Militarization of South China Sea by China could trigger conflict with US

Image : Reuters

To rule the world’s sea, China is using both soft and hard power to increase its military footprint across the world. Deployment of anti-ship cruise missiles and surface-to-air missile systems in the Spratly Islands by China has escalated the risks of possible military clashes with the United States and also renewed tensions between countries who are claimants of strategically vital South China Sea .

Xi is working on a mission to set up military bases around the world to challenge US supremacy in Indo- Pacific and for that it requires bases to refuel and repair China’s global fleet.

President Xi Jinping is investing billions of dollars to make China a maritime leader with projects consisting of Gwadar port in Pakistan,Hambantota in Sri Lanka etc and Beijing applied its soft powerby constructing maritime facilities in different countries and region s where it claims territorial rights, as a cornerstone for the economic projects which was steadily transformed into military bases in a planned manner.

Latest escalation between the two superpowers was registered in the Horn of Africa with US military officials have officially complained to China about using military grade lasers to distract its fighter pilots in recent weeks.

In July 2017, China opened its first foreign military base at Djibouti that harbours naval port, large helicopter base, and accommodation for 10,000 troops.

Having build the infrastructure for fully- functional air and naval bases on some of the disputed islands in the South China Sea,China has installed supersonic YJ-12B anti-ship cruise missiles and HQ-9B anti-air missiles on Fiery Cross, Subi, and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly Islands.

Raising concerns about the militarisation of the South China Sea,White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said,”We were well aware of China’s militarisation of the South China Sea. We have raised concerns directly with the Chinese about this and there will be near-term and long-term consequences.”

China has added more than 3,200 acres of land to the seven territories it occupies in the area.

The islands is also subjected to territorial claims from Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Brunei.

China, since 2013 had reasserted its claim to the artificial islands in the Spratlys by building defence facilities involving air bases, radar and communications systems, naval facilities a and military installations while terming it mainly for civilian purposes and to safeguard fishing and maritime trade.

US Admiral Philip Davidson said China’s “forward operating bases” in the South China Sea appeared complete. “After deployment of forces ,China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania”.

There is a greater likelihood of miscalculation that can trigger into an armed conflict in South China Sea as China could use the bases to challenge the US dominance in the disputed waters and and the
military forces of any other South China Sea claimants”.

Neither denying nor commenting on the missile installation,Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Main aim is to protect China’s sovereignty and security,” she said.

Defying China,US had in February deployed its nuclear warship STRIKE FORCE amid continuing tensions over the South China Sea.

Nuclear-powered supercarrier USS Carl Vinson passed through the South China Sea region accompanied by its strike group of destroyers and cruisers.

The USS Carl Vinson carrying 72 aircraft, some of which are surveillance planes.US President Donald Trump made a pointed plea to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “We would love to have Australia involved and I think Australia wants us to stay involved,” he said.

“Australia, as you know, defends the right of freedom of navigation and overflight throughout the world but we do not want to speculate on operational matters,” he told reporters.

It is being analysed that South China Sea could be a flashpoint for a conflict that could spiral into World War III.

Meanwhile,People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) officials say the Indian Ocean is a common place for the international community.

“It is my opinion China and India can make joint contributions to the safety and security of the Indian Ocean,” Captain Liang Tianjun, deputy chief of feneral office of China’s SSF said.

China is pushing to further its plan to build Kra Canal that would connect the South China Sea with the Andaman Sea across southern Thailand, providing a link between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.

This would have far-ranging implications for the strategic landscape of Southeast Asia and especially for India, Sri Lanka and the city state of Singapore.

Blog: By Arti Bali,
arti

(Senior Journalist)

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