US gen­er­als need to be more pru­dent

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION -

US Lieu­tenant Gen­eral and di­rec­tor of the Joint Staff Kenneth McKen­zie, when asked whether the US has the abil­ity to “blow apart” China’s “man-made” is­lands, said the US mil­i­tary has had a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence in the West Pa­cific tak­ing down small is­lands and that do­ing so is a core com­pe­tency of the US mil­i­tary. He was re­fer­ring to US mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions dur­ing WWII and said peo­ple “shouldn’t read any­thing more into that [his com­ment] than a sim­ple state­ment of his­tor­i­cal fact.”

Is McKen­zie threat­en­ing China? What­ever his in­ten­tions were, this was the im­pres­sion he left through me­dia re­ports. Of course the US has the abil­ity to de­stroy an iso­lated is­land but re­mind­ing peo­ple of such abil­ity is some­times seen as a po­lit­i­cal provo­ca­tion, which McKen­zie must have learned dur­ing his mil­i­tary ed­u­ca­tion.

In fact the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA) also has the abil­ity to de­stroy any source of at­tack that threat­ens to strike a Chi­nese is­land, in­clud­ing de­stroy­ing sup­port­ive mar­itime plat­forms and mil­i­tary bases. This is also the PLA’s core com­pe­tency. How­ever, China’s de­fense min­istry and gen­er­als from the Gen­eral Staff depart­ment never stress this fact to the US mil­i­tary. China’s mil­i­tary is ob­vi­ously more re­strained.

What does it mean to de­stroy a Chi­nese is­land? It is a dec­la­ra­tion of war on China. We do not be­lieve the US govern­ment would dare to at­tempt such folly against a nu­clear power, although the cur­rent ad­min­is­tra­tion is pretty much a big­ger showoff than its pre­de­ces­sors.

Hurl­ing threats at each other is not con­ducive to ei­ther the US or China. The cur­rent US ad­min­is­tra­tion can­not bear the risk and re­spon­si­bil­ity of start­ing a war with China in the South China Sea.

The dan­ger in the South China Sea is caused by the US con­tin­u­ing to in­crease its mil­i­tary pres­ence in the re­gion, forc­ing China to nat­u­rally up­grade its de­fen­sive weapons on the is­lands. This in turn gives the US more ex­cuses to ex­ert mil­i­tary pres­sure, caus­ing re­gional ten­sions to spi­ral.

If the US-China mil­i­tary ri­valry be­comes the main theme of the South China Sea, it will im­pact re­gional peace and de­vel­op­ment. Although some re­gional coun­tries are pleased to see Wash­ing­ton bal­anc­ing out Beijing’s in­flu­ence in the South China Sea, they must re­main vig­i­lant that the US might use them as pawns in a dan­ger­ous game that will be com­pletely out of their con­trol.

The US will con­tinue to come up with new ways to ex­ert pres­sure. How­ever, by look­ing at how Wash­ing­ton runs up against a stone wall when in­ter­fer­ing in other re­gions, we know the US, de­spite its bluffs, can­not shake a pow­er­ful coun­try like China. China should not be dis­turbed by var­i­ous com­ments from the US. It should main­tain its com­po­sure.

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