China’s broad territorial claims to international waters in Asia, along with U.S. defense cuts, are increasing the risk of a conflict in Asia, according to the recently retired commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet.
“Since there are no conventional arms-control regimes, or pre-established frameworks designed to manage escalation, the real possibility exists for conflict within the maritime domain that is not at the time, the place, or for the duration for our choosing,” said retired Adm. Patrick Walsh, who left his job as Pacific Fleet commander two months ago.
“The absence of a regime or framework to de-tension the area also creates equal probability for conflict that is regional in context, extending beyond the borders of the Taiwan Strait involving U.S. treaty allies, regional partners as well as multinational commercial interests.”
Walsh, speaking on Capitol Hill at the Asia Security Initiative conference, said an example of the difficulty in dealing with Chinese territorial claims was Beijing’s 2010 declaration that most of the resource-rich South China Sea is under Chinese control.
What China calls the Nine-Dash Line is a demarcation line that includes waters in the Sea claimed by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia.
Walsh said there is a presumption that as China rises, “we will maintain the status quo, that our understanding of norms of acceptable behavior will remain in place.”
“And I think the introduction of the Nine-Dash Line is an excellent example of how the Chinese would like to change the norms of acceptable behavior and the standards by which we operate,” he said.