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Countering Beijing’s South China Sea strategy

19 1 0
10.12.2019

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) possesses overwhelming military capabilities in the South China Sea. And it is clear that no single nation in this region, Japan included, is able to match those capabilities.

For the littoral nations of the South China Sea — Vietnam and the Philippines in particular — China’s robust military capabilities and its many controversial and militarized/fortified artificial islands have been casting much darker clouds over their policy planning toward China.

In addition to these security elements, every nation in the region has economic ties with China. In this context, China has an increased capacity to wield influence through its economic strength.

At the same time, however, almost all regional players want a clear U.S. policy toward China as well as a visible U.S. military presence. They also want to maintain good economic relationships with the United States.

Under the current security situation, China seems to enjoy an advantage over the U.S. And today’s stalemate in the South China Sea complicates Washington’s policies and strategies toward China’s diplomatic and military actions. At the same time, however, the standstill does constrain China’s scope for political and military maneuvering. As such, there is still considerable room left for the U.S., Japan and other countries to respond to China’s challenge in the South China Sea.

At this point, it is better to analyze the best options. Of course, there are many things that could be done, but the option I outlined below— neutralizing China’s militarized artificial islands — perhaps deserves to have the highest priority.

China’s militarization/fortification of key artificial islands in the South China Sea poses a serious threat to all the military forces operating in the South China Sea and to littoral nations — especially, again, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Since 2015, there have........

© The Japan Times