Issue of June 10, 2018
     
NEWS
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A possible flashpoint for war

In a dialogue at the Singapore Shangri-la Hotel last June 4, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis criticized the military build-up of China within the disputed islands at the South China Sea by saying that “despite China’s claim to the contrary, the placement of these weapons systems is tied directly to military use for the purpose of intimidation and coercion.” He then made a stern warning that these acts of militarization will have “much larger consequences in the future.”

What he meant by that is not clear.

What is clear, however, is that the United States of America is slowly but surely taking serious notice of the activities of China and South China Sea. The most powerful nation on Earth is starting to demonstrate a worrisome attitude that the unmitigated introduction of weapons in the disputed areas by the Chinese military is tilting the balance of power in favor of the latter.

As of late, the United States military have sailed more patrol ships along the South China Sea to maintain its presence and to show its resolve that it means business. On more than one occasion, tensions have built after the ships of the Chinese Navy confronted them. There have been news reports that China will not back down if the islands it is claiming as its own are trespassed. It made its own warning that it too has the military capacity to enforce its sovereignty.

As of the moment, there is a stalemate between the two super powers with China, of course, having the upper hand since it is the one in position inside the islands. Officials from China insist that their occupation of the islands in the disputed area is based on historical claims. Yet, there is an arbitral decision, based on the agreed laws of the seas that such is not the case. Still, China says that its militarization of the sea is for defense purposes and for the maintenance of peace within the area.

But America and other claimants are not buying it. According to sailors and voyagers, the South China Sea is a navigational path being traversed by merchant ships in bringing their products from Europe to Asia and vice-versa. It is an important passage way which must always be kept free from militaristic activities. That China made military bases and other installations for its weaponry endangers commerce because it restricts the freedom of navigation. China can effectively control the sea routes and channels making other nations that refuse to be subservient to it be at its mercy.

Despite the pressure being exerted against it, China is not budging. It maintains its claim and warns that all who question it will not go unpunished.

If the U.S.A, which is the only other nation capable of matching the military might of China, will carry out its warning that the installation of weapon systems on the islands in the sea “will have much larger consequences,” this stalemate might be a flashpoint of a war. Surely, nearby countries will seek their own alliances and will side one or the other.

In the past, wars have been triggered by the slightest of provocations. Wars have been waged in the name of religion or ideology but most have been ignited because of global conquests like World War II. Hence, it is not far-fetched, God forbid, that the territorial dispute at the South China Sea might spark one.

There is a difference, though, between the wars waged in the past and a war that may be waged now. Whereas before, wars were fought with generals, soldiers, and warriors who pit their bravery and courage against each other, a current war, as can happen between the U.S.A. and China, will be fought with buttons. This is more fearsome because one push will mean the end of everything.

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