Tense relations between China and the U.S. heat up a week before the first state visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Washington has urged Beijing to stop all of its land reclamation ambitions in the disputed South China Sea, the region in which the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei have claims.
China has repeatedly claimed its “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands. Earlier this month, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei stated that Beijing has the right to establish military objects in the region.
However, China has repeatedly claimed that the islands will be used ‘mainly’ for humanitarian purposes.
No matter how strong the differences between Washington and Beijing over the Spratly Islands are, both of the countries have a similar view that navigational freedom must be secured to engage in business and trade, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.
The Chinese media believes that the disputes over the islands should not be an issues between the U.S. and China, since the latter has ‘strong historical proof and legal support’ to claim its sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea.
It must be pointed out that since the 1970s, both the Philippines and Vietnam have invaded and attempted to seize islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea, defying China’s legal rights and interests in the region. That’s how the dispute over the islands started, according to the Chinese.
Feeling like a victim in the dispute, Beijing has repeatedly shown that it’s the one who controls and maintains stability in the region.
U.S. still has a Cold War mentality – Chinese media
“Being an outsider and not a party concerned, the United States does not have any territorial dispute with China,” according to Xinhua. “However, some in Washington, still operating under a Cold War mentality, see the issue as an opportunity to contain China and hinder China’s development.”
The Chinese media also believes that there are some countries in the region that are eager to get the U.S. involved into a confrontation against Beijing, constantly reminding that Washington should keep its promise and not take sides in the dispute.
President Xi Jinping will pay a – what it is expected to be – historical visit to the United States next week. The visit will cover a number of topics – from the South China Sea issue to cyber confrontation between the two countries – and is intended to give an outline for future relations between Washington and Beijing.
At the meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in June 2013 in California, Xi Jinping offered a brand new concept of U.S.-China relations named as ‘a new model of major-country relations’. Obama and Xi Jinping then pointed at main aspects of such relations at the end of 2014.
But the main thing that stands in the way of developing such a new model of relations is differences between the countries such as the South China Sea disputes. And the Chinese President’s visit to Washington next week is expected to bring the countries closer to implementing this model.
China builds another military object despite promises not to
On September 14, after examining satellite pictures taken a week earlier, analysts from Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) concluded that China is building its third airfield on the disputed Spratly Islands.
It was reported that the airfield has a 9,842-foot long military-grade runway similar to two previous runways, which Beijing had built on the disputed islands earlier. Apart from the airfield, China is building seawalls on the island for an artificial harbor.
American experts believe that the construction of the airfield will significantly boost China’s military capabilities in the South China Sea. It must be noted that the third airfield on the Spratly Islands is the most threatening to interests of the Philippines, which has been conducting geological searches of oil and gas in the area of the islands.
On August 5, China claimed that it had stopped all of its construction works in the South China Sea.
U.S. ‘protection’ causes instability in South China Sea
However, it’s not China who heats up the tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Sputnik’s analyst Finian Cunningham. Instead of escalating the hot conflict in the region with an aim to militarize it, the U.S. should ‘pack its bags’ and ‘go home’, the analyst believes.
Since 2011, under its ‘pivot to Asia’ policy, the Obama administration has significantly stepped up its military presence in the region thanks to the help of its allies – Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Although the Washington does not directly identify Beijing as its enemy, China is definitely the reason for the growing militarization of the U.S. in the region, according to Cunningham.
Earlier this month, the U.S. boosted its military presence on the Philippines in order to ‘protect’ the country’s armed forces in the disputed South China Sea. Over the centuries, similar ‘protection’ claims have been a convenient excuse for ‘sundry colonial suzerains’ as well as ‘organized crime syndicates’, according to the analyst.
The U.S. also explains its military presence in the region by the need to provide protection for the passage of cargo ships going through the South China Sea. However, China does not obstruct the passage of cargo ships, which bring $5 trillion in trade per year.
U.S. needs to pack its bags and go home
Washington interferes in territorial disputes, accuses China and steps up its military supports for other countries of the region at the same time.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter warned earlier this year that due to the revised military agreement between Japan and the U.S., any attempt from China to dispute Japan’s claims on the Senkaku Islands (China calls them the Diaoyudao Islands) will be regarded as an attack on U.S. interests.
In order to settle the conflict in the region, the U.S. should withdraw all of its forces from the region, Cunningham believes.
“The world should not be subjected to the appalling recurring risk of war just because the American ruling elite and their industrial-military complex want and need it in order to exert their strategic ambitions,” the analyst concluded.