Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pentagon to set tone for Trump’s S.China Sea policy with USS Carl Vinson

Editor's Note:

The USS Carl Vinson, the third Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier operated by the US Navy, is expected to arrive in Asia around January 20, invoking more tensions in the Western Pacific Region. What is the purpose of the operation? Will the Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy of the Obama administration continue in the Trump era? How should China react? The Global Times has talked with two experts on the issue. 

Li Jie, a Beijing-based naval expert
The move of USS Carl Vinson on the eve of the US presidential transition reflects more of the will of the Obama administration and the US military. But it is also a reflection of some of Donald Trump's ideas. After all, intervening in the South China Sea and isolating China are what Trump would like to see.

It shows that the Pentagon, including the US Navy, wants to extend Obama's Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy and further get involved in the West Pacific.

Facing pressure from the US, China needs to make preparations, such as construction of reefs and islands and enhancing building-up of strategic forces. Strengthening military deployment in the West Pacific will continue under the Trump administration. Trump has vowed to bolster the US military's capabilities. He called for a vast expansion of the military, including nearly 75 new ships for the Navy. It's expected that at least 60 percent of the US overseas forces will be put into the Asia-Pacific region so as to deter and suppress relevant countries and maximize US benefits.

The US will certainly continue to stir up the South China Sea issue. The waters are an effective maneuver to curb China, as 80 percent of China's crude oil imports come through the South China Sea. If the US controls the waters, it will be a blow to China. 

In the future, the US will likely take the following measures to aggravate the disputes in the South China Sea.

First, the US itself will be involved in the area. The Pentagon has discussed the possibility of deploying mobile artillery units to the South China Sea.

Second, the US will urge its allies such as Japan, Australia and Singapore to meddle in the situation. Meanwhile, the US will stir up the "China threat" theory in the region.
Lin Zhiyuan, a scholar with the PLA Academy of Military Sciences
The US deployment of aircraft carrier in the Asia-Pacific reflects the Sino-US tension over the South China Sea issue. It demonstrates that the so-called freedom of navigation, which serves the Obama administration's rebalancing strategy, is likely to be intensified under the new Trump government, and the Pentagon is to set a tone for Trump's policymaking direction toward the South China Sea.

The shift of Manila's foreign policy toward China and the US under Duterte's presidency has smoothed over the South China Sea situation. This is not what the US expected.

The visit of USS Carl Vinson is set to destabilize the current peace as Pentagon attempts to disrupt potential talks between China and other countries in the region. This has raised the risk of a Sino-US conflict in the region.

When Trump takes office, he will rearm the US military and push the rebalancing onto a new stage where the US navy's freedom of navigation, supposedly more frequent than before, will be routine and institutionalized with more offensive and defensive weapons deployed.

Although the US' relationship with the Philippines is deteriorating, it will continue colluding with Australia and India, as well as strengthen ties with Singapore, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries, in hope of joint patrol. The disputes in the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea and the East China Sea would be reignited.

China doesn't necessarily need to fuss over the arrival of the US carriers. We need to continue building rapport with our neighboring countries and leave the US in no position to involve itself in regional issues. Meanwhile, we should perfect our defensive military installations and enhance the capability in response to any provocations.

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