Military ties between U.S. and China are being pushed to the limit

Chen Zhuo
2019-05-31 15:17:41

The world's two biggest economies are engaged in a bitter trade war. And the widening divide between Washington and Beijing goes beyond trade.

Military tensions on the rise

On May 19, a U.S. Navy warship sailed within 12 nautical miles off China's Huangyan Island, also known as Scarborough Shoal. It's the second so-called "freedom of navigation" operation by the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea in a single month.

Huangyan was the site of a major standoff between China and the Philippines in 2012. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military capabilities, criticizing China's activities in the Nansha, or Spratly Islands, as militarization. Beijing strongly opposed those moves.

The Chinese Navy unveils the upgraded version of the Type 055 destroyer off Qingdao, eastern China during a fleet review marking the 70th anniversary of the Navy's founding, April 23, 2019./VCG Photo

"The Chinese side has made resolute responses to the provocations by the U.S. side. We hope that the U.S. can meet with us on halfway, to expand mutual cooperation on the basis of mutual benefits, properly handle differences on the basis of mutual respect," said Wu Qian, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of National Defense.

'PLA won't tolerate interference in Taiwan'

The Chinese military is also strongly opposed to a meeting between U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and one of Taiwan's top officials. It slammed Washington for engaging with the island.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives backed legislation supporting Taiwan, as lawmakers pushed for a sharper approach to relations with Beijing. The Pentagon said Washington has sold Taiwan more than 15 billion dollars of arms since 2010.

Chinese navy personnel perform at an event celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in Qingdao, China, April 22, 2019./VCG Photo

Chinese military analysts said the traditional foundations of economic ties and military dialogue mechanisms are breaking down. If the Trump administration hits China with more sanctions and provocative military actions, the Chinese military has to come up with tougher countermeasures.

"Recently, the U.S. side frequently plays the Taiwan card in an attempt to contain China, which is only wishful thinking. If the U.S. side is playing with fire, it seriously hurt the advancement of China-U.S. ties, and seriously undermines peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," said Wu.

Shangri-la Dialogue

At the Shangri-la Dialogue which opens Friday in Singapore, Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe, and U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will both deliver major speeches. It will be a chance for the two militaries to open a discussion on their differences and deal with the worsening ties.

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