An American aircraft carrier strike group has been deployed to the disputed waters of the South China Sea to begin what the U.S. Navy has dubbed “routine operations,” but that the Chinese government claims is aggressive posturing.
As noted by USA Today, the deployment of the carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, comes amid a heightening of tension between China and the new administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, which has taken a hard line against China’s construction of military bases on seven artificial islands in the sea.
“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly said during his confirmation hearings last month.
However, the Trump administration’s actions in the South China Sea are not necessarily new. According The Washington Post, “Navy warships have deliberately sailed close to Chinese-occupied features four times since October 2015, ignoring Beijing’s sovereignty claims.”
What makes this round of challenges to China’s control of the sea so distressing to the Chinese government, however, are the words of Tillerson and those of White House chief strategist Steven Bannon.
“We’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years, aren’t we?” Bannon asked rhetorically in a March 2016 interview, as reported by U.S. News & World Report. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Combined, the Trump administration’s actions and words — even those from before the administration was formed — have triggered both anxiety and outrage in China. The South China Morning Post reported recently that a commentary published on the website of China’s People’s Liberation Army had described the possibility of war between the two great powers as “becoming a practical reality.”
However, the Chinese media’s attempts to pin the blame on the U.S. fall flat for one key reason — it is China that has voluntarily and roguishly chosen to militarize the disputed waters of the South China Sea and thus infringe on other nations’ freedom of navigation.
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H/T U.K. Daily Mail