Despite US Threats, China Redeploys Missiles On Contested South China Sea Island

Despite US Threats, China Redeploys Missiles On Contested South China Sea Island

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China has taken credit for pushing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to agree to this week’s historic peace summit with the US, where the two sides will discuss terms for the possible removal of all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. But as the world’s second-largest economy touts its efforts to ensure peace with the US, the simmering tensions in the Pacific, where the US military has repeatedly clashed with China’s navy and air force over China’s continued development of islands in the South China Sea – something China claims is essential for its national security.

And in the latest provocation, the South China Morning Post reported Monday that China has redeployed a series of missiles that it had removed last week from the disputed Woody Island, part of the Yongxing islands in the Paracels. An Israeli intelligence firm called ImageSat International captured satellite images purportedly showing the removal, and then redeployment, of the surface-to-air missiles sattioned on the Island by the Chinese military, according to the South China Morning PostThe missiles were returned to “exactly the same positions they were,” an indication that China didn’t even bother to hide its latest provocative act.

The first batch of photos, taken June 3, showed what appeared to be HQ-9 missiles being removed. The removal came as tensions flared between China and the US, with the US flying two nuclear-capable B-52 bombers over the Spratly Islands.

The Pentagon is also reportedly considering whether it should send more warships to the Taiwan Strait to step up security of island,which, according to the US one-China policy, is viewed as part of China. The US is also reportedly trying to rally its allies to increase their own military presence in the area – these allies include Britain and France.

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China

Of course, the fact that the missiles were restored isn’t exactly a surprise: China had said it would restore the missiles. “On the other hand, it may be a regular practice,” ISI said. “If so, within the next few days we may observe a redeployment in the same area.”

China

China

The news comes after China defied the US back in April by installing a radar scrambler on the Spratly Islands meant to sabotage the US “freeops” – or Freedom of Navigation missions – that were being ordered with increasing frequency by the Pentagon. About a month ago, the US threatened China with “consequences” if it didn’t remove missiles from the South China Sea (and now we all know how that turned out).

Top US Navy officials are beginning to view China with increasing skepticism, with Trump’s Ambassador to Australia – a former Navy admiral – warning that we must prepare for the possibility of all-out war with China within our lifetimes.

Even as China expanded its strategy of denying US military access to the South China Sea, the US continued to support its top economic rival, something that Bloomberg cited as one of the greatest “paradoxes” of US foreign policy in the 21st century.

This is just one of the many paradoxes of the U.S.-China relationship. Washington has underwritten the economic rise of its greatest long-term strategic rival by protecting the global commercial flows that have made that rival so wealthy. China, for its part, has been a free-rider on America’s provision of global stability even while challenging the U.S. ever more sharply in the Asia-Pacific.

This situation could not last forever, though, because it represented a vulnerability that a rising China would not tolerate indefinitely. After all, if the U.S. can secure the global commons, then it can also dominate and even restrict access to them if it so chooses.

And so, as the US-China relationship has become more contentious – particularly after the International Criminal Court ruled in favor of the Philippines, a direct repudiation of China’s territorial claims over the region. In response, China unveiled its “magical” island-building ship, which, as we pointed out late last year, it’s using to reconstruct islands in its new Pacific dominion. Measuring 140 meters, the Tiankun is the biggest dredger in Asia, with cutters and pumps capable of smashing the equivalent of three Olympic pools of rock an hour from the sea floor and shooting it up to 15 kilometers away to create artificial land. Since earlier this spring, China and Taiwan have traded provocations by holding back-to-back live-fire military drills. Last week, Taiwan carried out the Han Kuang war drills. Even though the live-fire military drill began with the deadly crash of a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon jet on the first day, the exercise continued across the island as scheduled throughout the week.

This is just one of the many paradoxes of the U.S.-China relationship. Washington has underwritten the economic rise of its greatest long-term strategic rival by protecting the global commercial flows that have made that rival so wealthy. China, for its part, has been a free-rider on America’s provision of global stability even while challenging the U.S. ever more sharply in the Asia-Pacific.

This situation could not last forever, though, because it represented a vulnerability that a rising China would not tolerate indefinitely. After all, if the U.S. can secure the global commons, then it can also dominate and even restrict access to them if it so chooses.

For years, most experts believed that China’s military challenge to the U.S. was regional in nature — that it was confined to the Western Pacific. After decades of tacitly free-riding on America’s global power-projection capabilities, however, Beijing now is seeking the capabilities that will allow it to project its own military power well outside its regional neighborhood.

The fact that China is building up its military strength is hardly news, of course. The 1995-96 Taiwan crisis, during which the U.S. responded to Chinese intimidation of Taiwan by sending two carrier strike groups to the area, underscored to the Chinese leadership that America’s military dominance gave it the capability to intervene at will even in China’s own backyard.

Since then, Beijing has been developing the capabilities — advanced fighter jets, anti-ship ballistic missiles, and stealthy diesel-electric attack submarines among them — meant not just to give it leverage over its East and Southeast Asian neighbors, but also to prevent the U.S. from intervening effectively in their defense.

This effort to build what are known as “anti-access/area-denial” capabilities has borne fruit, and the U.S. will now face high and continually growing obstacles to defending Taiwan or other partners and allies in the event of conflict with China.

Meanwhile, following years of rapid economic growth, China has been stepping up its defense spending, leaving it with the second-largest defense budget in the world.

Defense

Given all of this, one can’t help but wonder whether the burgeoning trade war between the US and China really might devolve into a military conflict, just as famous investors like David Tepper have publicly speculated about.

 


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