A US naval expert says that Beijing’s development of islands in the South China Sea will “greatly complicate” Washington’s ability to defend Taiwan.
“The little specks that China is creating in the South China Sea are political stepping stones to strategic dominance,” said Seth Cropsey, director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.
A former deputy undersecretary of the US Navy, Cropsey said that China’s deliberately hostile actions in the West Pacific’s international waters are strategic.
“If successful, Beijing’s claims — based on dubious readings of law, the establishment of air defense zones, naval confrontations with neighbors and now, island-building — will allow China to control the international waters up to and beyond the first chain of islands that separate the East Asian mainland from the open Pacific,” he said in an article published online on Thursday last week by the nonpartisan political newspaper, The Hill.
“These are the islands that matter,” he added.
Establishing control over the archipelagos would “greatly complicate the US’ ability to honor its obligations to defend the ocean-encircled or coastal states of Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea,” he said.
Cropsey’s article is one of several opinion pieces in recent days that appear to reflect a hardening of attitudes in Washington toward China.
It was followed on Tuesday by a piece with a similar outlook in the online version of The National Interest magazine by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
CSIS senior adviser for Asia Bonnie Glaser and research assistant Jake Douglas that said “the mood in Washington has swung hard against pandering to the Chinese leadership.”
“Exasperated with Beijing’s maritime assertiveness and cyberactivities, views of China within the Pentagon — and Washington in general — are unmistakably hardening,” Glaser and Douglas wrote.
“Observers on both sides of the Pacific should take note of this latest sign of deepening strategic mistrust,” they said.
As calls to take a harder line against China grow louder in Washington, Glaser and Douglas expect the rhetoric coming out of the Pentagon to steer clear of any “new model of military-to-military relations.”
Instead, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is likely to focus on promoting cooperation where US and Chinese interests overlap, they said.
He also might expand mechanisms to avoid accidents and enable communication in a crisis, as well as pressure China to change its behavior where its actions are judged to be destabilizing and contrary to international laws and norms, they said.
In addition, the Washington Post published an editorial on Saturday last week that said one of the defining features of communism under the Chinese Communist Party has been the fierce determination of party leaders to maintain a monopoly on power and to obliterate any competition.
The party’s maximum concern is for itself above all else, according to the editorial, which focused on China’s controversial draft national security law and its impact on non-governmental organizations.