Tuesday, March 7, 2017

After years of aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, China seems to be coming around to the American position on freedom of navigation. 

Wang Guoqing, spokesman for the Fifth Session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference said, “As a major trading nation and the biggest country along the South China Sea, China attaches more importance than any other country to navigational freedom and security in the South China Sea,” Wang said in answering reporters’ questions at a news conference for the session in Beijing on Thursday, reports Forbes.

President Trump has made it very obvious that he is going to rebuild the American Navy and re-engineer American naval dominance in the Pacific. He has also said he will apply economic pressure to China for trade reasons and also to pressure North Korea to behave like a civilized nation.  

But is it that easy? Is that all it takes to make China behave? Just a few stern words? Most likely not.

Most likely, China is taking advantage of the fact that the Philippines has come over to its side and will no longer protest China’s actions in the region. This gives Beijing some wiggle room to play nice with Trump, to act as if Beijing is not the aggressor, all the while keeping its military deployed in the Spratlys and elsewhere.  In any event, the fighter jets and missile systems are not being withdrawn from China’s man-made islands, so I wouldn’t trust them just yet.

This seems to be a convenient negotiating position rather than any change in China’s long-term policy in the Pacific region.

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