By Scott Taylor
Prior to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s participation in the G7 Summit in Japan, there was rampant speculation among hawkish pundits that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be seeking stronger support from Canada in terms of thwarting any Chinese expansionist designs in the region.
One warmongering columnist went so far as to suggest that Canada should begin sending our Royal Canadian Navy frigates on more extended patrols into the Western Pacific in order to intimidate China.
Given that Canada does not presently have an operational supply ship, the RCN is incapable of even getting a frigate to the Western Pacific, let alone patrolling menacingly off the Chinese coast.
The big question, of course, is why would Canada even want to begin contributing even a miniscule military presence into an arena that is already fast becoming a potential flashpoint for a major conflagration?
In addition to Japan, China currently has territorial disputes with the Philippines and Vietnam. The focus of the dispute with the Philippines centres on a remote set of reefs known as the Scarborough Shoal.
China made a clear demonstration of its resolve to lay claim to the Scarborough Shoals in June 2013, when their navy patrol vessels turned fire hoses on a small flotilla of Filipino fishing boats.
Although the shoal is situated just 200 kilometres off the coast of the Philippines, and well within the internationally recognized 200 nautical mile zone of economic exclusion, Philippine President Benigno Aquino demurred from any retaliatory military action.
It is believed that the Chinese intended to convert the uninhabited Scarborough Shoal into artificial islands, complete with docking facilities and airstrips.
Pushing Chinese military installations outward into the Pacific is seen as a direct challenge to U.S. longstanding control of the region.
This is where the plot thickens. Aquino was defeated in recent elections and Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte is set to assume full authority on June 30. Duterte is a character that makes U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump seem like a rational man.
As the former mayor of the crime-ridden city of Davao, Duterte took extreme measures to clean up the streets. It is estimated that over 1,000 criminals were executed without trial by a police force that was paid bonuses for the killing of felons.
As for his position on the disputed Scarborough Shoal, Duterte has already laid treason charges against outgoing President Aquino for his abandonment of the territory back in 2013.
As part of his pre-election bombast, Duterte suggested that he would personally drive out to the shoal on a jet ski in order to plant a Philippine flag.
Should the Chinese object to this defiance, Duterte stated that he is prepared to give up his own life in exchange for becoming a national hero.
Duterte has no love for the Americans, but he still has in his pocket the U.S.-Philippines mutual security pact. Even though the U.S. closed its major naval base at Subic Bay in 1992, America is still obligated to protect the Philippines if they are attacked by a third party.
In other words, the U.S. is treaty-bound to go to war with China even if Duterte deliberately provokes hostilities.
In an even more bizarre development, Vietnam has been cozying up to the U.S., seeking support over their territorial conflict with China over the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.
That’s right. After waging a bloody decade-long war to drive out the American military, the Vietnamese are now seeking their assistance in a possible showdown with China.
If any of these scenarios transpire, and the U.S. navy goes toe-to-toe with the Chinese to determine supremacy of the Western Pacific, the last thing we are going to want is a Canadian patrol frigate in the midst of the fray.
Canada should not find itself dragged into a military clash over Japanese, Philippine or Vietnamese land claims.
We have no skin in that game, and let’s keep it that way.