China is expanding its presence in the South China Sea with new buildup on disputed islands, according to the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military published Tuesday.
Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army Navy is also expanding its fleet of submarines and aircraft carriers.Sponsored Ads
China’s submarine force is likely to grow to nearly 80 submarines by 2020, and Beijing’s aircraft carrier Liaoning is expected to reach “initial operational capability” around that time, the annual report states.
Perhaps owing to being dominant for so long, American leaders sometimes appear so confident of winning in wartime that they are myopic about what happens during peacetime – the so-called “phase zero” in US military terms.
Consider Asia. It’s not that US forces aren’t busy in the region, but rather there’s been a longstanding indifference towards China’s military buildup and its undermining of US alliances and commitment to Asia.
With Washington in disarray, the Belt and Road Forum kicking off this weekend in Beijing should be a blaring wake up call that U.S. leadership in Asia is in peril. For two days, China will play host to more than 1,200 delegates from 110 countries, including 29 heads of state. The event will be centered on China’s “One Belt, One Road” program — more recently rebranded as the “Belt Road Initiative” (BRI) — which aims to provide much-needed infrastructure to connect Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
The US Navy will still challenge claims by nations such as China to exclusive access in the South China Sea, Pacific Fleet Commander Scott Swift said, insisting a hiatus in “freedom of navigation” patrols doesn’t mean the disputed waterway is a lower priority for the Trump presidency.
“We just went through a change in administration,” Admiral Swift said on Monday at a briefing in Singapore. “I am not surprised that process has continued in a dialogue as the new administration gets its feet on the ground and determines where would be appropriate to take advantage of these opportunities and where we may want to wait.
Most of the attention in the South China Sea has focused on China’s military activities. But the impending natural disaster there is also cause for concern. As a recent report makes clear there’s been significant coral loss due to seawater warming. But apart from ocean warming, the Chinese government, through over-fishing and reef destruction, is contributing to the devastation.
John McManus, from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School, has highlighted the impact of island expansion on Scarborough Atoll, Pratas Atoll, the Paracel Islands, and the Spratly Islands corals to a point beyond which they will be unable to recover. Damaged coral reefs wont be able to keep up with rising sea levels. Last year McManus concluded that 40 square miles (104 square km) of some of the most biodiverse coral reefs on Earth have been destroyed in the South China Sea thanks to giant-clam poachers.
While the world watches mounting military tensions in the South China Sea, another, more ominous situation is brewing in the East China Sea that could be the trigger point for a major war between the superpowers. At the heart of tensions are eight uninhabited islands controlled by Japan that are close to important shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves. China contests Japan’s claims and is escalating its military activity in Japan airspace. In response, Japan has been doubling its F-15 jet intercepts.
The situation increases the risk of an accidental confrontation — and could draw other countries, like the United States, into a conflict. It’s a topic President Trump will likely bring up with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate this week.
Chinese opposition to South Korea’s deployment of the THAAD missile defense system is less about missiles and more about efforts to weaken the US network of formal and informal alliances in Asia that has underpinned the regional order for the last seventy years.
The THAAD controversy displays China’s familiar modus operandi: First, pick a fight over an allegedly offensive act. Next, follow up with vitriol and veiled threats, and then inflict economic pressure — all while declaring the exercise the spontaneous reaction of the righteously offended Chinese people.
This sequence played out to form in South Korea in recent months, highlighted by verbal assaults on Seoul and fierce pressure on Lotte Group’s business operations inside China. (Lotte sold the land being used for THAAD batteries in South Korea.)
The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific recently convened a hearing to discuss the U.S. policy response to China’s maritime push in the South and East China Seas. China has so far suffered no discernable cost for its destabilizing activities in these disputed waters. In Congress, there is growing desire to put a check on this belligerence, which Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis observed has “shredded the trust” of other nations and revealed China’s desire for “veto authority over the diplomatic, and security and economic conditions of neighboring states.” Underscoring the critical interests at stake, the hearing made evident that the United States has several unilateral tools available which could finally begin to impose costs on China’s destabilizing actions in the South and East China Seas. We should start using these tools.
Don’t believe what you hear about China’s economic might and the durability of its increasingly belligerent Communist regime. That was the message Mary Kissel, a member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, delivered Tuesday in a talk titled Is Asia Lost to China? at The Society of the Four Arts.
“I believe the end of this horrible regime will come; and when it comes it will come quickly and when you least expect it, just like the Soviet Union,” she said.
Kissel, who hosts WSJ Video’s Opinion Journal and co-hosts the foreign policy podcast Foreign Edition, knows a great deal about Asia. She joined the Journal in Hong Kong in 2004 and served as Asia opinion writer from 2005 to 2010.
China’s economic resurgence was fueled by its opening to the West in the late 1970s, she said. But “underneath China’s economic miracle is a debt-filled paper tiger,” she said.
In this timely op-ed, Maj. Paul Smith, who works in the J-9 of U.S. Pacific Command but is, of course, writing in a personal capacity, compares today’s international security situation to that preceding World War I and sees worrying parallels. He calls for a reassessment of our strategy toward China. Read on. The Editor.
The global environment today eerily resembles that of Europe in the early twentieth century, when a rising tide of nationalism swept through the continent. That nationalism led to increased trade competition, networks of intertwined and complicated alliances and social and political ferment that sparked a war that eventually spread to engulf much of the world in the flames of World War I.
Are we headed towards another global conflict? If so, then where? Most importantly, can this crisis be averted?