the Taiwanese people.

President Biden’s failure to oppose China’s wars – he seems much more interested in restraining victim Israel than aggressor Iran – must be convincing Xi that he has a green light to do whatever he wants. After all, Xi apparently now believes that he is the ‘boss’ of the world.

“Change is coming that hasn’t happened in 100 years,” the Chinese leader told Russian President Vladimir Putin after their 40th in-person chat, in Moscow, on March 22, 2023. “And we are driving this change together.”

President Biden is now trying to reestablish deterrence. Britain and France desperately attempted to do that in the summer of 1939, when they warned Germany that they would declare war if it invaded Poland.

Then, German leaders did not believe that the British and the French would in fact fight, because for three years, they had failed to make good on previous warnings.

The United States, therefore, is left with only risky options to deter China in the South China Sea.

“Once a country loses credibility and prestige, it must fall back on military force to achieve its aims,” Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association and editor-in-chief of Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, told this author. “The U.S. has lost both around the world.”

Thanks to President Biden, the United States is now the Britain and France of our decade, and the world is again on the brink of global conflict. Some 55 craft in Philippine waters tells us that China thinks it has a free hand.

With this background, Robert Gottliebsen’s recent article in The Australian newspaper is particularly noteworthy.

He, along with many other experts in this field, believes we are shamefully ill-prepared to defend ourselves should war break out in our region.

He believes that our government’s military strategy should be focussed on immediate needs like drones and missiles – not on long-term items like frigates and nuclear submarines that may well be too late for any likely conflict and potentially even obsolete by the time they are produced.

Peter Jennings, Director of Strategic Analysis Australia and Greg Sheridan, highly respected foreign affairs journalist, author and commentator, have said much the same in recent days.

The Albanese government is totally out of its depth on a number of issues including out-of-control immigration, illegal boat arrivals, freed detainees running wild in our community, anti-Semitism hate speech, and cost-of-living pressures.

It spends most of its energy – and most of our taxpayers’ money – confronting a non-existent climate so-called ‘crisis’ and funding dubious business ventures that are likely doomed to fail – like they have in the past when governments got involved.

Defence and national security is more important than any of these issues because it relates to our overriding basic freedom as a nation.

There is simply no excuse for allowing this country to remain vulnerable to attack by China when it is abundantly clear that we need to strengthen our military defence capabilities NOW – not in 10-20 years’ time!

Thanks to Gordon Chang writing for The Epoch Times for a major component of this article which was originally published by the Gatestone Instituteof which. Mr Chang is a distinguished senior fellow and a member of its Advisory Board.

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