China and the South China Sea
Always important to know what the other side is thinking. The other day, the U.S. Navy sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen within 12 nautical miles of islands built by China in the South China Sea. Following is an opinion piece from the Global Times, a Chinese government mouthpiece. I offer it without editorial comment, which I’ll save for my “Week in Review” commentary as necessary.
Calling the USS Lassen's intrusion a "regular occurrence," the US military put a gloss on its recent brazen provocation against China in the South China Sea, implying that more warships might be sent within the 12 nautical mile-limit around China-controlled islands. China will have to escalate its countermeasures if Washington does so, and the situation will worsen for the US.
If such provocations continue, China's warships will have to engage in more face-offs with their US counterparts in the South China Sea. Beijing will be forced to accelerate military deployment in the region, including a quicker militarization of the islands to the extent that China can confront the US militarily in this region.
If the US is determined that these provocations are going to be regular events, it is possible that China will deploy fighter jets on these new islands.
China has reiterated that the expanded islands in the South China Sea will serve peaceful and civilian purposes, supporting economic development around the South China Sea. China has no intention to militarize the region, but the US, despite China's assertion is pushing, even forcing, China in that direction.
US military policymakers are so narrow-minded that they cannot look at the big picture, cherishing the illusion that it could show off its might, embrace allies' cheers and frustrate China's confidence by sending a warship to the South China Sea.
It is hard to believe that these shortsighted wonks have not considered China's response, like Beijing has no cards to play. If it wasn't for our restraint, China could have driven away every Filipino and Vietnamese from the islands they took from China, but it didn't. Almost every move China has made in the South China Sea is a response to the provocations of these aggressors.
Washington should keep in mind that it really doesn't want China to transform these reclaimed islands into outposts to deal with the intrusions by US warships.
Even in the worst scenario, if China decided to militarize all these small islands, what could the US do? Perhaps US President Barack Obama will have everything but the guts to wage a real battle with China for these small islands.
The Americans must keep in mind that when it comes to China's core interests, their determination to preserve certain strategic interests will have no chance to win in a showdown against China's determination to protect the integrity of its sovereignty. After flexing its muscles and bragging about its military prowess at China's doorstep, Washington should know when to stop. Enough is enough.
Hot Spots will return in a few weeks.