"There is great danger of accidental commencement of hostilities."
The deteriorating situation in the South China Sea (SCS) is in reaction to the increased US activities in the area. Specifically, there are two aspects that could serve as flashpoints in US-China relations. First, the seeming appropriation by the US of the whole of SCS to implement its hegemonistic policy of “Monroe Doctrine” to make the region America’s extended lake in Asia. The doctrine is given loose application of freedom of navigation to include the right to conduct naval military exercise in the whole stretch of SCS as if to complete the “containment” of China.
Second, the increased US threat to instigate an independence movement in Taiwan to provoke war with China. Support for this could be treated as renouncing the Joint Communiqué signed in 1972. The document is the foundation of the “One-China” policy, it being a precondition to the opening of diplomatic relations.
These two issues continue to separate China and the US, and being exploited today by the Trump administration to drum up anti-Chinese sentiments.
Although the SCS and Taiwan are problems dealing on US-China relations, this is exacerbated by the trade war with the US using every conceivable strategy to exact a bargain. Encouraging Taiwanese independence and increasing arm sales beyond the defense requirement of the runaway province could develop to possible hot war.
One must bear in mind that no outsider can accuse China of threatening the security of the region unless it commits overt acts of aggression. The burden is always to an outsider, it being the presumed aggressor. Nonetheless, US presence in the SCS is premised that it is acting as big brother. This has become the loophole for the US because countries adjacent to the SCS gave no consent to their being classified as de facto ally against China. This role played by the US has also become its license to remain present in the SCS.
This has also allowed the US to unilaterally sponsor countries outside the region to define the goals and objectives of an erstwhile “internal” regional organization. Maybe as a superpower, the US can dictate who should be their enemy or ally, or much more invite foreign powers from other regions to bolster its strength in the SCS. It is even attempting to expand the de facto grouping to justify the creation of Indo-Pacific bloc participated in by India.
Today, we see an increased military presence of the US in the SCS, particularly in the Paracel and Spratly group of Islands. The US has no claim over these islands. The only justification is its “alliance” with the Philippines which gave it access to establish five military bases. Vietnam, a country which has a dispute with China, has no alliance with the US.
Moreover, we should stop implementing that ridiculous suggestion lifted from a rabid anti-Chinese US State Department secretary, Mike Pompeo, to blacklist Chinese companies involved in the construction of islands in the SCS. We have more to lose than gain in that silly proposal in the name of blind subservience whose only reward is to proclaim to the whole world how stupid we can be.
The odd thing in our policy is that the Duterte administration is trying to improve the country’s relations with China while the US is accelerating its anti-Chinese propaganda using the local opposition to drum up anti-Chinese sentiment. Often, the statement of the President and his officials do not seem to jibe.
Recently, the US conducted a military exercise in the SCS. It was the biggest exercise consisting of two-carrier task force. The presence of two aircraft carriers with each group composed roughly of 7,500 personnel, with at least one cruiser, a flotilla of six to 10 destroyers and/or frigates, aircrafts from 65 to 70, and undisclosed number of Ohio-class submarines each carrying 24 submarine-launched Trident ballistic missiles with each carrying eight nuclear warheads equivalent to 30 times the strength of the bomb exploded in Hiroshima.
China responded by carrying out military drills within the SCS. To quote PLA senior colonel Wu Quian, “The build up of China’s naval force in the South China Sea is proportionate to the external force deployed to serve both as deterrent and countermeasure to let the US navy know that China possesses what it calls “carrier killer” missiles classified as DF 21D and DF 26B missiles.
There is great danger of accidental commencement of hostilities. When US surveillance aircraft RC-135S entered the southeastern waters in the province of Hainan and a high flying U-2 aircraft flew over an area where PLA was holding live fire drill, and was shot down, that could start a war. “US intention is malicious when it sends warships to the South China Sea. They should have thought about how the PLA will launch DF-21D and DF-26B missiles in the worst-case scenario.” The two classes of missiles are prepared to target to US aircraft carriers should they attack the PLA in the South China Sea. This is a calibrated response to a perceived threat to its security.
It is through the invitation of the US that other countries join the military exercise in the SCS. In fact, there is no collective military bloc existing in the area today. The old Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) has long been dissolved even before the end of the Cold War. The participation of Australia is through the ANZUS Treaty. The big question is India, which is not covered by an alliance with any of the ASEAN countries or with the US. Effectively, the participation of Australia, Japan, and United Kingdom has lead to the militarization of the SCS without the protocol of forming a bloc or of informing the ASEAN.
China’s presence in the region is inseparable from its location, stretching from north to south of China Sea. Since there is no official record that China conquered or occupied a country in Southeast Asia, it stands as the natural guardian for peace and security of the region, and definitely not the US or any other country.
After the US scrapped the Shanghai communiqué, its absence is now being used to circumvent the understanding. The US now takes this to sell arms to Taiwan entertaining the thought that it is no longer bound by the limitation. The sale of offensive weapons to Taiwan includes the sale of about $62 billion 10-year arms deal with of 66 F-16V fighter jets.
Will China not equally interpret it as a threat to its own security? For how long can the souring of relations last with the US openly crossing the red line in dealing with China? The decision by the Czech Republic to restore diplomatic relations with Taiwan is seen by China as an ominous crack caused by the unilateral scrapping by the US of the Shanghai communiqué. Can China tolerate this open travesty to an agreement that is now followed by other countries? President Trump should be made to understand that he cannot use this as his leverage to exact a bargain without China interpreting it as some kind of blackmail.