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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 21, 2016

 

Nothing to sea here again

by Tom Sullivan


Chinese Shenyang J-11B. U.S. Navy photo from a 2014 intercept.

Returning to the South China Sea again this morning as world powers play chicken. Reuters from Thursday:

Beijing demanded an end to U.S. surveillance near China on Thursday after two of its fighter jets carried out what the Pentagon said was an "unsafe" intercept of a U.S. military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.

The incident, likely to increase tension in and around the contested waterway, took place in international airspace on Tuesday as the plane carried out "a routine U.S. patrol," a Pentagon statement said.

A U.S. Defense official said two Chinese J-11 fighter jets flew within 50 feet (15 meters) of the U.S. EP-3 aircraft. The official said the incident took place east of Hainan island.

"Initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe," the Pentagon statement said.
As we have already noted here, here, and here, Chinese island-building in the South China Sea is an effort to exert greater control over both resources and a key shipping lane for $5 trillion in trade. As I wrote a year ago, it is the sort of thing that in the 20th century sometimes led to unpleasantness.

Expected in weeks is an international arbitration court ruling in a case brought against China by the Philippines over maritime disputes in the contested waterway. The New York Times Editorial Board expressed its concern this morning:
Many experts expect the court to rule against China. The right response would be for China to accept the court’s decision and work with the Philippines and other neighboring countries that have interests in the region — Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan — on a mutually acceptable resolution to their rival claims. But whether it will respond that way remains to be seen. So far, Beijing has refused to acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction, even though it ratified the treaty under which the case was brought — the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, guaranteeing unimpeded passage on the high seas for trade, fishing and oil exploration.

China’s most aggressive and outrageous tactic has been to use tons of dirt and gravel and rocks to transform small reefs and rocks into artificial islands with airstrips and other military structures, including runways capable of handling military aircraft. According to the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military, over the last two years China added more than 3,200 acres of land to the seven outposts in the Spratly Islands, while other countries that occupy disputed rocks and reefs in the archipelago added about 50 acres. China’s neighbors fear that Beijing intends to use these outposts to interfere with navigation and their rights to fish and drill for oil and gas.
No worries. The Donald will get in their faces and deal with it. He wrote the book on deals.