China is not the bully in the South China Sea, the US is

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 7:31pm

America militarises the South China Sea by sending in carrier strike groups into a maritime area where it has no territory, makes no claims, the safety of its citizens and property has not been violated, and without invitation. Yet it labels self-defence against such unprovoked military intrusions as militarisation (“US vows to counter ‘intimidation’ by China”, June 3”).

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis wonders why it is only China that has expressed unhappiness with US freedom of navigation exercises. It is because China is the only country strong enough not to be coerced and intimidated into silence by America’s “might makes right” policy. It is also because other South China Sea countries may not want to help the US escalate tensions in the region.

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If its freedom of navigation operations are truly routine and do not unfairly single out China, as the US maintains, then these must first be directed against the vast rings of concrete and steel that Japan has built around the Okinotori atoll in the Pacific.

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Under the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender in 1945, it only has sovereignty over its four main islands. Okinotori is not among them. That the US does not conduct sail-by operations there certainly calls into question its broader goals against China and stability in the region. Not to mention that the US is not a signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) under which it claims to operate the sail-by operations.

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If France and Britain also intend to engage in such operations (“France and Britain to sail into contested waters in South China Sea”, June 4), they should also sail within 12 nautical miles (territorial waters as defined by UNCLOS) of Okinotori atoll. Otherwise, their action would only vindicate Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous lambasting of the West’s hypocrisy and bullying, and make China more determined to defend its sovereignty.

W.L. Chang, Discovery Bay