Thu, Aug 02, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Researcher warns US on Chinese garrison plans

GIVING AN INCH:Auslin said if the US let China intimidate smaller Asian nations it was tantamount to ceding US influence in the area and made future conflict more likely

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Washington is being urged to cut military-to-military dialogue with China until it gets more information about Beijing’s plans to install an armed garrison on a disputed island in the South China Sea.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) researcher Michael Auslin warns that China’s decision to emphasize military measures is cause for worry.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Auslin said: “As a first step, Washington should threaten to cut off military-to-military dialogue until it gets answers on how large the garrison will be.”

“If China increases the size of its garrison and further intimidates its neighbors, the US should consider postponing future annual Security and Economic Dialogues, which so far have produced little except press releases,” he said.

Auslin also said that Washington should come up with a -“concrete plan” to provide enhanced intelligence and military aid to nations threatened by China’s military presence.

Asked if this included Taiwan, Auslin said: “I think we should ensure Taiwan maintains the capacity to defend itself, and I believe that would mean selling F-16C/D models.”

As reported in the Taipei Times yesterday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reasserted Taiwan’s sovereignty over a series of islands in the South China Sea.

There are rising tensions between Manila and Beijing over recent reports that China will dispatch a military garrison to Yongxing Island (永興島), also known as Woody Island, in the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島).

James Chou (周穎華), deputy director-general of the ministry’s Department of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told a press conference this week that some islands in the South China Sea are the -“undisputed territory” of the Republic of China.

In his article, Auslin said that by installing a military garrison on Woody Island, Beijing had further “inflamed tensions” and made a negotiated settlement of the Asia-Pacific’s territorial disputes less likely.

Leaving far weaker neighboring states to face China alone could surrender US influence in Asia, making conflict more likely, he said.

Auslin added that the “hardening” of positions in the South China Sea was a problem for Washington and risked eroding US credibility.

While the administration of US President Barack Obama may ignore Auslin’s warnings, Washington political insiders said they were certain to be considered by foreign policy advisers close to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. If he wins the November election, Romney has said he will take a much tougher stand with Beijing.

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