IT may seem strange in an era of cyberwarfare and , but the newest front in the rivalry between the United States and is a tropical sea, where the drive to tap rich offshore and gas reserves has set off a conflict akin to the gunboat diplomacy of the 19th century.
The Obama administration first waded into the treacherous waters of the South China Sea last year when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared, at a tense meeting of Asian countries in Hanoi, that the United States would join Vietnam, the Philippines and other countries in resisting Beijing’s efforts to dominate the sea. China, predictably, was enraged by what it viewed as American meddling. –
It’s not strange. It’s alarming! Then today, President Obama announced that the its first new Pacific troop deployment since the Vietnam War.
Mr. Obama and his Sec/State tell us that American allies in the region (Vietnam, Philipines, Indonesia) are begging for a stronger US military presence in the Pacific to off-set China’s. They don’t explain how this jives with China being the major trading partner of those same nations.
The competition boils down, once again, to energy. More and more, oil will be discovered and pumped from large sea deposits. China claims a large part of the South China Sea but other countries challenge those claims. China has explicitly thrown its support behind regional talks on solving the problem. Right now, the islands at issue are uninhabited and worthless. No country has plans to drill into the sea anytime soon, although exploration continues.
Who is the aggressor?
China doesn’t even have one aircraft carrier. It has not attempted to project its military power globally and has not foreign bases. It is slowly rebuilding its navy but spends only a fraction of GDP on its military compared to the US. Talks among the nations on the South China Sea are ongoing.
So why is the Obama Administration rattling sabres in East Asia?