China’s at­tempt to change sta­tus quo in South China Sea un­ac­cept­able

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - News -

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.

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