New Delhi: Rex Tillerson’s comments about the artificial islands China is building in South China Sea has inflamed already charged up atmosphere between the US and China. Rex Tillerson, who is United States’ president elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state had said that there was a need to block China’s access to the islands in South China Sea that China has been building for the last several years.
Rex Tillerson’s comment has made the Chinese media sit up and take notice of the Rex Tillerson’s remark. Rex Tillerson had said that United States needs to “send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”
China has already heavily militarized several of those islands with anti-aircraft guns, long runways that can service large military aircrafts and missiles. It is rather unthinkable at the moment that China will be able to scale back its military presence in the contested area.
Chinese media, in the meantime, has said that United States cannot accomplish it without a largescale war with China. Chinese media said that it is unlikely “unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish.”
A mouthpiece of Chinese establishment Global Times said, “Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories”.
A well-known expert on Asia, Bonnie Glaser questioned Tillerson’s depth of knowledge about the South China Sea. Glaser who is the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said “Some of the things Tillerson said were contradictory”.
The Global Times added, “The US has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories. Probably he just has oil prices and currency rates in his mind as former ExxonMobil CEO…He also lacks legality. If China is not allowed access to islands it has long controlled, does this also apply to Vietnam and the Philippines? Should the Nansha Islands become a depopulated zone? What does so-called US freedom of navigation around the Nansha Islands mean?”
The Chinese government mouthpiece went on to add, “As Trump has yet to be sworn in, China has shown restraint whenever his team members expressed radical views. But the US should not be misled into thinking that Beijing will be fearful of their threats…Tillerson’s statements regarding the islands in the South China Sea are far from professional. If Trump’s diplomatic team shapes future Sino-US ties as it is doing now, the two sides had better prepare for a military clash…South China Sea countries will accelerate their negotiations on a Code of Conduct. They have the ability to solve divergences by themselves without US interference. Just as the Philippines and Vietnam are trying to warm their ties with China, Tillerson’s words cannot be more irritating”.