CSIS: AMTI Brief – February 18, 2016

Washed Away: Typhooon Spotlights Island Building

Earlier this month Chinese media reported that Typhoon Melor, which devastated parts of the Philippines from December 12 to 17, also washed away Vietnamese reclamation work underway at Cornwallis South Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. Those reports were correct, but lacked important context. The attention drawn by the typhoon highlights the significant differences between the scope and type of China’s reclamation work in the Spratly Islands and the much more limited work undertaken by Vietnam, but it also shows that Hanoi did itself no favors by undertaking such work at this feature in particular. Read on…


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Featured Analysis

EDCA Refocus: Eyes on the AFP’s Modernization Program

by Victor Andrew Manhit and Angelica Mangahas
On January 12, the Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States is an executive agreement that does not require Senate approval. With the ruling in hand, the Philippines and the United States governments can begin in earnest to implement the 2014 deal, which mainly provides for the United States to deploy forces to Philippine bases on a rotational basis, pre-position humanitarian response and defense materiel in the country, upgrade infrastructure within Philippine bases for these purposes. Inked in time for U.S. president Barack Obama’s first visit to Manila and in the shadow of growing tensions with China in the South China Sea, the Aquino government intended for EDCA to complement the Philippines’ rebooted military modernization effort. Read on…


Sunnylands and America’s Pivot to ASEAN

by Richard Javad Heydarian
China may be gaining the strategic upper-hand in the ongoing scramble in the South China Sea thanks to its newly-built artificial islands, but it is facing increasing backlash in the region. Neighboring states as well as external powers have stepped up their diplomatic pressure on Beijing, while coordinating their efforts at safeguarding freedom of navigation in the area. Crucially, the Philippine Supreme Court last month cleared the main obstacle to the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), allowing the United States to augment its military footprint in the Philippines. Read on…


Seeing the Forest through the SAMs on Woody Island

by Michael Green, Bonnie Glaser, and Zack Cooper

The recent deployment of Chinese surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to Woody Island is a notable tactical development, but a far more significant strategic signal.

Tactically, the HQ-9 batteries deployed to Woody Island could target aircraft at ranges up to 125 miles (200 kilometers), covering much of the Paracel Islands, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. Such air defenses are a core element of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) anti-access umbrella. China is rumored to have previously placed less-advanced defensive systems in the Paracels, and Vietnam on some of the Spratly Islands. However, imagery showing Chinese SAMs on disputed islands depicts a noteworthy step in the militarization of the Paracels because it shows the extension of China’s anti-access umbrella south from the mainland into the South China Sea. Read on…




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