Maritime provocation in Trump era will make no difference

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/4 0:03:40

On Sunday, the US missile destroyer USS Stethem trespassed into China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands. China responded quickly and dispatched warships and fighter jets to warn off the US ship.

By the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the region is slowly cooling down, and continues to show positive momentum. But there are still countries within and outside the region that continue to create waves here.

The situation on the Xisha Islands is fundamentally different from that on the Nansha Islands as there is no dispute over sovereignty on the former one. According to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the Chinese government promulgated the baseline of the territorial sea off the Xisha Islands in 1996. The relevant laws of China have made clear stipulations on matters concerning foreign warships entering into China's territorial waters, which the US military knows. But it has not given due respect.

The Trump administration is less interested in hyping up the situation in the South China Sea. However, the White House seems to use the maritime disputes as a bargaining chip to push China to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat, which has complicated the meaning of "freedom of navigation" declared by the US.

Both China and other countries don't want to see military conflicts in the region; the US' so-called "freedom of navigation" is actually a geopolitical game. It is a carefully calculated provocation, which aims at making trouble but  tries to avoid a serious escalation of the situation in the South China Sea.

US provocation cannot change the reality in the South China Sea. China will not make any substantial retreat just because US warships are creating waves in the region from time to time. China has its own pace for island construction, which the US has no means to stop. The real purpose of the US is to instigate countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines to toughen up against China. At present, the Philippines is not interested in being a party to this strategic interaction with the US and Vietnam may not dare to go too far. Besides, the situation in the region is not within the control of the US. It is difficult to say whether China or the US has more initiatives on the South China Sea.

During the Obama administration, US warships sailed in the South China Sea many times, but the gains mainly remained at the psychological level. Any political changes may erase the gains. Nevertheless, China's island construction is solid, and China's power to safeguard its interests in the region has steadily improved. Now in the Trump era, the US continues its "routine" provocations, the effect of which will inevitably be the same.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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