The recent U.S. hype about alleged Chinese military maneuvers in South China Sea, however sensational, will not hide the fact that Washington is now the top contributor of tension in the region.
In the lead-up to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to the United States, some U.S. media organizations played up China’s deployment of a surface-to-air missile system on Yongxing Island, depicting the move as escalating tension in the South China Sea.
And right after Wang’s joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry on Tuesday, Fox News reported that the U.S. intelligence had seen activities of fighter jets on the same island.
The hype about so-called militarization of the South China Sea by China may sound alarming since those reports often cite hawkish military officials, but it fails to give due attention to the fact that deployment of defense measures has been going on for decades on the island, home to the municipal government of China’s southernmost city of Sansha.
China has repeatedly made clear that it has no intention to militarize the region. Its activities are mainly for maintenance purposes, improving the living conditions for the stationed personnel there and providing more public goods in the region.
With trillions of dollars’ worth of goods traversing the patch of water every year, the South China Sea is vital both to global trade and to China’s development. Beijing has no reason to disrupt one of its own crucial arteries of trade.
As a matter of fact, the United States, which has become fixated on the South China Sea since it announced a pivot to the Asia-Pacific, has been the primary source of destabilization in the area.
It has conducted a slew of naval and air patrol trips in the vicinity of the China-owned islands in clear violation of China’s sovereignty, not to mention international law.
It has also reopened military bases in the Philippines, in a move widely interpreted as stirring up tension in the region.
Furthermore, some countries in the region are taking more provocative measures to press for illegitimate territorial claims ever since the United States put the South China Sea on its radar.
If there were a ranking for destabilizers in the South China Sea, there’s no doubt Washington would top the list.
China’s practices in the region are defensive in nature, and it sees direct talks between rival claimants rather than military means as the best way to resolve any dispute.
Washington, which presents itself as an upholder of justice in the South China Sea issue, as in other issues across the world, has in the past few months wrongly accused China of being the sole troublemaker in the region, while conniving at China’s rival claimants in the South China Sea territorial disputes to take bolder moves.
The reality has shown that the U.S. interference only makes the issue more complicated. For the South China Sea waters to be calm, Washington should first stop its ugly practice of smearing China and avoid any move that stirs up tension in the region.