The current rationale for Washington’s South China Sea policy continues to reference history and law as a justification for reinforcing U.S. military presence in the region. Further, Washington’s reliance on a decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, not only circumvents normative interpretations of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, but uses this ruling to build cooperation among partner States to overlook the details of both China’s claim and the U.S. policy that originally recognized China’s maritime boundary. This article refutes Washington’s version of history as well as the legal claims it asserts, particularly as the US weaponizes history and law as justifications for regional military provocations that threatens the genuine security of the South China Sea, and the world.
South China Sea
Over the past two years, the United States has dramatically increased the number of U.S. Navy aircraft carriers and destroyers sent into the South China Sea as a freedom of navigation show of force missions to remind the Chinese government that the U.S. considers the Western Pacific and the South China Sea as a part of the oceans of America and its allies. Additionally, in 2020, the Trump administration ratcheted up tensions with China over Taiwan by sending to Taiwan the highest-ranking U.S. officials in over forty years.
When the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz carrier strike groups recently engaged in “operations” in the South China Sea, it failed to escape cynics that the US Pacific Fleet was doing its best to turn the infantile Thucydides trap theory into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The pro forma official spin, via Rear Admiral Jim Kirk, commander of the Nimitz, is that the ops were conducted to “reinforce our commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, a rules-based international order, and to our allies and partners.” Nobody pays attention to these clichés, because the real message was delivered by a CIA operative posing as diplomat, Secretary of State Mike “We Lie, We Cheat, We Steal” Pompeo.
In the words of (ret.) Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Secretary of Defense Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, the Trump Administration has been dangerously “poking China in the eye.” After sending aircraft carriers and destroyers to the precincts of the Taiwan Strait, last week the Pentagon dispatched two aircraft carrier strike groups – including escort cruisers and destroyers, 120 warplanes and 12,000 troops — to South China Sea waters claimed by China. China responded by deploying fighter jets to its near-by base on Woody Island and reminding the world of its anti-aircraft carrier missile capabilities.
The Navy’s redeployment of the TR (as the nuclear-powered carrier is called) suggests a Pentagon drive to reassert U.S. military dominance in an area increasingly being visited by Chinese forces. Both countries have dispatched heavily-armed ships into the East and South China Seas in what might be called “show-of-force” operations, intended to showcase military muscle and discourage further adventurism by the other side — a dynamic that can easily lead to an accident, miscalculation, and a perilous spiral into a full-fledged war. Sino-American jousting in these waters has, of course, been ongoing for some time. It is essential, then, that senior American and Chinese leaders urgently consult with one another about steps to prevent unintended mishaps in the East and the South China Sea and adopt “rules of the road” to prevent an incident .