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After years of being a focus of interest for specialists, the South China Sea is now getting major attention from the media. The latest is a CNN report that a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane was warned away from some of China’s manmade islands in the Spratly Island chain by the Chinese Navy. Beijing has not yet declared a formal air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, unlike the one it established over part of the East China Sea in 2013, nor could it today enforce such a zone effectively with its current fighters. However, with its reclamation activities continuing, and the Obama Administration apparently having decided to challenge China’s claims, the US and China are now potentially closer to an armed encounter than at any time in the past 20 years. Here are three ways the US and China could go to war.
To strengthen its territorial claims, China has built over 2,000 acres of landmass on reefs in the South China Sea, with dredger ships working around the clock to expand the man-made islands. Land reclamation serves two purposes. First, China can claim, however tenuously, under international law that since it has land features on these islands, they are Chinese territory. That means that Chinese maritime territory would “restart” at every point where there is a land feature. It is a way of expanding Chinese territorial waters which could extend to about 90 percent of the South China Sea.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon was considering beefed up options for responding to China’s island building in the South China Sea. Last night, a CNN crew was brought along on a U.S. Navy P8-A patrol over the Spratly Islands, with Jim Sciutto reporting that the Chinese navy warned off the American plane eight separate times.
US officials really need to move away from the essentially pointless exercise of asking Beijing to explain itself. When asked Tuesday about China’s recent actions in the South China Sea, vice chief of naval operations Adm. Michelle Howard told the Wall Street Journal, “I think it’s now time for China to talk about what the reclamation of land means…From my perspective, no one is saying they are putting a resort out there, so someone needs to explain what they are putting out there.”
The last “public” voyage abroad by one of the Kim dynasty’s designated scions was “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il’s visit to China in 1983. It was a disaster. And while the Dear Respected, to be sure, would appear to have more stage confidence than his departed father: but that is a low bar.
Even if it functioned more like the EU, ASEAN would still suffer from the fatal flaw of having no singular, sword-wielding executive capacity to carry out and defend its policies. It turns out that the postmodern world is still in need of what the early modern world’s theorists—Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke—knew was essential if true peace and prosperity were to be achieved.
It’s now possible Chinese coal production has peaked. Consumption, too – the first quarter saw a 42-percent plunge in import volume to 49 million tons, contributing to a 4.7-percent decline in domestic coal sales. The explanation is a long-term economic slowdown and the ecologically-driven policy and popular shift from coal as lifeblood to coal as undesirable.
Today, The Wall Street Journal reports that Chinese nuclear experts have upped their assessment of North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities—they estimate that Pyongyang now has an arsenal of 20 warheads, which could double by the end of next year. The assessment was shared with American (non-governmental) experts at a meeting hosted by the Chinese Institute of International Studies, a research organization affiliated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.