US makes S.China Sea a flashpoint

Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-10 0:38:02

General Lori J. Robinson, commander of the US Air Force in the Pacific, urged other nations such as Australia to exercise their freedom of aviation and navigation in the South China Sea alongside the US on Tuesday. The general warned that if they do not do so, they will then "risk losing it throughout the region." This is the most recent incitement from the White House over persuading Australia, Japan and India to take part in joint naval patrols in the South China Sea.

Things are not going smoothly for Washington in drawing together allies to ramp up pressure on China over the South China Sea issue. ASEAN has been keeping an ambiguous attitude. Japan is highly in alignment with the US in its statement, however it has quite a few concerns about military coordination. Canberra is hesitating, and is not willing to declare where it stands over the joint naval patrols.

India has already publicly refused the invitation of joint patrols from the White House. Having its own major power ambitions as well as a non-aligned foreign policy, it is not possible for New Delhi to take sides between Beijing and Washington. Apart from the triangle of China, the US and India, the latter also needs to consider the China-India-Pakistan strategic triangle.

Washington has now completely stormed to the frontline of the South China Sea disputes. In the name of freedom of navigation, the US is creating frictions with Beijing, which seem very likely to become the major contradictions that will outweigh all the other previous conflicts in the waters.

When such a situation is getting clearer, changes will emerge in the attitude of other nations in the region. ASEAN nations used to have doubts toward the rise of China, and deemed the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy as a positive factor for the area's stability. However, the White House's aggressive strategy toward China since last year has made ASEAN worried that the US is not here to balance Beijing's influence, but to turn ASEAN into a pawn to contain China. It is forcing ASEAN to pick a side.

The US Pacific Fleet has shown its threat to stability in the South China Sea. This is an undesirable situation for not only most ASEAN nations, but for Australia as well, because none of them wish to see the waters turning into a flashpoint of military confrontation between China and the US.

Regional countries will be reluctant to be US partners if a war breaks out between China and US since China holds considerable countermeasures. According to the Sidney Morning Herald, Washington and Canberra are in talks to base long-range bombers in Australia, which will target China's lands and reefs in the South China Sea. Canberra might have to deliberate whether the deployment will make it more safe. Instead, it could undermine the implementation of the free trade agreement between Australia and China.

Forging a military alliance against China will not be easy. Development is the priority for countries in the region, while easing tensions and maintaining collaboration amid disputes are common wishes in the area. The more tensions the US stirs up in the waters, the more vigilance against it there will be.

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