Is the U.S. goading China in the South China Sea dispute?

Obama shaking hands with Wen Jiabao, 2009

Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

During U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Australia this week, he told the Australian Parliament, “Our enduring interests in the region demand our enduring presence in this region. The United States is a Pacific power, and we are here to stay.”

Along with making this quite bothersome promise, at least for those of us that don’t fancy perpetual war plaguing the entire planet in the name of “freedom” and “democracy” on the American taxpayer’s dime, Obama said that American military expansion is a top priority.

That’s right, Obama actually said that military expansion is a top priority, despite the fact that the U.S. debt is so massive it makes one’s head spin with incredulity.

CNN published, “Obama made it clear that the military expansion is a top priority in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” which is interesting seeing as we are far from being in the wake of either war at this point.

Obama also made it painfully clear that, “reductions in U.S. defense spending will not – I repeat, will not – come at the expense of the Asia Pacific.”

Apparently we can count on the United States continuing to threaten China over the South China Sea dispute for the entirety of the foreseeable future, despite our less-than-stellar economy and horrific debt.

For many individuals like me, bells started ringing the second the news of increased troop presence in Australia broke.

This is because the United States has been somewhat covertly fighting back against China in the South China Sea dispute, but this announcement represents a massive escalation on the part of the U.S.

In more accurate terms, it is only covert in the sense that the United States government hasn’t come right out and said, “We’re fighting China in the South China Sea dispute.”

Back in June of this year, I reported on the United States arming the countries opposed to China in the South China Sea dispute, which includes Vietnam and the Philippines.

The goading is not just on the part of the United States seeing as earlier this year a live-fire drill was conducted by the Vietnamese in the South China Sea.

However, the United States is undoubtedly choosing sides by providing arms and participating in the massive SEACAT exercise with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members which include the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

It is worth pointing out that Indonesia’s military commander voiced concern over Indonesia possibly being pulled into the South China Sea dispute when the 2,500 U.S. Marines are deployed in Australia along with the state-of-the-art fighter jets and transport planes.

”Their military fleets would very likely go back and forth through our waters, given the analysis that the planned base will have to conduct [military exercises] due to rising tension in the South China Sea,” Admiral Agus Suhartono told The Jakarta Post. ”We haven’t learnt clearly what this deal is but we have been studying the plan and analyzing any potential impacts on Indonesia … we have begun consulting all sources.”

In the latest meeting of the ASEAN nations at the East Asia Summit, some additional nations took part including Japan, South Korea, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Russia.

When a similar, but less tense, standoff of sorts occurred months ago, the Chinese issued similar warnings to those uttered in the recent days.

The Chinese vice foreign minister said, “I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the US won’t be burned by this fire.”

These are unarguably pointed words, and in the wake of Obama’s announcement the rhetoric has only become more heated.

Today Reuters reported that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that, “’outside forces’ had no excuse to get involved in a complex dispute over the South China Sea, offering a veiled warning to the United States and others not to stick their noses into the sensitive issue.”

That warning is far from veiled, there is only one major military power escalating its presence and thus threatening the Chinese over the South China Sea, and that is the United States.

Keep in mind that the ASEAN countries aren’t the only players in this dispute. In September of this year, after warning the Indian state-owned oil company ONGC multiple times that joint energy explorations with Vietnam amounted to a violation of China’s sovereignty, the Indian government pledged to continue.

Back in September the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the United States has been fighting many protests on the part of China regarding their surveillance activities in the South China Sea.

Furthermore, they point out that the U.S. is trying to encourage its democratic allies in the region, especially India, which has a fairly powerful military, Australia, which has a relatively powerful military unto itself and which is now going to house at least 2,500 U.S. Marines within 5 years according to Obama, and Japan.

The White House has said that Obama seeks to bring up the South China Sea dispute at yet another summit coming up on Saturday but China said it will not discuss the issue, opting instead to deal bilaterally with the nations which are directly involved in the dispute.

“[The South China Sea dispute] ought to be resolved through friendly consultations and discussions by countries directly involved. Oustide forces should not, under any pretext, get involved,” Wen told the leaders of the ASEAN nations.

Wen is clearly telling the United States government that they have no part taking place in discussions regarding the dispute and that no intervention will be tolerated under any conditions.

The United States is infamous for couching wars of aggression in terms of “humanitarianism” as seen in Libya, and China is well aware that the United States would use plenty of propaganda and outright lies to justify their intervention.

This statement by Wen is essentially declaring these future possibilities null and void, something which likely will not make the goons in Washington happy.

China realizes that the United States is already getting involved via proxy with India, Vietnam and the Philippines, but the increased forces in Australia – which, within five to six years, will be a full Marine ground task force – are undoubtedly making tensions rise.

However, the increased American presence in the Pacific is far from just a full-fledged ground force presence but also some of the United States’ most sophisticated aerial weaponry.

In a call to journalists on Wednesday from Hawaii, the director of strategic planning and policy for the United States Pacific Command, Major General Michael Keltz said that the United States has already based squadrons of F-22 fighter jets and C-17 transport planes.

“The F-22s provide leading-edge technology for potential air-to-air combat as well as cyber and electronic warfare,” Keltz said.

This should be ringing more alarm bells for my readers out there as one of the most significant fronts between the United States and China is the nearly infinite front that is cyberwarfare.

Of course China consistently denies any of the allegations of attacks on American targets, but experts from the online security firm McAfee disagree and an image from footage shot at a Chinese military university show evidence to the contrary.

Moreover, why would the United States need massive transport planes and the most sophisticated in fighter technology if there weren’t plans to actually utilize such equipment?

Whatever the case, the massive troop increase in the region is far from reassuring to the Chinese and for good reason.

The United States has no real duty or right to intervene in the region, even under the guise of “maintaining peace and security.”

Yet the United States is already utilizing this excuse, as made clear by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes to reporters.

Rhodes used the excuse of natural disasters and claimed that there is “a demand signal from the nations of the region.”

Rhodes said, “we believe it’s not just entirely appropriate, but an important step to dealing with the challenges of the future of the Asia Pacific region.”

Clearly, Rhodes is speaking of China, but if that was a bit too ambiguous, he made it quite explicit in saying, “What we look at is how does our general force posture allow us to protect U.S. interests, protect our allies, and … secure the region broadly. China is obviously a piece of the Asia Pacific region, an emerging power.”

Yet if that wholly unambiguous message wasn’t clear enough, he added that the deal is “part of the U.S. sending a signal that we’re going to be present, that we’re going to continue to play the role of underpinning security in this part of the region. Part of that context is a rising China.”

Once again, the United States is playing the role of the “world police force” even though it not only puts American lives at risk but also sullies our international reputation while piling on debt when our economy can’t even handle the debt we have.

The timing of Obama’s visit to Australia is also quite interesting, given that he postponed trips in 2009 and 2010 due to “domestic political considerations” but not this year, when anti-Corporatism protests are breaking out throughout the nation and being met with brutal police responses.

It is also quite interesting that the coordinated crackdown on the Occupations, which involved some 18 cities, occurred right after Obama left the continental United States.

What I find quite troubling about this entire fiasco is that a major mainstream Australian publication said that the troop increase in the Asia-Pacific region is “the strongest sign yet that Australia will be at the centre of a new world order.”

I guess it is only okay to say the loaded phrase “new world order” if you’re a mainstream news outlet or a world leader like Barack Obama or the sorry excuse for a human being that is Henry Kissinger; otherwise you’re a nutty conspiracy theorist.

Some writers, including Mira Permatasari, a lecturer at the Department of International Relations, Parahyangan Catholic University, Bandung, Indonesia, seem to be under the impression that Russia is siding with the United States in the effort to counterbalance the rising power of China.

I would disagree and point out that China-Russia relations are better than ever, as Dr. Richard Weitz, Senior Fellow and Director at the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, elucidates in writing, “The relationship between the Chinese and Russian governments is perhaps the best it has ever been. The leaders of both countries engage in numerous high-level exchanges, make many mutually supportive statements, and manifest other displays of Russian-Chinese cooperation in what both governments refer to as their developing strategic partnership.”

Furthermore, Russia Today reported last month, “Just recently, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev said that he was happy with the steadily-consolidated bilateral trade, scientific and technical ties with Russia’s biggest neighbor.”

We must also weigh Ahmadinejad’s call for a united front against the West during June’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting which included Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, India, Mongolia and Iran.

While Russia in China didn’t jump up in support of this call by Ahmadinejad, Russia warned of severe consequences if a military strike was carried out on Iranian soil, indicating that the Russians would take Iran’s side if such a strike were to occur.

It is also quite interesting that the U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta referred to both China and India and “others” as “threats” yesterday, citing their status as “rising powers” as reason to “try to make sure that we always have sufficient force protection out there in the Pacific to make sure they know we’re never going anywhere.”

Of course the Pentagon Captain John Kirby spokesman later backtracked and told reporters that Panetta did not see either China or India as military threats.

“Any suggestion that he was implying that either country was a military threat is just false,” Kirby said.

On its face, this statement by Kirby is nothing short of absurd and to appropriate Kirby’s own words, “is just false.”

China seems to be trying to win over the support of ASEAN nations through promises of $10 billion in loans and lines of credit which is in addition to the pledge made two years ago of $15 billion in loans.

Furthermore, China said that they will establish a $473 million fund which will help promote expanding maritime cooperation, navigational cooperation, environmental protection, and efforts to combat transnational crimes.

That’s not all, Wen also said that China seeks to increase financial cooperation with ASEAN nations by increasing local currency swaps along with encouraging “the quoting of China’s yuan and ASEAN currencies in each other’s interbank foreign exchange.”

It seems to me that with the American presence in the Asia-Pacific region on the rise with no sense of slowing down, China is going to seek increasing ties with ASEAN nations and others, be it militarily, scientific, or financial.

China just vowed to strengthen its military ties to North Korea as well. The Associated Press reports, “China’s army wanted to enhance understanding and mutual trust and strengthen practical exchanges with the North Korean military.”

They also attempt to minimize the timing, which is likely calculated by writing, “Although Li’s trip was likely planned in advance, recent remarks by President Barack Obama asserting the U.S. military’s continuing presence in Asia have riled Beijing.”

If you can honestly reconcile all of these uncannily timed events, statements and proclamations as pure coincidence, I have wonderful ocean front property in Oklahoma you might be interested in.

Any support that China can get at this point will likely be welcomed and taken advantage of in the South China Sea dispute given that the Japanese have already expressed support for the drastic increase in the American presence in the region.

“We regard this as a demonstration of the United States’ commitment in the Asia-Pacific region,” a spokesman for the Japanese foreign ministry said on Friday, according to the AAP.

Clearly this is a heated dispute which is hitting home for Indonesia’s foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, who said the U.S.-Australian agreement would create a “vicious circle of tension and mistrust,” according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

A quite biting editorial was published in The Jakarta Post today, the title of which quite aptly sums up the brief article, “US Base? NIMBY” where NIMBY means Not In My Back Yard.

The author writes, “The presence of the US base just south of Indonesia is simply too close for comfort,” adding, “For Indonesia, or for most Southeast Asian nations for that matter, the move is not exactly the kind of signal that they are looking for in terms of greater US engagement with Asia.”

I couldn’t agree more and the author’s point that, “Obama’s choice of timing in making the announcement now is bound to stir up controversy,” is quite important because it is very unlikely that the timing of this announcement was purely coincidental.

All of this leads to the conclusion that the South China Sea dispute will be one to watch closely in the coming months and years as it could indeed be a powder keg of sorts, although I sincerely hope that is not the case.

This issue is a multifaceted one that will likely prove to be quite influential in the decisions various countries make in the near future, for good or bad.

If you have information, articles, or comments to share with me, please do not hesitate to email me directly at [email protected] while I promise to read every single one of your emails personally, I cannot guarantee a reply although I do respond to as many as humanly possible.

Madison Ruppert is the Editor and Owner-Operator of the alternative news and analysis database End The Lie and has no affiliation with any NGO, political party, economic school, or other organization/cause. If you have questions, comments, or corrections feel free to contact him at [email protected]

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