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Saturday, February 4, 2017

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BEIJING threatened the United States with “large-scale war.”

“Prepare for a military clash” said the Global Times in an editorial.

Beijing was hitting back hard against remarks made by Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, in his confirmation hearing. “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,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The nominee also said China’s militarizing the islands is “akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea.”

Observers gasped at Tillerson’s words, which signalled a radical change in American policy toward China. Yet his general approach toward Beijing, despite all the criticism he has attracted in the last few days, is the correct one for these times.” (The Daily Beast, Gordon G. Chang 1.16.2017)

Is it really the right approach towards China’s claim in the South China Sea, confrontational rather than diplomacy?

Analysts said Tillerson’s testimony, combined with his boss’ earlier pronouncements, signalled that a Trump administration is poised to take a much tougher stance on China.

Since winning the election, Trump has lashed out at China on Twitter, made clear he’s serious about wringing a new trade deal from Beijing and upended US policy toward Taiwan – anissue of deep sensitivity for China.

“All the quotes taken together do signal that, like Trump and some of his advisers, are poised to take much firmer stance on China in the South China Sea and across the board,” said Ashley Townshend, a research fellow, at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

But Townshend doubted whether Tillerson would really follow through on some of the specifics of his testimony.

“The US cannot block China’s access to the islands without causing a confrontation, probably a military confrontation, and it would be illegal for the US to block access to the vast majority of those islands and reefs,” he said. (“Tillerson sets stage for showdown with Beijing over South China Sea” by Katie Hunt, CNN, 1.13.17)

Most likely a regional conflict will erupt once US under Trump regime will implement such blockade to stop China’s access to the reclaimed islands in the South China Sea. And what will be the stand of our country if ever a confrontation will occur?

The Philippines must avoid the prospect of entanglement – a sound advice from businessman Manny Lopez in his analysis (a geopolitical scenario wherein an ultimatum from the US and its allies to stop the development and militarization of artificial islands in South China Sea being rejected by China is highly probable).

Initially, a limited air-sea battle between the dominant and rising power to test its resolve will happen either by accident or localized decision, unless reason and skilful diplomacy prevails pre-emptively.

The Republic of the Philippines must avoid entanglements in the superpower conflict by intelligently pursuing an independent and neutral foreign policy. We must not allow our shores to become the staging ground of the war effort by either side.

However, we must continue to positively engage both superpowers and offer win-win solutions to help resolve the upcoming conflict and save ourselves.

China’s expected refusal to dismantle its air defense and anti-ship missile systems deployed in the seven artificial islands in South China Sea could be a compelling reason for the US Navy to attack using submarine-launched Harpoons and ship-borne Tomahawk cruise missiles to eliminate the said installations from a safe distance.

Freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is perceived to be crucial to ensure unhampered trade in the busy shipping route, where more than US$5-trillion worth of goods transits each year. At least a couple of US carrier battle groups supported by Japanese, Australian and South Korean navies will likely be deployed in the area to effect control of the sea lanes. How the Russian and Indian Navies will play their role in the inevitable conflict is yet to be determined.

As an observer of events as they unfold, we have been writing (and speaking in our daily radio broadcast) that we must not allow the use of our territories as the battleground for another conflict in the region and much more – not to drag our country and people to an unnecessary war in the process.

With the new leadership in the US, we are in for some surprising times. Finally, the administration that will threaten the “great wall of sand” in the South China Sea and might give Xi some second thoughts of changing his foreign policy was leaked by Bloomberg News on Jan. 24, 2017.

“Confronted by the challenge of a Donald J. Trump led White House, China is signalling it’s ready to work with the new administration and has already taken a handful of policy steps that may help fend off criticism over access to its markets.”

But it’s not all olive branch. The Xinhua news article congratulating Trump also laid out the areas China regards as off limits. It said, “China’s resolve to safeguard its defining interests in Taiwan and the South China Sea islands has always been strong.”

Xi allegedly has a strong domestic imperative not to appear weak before a twice a decade Communist Party congress when several top leaders are due to be replaced except himself./PN







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