China’s attempt to change status quo in South China Sea unacceptable
CHINA’S attempt to set up military footholds in the South China Sea poses an economic and security threat. The international community must be united in urging China to exercise selfrestraint in this respect.
The Asia Security Summit – a conference attended by defence ministers and specialists from many nations to present and discuss opinions – has been held in Singapore. One after another, those attending expressed concerns about the state of affairs surrounding the South China Sea.
US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis criticised China’s missile deployment in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea and other actions, saying these moves will be “tied directly to military use.” He also said his country will join hands with Japan, Australia and India in promoting an “Indo-pacific strategy” aimed at defending maritime order.
It was greatly significant for the United States to clearly state that it will take the initiative in securing the stability of the vast waters that extend from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. The recent move by the United States to change the name of its Pacific Command – a unified combatant command with the US forces in Japan under its wing – to the “Indo-pacific Command” was aimed at reinforcing its involvement in the region.
Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera emphasised the importance of the rule of law. Vietnamese Defence Minister Ngo Xuan Lich raised objections against a unilateral attempt to change the status quo.
China is asserting sovereignty over nearly every part of the South China Sea. Earlier, a court of arbitration handed down a ruling categorically rejecting China’s claims.
Balance of power at stake Besides its missile deployment, China has installed jamming equipment on artificial islands it built. It has also conducted a takeoff and landing drill involving strategic bombers. If China’s activities are left alone, it could transform the South China Sea, in effect, into what can be called a Chinese “inland sea” – a development that would wreck the balance of power in Asia.
Last month, the US Navy dispatched a missile destroyer and another warship to the South China Sea. That was part of the “freedom of navigation operations,” with which the United States expresses its intention not to accept China’s assertion of sovereignty there.
US efforts are indispensable for countering China, a nation that possesses enough military strength to overwhelm its neighbouring countries. The United States should continue to restrain China through such conduct.
Making the South China Sea a free and open sea will serve as a basis for economic activities by each country. Eighty percent of tankers transporting crude oil to Japan go through the Strait of Malacca and then cross the South China Sea.
The government has provided patrol boats to Southeast Asian nations, thereby seeking to improve their maritime patrol capacities. Efforts should also be made to help these countries create and improve related laws and train necessary personnel.
In Singapore, there was also a meeting of the Japanese, US and South Korean defence ministers.
The three countries issued a joint statement that includes a policy of seeking to realise the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. They also agreed to continue keeping watch on what is called “sedori,” a scheme by which oil and other products are smuggled into North Korea through ship-to-ship transfers at sea.
Progress has not been made yet in the disposal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The three nations need to share military information so they can brace for any crisis.