China has adopted an aggressive and unlawful political position in the South China Sea. Creating artificial islands and then claiming that the territory is part and parcel of China has threatened the economic freedom of the entire area. The United States has already sent overflights to Fiery Cross Reef and, in response, the Chinese military is arming the islet. The over flight is legal; arming the island is not.
At the end of May, a security conference in Singapore was held to bring the countries affected by the situation together and resolve the situation. “America, alongside its allies and partners … will not be deterred from exercising these [Freedom of Navigation] rights,” Ash Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defense, said. “Turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit.”
Australia, an ally of the U.S. with economic concerns in the areas, has already signaled its support. “We have been surveilling the area for close to 35 years,” Defense Minister Kevin Andrews said at the security meeting in Singapore. “We are doing it currently and we will continue to do it in the future.”
Australia is trying to balance its long-time alliance with the U.S. with economic ties it has forged with China. “We want a de-escalation of tensions in the area,” Andrews continued. “We insist upon the right to use waters, transit waters that have been traditionally used over a long period of time.”
The economic concerns in the area have been a limiting factor for Western response. China doesn’t threaten either the United States’ or Australia’s territory but a massive amount of shipping flows through the South China Sea, a large portion of it owned by the Western powers. “The United States disregards history, legal principles and the facts,” Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for the Chinese delegation at the security conference, said. “China’s sovereignty and relevant rights were established a long time ago in the South China Sea.”
She added that China’s island-building is “legal, reasonable, conforms to the situation and neither impacts nor targets any country.” Although de-escalation may have been the goal of the conference, the rhetoric is more confrontational than placating. The United States has finally begun its long threatened pivot to the Pacific and military forces are being built up. In addition to U.S. Marines being stationed in Darwin, leasing agreements with the Philippines have been expanded to include Japanese ships and aircraft.
“At this point in time, we cannot stand alone,” said Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin at a press conference. “If we don’t do this, we will be bullied by bigger powers and that is what is happening now: there is China, sitting on our territory.” Lines are being drawn in the South China Sea with the United States on one side and China on the other. If a military conflict starts, it’s impossible to tell where it will end.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.