In December, a United States Air Force B-52 bomber "accidentally" flew within 2 nautical miles of China's Huayang Reef.
On Saturday, the Pentagon announced an "innocent passage" by the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur within 12 nautical miles of China's Zhongjian Island.
On the surface, these are "routine" operations US Senator John McCain says are "normal occurrences" China will have to accept.
Yet this is not a Tom-and-Jerry kind of game where no party gets seriously hurt.
There is real potential danger, because the US challenges to China in the South China Sea are showing a trajectory of escalation.
Zhongjian Island is part of the Xisha Archipelago, where there is no current, active dispute, and hardly part of the issue of the day.
The Pentagon did display some diplomatic sophistication this time, claiming that the USS Curtis Wilbur "challenged attempts by the three claimants－China, Taiwan and Vietnam－to restrict navigation rights and freedoms around the features they claim by policies that require prior permission or notification of transit within territorial seas".
Ignoring the fact this violates the US' recognition of "one China", reaffirmed by US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday, the Pentagon's statement raises legitimate suspicions that it has an agenda to further complicate the South China Sea issue.
As in the rest of the South China Sea, there is no evidence the named "claimants" are attempting to "restrict navigation rights and freedoms". Enlarging the South China Sea issue by extending it to the Xisha Archipelago may be an attempt to drive a wedge between the mainland and Taiwan by dragging the latter into a long dormant and increasingly forgotten "dispute".
The US wants a larger role in the Asia-Pacific. And it is bent on preempting a perceived Chinese challenge.
There is no better way to do this than by making things messier, to make itself "needed" and "wanted".
What China needs and wants is peace, but as the Chinese saying goes, while the tree craves calm, the wind will not abate. Beijing needs to react accordingly, and prepare for all possibilities.
However, the country learned the significance of comprehensive national strength the hard way. It should not be distracted. It should rise above stress responses and stay focused on its development agenda. - China Daily)
Build up defense to thwart US provocation
China firmly upholds her sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea. [Photo/Xinhua]
The US on Saturday sent one of its naval vessels within 12 nautical miles of the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea. The move, according to the Pentagon, was about "challenging excessive maritime claims that restrict the rights and freedoms of the United States and others." The Chinese side criticized the behavior of a "serious political and military provocation."
Until recently, China-US frictions have been fixed on the Nansha Islands. The latest intrusion by US vessels is a high-profile US provocation that has expanded to the Xisha Islands. Xisha is under China's actual control and China has released the territorial sea baseline of the Xisha Islands, including Zhongjian Island. Therefore, the US provocation this time is more vicious.
Currently, China and the US have been focused on making their own moves in the South China Sea disputes. China is building islands in accordance with the law, and the US cannot prevent China from doing so despite strong protests. The US sent warships to provoke, and China protests against it strongly, yet with few effective countermeasures.
It is hard to evaluate the strategic nature of Sino-US confrontations in the South China Sea. China seems to have more room to maneuver, while the US apparently has more control over the overall situation.
Since it happens at the door of China, China feels that the US is circling to contain it and the US vigilance against China is aggressive. There is a long way to go before China can have an equal footing with the US. Such equality can only be achieved with the build-up of strategic strength.
China's military strength still significantly lags behind that of the US. If the US is ready for a face-off in the South China Sea, it can quickly gather its military strength despite the far distance.
We also face similar setbacks in the East China Sea. We bear enormous pressure from Washington in our peripheral areas, and the relative backwardness of China's military might is the weakest link in our competition with the US. Chinese people must be clear about the broader strategic significance of this reality.
The US provocation comes ahead of the 2016 two sessions which are scheduled in March. This reminds us that we must retain a high growth rate of military spending in spite of the economic downward trend.
The defense expenditure of a big power must constitute a certain percentage of its overall expense. China's military budget only takes up 2 percent of its GDP, much lower than the US figure of 4 percent. Before we reach the same ratio as the US, we should hold a cautious attitude toward decreasing the defense budget.
China needs to accelerate its speed of building up strategic strike capabilities, including a nuclear second-strike capability. The US provocation will not stop due to Chinese objections. In the short-term future, we will have limited means to counter the US.
It will probably take China a dozen years or longer of military build-up before it faces a different situation in the South China Sea. - Global Times
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