China has recently been facing rising tensions with a number of parties in the Asia Pacific region. Foreign relations with Taiwan, the Philippines, and the United States have been growing tenser with some actions by each country seen as escalation.
Monday, Philippine Navy Chief Vice Adm. Giovanni Carlo Bacordo of the declared that a maritime militia would be sent to the West Philippine Sea to patrol, as reported by both the Inquirer and Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). DPA reported more than 200 troops would be sent to disputed areas of the South China Sea, where within the “nine-dash line” China has claimed territory over waters that Vietnam and the Philippines also have claims to. The Filipino patrols would be near the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal, territory contested by both countries. In May, China increased its military presence at Scarborough Shoal.
President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, during the 2016 elections, boldly promised to ride a jet ski to the contested region and plant a Philippine flag himself. He has yet to follow up on his promise, but during a publicity stunt in 2018 reported on by the Philippine Star’s Interaksyon, his son did in fact ride a jet ski to the undisputed waters of Casiguran—a move heavily criticized by political leaders in the country.
Wednesday, October 14th saw the USS Barry, a Naval Destroyer, sail through the Taiwan Strait. The following Thursday, China released a statement claiming the move undermined peace and stability in the region. A statement made by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, reported by Al Jazeera, said in response: “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
This recent Naval demonstration by the U.S. comes in the wake of a commitment to an arms sale to the country of Taiwan reported by The Hill. Newsweek reported the equipment involved includes a Lockheed Martin-developed multiple launch weapon named the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System as well as Boeing long-range air-to-surface cruise missiles named SLAM-ER, and external sensor pods for F-16 jets.
Foreign Minister Zhao Lijian of China claims this sale is a violation of agreements made by the U.S. to not establish direct ties with Taiwan that favor the island-country over Beijing. He said in a statement reported by Newsweek:
“The United States has seriously violated the one-China principle, and the provisions of the three China-U.S. joint communiqués, especially the August 17 communique…seriously interfered in China’s internal affairs and seriously harmed China’s sovereignty and security interests…China firmly opposes this.”
Zhao goes on to demand that the U.S. sever its military ties with Taiwan and cancel arms sales to the country and that the U.S. abide by the one-China principle as well as the provisions of the joint communiqués. Al Jazeera reports a statement made by Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein calling upon China and the U.S. to engage in talks aimed at strengthening trust and managing differences.
In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewett, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recognized this as “a point of conflict with the Chinese Communist Party,” going on to say that “[The US is] going to make sure that we live up to all of the obligations” that have been made to Taiwan. He also emphasized the willingness of the United States Military “to ensure the freedom of navigation in and around Taiwan.”
China’s response has been aggressive. President Xi Jinping, speaking to troops in Guangdong Tuesday, instructed the troops to “put all [their] minds and energy on preparing for war,” reported by the Chinese state news agency Xinhua. CNN reports he demanded of the troops they be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable” in the face of current tensions.
While it is still unknown if armed conflict will occur in the contested waters of the Philippines, or along the Taiwan Strait, China has demonstrated in the past in disputed regions along the border of India and in the country of Tibet that it is willing to resort to the deployment and use of military troops. The current actions of the U.S., Taiwan, and the Philippines show no reluctance to arm themselves against China – perhaps even demonstrated provocation of the country in contested regions. With China’s continued imperialist behavior and attempts at expanding its sovereignty to territories surrounding it, there is sure to come a continuation of escalation. The escalation will likely not stop until these countries come together to establish peace agreements and fair solutions to the control of the disputed territories.
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