A good friend of my once said "..you can choose your friends, but not your family.." and we all had a good laugh, but recently it seems even our choice of friends can lead to an interesting life.
The map above is a copy of our Asia West Pacific regional customized map and outlines the area from northern Australia, through Indonesia and South East Asia to Southern China.
In the center of the map, half way between Vietnam and the southern Philippines, is a group of islands, reefs and assorted ugly rock lumps called the Spratley Islands.
(Courtesy: Capt. D Hancox and Prof. V Prescott.)
A pretty plain and ordinary lot of bits and pieces you might think. If you have been listening to the news lately, these rocks have been right up there with the lead articles on all the latest fashionistas.
Some months ago, the US president Barak Obama made an address to the Australian Parliament, where he stated that America's new strategic thinking was oriented towards ".. being part of a Strategic balance in the Asia Pacific region.." . Now some might think that having the United States helping to maintain a good balance in an area is good for peace and stability.
But in mapping out his Asia Pacific vision, some people might have heard him say something different to what he thought he was saying. It is said first impressions count, and his certainly did.
For some little time now, the People's Republic of China have been quietly but furiously beavering away in the midst of this lot of reefs and atolls, and seeking to create their own custom map of the Spratleys. The net results are quite astounding. They have created an amazing 2000+ acres of new "..land.." based purely on the reef systems, including a landing field that apparently will take their largest military jets with comfort.
So why is this important you ask ? Well, these islands have been under disputed claims from Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and China for years, with no special happenings.
The area is an important and lucrative fishing ground for many different groups, and speculation suggests there are major oil and gas fields in the region. Hence the disputed claims.
Suddenly, the Chinese have taken this to a whole new level. The islands are several hundred kilometres from any Chinese land, but they sit right square across several VITAL shipping routes from the Middle East (oil) and Australia, into the whole Asian / North Asian region.
The Chinese have transformed at least one of the reefs into a fully operational land base, and given themselves a measure of the same capacity with the island as the Americans have with this object below...
So now we have two friends; one of whom is one of our largest trading partners, growing strongly, and stretching their legs; and the other a long established partner and friend who has some very cautious ideas about our first friend.
So, to quote my old friend once again, I think we can all .. watch this space.., because the games have only just begun. If you would like a map of this area, or any other map of the Asia Pacific region, please contact us on the number below..
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