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China Promises Long, Difficult Struggle Over South China Sea


The Chinese Foreign Minister said on Monday that China is in no hurry to solve territorial disputes with its neighbors. For years ASEAN countries have sought to jointly negotiate with Beijing to establish a Code of Conduct (CoC) for civilian and military operations in territorial waters claimed by several countries, but China has resisted. Even now, Beijing still says the CoC needs much more work.

“China believes that there should be no rush. Certain countries are hoping that the CoC can be agreed on overnight. These countries are having unrealistic expectations,” China’s official Xinhua news agency paraphrased Wang as saying….

“No individual countries should impose their will on others.”

Previous efforts to discuss the Code of Conduct had failed “due to disturbances from certain parties”, Wang said, without naming any countries.

Instead of diving straight into sensitive territorial disputes on his recent trip to Thailand, China’s Foreign Minister played up economic ties and strategic cooperation between Beijing and ASEAN. On the one hand, Beijing is assuring ASEAN countries that it means them no harm; on the other, it is continuing to build up its navy and coast guard with new ships, surveillance vessels, and perhaps even a new aircraft carrier.

China’s smaller neighbors in Southeast Asia don’t have the naval strength to defend their claims against Beijing (which is why they have tried to negotiate together, with support from the US). Soon they could find themselves even more outclassed: China is accelerating its plan to become a top maritime superpower, a goal that President Xi Jinping has repeatedly vowed to achieve.

[Image: The Chinese guided missile destroyer Shenzhen near Guam, courtesy Wikimedia]

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  • tarentius

    The idea that China will become a “maritime superpower” any time soon is at odds with reality. Is China expanding its Navy? Yes? Will it be more than a regionally powerful Navy within the next 10-15 years? Hardly likely. One just doesn’t build ships and become a naval power, as the Germans found out prior to WW1. The Chinese Navy won’t even come close to the US Navy anytime within the next 30 years and will have a hard time matching up with the Japanese Navy.
    Let’s not use the term “maritime superpower” so cavalierly.

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