Coming Soon? US Navy vs PRC Landgrabbers

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 5/14/2015 01:30:00 AM
Wassup, Chinese landgrabbers? Guess who looks like visiting you soon..
When even the hyper-tabloidal UK Daily Mail features aerial photographs of China's efforts to create artificial islands in the South China Sea--the Philippines now calls it the West Philippine Sea--you know an international relations issue has made it to the prime time. The grievances of China's neighbors--especially the Philippines and Vietnam--are well-known: the PRC is busy constructing these artificial islands to dubiously claim that they generate a 200 nautical mile EEZ around them that is, well, Chinese territory as per maritime law. Since the start of the year, these efforts have gone into overdrive, allegedly condemning even pristine coral reefs to environmental destruction as the Chinese dump tons of sand on ecologically sensitive sites. But hey, whoever said Chinese officialdom ever gave a fig about the environment in pursuit of its interests?

It seems like the day of reckoning in the South China Sea may be getting closer as a result. With US regional allies clamoring for support, the time nears when US Navy warships may be paying China's reclamation efforts a visit, raising the likelihood of armed clashes:
After repeated and unheeded warnings to China to halt its massive reclamation works in the South China Sea, the U.S. is contemplating an option fraught with danger: limited, but direct, military action.

By sending U.S. warplanes over artificial islands that China is building, and sailing naval vessels close by—an option now under consideration, according to U.S. officials in Washington—America could end up being sucked more deeply into an increasingly heated territorial dispute between China and its neighbors, say regional security experts.

If such action fails to deter China, America will face a hard choice: back down and damage its credibility with friends and allies in the region, or escalate with the risk of being drawn into open conflict with China.
PRC officialdom is not fond of the idea, naturally:
China immediately suggested that America would be crossing a line if it goes ahead with the plan. “Do you think we would support that move?” asked Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “Freedom of navigation definitely does not mean the military vessel or aircraft of a foreign country can willfully enter the territorial waters or airspace of another country.”

Her comments reinforced a view that America and China may be on a collision course. There’s very little prospect that China will stop ballooning the specks of territory it controls in the Spratly Islands. Much of the work has already been completed, but there is still more to do.
If I were a Marxist, I'd say it's a contest playing out in Southeast Asia among rival imperialists--the United States and China. When dealing with them, I'd say Southeast Asians cannot possibly have friends among these two, only interests. And, the problem for so very long is that Southeast Asian nations have differing interests with regard to both, allowing China especially to capitalize on the regional discord.

Sending American warships to China's assorted landgrabs should be informative at the very least. The PRC's subsequent actions will be "revealed preferences" in the tradeoff between economy and security. While US naval might is still supreme, a show of force may be just the ticket.

UPDATE: US Foreign Secretary visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing did not do much to reduce tensions over this matter. It remains entirely possible that the United States' Seventh Fleet will be paying China's land-grabbing activities a visit real soon.