Freedom of navigation inflicts less pressure on China

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/31 23:28:40

With the US stirring the water, the South China Sea issue has been heating up recently. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that the US would continue "freedom of navigation" operations near the disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea and would also take other steps. 

Two days before Mattis made the remarks, two US warships sailed into China's territorial waters surrounding the Xisha Islands. Australian Senator Jim Molan claimed an all-out war would be the only thing capable of dislodging Chinese forces from the string of South China Sea islands.

In addition, it was hyped by some Philippine and Western media outlets that Alan Peter Cayetano, foreign affairs secretary of the Philippines, said in a recent speech that President Rodrigo Duterte has drawn red lines in the South China Sea dispute and is ready to fight a war for the waters. However, reviewing the full text of his speech carefully, the attitudes of both Cayetano and Duterte are not as aggressive as portrayed by the media. 

Countries in the South China Sea region have maintained stable relations and brought differences under control. The US has ratcheted up provocations in the region. Washington disinvited China from the 2018 Rim of the Pacific Exercise citing China's continued "militarization" of the South China Sea and dispatched two US navy warships to sail within 12 nautical miles of the Xisha Islands. All these moves indicate more US provocations are looming. 

The South China Sea as an arena for strategic competition between China and the US is difficult to cool down in the short term. It's very likely to heat up more in the future. China must make full preparations and strategic arrangements for long-lasting contention with the US in the area. 

China needs to stabilize its relations with other South China Sea claimants, especially Vietnam and the Philippines, and continue to manage and control differences with them to avoid sharp conflicts. Development should be maintained as the theme for the region. Doing so can reduce the excuses employed by the US and its allies to intervene in the region.

China must build up its capacities so that it can launch a powerful counterstrike if the US adopts extreme intervention in the South China Sea. In addition to deploying defensive weapons on the islets and reefs, China needs to build a strong deterrence system consisting of mobile naval, land-based and air-based forces to ensure it is able to hit back against any challenges in a showdown. 

China should deal with US military provocations with confidence and patience. The US preoccupation with freedom of navigation in the South China Sea will wield little influence over China as navigation in the waters has never been interrupted. 

China remains committed to resolving disputes through negotiations. Beijing must strengthen communication with other South China Sea claimants so that cooperation can be carried out based on mutual trust. It's important to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and reach a consensus in negotiations over the South China Sea Code of Conduct. 

China won't allow any external powers to build hostile barriers against China in the region. We have enough strength and a firm resolution to fight back until they abandon such motives. 


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