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Foreign Policy Adrift
Beijing Sends Missiles to the South China Sea

In a move that conveniently coincided with President Obama’s Southeast Asia summit in California, China has moved missiles to the South China Sea, Pentagon officials say. Reuters:

China has deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system to one of the disputed islands it controls in the South China Sea, Taiwan and U.S. officials said, ratcheting up tensions even as U.S. President Barack Obama urged restraint in the region.

Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Major General David Lo told Reuters on Wednesday the missile batteries had been set up on Woody Island. The island is part of the Paracels chain, under Chinese control for more than 40 years but also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam.

At the California summit, there was reportedly a great deal of discussion about ways to deal with China’s island building habit in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos, but the participants’ joint statements never even explicitly mentioned China.

The timing of China’s missile deployment may well be coincidental, but it’s nonetheless clearly a thumb in the eye of the United States all the same. It’s also a reminder of the ripple effects of the White House’s feckless (or just nonexistent) Middle East policy. Having observed the Obama administration’s record of not responding to direct challenges from Russia in the Middle East, China has drawn some conclusions about how cautious it needs to be in the Pacific.

The meltdown of American resolve and strategic coherence in the Middle East has consequences around the world. The White House thinks that its approach reduces the risks of war; the opposite, unfortunately, is true.

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