China, And the U.S. Are Heading Toward a Face-Off
in South China Sea
EDITOR'S NOTE 12/31/2016: In this post written in 2015 we assumed as a given that the United States would not "cave in on this issue but it appears that the Dragon fully expects us to." The election of Donald Trump makes that assumption obsolete, which may make the dragon more careful, but will not stop the dragon. We continue our warning for all the reasons we describe here in that "A shooting incident between the two powers is only a misunderstanding away.
China's outrage was spewed forth after the USS FORT WORTH sailed through the South China Sea on Monday May 11, 2015. The ship's course took it near new artificial islands that China is creating upon shallow submerged shoals within the Exclusive Economic Zone waters of the Philippines and other neighbors. The U.S. Navy, Japanese Maritime Defense Force, Philippine Navy and Coast Guard regard the area as international waters and routinely transit the area. The Pentagon announced that the U.S. Navy will continue to patrol from air and sea the region around the Philippines Spratly Islands presently largely occupied by hostile Chinese forces, some building permanent structures. The Philippines, entitled to much of the area by well settled international law is unlikely to abandon their naval and coast guard patrols as well. Resentment over aggressive and territorial expansion against neighboring coastal states off shore islands is fanning resentment of the Dragon in the area. China needs the cooperation of some of her neighbors to complete the Dragon's major "Silk Road Project". Some nations are starting to withdraw support in reaction to China's thug like approach to taking parts of their Exclusive Economic Zones and islands off shore. A thug state never has allies just untrustworthy partners in crime or vassal states.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the Defense Department was formulating plans to respond to China's territorial moves. Citing an anonymous defense official, the Wall Street Journal said the United States is weighing whether to send ships and aircraft to patrol within 12 nautical miles of the built-up sites. China for its part feigns indignation:
"We are deeply concerned about the US remarks. The US side must make clarification on this," ...." The Chinese side advocates the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, yet the freedom definitely does not mean that foreign military vessels and aircrafts can enter one country's territorial waters and airspace at will. China will stay firm in safeguarding territorial sovereignty. We urge parties concerned to be discreet in words and actions, avoid taking any risky and provocative actions and safeguard regional peace and stability." Statement from the Chinese defense Ministry
In response to the Chinese statement the White House noted that the waters in question aren't recognized as Chinese territorial waters. We would add being familiar with the International Law of the Sea that the Chinese claim is utterly without historical or legal merit.
"International law is clear that land reclamation cannot change a submerged feature into an island that is entitled to maritime zones. An island must be naturally formed to generate an entitlement to maritime zones," said Patrick Ventrell, a National Security Council spokesman. "We have, and will continue to operate consistent with the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea."
We cannot cave in on this issue but it appears that the Dragon fully expects us to. A shooting incident between the two powers is only a misunderstanding away. Since the Chinese do not train their naval officers in what the international law is whenever such law if inconvenient to Central party goals the provocation that leads to shooting will probably come from the Chinese side. There just is no good news from the South China Sea.