US meddling disrupts peace in S.China Sea

By Zhang Junshe Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/25 19:58:39

US President Donald Trump has approved a plan submitted to the White House in April by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Breitbart News website reported recently. The plan outlines a one-year schedule of when US navy ships will sail through the disputed South China Sea.

Under the plan, the White House would be aware of the planned "freedom of navigation operations" (FONOPs) so it would approve them faster than before, which would mean operations could be conducted on a "very routine, very regular" basis rather than as a "one-off event," Breitbart cited a US official as saying.

If the report is true, it indicates that the US warships will conduct FONOPs in the South China Sea more frequently, and uncertainties in the waters will be intensified. Tensions in the South China Sea have been assuaged, especially since the Philippines refused to do joint patrols with the US. The US patrol schedule to challenge China's sovereignty and maritime claims again proves that the US is the troublemaker in the South China Sea.

The FONOPs, which the US has been carrying out around the world since 1979, are designed to use US standards and maritime strength to challenge other countries' sovereignty and jurisdiction over their territorial waters, exclusive economic zones, archipelagic waters and straits. The operations aim to safeguard US hegemony over the world's oceans. In particular, US naval vessels often sail within the territorial waters 12 nautical miles from the shores another country in the name of "innocent passage," without warning. This is a good example of US arrogance.

It's worth noting the timing of the release of the schedule. Based on the consensus reached by the Chinese and US presidents, the two sides are striving to make new progress in bilateral exchanges and cooperation on all fronts. Disclosing the operation plan at this point is apparently at odds with the move toward closer ties. The only explanation is that the US wants to continue to go against China on the South China Sea issue using the excuse of freedom of navigation.

In fact, freedom of navigation and air space in the South China Sea has never been a problem. If the US military continues FONOPs near China's islands in the name of freedom of navigation, this will only impede peace and stability in the South China Sea. Countries having disputes with China in the waters are likely to consider these US moves as supportive and hence take risky actions to challenge China's sovereignty and maritime claims. This will meet stern counteractions from China.

The US must understand that China has abundant evidence to prove that the South China Sea islands have been China's territory since ancient times. But to maintain peace and stability in the region, China has been working to resolve the disputes peacefully through consultations and negotiations with countries directly involved.

Currently, countries involved in the South China Sea dispute, including the Philippines, have agreed to go back on the right track of solving the issue via negotiations. As a power from outside the region, the US should respect efforts by China and relevant countries to find a solution by peaceful means and play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The US Navy's FONOPs in the South China Sea are a serious challenge to China in political and military terms. In the face of such muscle-flexing moves that aggravate the regional military situation and are prone to cause accidents on the sea or in the air, the Chinese army needs to strike back firmly and take necessary measures to safeguard China's territory and maritime rights and interests.

The author is a research fellow at the China Naval Research Institute.


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