China preparing to seize Pag-asa Island, report says

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 14 2014 12:36 AM | Updated as of Jan 14 2014 08:36 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Chinese Navy has drawn up a detailed plan to seize this year the Philippines' Pag-asa Island in a battle that will be restricted in the South China Sea, according to a Chinese news network.

A report of business and strategy news platform Qianzhan (Prospects) in Mandarin was translated by English news site China Daily Mail and titled “Chinese troops will seize Pag-asa Island, which is called by China Zhongye, back from the Philippines in 2014.”

The report said the Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Pag-asa Island which is part of the disputed Spratly Islands.

“According to experts, the Chinese Navy has drawn a detailed combat plan to seize the island and the battle will be restricted within the South China Sea. The battle is aimed at recovery of the island stolen by the Philippines from China,” the report said.

The Philippines’ arrogance, the report said, is an intolerable insult to China.

“There will be no invasion into Filipino territories,” the report said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) declined to comment on the report.

“We don’t comment on news articles that have unnamed and unofficial sources,” said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez.

The Department of National Defense would have to validate the report about China’s supposed plan to seize Pag-asa Island, defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said.

Military officials declined to comment, saying the DFA is the agency authorized to speak on the matter.

China’s plan to invade Pag-asa Island could be part of Beijing’s 20-year expansion plan for its navy to have total dominance of the disputed Spratlys archipelago, security documents showed.

The document also showed that China’s plan was conceived 14 years ago following Beijing’s illegal occupation of Panganiban (Mishchief) Reef, some 130 nautical miles off Hulugan Bay in mainland Palawan and only 97 nautical miles east of Pag-asa Island.

“China has four to five years left to complete the plan,” an informed security official said, adding that it is already an open secret among Spratly claimant countries – the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan – that China has established a forward naval station at Panganiban Reef.

International defense analyst Greg Polling of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, Southeast Asia Program, had warned two years ago that China has been rushing the construction of several warships specifically designed for its Spratlys naval operations.

Some of these warships that China has been building include hovercrafts capable of carrying one battalion of Marines and four tanks.

Several hovercraft units have already been completed and are just awaiting deployment after several sea trials.

China’s hovercraft project has reportedly solved the People Liberation Army’s problem of transporting warships directly into shallow waters surrounded by coral reefs, shoals and islets occupied by troops of other Spratly claimant countries.

Aside from Panganiban Reef, China has built another naval facility at Subi Reef where its transport ship has regularly been sighted. – With Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude