Risk of US-Chinese maritime confrontation increases in South China Sea

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Risk of US-Chinese maritime confrontation increases in South China Sea


This aerial photo, taken through a glass window of a military plane on Monday, 11 May 2015, shows Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Source: PA


EVENT
On 12 May, US media reported that the US military is considering sending military surveillance aircraft and naval vessels to within 12 nautical miles of Chinese-occupied features in the disputed Spratly Islands.

The normal territorial sea limit under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is 12 nautical miles. The report appeared one day after the USS Fort Worth, a US Navy littoral combat ship, was allegedly shadowed by a Chinese navy frigate while patrolling in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, where China has conducted extensive land reclamation projects around a number of islets and reefs that it occupies. On 13 May, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed "serious concern" over the report and demanded US clarifications.

China claims most of the islets in the South China Sea, a claim that is actively disputed by the other states in the region, most importantly Vietnam and the Philippines. Although several Spratly claimants have conducted land reclamation, the Chinese efforts are notable for their speed and extent. Under UNCLOS, only natural land features permanently above sea level are entitled to surrounding territorial seas, whereas many of the Chinese-occupied features are submerged at high tide. Although the United States has never accepted Chinese claims of territorial waters around the periodically submerged features, to date US forces have refrained from traversing the 12-nautical-mile limit.

FORECAST
Any US air or naval patrol breaching the 12-nautical-mile limit would be regarded as in deliberate violation of Chinese sovereignty by Beijing, and would probably trigger a diplomatic confrontation between the US and China. Given the range of global security and economic issues which require Chinese co-operation, in particular the increasingly volatile situation in North Korea, the White House is unlikely to directly challenge Chinese territorial claims at this time. Instead, the US will probably respond to recent Chinese assertiveness by strengthening military co-operation with the other South China Sea states, as it did on October 2014, when it lifted its arms embargo against Hanoi, in place since the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964. In the present scenario, US vessels are likely to patrol close to the 12-mile limit without breaching it.


Risk of US-Chinese maritime confrontation increases in South China Sea - IHS Jane's 360
 
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In reality pretty slim. China is on disputed territory, so USA does not have a justification to militarily knock them off. So they are playing the psychological game of sending a fleet close by. China will not start anything since they know Navy wise that USA has them beat. So it will just boil down to a cold war type thing where they watch each other.
 
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This is something the USA has to be careful about how they tackle this as the wrong move could make China attack them and could also lead to bad realations as well which could impact them. I think the mind games can get annoying and maybe to test if China will do what thet say or carry on with what they are doing for along time. I reckon with Navy ships being around them, China will not attack unless provoked and will try peace talks.
 
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Nothing is going to happen,China will probably annex some islands and the US will condemn the action,just like they did with Crimea.
 
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How is China going to annex the islands exactly? By building airstrips? By exploiting surrounding marine life? It's all right because as far as facts go, the two biggest Spratly islands have been effectively occupied by Vietnam and the Philippines. China could just settle for the nondescript islands, hoping to find traces of Qin dynasty pottery and whatnot and solidify their vague claim of ownership.

Honestly, this spat between the US and China will never amount to anything. Although Obama condemns regional bullying, he told our country a year ago that America won't be meddling in the military affairs between China and the Philippines. If now he's having a change of heart, then he must be really thick. America can't fight a dozen wars all at the same time.
 
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