While the rest of the world is preoccupied with fighting the coronavirus pandemic, China is stepping up its efforts to expand its influence in the South China Sea, intimidating its Asian neighbors.
Arrival of China Liaoning aircraft carrier with five accompanying warships in the South China Sea earlier this month led to a significant increase in tension in the Asia-Pacific region, as Beijing seeks to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic for muscle contraction.
Still in april requirements that a Chinese coast guard vessel deliberately rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing vessel operating near the disputed Paracel Islands. All fishermen survived and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels operating nearby.
This incident sparked a fierce response from the Vietnamese government, which accused Beijing of violating sovereignty and threatening the lives of its fishermen. US Department of State said he was “seriously concerned” about this incident and called on Beijing “to continue to focus on supporting international efforts to combat the global pandemic and to stop using distractions or the vulnerabilities of other states to expand their illegal claims in the South China Sea.”
In other cases, Chinese ships were accused exhausting Indonesian fishing boats, as well as tail Malaysian oil boats.
In the same time, China provokes diplomatic dispute with Philippines after Beijing’s statement that the region over which Manila claims sovereignty in the South China Sea is Chinese territory.
Controversy Over Recent China announcement that he intends to manage two controversial groups of islands and reefs on the waterway. One area covers the Paracel Islands, and the other has jurisdiction over Spratly, where China has created a network of fortified artificial islands. The Philippines has a presence on at least nine islands and islets in the area and is strongly opposed to China’s attempts to expand its influence.
Beijing has long claimed control over the South China Sea and surrounding areas because of its strategic importance as one of the busiest waterways in the world. About a third of world shipping passes through it, and the volume of trade is about $ 3 trillion. In addition, the waters contain lucrative fisheries, and are believed to have huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.
Other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei, which all have competing claims of their own.
As the dominant force in the region, China shows little interest in the peaceful resolution of these conflicting demands. Instead, he resorted to brute force, using his increasingly powerful fleet to assert his dominance, plaguing the shipping of competing states, even sometimes in their own territorial waters.
China’s increasingly aggressive actions, known in Beijing as “wolf warrior diplomacy,” prompted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to warn that China would take advantage of the world’s concern for the coronavirus pandemic to advance its territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. At a recent briefing for foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), consisting of 10 members, Mr. Pompeo declared:
“Beijing has moved to take advantage of the distraction [over Covid-19]from China’s new unilateral announcement of administrative districts over disputed islands and marine areas in the South China Sea, its sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel earlier this month, and its “research stations” on the Fire Cross and Subi Reef. ”
Despite the Trump administration’s concern over the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, Washington is not ready to put up with China’s aggressive actions. Three ships of the US Seventh Fleet, together with the Australian frigate, have answered sailing through disputed waters in a show of strength.
The Chinese Communist leadership may believe that it could take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to intimidate its Asian neighbors. But this demonstration of US Navy strength should promptly remind Beijing of which country is the real military force in the region.