Boat sinking may be part of China's 'salami slice' tactic: expert

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 20 2019 04:07 PM

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The sinking of a Filipino boat by a Chinese vessel may be part of Beijing's "salami slicing" tactic to slowly but cumulatively take control of disputed maritime territories, an expert said Thursday. 

"Ang nangingibabaw na usapin sa scientific studies ngayon iyung sinasabi ng Japanese scholars: na ang China ay engages ngayon sa salami-slicing strategy para ma-claim iyung territories sa South China Sea saka sa East China Sea," said Rommel Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies. 

(The view of Japanese scholars is dominating scientific studies: that China engages in salami-slicing to claim territories in the South China Sea and East China Sea.) 

China is claiming nearly all of the South China Sea, conflicting with partial claims of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. It also has a dispute with Japan over the East China Sea islands. 

"Alam n'yo iyung salami 'di ba napakanipis ng pagka-cut n'yan? Sa nipis, 'di mo napapansin na madami ka na palang naka-cut," he added. 

(A salami slice is so thin that you don't notice that you've already cut a lot.) 

Under the tactic, no single action if sliced thinly enough will suffice to justify starting a war, Robert Haddick wrote in a 2012 article on online publication "Foreign Policy." 

"When contemplating a grievously costly war with a major power, such minor events will appear ridiculous as casus belli (case of war). Yet when accumulated over time and space, they could add up to a fundamental change in the region," he said.

A salami-slicer, he added, "puts the burden of disruptive action on his adversary." 

"That adversary will be in the uncomfortable position of drawing seemingly unjustifiable red lines and engaging in indefensible brinkmanship," he said.

"For China, that would mean simply ignoring America’s Pacific fleet and carrying on with its slicing, under the reasonable assumption that it will be unthinkable for the United States to threaten major-power war over a trivial incident in a distant sea." 

The US, while not a claimant in the disputes, has been calling for calm in the waters and the protection of freedom of navigation. 

Militants led by labor group Defend Job Philippines burn 22 mock Chinese flags at a protest in Rizal Park, Manila on June 18, 2019. The protesters condemned a Chinese ship's alleged ramming of F/B GEM-VER, a Filipino fishing vessel where 22 fishermen were abandoned near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Filipino ship F/B GEM-VER was anchored near Recto (Reed) Bank when it was hit by a Chinese vessel, causing it to sink and leaving 22 crew members adrift for hours before they were picked up by a Vietnamese vessel. 

China said the trawler merely "bumped" into the Philippine boat and tried to rescue the fishermen but was "afraid of being besieged by other Filipino fishing boats."

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday called for calm over the incident, which he said was "just a collision." 

Banlaoi warned that the incident, if unchecked, may lead into a bigger security problem. 

"'Pag pinabayaan natin ito at hindi tayo kumuha ng aral, hindi tayo naging proactive, sa future, baka ang maliit na insidente na ito ay maging practice, habit at eventually ay magdulot ng malaking problema sa seguridad ng ating rehiyon," he said. 

(If we sweep it aside without learning from it, if we don't become proactive, in the future, this small incident may become a practice, habit and eventually cause a big problem to the security of our region.) 

DZMM, June 20, 2019