From salami-style to silent war

Published July 16, 2019, 12:11 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Floro L. Mercene
Floro L. Mercene

Many people call the act many names; salami style, silent intrusion, creeping invasion, slicing cabbage, and now; Silent War.

Whatever name one calls it, the result is always the same: China’s slow, surreptitious but effective occupation of the contested areas in the South China Sea.

Various means are employed to attain such moves: harassment, intimidation, ramming, or confiscation of catch.

Their most effective was reclamation.

Using the most sophisticated, and largest dredger on the planet, China, in a matter of three years, was able to turn once submerged features in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea into island fortifications.

It has been estimated that China spent $10 billion to reclaim the 7 reefs, shoals and features: Cuarteron, Gaven, Hughes, Fiery Cross, Johnson South, Mischief, and Subi reefs.

The country has named its features in Tagalog: Pagasa, Likas, Parola, Lawak, Kota, Patag, Melchora Aquino,Panata and  Rizal, Balagtas, Ayungin.

A Vietnamese said his catch was seized by Chinese militia in the contested waters, which he said be termed, “a silent war.”

Bloomberg said although China appears to be the biggest offender due to its size and resources, other claimants are also in the SCS to protect their marine resources: Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. These countries have taken action against Chinese crews, sometimes destroying vessels that were impounded.

“Not only China, but also generally there is a growing recognition by regional governments of the pertinent need to scale up efforts to safeguard their maritime rights and interests, not least fisheries,” Bloomberg said, quoting  Collin Koh Swee Lean, research fellow at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Last June, a Chinese vessel rammed a Philippine trawler near Recto Bank (Reed Bank), leaving 22 Filipino fishermen stranded at sea.

In March, Vietnam accused a Chinese coast guard vessel of sinking a fishing boat near the Paracel Islands.

President Rodrigo Duterte, aware of the limitations of his military assets—egged on by Senator Panfilo Lacson—said the country could invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States.

The MDT would be invoked following the Recto Bank incident, not to call for war, but only as “balance of power” over the WPS.