Fishing in Troubled Waters - the US in the South China Sea

© AP Photo / Guang Niu, PoolChina Navy
China Navy - Sputnik International
The mere fact China has territorial disputes with some of the countries adjoining the South China Sea does not mean it is threatening them – but the US seems to need an antagonist.

The "indispensable country's" foreign policy becomes ever more complicated.

With crises underway in Ukraine and the Middle East one might have thought the US had its hands full.

Not at all it would seem. 

As the US wrestles with other crises it has simultaneously appointed itself guardian of the South China Sea, supposedly protecting the states of the region (Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines) from "Chinese aggression".

China's amphibious ship Jinggangshan is seen during a coordination training with a hovercraft in waters near south China's Hainan Province in the South China Sea. - Sputnik International
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To the north the US has also involved itself in the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu ("Senkaku") Islands, claimed by China but occupied by Japan.  The US predictably supports Japan.

On the subject of the Diaoyu Islands the rights are clear.  By right and law these islands belong to China. 

Prior to 1895 no one doubted the islands belonged to China. 

Japan annexed the islands in 1895 following its victory in the First Sino-Japanese war — a war universally seen as an aggressive war by Japan against China. 

The US occupied the islands following Japan's defeat in 1945.  In 1972, when it ended its occupation, instead of returning the islands to China, the US handed them over to Japan.

In the case of the South China Sea the issue may be more complicated given the vast size of the area.  However China's historic domination of the area is beyond doubt.

The mere fact China has territorial disputes with some of the countries adjoining the Sea China Sea does not mean it is threatening them. 

China has no interest in going to war with these countries or any desire to do so.  Nor do any of these countries want to go to war with China, which is not only far more powerful than they, but which also happens to be their biggest trade partner.

Left to themselves China and these countries, which have coexisted largely peacefully for millennia, would settle their disputes peacefully.

That after all is what happened to the border dispute between China and Russia in the 1990s.  Once the ideological issues that caused China and Russia to quarrel in the 1960s were put to one side, the territorial disputes between them were settled quickly and peacefully and in a friendly way. 

China and Russia did not however enjoy the "benefit" of the "help" of the "indispensable country".  Had they done so their dispute, instead of being settled, would have got worse.

That unfortunately is what is now happening in the South China Sea. 

Though the US is geographically very remote from the area, it has nonetheless intruded itself into the quarrel by proclaiming itself — unasked — the "protector" of the countries that are in dispute with China.

Bringing into a dispute a powerful self-interested outsider like the US is of course a formula for making a dispute like this worse, and that is precisely what is happening. 

It should be said clearly that that is the US's intention. 

Quite apart from the fact the US needs disputes between China and its neighbours to serve its anti-Chinese geopolitical strategies, a situation where countries are left alone to settle their disputes peacefully risks making the "indispensable country" look dispensable. 

Better therefore both for the US's anti-Chinese strategies and for its self-image that the disputes continue and get worse.

In fact we now have an absurd situation where the US is said to be becoming increasingly unhappy because the countries it is "protecting" are balking at the anti-Chinese strategies the US, their self-appointed "protector", is trying to impose on them.

That says who actually wants this quarrel, and who wants it to continue and get worse.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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