Monday, May 10, 2021

Why Kiribati and Kanton Matter

Last week, you may have noticed this little jewel come across your scan; 

China is working with the tiny Pacific island state of Kiribati to explore the feasibility of improving an airstrip on one of its remote islands, China’s foreign ministry said late Friday.

Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing Kiribati lawmakers, that China has drawn up plans to upgrade an airstrip and bridge on the tiny island of Kanton (also spelled Canton), a coral atoll strategically located midway between Asia and the Americas.

This is just part of a pattern of China using a combination of economic promise to the poor, a little graft to grease the skids, and you have all sorts of access from the small Pacific Islands, long suffering African republics, European mercantilists, and DC thinktanks.

Why should we worry about one more?

Kanton Island. No accident.

Always ... and I mean ALWAYS ... get ye to a chart ... better yet, a globe.

You WWII history geeks will remember this was one of the staging areas for our progress through the Gilbert Islands (Tarawa etc). The US was nice enough to build an airbase there. You can see it clearly.

At first blush, you might think, "Well, it isn't even close to any US military facility, so what?" 

That is true.

That isn't why it is such an important spot. Here's the terminal end of the great circle route from San Diego to Australia.

Where does that great circle routs go by Kanton?

Yep. 28 nautical miles. 28.

You cannot classify geography or math. That is why the Chinese are interested in it. I can't blame them. If I were Chinese, I'd do the same exact thing. 

They know the USA can't rush to the aid of anyone from Taiwan to the South China Sea if they have to clean up what used to be their backyard first.

Time and distraction. Defense in depth. None of this can be classified. They are open to all.

The fun follow on question: what would they do with it?

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