China’s ‘Fisherman Navy’ Takes Control of Sandbars Near Philippines’ Pag-asa Island
Chinese fishing fleets have seized control of a string of sandbars near the Philippine’s Pag-asa Island in the South China Sea, Inquirer.net reported on March 4.
Roberto del Mundo, mayor of the Philippine town of Kalayaan, which administers Pag-asa Island, told the publication that the Chinese fleets are blocking Filipino fishermen from parts of the fish-rich area. “When our fishermen [are] about to get near Sandbar Three,” he said, referring to the sandbar closest to Pag-asa, “a Chinese vessel would immediately come up to us to ward us off so we can’t come closer.”
“[T]hat’s supposed to be ours,” del Mundo said.
International law agrees with del Mundo’s statement: Pag-asa lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea says waters within this zone are part of a nation’s maritime territory, and any natural resources found within them belong exclusively to that nation.
Most countries use this international law to determine their maritime boundaries. But China is a major exception, especially when it comes to waters in the South China Sea. China claims almost all of this sea as its own. In recent years, it has asserted increasing de facto control over parts of it.
Now the Chinese appear to have set their sites on Pag-asa (also called Thitu Island), the largest of nine features in the Spratly Islands claimed by the Philippines, and the home of hundreds of Filipinos.
Besides China muscling Filipino fishing boats out of the sandbars near Pag-asa, del Mundo said Chinese helicopters have also recently been spotted flying over the island itself. “Stunned residents and even the military stationed on the island went out of their houses and barracks when they heard a loud noise coming from the helicopter,” the Inquirer paraphrased del Mundo as saying.
The mayor said the Chinese helicopter flew only “a little higher” than the island’s tower, which is less than 100 feet high.
The U.S.-Philippines Alliance
The report about China’s aggressive posturing near Pag-asa comes just days after United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced during a visit to the Philippines that “any armed attack on Philippine forces, aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will trigger mutual defense obligations under Article 4 of our Mutual Defense Treaty.”
This was significant because the Mutual Defense Treaty stipulates that both nations would come to each other’s aid in the event of an attack on either, but before Pompeo’s statement, the U.S. had never specified that the treaty would be activated by an attack on a Philippine feature in the disputed South China Sea.
Pompeo’s announcement indicates a higher level of U.S. commitment to the Philippines. But Geopolitical Futures noted, “There are still holes in Pompeo’s interpretation wide enough to steer a frigate through.”
As such, Pompeo’s announcement is unlikely to change the overall trend in the South China Sea of the U.S. growing weaker and of China growing more powerful and more willing to use its power. Nevertheless, the statement was unsettling to China and may have played a role in its decision to flex its muscles near Pag-asa.
China Is ‘Steering the World Toward War’
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has said that China’s takeover of the South China Sea is “steering the world toward war.” In our July 2016 issue, he wrote: “China is being aggressive and provocative,” and thereby challenging “seven decades of American naval dominance in the Pacific Rim.” This aggressive behavior, he wrote, “should alarm the world!”
Mr. Flurry continued: “Since Japan’s defeat in World War ii, America has protected this vital trade route and brought peace to this part of the world,” he wrote. But since the American military is now retreating from the region, “other great powers are coming in to fill the vacuum,” he continued. “China is intimidating the nations of Southeast Asia into submission to its will. It is forcing these countries to do what it wants. Everything is headed in the direction of war.”
Mr. Flurry’s understanding of the South China Sea scenario is built on Bible prophecy.
In the book of Deuteronomy, God warns the nations of Israel that if they reject Him, He will hand control of the world’s strategic sea gates over to their enemies. And He warned that these enemy nations would use that control to besiege the nations of Israel: “And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trusted, throughout all thy land …” (Deuteronomy 28:52).
Mr. Flurry explained that this ancient warning is not just for ancient peoples. “It is a prophecy for the modern-day descendants of Israel,” he wrote. “Two nations in particular represent Israel in this end time: America and Britain.” These two countries “are full of terrible sins today, and God is going to correct them for that!” he wrote. “This prophecy and several others show that He will send foreign enemies to punish America and Britain!” (For proof that America and Britain are the descendants of ancient Israel, read The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong.)
China’s militarization of the South China Sea is moving toward the fulfillment of this prophecy.
But Mr. Flurry made plain that this approaching besiegement and war is linked to some hope-filled news:
All this prophesied destruction is what it will take for God to reach this world! After this, people will be ashamed—and they will get to know God! Ezekiel repeatedly talked about that inspiring conclusion (e.g. Ezekiel 6:7; 7:4; 11:10; 12:20; 13:9; 23:48-49; etc). Yes, there is a lot of bad news when you consider what it takes to get people to the point of knowing God. But ultimately, the outcome is spectacularly good news!
To understand more about this “spectacularly good news,” order your free copy of Mr. Flurry’s book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet.