By Yu Ning Source: Global Times
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
The latest effort US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made to smear China is to accuse China of regarding the South China Sea as its “maritime empire.” In a tweet on Saturday, Pompeo said “the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire,” and urged “free nations” to unite to prevent China from taking “more territory.”
Which country on earth is treating the South China Sea as its maritime empire? Just look at the map. The US, which is thousands of miles from the South China Sea, is trying to dictate regional affairs. It has repeatedly sent aircraft carriers and warplanes to the waters to assert its hegemony. The US has also constantly stirred the situation despite it is not directly involved in the South China Sea disputes.
By contrast, China has been committed to promoting the peaceful settlement of disputes with other South China Sea claimants in the region. Thanks to the joint efforts of relevant parties, the South China Sea COC negotiations are progressing steadily. China has carried out constructions on some of its islands and reefs in the South China Sea, but they’re legal and legitimate activities mainly for civilian purpose.
China never expands its sovereign claim in the South China Sea and sticks to solving disputes through peaceful consultations, but the US has been continuously making waves, taking the South China Sea as Hawaii.
The South China Sea conflicts among claimants have been greatly alleviated in recent years. The biggest destabilizing force in the South China Sea situation now is the US.
The South China Sea arbitration farce in 2016 failed to turn Manila against Beijing. Now, the US has played another trick to incite confrontation with China. The US attempt is doomed to fail. In his fifth State of the Nation Address, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte stressed that the Philippines would insist on an independent foreign policy, not side with either China or the US, and would adopt a non-confrontational stance on the South China Sea.
The only country that has fully acted in tune with the US in provoking China over the South China Sea issue is Australia, the US’ loyal ally. Canberra recently declared there is “no legal basis” for China’s claims in the South China Sea. During the just-concluded 2020 Australia-US Ministerial consultations, although Australia has pledged to increase defense cooperation with the US in the South China Sea, it stopped short of making any specific commitment on freedom of navigation operations. This shows Canberra still has misgivings over challenging China’s bottom line, and is reluctant to completely tie itself to the chariot of the US.
With the US strengthening its crackdown on China, it will continue to make an issue of the South China Sea and instigate others to confront China over the issue. But its goal cannot be easily realized.