Several reports leading into the new year have shown China becoming more militarily assertive in the Pacific, not to mention a bit more confrontational toward the United States regarding diplomatic, military, and economic relations — all cause for some to fear the advent of a possible nuclear confrontation and/or World War 3. What with the diplomatic faux pas of President-elect Donald Trump conversing with Taiwan president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the U.S. presidential election (therefore acknowledging, even inadvertently, the legitimacy of the Taiwanese government, which the government in Beijing does not) adding more strain to the U.S.-China relationship following the harsh tone set by candidate Trump during and after his campaign, China has started flexing its military muscles in the west Pacific and followed-up with sabre-rattling from its state-affiliated press. But is all the rhetoric, political posturing, and military showmanship just that, or, as some suspect, cause to worry about a possible regional war — or, worse, a more inclusive internationally fought World War 3 — between the U.S. and China?
The Daily Express reported last week that China had sent a “war fleet” into the South China Sea recently. Although the official China stance is that the ships are all part of routine military exercises, experts eyed the naval maneuvers, where an aircraft carrier and five other Chinese naval vessels skirted the coast of Taiwan (by 90 nautical miles, or over 103 land miles), as a move by China to assert its dominance in the South China Sea. Beijing already claims much of the territory, an important area where international shipping lanes see over $5 trillion in trade each year.
Statements concerning the small fleet made by China’s state-run newspaper, the Global Times, were ambiguous and confrontational at the same time.
“The Chinese fleet will cruise to the Eastern Pacific sooner or later. When China’s aircraft carrier fleet appears in offshore areas of the U.S. one day, it will trigger intense thinking about maritime rules.”
China has been expanding and modernizing its military capabilities over the past decade, but a heavy interest has been shown its growing navy. In recent years, the country has also entered into territorial conflicts with neighboring nations over areas of the South China Sea. There has also been reports of China fortifying and manning man-made islands in the area. Earlier this year, China held “war games” exercises off the coast of Japan that China maintained were just scheduled maneuvers and not meant to be aggressive. However, as the Daily Star reported, Japan was warned to stay away from the disputed region and that China would “not hesitate” to take military action.
But as territorial and maritime tensions have mounted, so, too, has the tensions in the diplomatic arena. Besides President-elect Donald Trump’s mishandling of the delicate one-nation situation with regard to China, he also has accused China of stealing an American military drone. As the Inquisitr reported in December, the Chinese navy picked up an underwater drone in the South China Sea. While China admitted to acquiring the drone, Beijing maintained it had been in constant contact with Washington about the incident. The state-run press accused Trump and the U.S. media of sensationalizing a story that was not that serious.
Trump had tweeted, “China steals United States Navy research drone in international waters — rips it out of water and takes it to China in unprecedented act.”
He would later take to Twitter again and tell China to keep the drone they “stole.”
The president-elect took an antagonistic tone with China in his presidential campaign, accusing China of stealing jobs and manipulating American currency. The taking of the drone was seen by experts as a simple way for the Asian power to show that they did not approve of Trump’s ignorance of fifty years of diplomacy with Beijing in accepting the congratulatory phone call (for winning the presidential election) from Taiwan.
Still, the tensions have now apparently proceeded into the nuclear weapons phase, prompting talk of potential escalation and the possibility of World War 3.
Donald Trump’s increased nuclear rhetoric over the course of his campaign, not to mention the U.S. and Russia’s already stated commitments to modernizing their nuclear weapons program, prompted China’s state-run Global Times (via the Daily Express) to call for those who pushed for the independence of Taiwan to be “punished” and to guard against U.S. provocations in the South China Sea. The paper also called for increased spending on nuclear weapons and the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Trump would then tweet concerning expanding the United States’ nuclear weapons program, according to CBS News, just days before Christmas, subsequently seconding his statement in a comment made on MSNBC that seemed to welcome a new nuclear arms race.
Of course, escalations in belligerent and/or threatening rhetoric does not necessarily mean a march toward war. Military exercises and posturing can be seen to be just that. But there are military experts and officials who see the continuing escalations, not to mention the ongoing economic and diplomatic tensions, as worrisome. The problem with so much antagonism, it is feared, is that it has brought relations between China and the U.S. closer to conflict and the brink of World War 3, an ever-increasing dangerous positioning that could easily slip into a world-threatening reality.
[Featured Image by Aquir/Shutterstock]