Chinese warplanes confront US plane. PIcs: globalsecurity.org
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The long standing stalemate between the United States, China and the South East Asian nations seems to be moving suddenly. Though the pace of the confrontation is not really intense, it only takes a spark for a conflagration.
The stalemate like situation has continued to exist since a long time and the emboldened Chinese juggernaut is marching ahead. It started with fortification and securing the area in the South China Sea and gained in strength from day to day.
China raised islands out of no man’s waters in the oceans with a strategic military outlook. Chinese dredgers raised sand from the bottom of the sea at minor atolls and then strengthened gradually to withstand the weight of concrete structures.
Thus, the Chinese bulldozed the objections of the regional countries who did not possess deterrent strength.
In addition to gaining control over unclaimed bits and pieces China also grabbed portions that other countries claimed. This gave rise to running disputes with countries like:
• Brunei, and
• The Philippines.
In fact, the Chinese continued their harassment, grabbing, constructing and consolidating to fortify the areas nearby. Furthermore, they used all kinds of threats, deceit and various means to emerge as the local bully.
The Chinese are well aware that the United States cannot and will not dare anything. Hence, they continue with their bullying the regional entities and having their own way.
In fact, China has emerged as another world power to challenge the superiority of the US. Hence, any talk of a unipolar world has ceased to have any relevance. Thus, the United States is no more the uncrowned king of the world.
The United States does have allies like the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan in the region but China stands out as a consistent bully. China is always looking for confrontations with the neighboring countries.
Its ships keep ramming into the fishermen of the region who venture out to islands owned by their nation. Moreover, Chinese fishermen unscrupulously remove many endangered species of sea life contravening maritime rules.
Two very significant developments too place this week in the waters of the South China Sea. First, there was the movement of a US destroyer USS Dewey last Thursday.
The route that this destroyer sailed on took it quite close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea. Thus, it sailed to within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef thereby infuriating China.
The Chinese authorities lodged a strong protest to the United States. However, the US authorities clarified that this exercise was conducted under the freedom of navigation principle that is governed by international maritime laws.
Notably, even though this principle was codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea., this is the first time that the US has tried it out.
Here is an extract from Wikipedia:
Freedom of navigation (FON), is a principle of customary international law that, apart from the exceptions provided for in international law, ships flying the flag of any sovereign state shall not suffer interference from other states. This right is now also codified as article 87(1)a of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Not all UN member states have ratified the convention; notably, the United States has signed, but not ratified the convention.
On Thursday, a US destroyer sailed in disputed South China Sea waters near a reef claimed by Beijing in the first “freedom of navigation” exercise under President Donald Trump.
Pentagon officials reported that two Chinese J-10 warplanes intercepted a US Navy P-3. It was surprising since the surveillance plane was flying n international airspace.
Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross explained that the incident occurred over the South China Sea. The Pentagon officials described the incident as unsafe and unprofessional.
However, there was no skirmish and the surveillance operations continued without any hindrance.
The matter is under examination and will likely be taken up with the Chinese government in due time Commander Ross stated.
In the backdrop is a major regional security summit in Singapore next week.
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Written for: Lars-Magnus Carlsson
Saturday, 27 May 2017