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South China Sea on a Boil
China and U.S. Spar Verbally over South China Sea

Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the militarization of the South China Sea ahead of his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi today. Reuters:

The United States is “encouraging the peaceful resolution of competing maritime claims in the South China Sea – a goal that is definitely not helped by the militarization of facilities in that region,” Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The United States last week accused China of raising tensions in the South China Sea by its apparent deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, a move China has neither confirmed nor denied.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry, for its part, compared Beijing’s island fortifications in the Spratlys to U.S. military outposts in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, satellite image analysis released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies suggests that China could be placing sophisticated radar systems on its artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago. Reuters:

“Two probable radar towers have been built on the northern portion of the feature, and a number of 65-foot (20-meter) poles have been erected across a large section of the southern portion,” the report said.

“These poles could be a high-frequency radar installation, which would significantly bolster China’s ability to monitor surface and air traffic across the southern portion of the South China Sea.”

As we commented yesterday, Beijing doesn’t seem to fear backlash from Secretary Kerry or anyone in Washington at the moment. On the contrary, Chinese officials have been ramping up their militarization of the South China Sea, seemingly intent taking advantage of a cautious and lame duck President Obama’s final year in office.

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  • Nevis07

    Personally, I’d like to see the Prompt Global Strike program be accelerated. We need a weapon to give the CCP momentary pause in their thought pattern.

  • Blackbeard

    We have lots of options to pressure China if we so choose. For example, why not sell modern weapons to Vietnam? Why not encourage Japan and Vietnam to build up and then militarize some on the reefs they control? Why not help Vietnam rebuild our old naval base at Cam Rahn Bay and then have our fleet call there? And we could do the same with Subic Bay in the Philippines. And, if we really want to up the ante, we could open negotiations to sell Taiwan modern jet fighters.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Much simpler, and far more effective option: Announce that the United States will not oppose the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Phillipines (we can leave Malaysia, Singapore and Australia for later). The Chinese might reconsider pushing around their neighbors once the neighbors have a viable option of pushing back in a way that would actually hurt China.

      • Blackbeard

        Throwing nuclear weapons into the discussion at this stage would be a terrible overreaction. In these situations you want to escalate slowly, in tiny steps, giving your opponent plenty of face saving opportunities to back down.

        • f1b0nacc1

          Much as I hate to take the position of some of our more bellicose commenters, half measures aren’t going to help us. China is placing an integrated radar net in the SCS, and moving the foundations for a sophisticated missile net in as well. Right now we can move about freely, soon not so much, very shortly thereafter, not at all unless we wish to engage in outright hostilities (which we will NOT do). The catastrophic consequences of permitting this land-grab to occur without any costs for the Chinese shouldn’t be underestimated, nor tolerated.
          The US has already undermined the non-proliferation regime by tolerating Iran’s accession to nuclear weapons, as well as that of North Korea. These changes have seriously damaged our own security as well as that of our allies in the regions involved. If we cannot reverse this (and we cannot), perhaps we can at least get something out of the debacle by giving the Chinese a good long taste of their own medicine. Why, after all, should we continue to provide the Chinese with a cost free path for them to follow to hegemonic status? If the Chinese wish to grab land from their neighbors and make it clear that they do not feel bound by even the most basic articles of treaties that they are signatories to, then perhaps the costs of such behavior should be made clear to them.
          We aren’t USING nuclear weapons here, only making it clear that we won’t object to other states acquiring them as a hedge against a state that has already made clear that it has designs upon them. I suspect that might focus the attentions Chinese wonderfully, and encourage them to reconsider their approach. After all, once they back down (if they do), it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the countries involved to sustain domestic support for nuclear weapons programs, and we could always reinstate our objections once the danger has passed.

  • Zephon

    Why all the fuss? We helped China reclaim this territory after WWII from Japan and recognized the South China Seas as Chinese back then. Read Ambassador Chas Freeman’s writing on the subject for more. We not only gave China military equipment, like the USS Decker renamed the Taiping after the largest of the naturally habitable Islands in the South China Sea Spratly Chain but even ran a radar base on Taiping Island for many years while it was manned by Chinese soldiers and under a Chinese flag!

    Even the Chinese-Japan peace treaty after WWII names both the Paracel and Spratly islands as Chinese formally returned to China per Japan’s surrender agreement.

    And with Japan claiming a 200 mile EEZ around a submerged rock: Okinotorishima, 800 miles from Japan. You don’t see us challenging that claim or the militarization all around China by us and our proxy puppet states.

    This is not much more than continuing our policies that got us into the Vietnam war.

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