Washington: United States and China are on a collision course. A week into White House, and Donald Trump seems to be taking the US on a confrontation course with China. The two major powers of the world are expected to see some tough talking, if not an immediate outbreak of hostilities over South China Sea.
The South China Sea issue is not new. Several nations have claim over the area that China calls its own. Not just China has established control over some of tiny islands, it has expanded others and has also gone on to create huge artificial islands and establishing complete control over the area.
Donald Trump has been singling out China as the biggest opponent of the US and has said on more than one occasion that China needs to be taught a lesson. It has also questioned one-China policy of previous administration.
Sean Spicer, White House press secretary while talking about south China sea issue said, “the US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there…So it’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yes, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country”. When asked if this means forcibly driving China out of the area, he said “I think as we develop further, we’ll have more information on that.”
In the meantime, China said that US had no role to play in the dispute. Hua Chunying, a foreign affairs Chinese spokesperson said that China has “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and is committed to safeguarding it. She said China preserves freedom of navigation in those waters — a concern the US has repeatedly challenged as it stepped up its military presence in the region.
Another senior Chinese diplomat said that while there might be a difference of opinion over the sovereignty of these islands, “but it’s not for the United States” to get involved in.
Sun Hao, a Chinese expert on international affairs said, “If the US takes actions against China’s moves to protect their own sea territories, it may result in a serious military confrontation”.
Following the arrival of Trump in White House, US has been planning to expand its facilities in the Philippines. A US official has said that US military will soon commence construction of facilities to accommodate troops and equipment inside Philippine army bases. The five locations for US troops were chosen in a 2014 defense agreement and include air bases facing the South China Sea. China has criticized the US military presence in the Philippines.
Philippines’ Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana said President Rodrigo Duterte was aware of the impending construction. “We might be caught in the middle if they do that. We are very wary,” he said. “In the first place, they (Chinese) are already there. How can they (Americans) prevent them from going there since they (Chinese) are already there?” He said the Philippines will deal with both the Chinese “for the benefit of our people” and also with the Americans “because we are still military allies.”