The US is in a tough spot militarily.
In Syria, Russia and Iran have taken advantage of the fact that the plan hatched by the West and its regional allies to destabilize the Assad regime took far too long to develop. The idea was to foment discord and provide covert support for the various armed militias fighting to overthrow the government. But the effort is entering its fifth year and Assad is still there. Not only that, there have been a series of unintended (well, at least we hope they’re unintended) consequences. First, one of the rebel groups the West and its allies supported morphed into an insane band of white basketball shoe-wearing, black flag-waving, sword-wielding desert bandits. Second, the fighting created a horrific refugee crisis that now threatens to destabilize the whole of Europe. Sensing a historic geopolitical opportunity, Moscow and Tehran simply stepped in and outmaneuvered Washington. Now, the US basically has to decide whether it wants to go to war with Russia, because paradropping ammo into the middle of the desert isn’t going to be a viable strategy.
Meanwhile, the US faces another superpower confrontation in the South China Sea.
When Beijing began its land reclamation efforts in the Spratlys, we’re reasonably sure the Pentagon didn’t anticipate the extent to which the effort would quickly become a giant headache for Washington.
As a reminder, it’s not so much the dredging that has Washington’s regional allies in the South Pacific upset. Island building has been done before in the area. Rather, it’s the scope of the project that has everyone unnerved as Beijing has so far constructed over 3,000 acres of new sovereign territory atop which China has built everything from cement factories, to greenhouses, to runways.
Whether or not the US really cares about this is debatable although these shipping lanes are indeed critical for world trade. But with The Philippines and others crying foul, Washington is left with little choice but to put on a brave face lest the world should get the idea that China can just redraw maritime boundaries at will and establish a Sino-Monroe Doctrine in the process.
So finally, the US decided that it would sail some warships by the islands just to see if it can do so without getting shot at.
No, really. That’s the whole plan. “Let’s see how far we can push them.”
This is of course orchestrated under the guise of a freedom of navigation operation which, in a way, makes little sense because China has never threatened global trade. Then again, it’s fairly obvious that Beijing has some military role for the new islands in mind.
In any event, China hit back on Thursday, saying the PLA would “stand up and use force” if necessary should the US make a “mistake” with the whole warship plan.
So in short, Washington is now in a staring contest with both Moscow and Beijing and both Russia and China seem to have gotten the idea that the US has lost its resolve lately and will probably blink first in both standoffs.
It’s with all of that in mind that we bring you the following rather amusing op-ed from Beijing out Saturday on Xinhua, presented below with no further comment:
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The United States' provocative attempts to infringe on China's South China Sea sovereignty are sabotaging regional peace and stability and militarizing the waters.
The U.S. Navy is reportedly preparing to conduct "freedom of navigation" operations, sending warships within 12 nautical miles of Chinese islands in the South China Sea. The U.S. operations may take place within days, according to reports.
Last month, in his response to China's claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the United States "will fly, sail and operate wherever the international law allows, as we do around the world."
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said on Oct. 8 that U.S. warships patrolling close to artificial islands built by China in the South China Sea "should not provoke significant reaction from the Chinese."
Let us not forget that in October 1962, when the Soviet Union was building missile sites in Cuba -- not even on U.S. soil -- U.S. President Kennedy made it clear in a televised speech that the United States would not "tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place."
What on earth makes the United States think China should and will tolerate it when U.S. surface ships trespass on Chinese territory in the South China Sea?
China will never tolerate any military provocation or infringement on sovereignty from the United States or any other country, just as the United States refused to 53 years ago.
China's stand on the South China Sea disputes is firm and clear. China's sovereignty and claims of rights over Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters in the South China Sea have been formed over the long course of history and upheld by successive Chinese governments, and have adequate and solid historical and legal basis.
Just as Article 15 of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea stipulates, delimiting the territorial seas of China and other countries in the South China Sea shall be in accordance with China's "historic title" to the region.
China has always been, in a constructive and effective manner, a firm upholder of the freedom of navigation as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea. And China has vowed to continue to do so in the future.
China's construction of civilian and public facilities on the Nansha Islands and reefs, which fall within the scope of China's sovereignty, serves not only China but also coastal nations in the South China Sea.
For instance, two lighthouses recently built on reefs in the region have helped guide passing vessels from around the world and significantly improved navigation safety.
Contrary to U.S. claims, it will be the United States, as an outsider, that further provokes tensions in the South China Sea by sending soldiers and warships to Chinese territory in the name of "freedom of navigation."
This is not the first move by the United States to undermine the regional peace and stability that China has worked so hard for.
Over the past several years, the United States has held frequent large-scale drills with its allies in the South China Sea, flexing their military muscles.
According to the website of the U.S. Department of Defense, the country has deployed thousands of civilian and military officials, as well as a huge number of weapons, to the Pacific region.
To destabilize the region and contain China, the United States has deliberately involved non-party nations, such as Japan, in the South China Sea issue and stirred disputes between China and other parties, including the Philippines.
By no means will China let the provocateurs make waves in waters that should be characterized by peace, friendship and cooperation.
Last year, the bilateral trade volume between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) exceeded 480 billion U.S. dollars.
Concerned nations have no alternative but to jointly deal with disputes in the South China Sea that pose a threat to the development and prosperity of parties in the region.
On Sept. 18, in response to remarks made by the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific on patrolling the South China Sea, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said China, like the United States, upholds freedom of navigation in the waters.
However, the spokesman stressed, China opposes any country's challenge, in the name of freedom of navigation, to China's sovereignty and security in the South China Sea.
During a visit to Europe in March 2014, Chinese president Xi Jinping stressed that his country will "never stir up any trouble, but will resolutely safeguard its legitimate rights" when it comes to sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Even though enhancing mutual trust and managing disputes through high-level visits and talks still remains the first option for China, the country will, without any doubt, adopt countermeasures against the United States if it doesn't stop military provocations that infringe upon China.
People with vision in Washington should and must see clearly China's determination in safeguarding national sovereignty and regional security.