Washington’s attempts to militarize the South China Sea and “tame the Chinese dragon” would see Beijing deploying weapons systems in the contested area, a state-run newspaper wrote in an op-ed addressed to the US military brass.
The article comes on the heels of heightened tensions between the two world powers in the South China Sea, a strategic region that houses important maritime routes and rich natural resources.
“Aren’t US carrier groups’ constant patrols in the South China Sea the most prominent militarization in the waters? Aren’t the public statements made by the US military, that all its moves were done to warn China, direct military threats?” the Global Times state-run daily wrote.
While saying Washington hopes Beijing “would grin and bear it,” the newspaper added: “the South China Sea is quiet now,” mentioning bilateral talks with neighboring Vietnam and the Philippines intended to mend ties.
Earlier in February, the US Navy deployed a strike group of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer to conduct “routine operations” in the South China Sea.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry described the deployment as “threatening and damaging the sovereignty and security of littoral countries under the flag of freedom of navigation and overflight,” adding that “China always respects the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law.”
Aside from the US deployment, Reuters reported that Indonesia will discuss the prospect of joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea with Australia at a meeting between President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this weekend.
The Global Times editorial specifically mentioned the issue of the US patrols, but it also sent a broader message to the American military commanders; some of their bellicose remarks made earlier this year do not allow hopes to be set very high for US-China reconciliation.
“As long as the US does not carry out provocative moves in the waters, the South China Sea will be peaceful,” the Global Times stated. “If the US military insists on showing that it is capable of taming the China Dragon, they are bound to see all kinds of advanced Chinese weapons as well as other military deployments on the [South China Sea] islands.”
“The South China Sea is not the Caribbean. It is not a place for the US to behave recklessly. US generals said they are ready to fight when necessary. The People’s Liberation Army is also making preparations,” it said in conclusion.
China claims sizable parts of the South China Sea, while the area is also disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The US and its regional allies accuse Beijing of executing an elaborate land-grabbing plan, particularly by building artificial reefs and dual-use facilities in the South China Sea islands.