27 October 2015
The moment the U.S. Navy sailed a warship into waters claimed by China in the South China Sea it gave President Xi Jinping a pretext to accelerate his country’s military presence in the disputed waterway, further placing the vital shipping lane at the heart of U.S.-China rivalry in the Pacific.
The patrol by the USS Lassen prompted an angry response by Beijing and came just weeks after Xi met with President Barack Obama in Washington, where he said China “does not intend to pursue militarization” of the area. The decision to send in the warship — the most direct challenge to China over its island building in the waters — may change that.
Tuesday’s action brought the U.S. more formally into the territorial spats between China and some Southeast Asian nations, and cemented the expectation it would act as a policeman and protector in the area. While the patrols are probably being welcomed by smaller countries who feel China is encroaching on their own claims, they also set the stage for similar assertions of authority by Beijing.
… “The region is basically happy the U.S. is doing this but they obviously don’t want the U.S. to get too provocative,” said Richard Bitzinger, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “They will be silently glad the U.S. is doing this.”
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 13/11/2015