Renewed Sino-US Conflict Must Be Controlled
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 18, 2015
Executive Summary: Sino-US relations have had their ups and downs this year. They include clashes over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Net security, China threat theory, and the revised United States Japan "Defense Cooperation Guidelines," The two sides have been at loggerheads. Recent South China Sea disputes have nearly led to military conflict. The US Department of Defense recently accused Mainland China of land reclamation in South China Sea islands and reefs.
Full Text Below:
Sino-US relations have had their ups and downs this year. They include clashes over the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Net security, China threat theory, and the revised United States Japan "Defense Cooperation Guidelines," The two sides have been at loggerheads. Recent South China Sea disputes have nearly led to military conflict.
The US Department of Defense recently accused Mainland China of land reclamation in South China Sea islands and reefs. Citing "freedom of navigation", the US military may dispatch military aircraft and warships to within 12 nautical miles of the disputed reefs. Under the United Nations Convention, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from the coast. If the US military enters this zone, it will violate China's territorial sovereignty, and its action will amount to a military provocation.
Beijing's Foreign Minister Guo Chuhua urged Washington to treat the South China Sea issue with "caution". He declared support for freedom of navigation within the South China Sea. But not within China's territorial waters and airspace. There, China will firmly safeguard its territorial sovereignty. The US State Department is playing good cop. It emphasizes that the United States first choice is diplomatic negotiations. Secretary of State Kerry visited Beijing yesterday. The ostensible reason was to make arrangements for the annual US-China Strategic Dialogue to be held in Washington in June. In reality he was there to communicate the US position.
The US has been considering military deterrence in response to the South China Sea dispute for some time. As early as 2010, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the South China Sea was defined as a vital national interest of the United States. Indications were that Washington might resort to military intervention. Last July, during the sixth Sino-US strategic dialogue, the United States proposed that the South China Sea situation be “frozen". The parties no longer seize reefs, the South China Sea landscape would not change, and no one would take unilateral action. In August it proposed that ASEAN Foreign Ministers meet and voluntarily freeze the South China Sea situation", giving priority to a political solution before a military one. The parties involved were unenthusiastic. Beijing subsequently proposed a "two-track approach", in which the disputants would engage in peaceful negotiations followed by South China Sea maintenance of the peace by the Mainland and ASEAN members. This too failed to receive a positive response from Washington.
Recently, the ASEAN summit declared that "The South China Sea islands and reefs undermine regional peace and security". This was followed by Japan and the Philippines holding South China Sea military exercises under the guise of anti-piracy exercises. Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore held talks on possible joint South China Sea patrols. Japan asked the US to lift export bans on F-22 Raptor stealth fighters. These provocative actions were no accident, and fail to conceal the United States' behind the scenes planning the direction.
The Pentagon recently released its "2015 China's Military and Security Development Report". It endlessly underscored Mainland China's military threat, but turned a blind eye to identical actions by Vietnam and the Philippines, which have also been building military facilities on South China Sea islands and reefs. This reveals the United States' double standards in the face of China's military rise. David Shear, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, was blunt. Mainland China's airbase runway on Yong Shu Reef in the South China Sea will be complete by 2018. It will then be able to dock an aircraft carrier, posing a major challenge to continued United States military superiority in the western Pacific.
The Obama government is mired in both domestic and diplomatic difficulties. At a time like this, the United States does not want China-US military conflict. The Pentagon is now threatening force to deter Mainland China. This is the result of three considerations. One. Anti-China political sentiment in on the rise in Washington. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker recently applied pressure on Obama, demanding US military action in the East China Sea. Two. Japan, the Philippines, and other Asia-Pacific allies are demonstrating greater leadership compared to the past. Three. Military intimidation may hinder Beijing's one belt, one road maritime Silk Road-building process, delaying the pace of Mainland China's military rise.
Originally the United States had no intention of intervening in East China Sea and South China Sea territorial disputes. It only emphasized freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. Beijing has reiterated that the facilities on the South China Sea islands and reefs are for meteorological research, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. They will not affect freedom of navigation. The problem is that Washington has never acknowledged Beijing's "never hegemony, never seek hegemony," the declaration of the recent US military layout in the South China Sea is the "freedom of navigation in the South China Sea" as an excuse.
If the US refuses to change its attitude regarding Mainland China's rise, the Mainland and the US will not be able to resolve their structural differences, let alone establish political trust. Washington cannot stop Mainland China's military rise. Mainland China is not about to change its position on South China Sea territorial sovereignty. Instead of military containment, the US should promote strategic cooperation with Mainland China. Fear and suspicion will only increase the risk of China-US conflict and friction.
Secretary of State Kerry's recent high-profile visit to Moscow did little to improve US-Russian relations. His visit to Beijing may not yield any concrete results either. If Washington thinks that military pressure against Beijing is a bargaining chip, it has misjudged the situation. If the two sides clash, the impact on stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region will be serious. America prides itself on leading the Asia-Pacific countries. It must be prudent. For Taiwan, the less stable relations are between Beijing and Washington, the greater the risk to relations across the Strait. Unfortunately Taiwan's partisan political struggles are fierce. The presidential election is approaching. It is at risk as well. When Beijing and Washington clash, Taipei often finds itself the object of reproach. There is no trust between the DPP and the Mainland whatsoever. Therefore it must be especially cautious.
摘要: 年初迄今，中美關係波瀾起伏。從亞投行、網路安全、中國威脅論至美日修訂《防衛合作指針》，雙方劍拔弩張，近期再因南海爭端瀕臨軍事衝突。 美國防部日前透露，針對中國在南海島礁填海造地，