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World View: South China Sea Tension Set to Escalate After July 12 Arbitration Ruling

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • South China Sea tension set to escalate after July 12 arbitration ruling
  • Obama flip-flops again on Afghanistan

South China Sea tension set to escalate after July 12 arbitration ruling

3,000 boat Chinese fishing fleet on Sept 16, 2013 (Xinhua)
3,000-boat Chinese fishing fleet on Sept 16, 2013 (Xinhua)

The United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague has announced that on July 12 it will issue its long-awaited ruling on a case brought by the Philippines against China on the merits of China’s claims to the entire South China Sea. The case is brought under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which China claims does not apply to them.

China has said it will ignore any ruling of the tribunal. It’s saying that because it knows it will lose. Indeed, a BBC investigation of some of China’s evidence has been shown to be delusional, and possibly a complete fabrication. ( “22-Jun-16 World View — China’s ‘ironclad proof’ of South China Sea claims revealed as hoax”)

According to an editorial in the China state media Global Times:

As the result of the international arbitration over the South China Sea dispute approaches, China is undertaking a military drill from July 5 to 11 in the waters around the Xisha Islands. […]

The South China Sea dispute has been greatly complicated after heavy US intervention. Now an international tribunal has also been included, posing more threat to the integrity of China’s maritime and territorial sovereignty.

Regardless of the principle that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) shall not arbitrate on territorial disputes, the arbitration becomes nothing but a farce. But the US could use it to impose more pressure on China, causing more tensions in the South China Sea.

Washington has deployed two carrier battle groups around the South China Sea, and it wants to send a signal by flexing its muscles: As the biggest powerhouse in the region, it awaits China’s obedience.

China should speed up building its military capabilities of strategic deterrence. Even though China cannot keep up with the US militarily in the short-term, it should be able to let the US pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force.

China is a peace-loving country and deals with foreign relations with discretion, but it won’t flinch if the US and its small clique keep encroaching on its interests on its doorstep.

China hopes disputes can be resolved by talks, but it must be prepared for any military confrontation. This is common sense in international relations.

The “heavy US intervention” refers to America’s “freedom of navigation” patrols in the South China Sea. Some $5 trillion in trade passes through the South China Sea on ships each year, including $1.2 trillion of US trade. China has flip-flopped among various positions and threats in the past few years, and some statements in the past have threatened to block international traffic, or at least to require permission of Chinese authorities to traverse the South China Sea. So the US has responded with the freedom of navigation patrols.

China is claiming the entire South China Sea, and is using its massive military force to confiscate regions that have historically belonged to other nations, especially Vietnam and the Philippines. China is building artificial islands and converting them to military bases with advanced missile and radar systems. ( “23-Feb-16 World View — China’s military buildup neutralizes America’s aircraft carriers”)

China’s military is in a highly emotional, irrational and nationalistic state, which makes them very dangerous. They believe that the US has been weakened by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and too anxious to risk another war. This is a major historic mistake that they will regret. They claim to be “peace loving,” but the way the world works is that every leader goes to war by claiming to be “peace loving,” and blaming the other side. The July 12 ruling will only increase their anxieties.

Some analysts are pointing out that occupying the South China Sea is an existential need for China and for its neighbors. China, Vietnam and the Philippines have high population densities and comparatively low amounts of arable land, further magnifying the importance of food sources outside traditional crops. Food security is an existential threat to all of these countries. For China, taking control of all the fish stocks in the South China Sea is seen as a necessity, and so China sees the need to control access to the South China Sea by other nations.

So all the talk about being “peace-loving” is really irrelevant. China will go to war if that is the only way to prevent Vietnam and the Philippines from fishing in the South China Sea. Out of desperation, Vietnam and the Philippines will see China’s military actions as an existential threat, and an attempt to starve their own people. The July 12 ruling will raise anxieties on all sides, and move the region closer to war. Global Times (Beijing) and Jamestown and The Diplomat

Obama flip-flops again on Afghanistan

President Barack Obama flip-flopped again on Wednesday. There are currently 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan, and Obama announced that 8,400 troops would be left in Afghanistan when he leaves office, rather than 5,500. The Taliban are gaining control of large areas of the country, defeating the indigenous Afghan army repeatedly, and Obama is under pressure to reverse himself again on his withdrawal plans. The 8,400 figure is apparently a completely meaningless political number, less than 9,800 so he can claim he’s still withdrawing, but large enough to provide cover until he can leave office. It’s all pretty cynical.

In October of last year, President Obama reversed himself on the Afghanistan troop withdrawal. Instead of a total withdrawal, he announced that a residual force of 5,500 troops would be left on a continuing basis. This was only one of several similar reversals. He was forced into this because many people believe that Obama’s total withdrawal from Iraq squandered the victory won by President Bush via the 2007 “surge,” and because Obama’s own “surge” strategy in Afghanistan has been a failure, as I predicted in 2009 that it would be, based on a Generational Dynamics comparison of Iraq and Afghanistan.

By coincidence, Obama’s announcement comes on the same day that Britain is releasing the “Chilcot report,” a massive condemnation of the roles of the US and Britain for the Iraq war. Thus, it is interesting to compare the media attitude towards Bush’s apparent lies in Iraq, and Obama’s apparent lies about Afghanistan. The press reaction was predictable. The Sacramento Bee was typical, in one editorial on the one hand expressing sympathy for President Obama’s “failed exit strategies,” and on the other hand accusing “the Bush-Cheney administration for… lies about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein having weapons.” Obama’s lies deserve sympathy from the Sacramento Bee, while Bush’s deserve the greatest condemnation. Like the analysts and anchors on CNBC who constantly lie about stock valuations and do not care that they are lying, the reporters and editors at the Sacramento Bee and New York Times don’t care that they’ve become the public relations arms of the Obama administration. I remember the days when the New York Times could be called “the newspaper of record,” but those days are gone. Washington Post and BBC and Sacramento Bee

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, China, South China Sea, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Philippines, Vietnam, United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chilcot Report
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