As China and Japan Prepare for War, American Forces Battle over Turf
Many readers of American Thinker may be thinking that a war between China and Japan, with or without the US being involved, is precluded by the fact that it would be stupid and destructive. Nevertheless, the people who are actually going to fight that war are continuing to prepare for it. In the US forces, the Marines are seeing off an attempt by the Army to gain a role. The Marines believe that they won’t need any help in retaking the Senkakus from China. They are also concerned that the Army attack helicopters would suffer from corrosion while sitting on flat-decked ships at sea.
Among the pundits, Foreign Policy has come to the realisation that if China seizes the Senakakus, they might as well seize the southern half of the Ryuku island chain, the Yaeyama Islands, while they are at it. Militarily and morally, the Yaeyamas would be only a little bit more difficult than seizing the Senkakus but would come with plenty of basing opportunities and the benefit of partially enveloping Taiwan.
The Senkakus are too small and steep to host airfields. The Yaeyamas have seven airfields, which may be a clue as to why China is buying refurbished Il-76 heavy transport aircraft rather than waiting for its recently developed heavy lift aircraft, the Y-20, to come off the production line in sufficient numbers. It could be that China’s battle plan includes Special Forces capturing some of the Yaeyama airfields with immediate reinforcement delivered by the Il-76 aircraft so that they could be used to base fighter aircraft.
On the subject of airfields, China built one specifically for this war -- the Shuimen Airbase at 26° 56' 43"N, 120° 4' 37"E. It was built on top of a ridge about as close as one can get to the Senkakus on the Chinese mainland. From the Shuimen Airbase it is 400 km to the Senkakus and 500 km to the Yaeyamas. The Google Earth imagery shows an interesting camouflage pattern on the taxiways to the hardened shelters. The Shuimen Airbase also has a lot of apron area adjacent to the runway suggesting that it will be used to surge aircraft coming from other airbases in China.
Chinese shaping of the psychological battle-space continues. The latest development is the seizure of a Japanese cargo ship in China with the excuse being compensation for two Chinese ships leased by Japan in 1936.
The Japanese have announced the building of a radar station on the farthest of the Yaeyama Islands, Yoneguni. It will be protected by 100 troops.
With plenty of signs from the protagonists that a war is coming, what should Republican legislators do to get ahead of the curve, instead of just being reactive and flat-footed? The best thing that could be done right now is a bill requiring the expropriation of all Chinese-owned assets in the US upon the announcement by Japan that it has been attacked by China. The internment of Chinese nationals could follow, but it is important to freeze and seize Chinese financial assets immediately upon the outbreak of hostilities. This may end up being a warning system in that a sudden capital flight might mean that the attack was only hours away.
Back to the Army’s problem of having a role in this war. What the Army could do is establish a field base for its helicopters on one of the larger, less-populated islands of the Yaeyamas, such as Iriomote-jima. They won’t miss out on the war -- China will come to them.
David Archibald, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., is the author of The Twilight of Abundance: Why Life in the 21st Century Will Be Nasty, Brutish, and Short (Regnery, 2014).