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Shangri-La Fallout
China Unfazed By US Criticism

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter remarks at this weekend’s Shangri-La conference in Singapore were a reiteration of what the United States has been saying for the past few weeks as it raised the temperature in the South China Sea. Secretary Carter called for a “lasting halt” to land reclamation by Beijing, and repeated that the United States would continue to sail ships and fly planes through international waters and airspace. “Turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit,” he told the audience.

But according to the Wall Street Journal accounts of the event, the Chinese delegation appeared content with the extent of Carter’s criticism. Saturday’s article contained the following quote:

Col. Yu Lin of China’s People’s Liberation Army said that the tone of Mr. Carter’s speech was “acceptable” to the Chinese delegation, which thought the criticism would be sharper. The U.S. may keep up verbal criticism and continue with surveillance, she said, but “the U.S. will never do more than that.”

Today’s article added this:

China appeared unfazed by Mr. Carter’s remarks and showed little indication of backing down. Zhao Xiaozhou, a Chinese colonel, said Mr. Carter “wasn’t as tough as I expected.”

If all the U.S. is willing to do is fly planes and make indignant speeches while the Chinese keep building up the atolls, Beijing appears to be able to live with it. Does Washington have a next step in mind? Does the White House have a strategy that can change China’s calculations about its behavior, leading to an abandonment of the island build up? Are the Chinese miscalculating, or have they taken the Obama Administration’s temperature correctly?

Either way, the world is much closer to war in the Pacific than we were a year ago.

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  • Blackbeard

    There’s lots of things we could do short of war. We could start selling top of the line weapons to Vietnam, Japan, South Korea, the Phillipines and even Taiwan if we really want to annoy the Chinese. We could reopen Subic Bay. We could reopen Da Nang and base a fleet there. We could dramatically increase spending on our navy.

    But Obama is all talk (“red lines”) and the Chinese and everyone else knows it. Our former allies will soon start aligning themselves with China seeing no other alternative. Goodbye Pacific.

    • Jacksonian_Libertarian

      I agree with you to an extent. I think Chinese belligerence presents the US with a great opportunity to negotiate a super favorable economic and military alliance with all the Asian nations being threatened by China. From India in the west to Japan, and from South Korea to Australia a huge alliance could be created that would easily be dominate in every way. Technologically, Economically, Population, Militarily, Strategically in every way such an alliance would be overpowering to China. The US could require the purchase of US combat tested communications and military equipment as the price of membership using the valid fact of efficient supply, compatibility, and command and control.
      Unfortunately Obama is the worst President in American History and will never take advantage of such a wonderful opportunity.

      • qet

        And then in 20 years’ time, when the fighters of those nations we armed turn their (our) weapons on us or on governments or interests allied with us, the TAI commenters of that time will hoot and cackle about what incredible stupidity it was to do such a thing, about how anyone with half a brain could have seen that [insert nom de guerre of rebels/terrorists here] always hated us.

  • Anthony

    War in the Pacific! Wow!

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