Report from Washington
On May 2, I wrote of an evolving situation in the South China Sea, where China was pursuing its objectives by building an airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef. This reef is part of the Spratly Island chain claimed by China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Believing it has a historic right to dominate this region, China’s long-term strategy is to turn the South China Sea into the equivalency of a Chinese lake. Allowing China to dominate this area would severely damage the ability of countries in Asia from shipping or receiving goods to/from other nations.
This situation has continued developing since May.
In July, as summarized in the Wall Street Journal, the international Hague Tribunal ruled “…that China’s claims to historic and economic rights in most of the South China Sea have no legal basis” and that China “…couldn’t claim historic rights in all the waters within a “nine-dash” line used by Beijing to delineate its claims.”
Chinese officials, however, stated that Beijing wouldn’t comply with this ruling. Though the Wall Street Journal notes that the unanimous ruling is “legally binding,” they also state it “…can only be enforced through international pressure.”
Originally, I asked: “In the South China Sea, will the Administration do more than merely wag its finger and say ‘shame, shame?’”
For months, they did nothing.
According to a Reuters report from August, “Satellite photographs taken in late July show China appears to have built reinforced aircraft hangars on its holdings in disputed South China Sea islands, a Washington-based research group said. “The hangars on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief Reefs in the Spratly islands have room for any fighter jet in the Chinese air force, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a report on the photographs.”
It appears, however, the Administration is finally starting to take a stand.
Business Insider recently reported that the U.S. Air Force “made history by flying all three operational bombers, the B-52, the B-1, and the B-2 over Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, before conducting drills in the South China Sea and Northeast Asia.”
Business Insider summarized these developments, stating it essentially “…is the goal of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) to constantly station nuclear-capable bombers in the Pacific in a visible effort to deter aggression in the region.
But lately, the U.S. has stepped up the presence, pulling out all three big bombers, while China has been acting increasingly aggressively towards their neighbors in the South China Sea. China, for their part, has attempted to establish a ‘no sail zone,’ intruded into Japan’s territorial waters, and flew bomber patrols of their own over the disputed islands and shoals since the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled against their claims to the South China Sea. Now it would seem the U.S. is answering.”
My concern is that U.S. involvement is late. The President’s past inaction has set the tone with other world leaders. Their respect for President Obama, and therefore the United States, has waned.
For example, when President Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Washington in March, Obama told Xi Jinping to stay away from Scarborough Shoal, another Philippine territory in the South China Sea. What does Beijing do? They deploy ships while President Obama and other world leaders were in China at the G-20 Summit.
Furthermore, when Air Force One landed for the G-20 Summit, there was no customary red carpet or rolling stairs greeting President Obama. As Charles Krauthammer described it, “He is forced to exit—as one China expert put it rather undiplomatically—through “the ass” of the plane.” An accident? I think not. The Chinese are known for pomp and circumstance.
Possibly most disturbing, North Korea on September 9, successfully tested a nuclear warhead, hours after President Obama left Japan, where he stopped on his way home from attending the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). South Korea, Japan and China condemned the test.
In July, it was reported that the Obama Administration asked China, which has the ability to do more, to take action against North Korea for their previous testing. China really hasn’t.
My fear is that over the past few years, in spite of the fact that we have the most powerful military in the world, the United States is no longer respected as a superpower. Why? I believe it’s because of President Obama’s fairytale view of diplomacy.
Let’s face it, the United States is being pushed around on the world stage. The President should have demanded that the United States be respected. He never should have exited “through ‘the ass’ of the plane.” President Obama was treated by China as if he were the leader of the Kingdom of North Sudan.