US becoming nothing more than troublemaker
The US military revealed to Reuters that its guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur on Friday conducted a so-called freedom of navigation mission in the South China Sea. The US military mentioned China's Yongxing and Zhongjian islands, and said the Chinese mainland, the island of Taiwan and Vietnam all claim ownership of the Xisha Islands. It said the destroyer did not come within 12 nautical miles of the islands.
According to China's Ministry of National Defense, a guided-missile destroyer and a guided-missile frigate were dispatched to identify and expel the US vessel.
All Western media have noted that the US maneuver was conducted during Philippine President Duterte's state visit to China in which bilateral relations have been restored with the signing of a series of cooperative agreements. This was a provocation by the US, flagrantly telling the world that it doesn't want to see peace in the South China Sea, and that it wants waves there. If no one helps it, it will make them itself.
China as early as 1996 announced that the territorial waters surrounding Xisha Islands belong to it alone. Unlike the Nansha Islands, the Xisha Islands are under full Chinese control and Beijing doesn't recognize any territorial disputes there. A US warship coming to the Xisha Islands can be viewed as a way to escalate provocations.
The Philippines has started to shelve its disagreements with China and restore friendly relations, and has announced the end of its joint military patrols and exercises with the US. Duterte has talked of "separation" from the US, which will severely impact the US's strategy. The Pentagon dispatching warships to patrol at this moment is a clear response to Duterte's visit to China, sending signals to the region that it will maintain its presence and continue trying to exert influence.
They chose the Xisha Islands this time, probably with the intention to arouse the interest of Vietnam and test its reaction. After Duterte has repeatedly ridiculed Washington, US ships going to China-Philippines disputed waters will be fruitless, therefore the US has decided to change direction.
We hope that Vietnam will see through the US's intentions and not fall into their trap. Duterte has said the US military is stationed in the Philippines only out of its own interests and he has decided to leave the road of conflict that the US has forced the Philippines to take, which shows that he and many of his compatriots are fed up with the US profiting from South China Sea tensions at their expense.
Recently, China and Vietnam have also started to control disputes and push for better bilateral ties. As China-Philippine ties improve, the geopolitical situation in the South China Sea has changed, which is good for the whole region. While the US is not willing to accept this change, as long as China, Vietnam and the Philippines stick to their own interests and put cooperation first, a US warship sailing in the South China Sea will have no effect.
Many critics have overestimated Washington's tolerance. It has started not to care about its image as a "world leader," but is becoming nothing more than a troublemaker.
Why the US resents Beijing-Manila rapport ?
In a signed article published by the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter tried to trumpet the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy, claiming the US can "help ensure that the next 70 years in the region are as secure, stable, and prosperous as the last."
He also used more than a few words to criticize China, arguing that "Beijing sometimes plays by its own rules and undercuts those [regional] principles."
The article was published during Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to China. A number of steps Duterte took, especially this visit, are regarded as undermining the US' South China Sea strategy, which is core to the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.
As the most outstanding diplomatic and political legacy of Barack Obama's presidency, Washington's rebalancing strategy is now in crisis. Besides the Philippines' fresh start over the South China Sea issue, the chances that US Congress will pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal are slim. Carter's article is refuting those voices pessimistic about the US strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific.
Washington has been claiming credit for safeguarding peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific, including the South China Sea.
Now the Philippines and China have reached a rapport after intense conflict over the maritime dispute. Washington should feel happy about the stabilization of the situation, but look how begrudging it is.
President Obama announced an overall lifting of the weapons ban on Vietnam during his visit there in May, a move widely seen as targeting China. But Beijing reacted positively about the improved ties between the former foes. Washington should take the same gesture, even if it is faking it, to compliment Beijing and Manila on their return to a friendly track.
Apart from the Beijing-Manila reconciliation, choppy waters between Beijing and Hanoi have also calmed down. The US should welcome the change and encourage claimants to negotiate for win-win cooperation if it really cares about the benefits of regional countries.
However, the US seems to be unhappy and feel betrayed. It is widely believed that Washington is pressuring Manila to return to confrontation against Beijing. US public opinion is hoping Duterte can retake a tough stand over Huangyan Island.
The major conflicts in the South China Sea are becoming those between China and the US, rather than territorial disputes. It is not difficult to cool Beijing's disputes with Manila and Hanoi down to a level that will not seriously jeopardize their friendly cooperation. Whether the US can restrain itself from the urge to dominate regional order and using "rules" as an excuse to contain China is a real test.
To Washington, rules and principles actually mean its leadership. US national strength is losing its advantage, but its obsession and sensitivity to hegemony have increasingly turned extreme, which leads to many problems.
China has no intention to drive the US out of Asia. In many cases, it doesn't reject the US' willingness to be a global leader. But we hope it knows that its strength is limited, as well as its understanding of the world. - Global Times
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Beijing on October 18, 2016, beginning his state visit to China. [Photo: Chinanews.co...