Recent U.S. statements claiming China is militarizing the South China Sea have brought bitter responses from the Chinese. The Chinese say that it is the Obama "Asia pivot" policy that has vastly increased the U.S. military presence in the entire region.
Tension is rising between a number of Asian countries and China. Much of the tension arises because of competing claims to several chains of islands which have valuable resources in adjoining sea beds. The area also has high traffic sea lanes. Vietnam and the Philippines have been in conflict with China in some of these disputed islands.
Douglas Paal from the Carnegie Endowment of International Peace said
:“Judging from the outrage coming from China at being singled out, after Vietnam and the Philippines had taken steps, without being criticized, to secure resources in the contested sea before China’s own actions, the US statement seems to be backfiring..China has not militarized its foreign policy and does not appear equipped to do so for a long time, while US allies Vietnam and the Philippines eagerly encourage American weight thrown onto their side of the competition with China for free."The U.S. help is not exactly free. In the case of the Philippines at least there are agreements for more joint exercises and the continued presence of more U.S. troops in the Philippines. In fact the U.S. is using the Philippines and Vietnam as proxies to help confront and control expanding Chinese power. Support for Vietnamese and Filipino claims complicates the situation for the U.S. There are several countries other than China that have claims and these claims often themselves conflict. Even more worrisome is the fact that the U.S. has a Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines. If there is a military conflict between China and the Philippines the U.S. would have an obligation to intervene to protect the Philippines.The support of Vietnamese and Filipino claims against China is just a small part of Obama's "Asia pivot".
This new policy will see U.S. military forces increase their presence throughout the western Asia pacific region. U.S. military presence will be expanded in the Philippines, Guam, Australia, Japan, and South Korea among other places As a result of these moves China may have already decided that it must respond to this U.S. military challenge. A report from the Center for Strategic International Studies notes:
“Signs of a potential harsh reaction are already detectable...The US Asia pivot has triggered an outpouring of anti-American sentiment in China that will increase pressure on China’s incoming leadership to stand up to the United States. Nationalistic voices are calling for military countermeasures to the bolstering of America’s military posture in the region and the new US defense strategic guidelines.”
Not all the disputes are between China and other countries. There are disputes as well between Japan and South Korea about ownership of islands. Both China and Japan are anxious to claim areas that might have oil resources to feed their growing energy needs.
Attempts to negotiate an agreement on these many conflicts have so far achieved virtually nothing. However, as the appended video argues it is in the interest of all the competing countries to work out an agreement to share resources rather than resort to a buildup of military power and an arms race that could end in disaster for everyone.
The U.S. is already facing huge financial problems. Expanding its global empire of military bases can only increase U.S. debt load. Global capital no doubt would prefer more trade and economic expansion. Many global companies produce in China and export to China. A war between China and the U.S. is hardly in their interest in the short term at least.