In the wake of China firing warning missiles in the South China Sea, it is an understatement saying that tensions have escalated between China and the United States, the two world’s largest economies.
On Wednesday (August 26) morning, China reportedly fired two missiles as a warning to the US carriers and regional bases in the South China Sea region, between the Hainan Province and disputed Paracel Islands, where the two countries have been holding a series of military exercises separately.
US Secretary of Defence, Mark Esper, has called on other countries to join forces with the US to counter China’s bullish attempts to expand territory in the Indo-Pacific region, which has become an “epicenter of power competition”. Esper, while addressing reporters in Hawaii, said – “The US strategy would include strengthening alliances, bolstering US military capabilities and expanding a network of like-minded partners,”
The Indo-Pacific is the epicenter of a great power competition with China. We’re not going to cede this region – an inch of ground, if you will – to another country, any other country that thinks their form of government, their views on human rights, their views on sovereignty, their views on freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, all those things, that somehow that’s better than what many of us share.”
Esper’s remarks come amid deteriorating diplomatic ties between the countries over issues ranging from trade, technology, human rights to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which has been often labeled by the US President Donald Trump as the ‘China Virus’, due to its origins in the homeland of his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.
Esper is scheduled to fly nearly halfway around to the tiny island nation of Palau, one of the only 15 diplomatic allies for Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims to be within its own territory.
The visit is considered strategic for Esper, who warned Beijing that its relentless bid to be a world-class military will only force the hands of the United States. “We see Southeast Asia, particularly in the South China Sea area, is where China seems to be flexing its muscles the most and conducting some of its worst behavior,”
Our robust network of allies and partners remains the enduring asymmetric advantage we have over near-peer rivals, namely China, that attempt to undermine and subvert the rules-based order to advance their own interests, often at the expense of others.”
It is important to note that China claims almost all of the South China Sea which is sharply contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Taiwan. Except for Taiwan, all the other four nations are a part of ASEAN.
According to South China Morning Post daily, the Chinese army launched two missiles including an “aircraft-carrier killer” apparently as a warning signal to the US forces in the South China Sea, where they have been conducting military drills since August 24.
Washington on Wednesday, had slapped new restrictions on certain Chinese state-owned enterprises and executives for “malign activities” in the South China Sea.