Sea provocation by Philippines, US will meet firm countermeasure

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/8 0:03:00

As the award in the international arbitration case about the South China Sea dispute approaches, the US is flexing more muscles toward China recently. The US Navy Times reported on Wednesday that three US destroyers had been quietly patrolling near some of China-controlled islands and islets, including Huangyan Island, in the South China Sea for the past two weeks. On Wednesday, according to the report, the Navy had sent seven ships to the region, including one aircraft carrier, two cruisers and four destroyers.

So far, Washington has deployed two aircraft carriers in or near the South China Sea, which is seen as sending a strong signal to China. Besides, China has also launched a military drill around the Xisha Islands, which is deemed by the outside as a countermeasure.

Former Chinese state councilor Dai Bingguo said recently in Washington that the award will be nothing but a piece of paper. It means that China will stick to the principle of non-participation and non-acceptance. After the arbitration result is released, the South China Sea dispute will become the most discussed topical issue in the world, but the squabbles won't make a real difference.

Whether there will be an escalation of tensions in the South China Sea depends on if the US incites the Philippines to take aggressive actions, or even if the US itself steps forward. If the US and the Philippines act on impulse and carry out flagrant provocation, China will not take a single step back. If the US and the Philippines scheme to play some tricks around Ren'ai Reef, China could tow away or sink the "stranded" old ship, and resolve the standoff once and for all.

Beijing should warn Manila that the crisis on Huangyan Island was caused by the Philippine navy chasing and capturing Chinese fishing boats and fishermen. China took the chance and completely controlled the island. If the Philippines dares to provoke China on the strength of the US, China does not need to restrain itself any more, but can turn Huangyan Island into a military outpost to counter more provocations from the Philippines and the US.

All these years China has been reacting to the new circumstances in the South China Sea. If the Philippines and Vietnam didn't conduct reclamation construction on the islands it occupied, China would probably have not expanded the maritime features it controls. The pattern of interaction between China and the Philippines has been set: China won't actively escalate tensions if Manila does not take risks, but if it does, China will fight back.

The US won't whole-heartedly support the Philippines in the risky cause. It will adjust the intensity of confrontation after considering the big picture of the Sino-US strategic game. Manila will only be a fifth wheel, and could be sacrificed by the US.

Will the South China Sea dispute encounter a full escalation of tensions? It is up to the US and the Philippines to give an answer.

Posted in: Editorial

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