Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • 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

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 china chinese navy aircraft plane territorial

China Fired Laser at a US Aircraft, Why?

  • 0 0
    Summer posted on 2020/08/06
Video vocabulary