World View: Hagel Sets 'Red Line' for China in South China Sea

World View: Hagel Sets 'Red Line' for China in South China Sea

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Migrants from Syria and Africa flood into Italy
  • Hagel sets a ‘red line’ for China in South China Sea

Migrants from Syria and Africa flood into Italy

Over 3,500 migrants, including hundreds of women and children, as wellas many unattached children, arrived in Italy in a single day, as theannual “migration season” begins to enter its peak period, thanks tothe warm weather. Some 43,000 migrants have arrived so far this year,the same amount all of 2013. The migrants arrive from Syriaand North Africa, and most are believed to have startedcrossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. According toItaly’s prime minister Matteo Renzi:

“Europe has to call on the United Nations to intervenein Libya and more generally it must show a capacity to manage theimmigration phenomenon.”

Greece, Italy and Malta have repeatedly asked their fellow EUcountries for help in handling the large numbers of migrants.Immigration was a major political issue in the recent elections forEuropean Parliament, where a number of anti-immigrant parties didunexpectedly well. Deutsche Welle and Reuters

Hagel sets a ‘red line’ for China in South China Sea

As we reported yesterday, Japan’spresident Shinzo Abe spoke on Friday at the annual Shangri-La Dialoguein Singapore on Asian security issues. He announced enhanced militaryrelationships with Vietnam and the Philippines, and demanded thatChina abide by international rules and laws, rather than coercion andthreats.

On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel gave a speech atthe same conference, and expressed approval of Abe’s plan. Hagel alsomade some harsh criticisms of China:

“But in recent months, China has undertakendestabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in theSouth China Sea. It has restricted access to Scarborough Reef, putpressure on the long-standing Philippine presence at the SecondThomas Shoal, begun land reclamation activities at multiplelocations, and moved an oil rig into disputed waters near theParacel Islands.

The United States has been clear and consistent. We take noposition on competing territorial claims. But we firmly oppose anynation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force toassert those claims.

We also oppose any effort – by any nation – to restrict overflightor freedom of navigation – whether from military or civilianvessels, from countries big or small. The United States will notlook the other way when fundamental principles of theinternational order are being challenged.”

Now here’s the problem: When Hagel says that the U.S. “will not lookthe other way when fundamental principles of the international orderare being challenged,” many people will not believe him. Theywill remember the following:

  • President Obama set a “red line” on chemical weapons in Syria, and flip-flopped when Syria’s Bashar al-Assad started using them. In fact, al-Assad is now openly using chemical weapons in barrel bombs with complete impunity.
  • Russia has annexed the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine with impunity.
  • China has already annexed several regions in the South China sea, with complete impunity.
  • President Obama gave a foreign policy speech earlier this week credibly described, even by some Democrats, as a disastrously poor and incoherent speech, indicating a speaker with no clue what’s going on in the world.

Now Hagel is setting another “red line.” Does anyone really believethat the U.S. will do anything but “look the other way”? Thefollowing statement is attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Better toremain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove alldoubt.” It seems that any time Hagel or President Obama or Secretaryof State John Kerry opens his mouth, he makes a fool of himself. Itwould be better if they all followed Abraham Lincoln’s advice and kepttheir mouths shut.

China’s Lt. Gen. Wang Guanzhong responded to Hagel’s speech:

“Secretary Hagel’s speech is full of threats andintimidating language. Secretary Hagel’s speech is full ofencouragement, incitement for the Asia region’s instability givingrise to a disturbance. Secretary Hagel, in this kind of publicspace with many people, openly criticized China withoutreason. This accusation is completely without basis. …

It was … filled with instigation, threat and intimidation, whichwanted to incite the destabilizing factors of Asia-Pacific regionto stir up disputes.”

Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu said that the “charges are “groundless,” andthat:

“[T]he Americans are making very, very importantstrategic mistakes right now. …

If you take China as an enemy, China will absolutely become theenemy of the US. If the Americans take China as an enemy, weChinese have to take steps to make ourselves a qualified enemy ofthe US. But if the Americans take China as a friend, China will bea very loyal friend; and if they take China as a partner, Chinawill be a very cooperative partner.”

Dept. of Defense and Economic Times and Russia Today

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