A real risk in South China Sea | The Canberra Times

The close student of history might think that the stand-off between Japan and China over the sovereignty of a few small islands in the South China Sea has a very close resemblance to the international landscape just before the start of the First World War 99 years ago. In the past week, Japan and China have been playing military chicken, each hoping the other blinks before a massive conflagration. The resemblance to August 1914 goes beyond the way in which both sides are ratcheting up the bluster, threats and the pressure, primarily for domestic political consumption rather than tactical or serious strategic advantage, against the risk that even a slight political or military miscalculation or chance event (like an assassination in Sarajevo) actually sets off conflicts no one intended, expected or actually wanted. It also has parallels with the potential for such a conflict, whether started by China or Japan, to explode domino-like into a much wider brawl, inevitably causing confrontation between China and the US, and, unwilling but unavoidable entry by most of the northern Pacific nations, including Russia, Vietnam, the Koreas, the Philippines and Australia, and, probably India. It is impossible to calculate how such a conflict would go, but it would be catastrophic for millions of people, with survivors wondering why it came to escalate so quickly and to become, so suddenly, for two countries such a critical matter worth staking their national survival.

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A real risk in South China Sea