South China Sea: ‘Real and increasing’ risk US and Beijing will ‘stumble into war’

China and Taiwan tensions could get 'ugly' says expert

Beijing has claimed a large part of the South China Sea as its own which has triggered territorial disputes. The US heavily opposes China’s maritime sovereignty claims and on several occasions has sent its own warships to the disputed waters to promote “freedom of the seas”.

Writing for Time Magazine, experts James Stavridis and Elliot Ackerman explained how the ongoing tensions between the two superpowers runs the risk of breaking out into war.

They wrote: “The two nations are significantly at odds over the status of the South China Sea, which China claims as territorial waters, potentially giving them control over rich oil and gas deposits and dominance over the 40 percent of the world’s trade that passes through these strategic seas.

“The US, and most of the rest of the world, believes these waters to be high seas, free for any nation to sail.

“China is expanding its Navy rapidly and building artificial islands throughout the South China Sea to operate as strategic military nodes.”

China’s plan for the next five years reportedly includes a call to prepare for maritime battles.

The project also calls for the country to draw up a basic maritime law.

Experts have claimed that the plan suggests Beijing is concerned about the South China Sea tensions.

According to the South China Morning Post, the plan to 2025 said: “[We] must study the current circumstances, mitigate risks and [prepare for] legal struggles.

“[We] must resolutely defend national maritime interests.”

Admiral Stavridis, retired from the US Navy, and author Mr Ackerman, added in their analysis for Time Magazine that “hard work” will be required to avoid entering a “21st century war”.

They wrote: “The chances of the US and China stumbling into a war are real and increasing.

“It will require not only imagination, but the hard work of creating a national strategy that can employ all our considerable tools of state – diplomacy, economics, military deterrence, culture, communications – if we are to avoid sleepwalking into a 21st century war.”

Earlier this week Washington’s top military officer in Asia-Pacific, Admiral Philip Davidson, warned that China could invade Taiwan in the next six years.

Beijing claims ownership of its island neighbour Taiwan, a democracy of around 24 million people, despite the two nations having been governed separately for over seven decades.

The eastern superpower points to its “One China” policy which demands there is only one sovereign state under the name China.

Admiral Davidson told a US Senate armed services committee hearing: “I worry that they’re [China] accelerating their ambitions to supplant the United States and our leadership role in the rules-based international order… by 2050.

“Taiwan is clearly one of their ambitions before that.

“And I think the threat is manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years.”

The military officer added how China’s military expansion in the region risked causing an “unfavourable” situation for the US.

He said: “We are accumulating risk that may embolden China to unilaterally change the status quo before our forces may be able to deliver an effective response.

“I cannot for the life of me understand some of the capabilities that they’re putting in the field, unless … it is an aggressive posture.”


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