Blustering US a paper tiger in S.China Sea

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/13 23:53:00

After the illegally organized arbitration tribunal issued the award in the South China Sea arbitration Tuesday, the US voiced the strongest support for it. Spokespersons from both the US Department of State and the White House successively claimed that the award was legally binding. More politicians and congressmen from the House and Senate have also made fiercer remarks, demanding regular challenges to China's excessive maritime claims through naval and air patrols. Japan's stance is precisely the same as that of the US, as if they have discussed their lines.

On the contrary, the Philippines' attitude is relatively mild. It described the award as a "milestone decision" and called for restraint. An old Chinese saying goes "The emperor doesn't worry but his eunuch does," meaning the outsider is more anxious than the player. In this case, Washington and Tokyo are the worrying eunuchs. But so far, there is no US rhetoric demanding the White House and Pentagon bludgeon China to suspend construction activities on some islands and reefs in the South China Sea. The calls for the use of force have only been heard when the US clamored to safeguard the "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea, which mirrors that the US hasn't made the determination to use the arbitration for a showdown with China in the waters.

It should be noticed that the arbitration tribunal is not a permanent court for arbitration, but a temporary institution for the South China Sea case established against the spirit of international law. It also has nothing to do with the UN. Many Chinese scholars believe that after the final award, the issue will gradually cool down. If there are no big moves from Manila, Washington and Tokyo, the case will literally become nothing but a piece of paper.

The new Philippine government has more than once showed its hope of resolving the disputes with China through peaceful negotiations. In fact, it has no strength to take risky measures. The US and Japan might want to encourage Manila to take a tougher stance against Beijing, yet Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is not necessarily willing to be their pawn.

It seems that the US will have to go it alone if it wants to escalate tensions in the South China Sea. Japan wants to step in, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe does not have the nerve.

It is possible that the White House might conduct more proactive actions more frequently under the name of  freedom of navigation. It might try to sail its warships to get increasingly closer, or even exercises within 12 nautical miles of the islands claimed and constructed by China.

China will never indulge the US military to do so. The People's Liberation Army should enhance its military deployment in the waters of the Nansha Islands and be fully prepared to counterattack if the US makes further provocations. Some say that the US is taking China's response over the arbitration award as a touchstone of Beijing's willingness to follow Washington's instruction to abide by international rules. For China, however, whether the US refrains from clashes and hostility in the waters will tell whether it respects China genuinely. We do not wish for any direct confrontation or friction between the military powers from the two countries. But if Washington insists on doing so, we will never flinch.

Posted in: Editorial

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