By Hu Bo
The US State Department recently released a new statement on the South China Sea issue to hype up the so-called "China's militarization of the South China Sea" and "coercion of neighboring countries", demanding the international community to condemn and resist China's "dangerous and unacceptable" behaviors.
The US, especially its State Department, has obviously engaged more actively and directly in the South China Sea disputes this year. In addition to taking advantage of every maritime event in the region and every diplomatic dispute between concerned parties to put pressure on China, it has also given itself more exposure by flinging groundless slanders and smears at China, the recent statement also being such a case.
First of all, the term "militarization" doesn't apply to the South China Sea. According to international laws and acknowledged international practices, terms like "militarization" and "non-militarization" are applicable only to international public domains like the South Pole and the outer space. The US is fully aware that the South China Sea archipelago and other China-stationed islands and reefs are in no way international public domains. Therefore, the term "militarization" simply doesn't apply.
Second, the US has dispatched to the South China Sea various types of aircraft thousands of times and naval vessels hundreds of times every year, constantly approaching the Chinese territory and the coast of Hainan Island. The number of American troops’ close-range reconnaissance flights in the South China Sea has doubled since 2009 to reach nearly 2,000 sorties one year now, its maritime forces in the region have increased by 60%, and the large-scale military exercises has increased by about 30% to nearly 100 times a year. What's more, the US Navy has recently threatened China's maritime routes in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, even blatantly resorting to its gunboat policy and public intimidation.
Third, as the largest coastal country along the South China Sea, China needs sufficient forces to protect its sovereignty, security and maritime interests as well as proportionable forces to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea. Frankly, China has exercised great restraint in its employment of forces in the South China Sea despite its rapid development in recent years. Just imagine how the US would have reacted had the PLA assigned thousands of aircraft and hundreds of naval vessels to America's eastern and western coasts every year, while repeatedly accusing the US troops of making unprofessional responses.
It is also the cliché in the statement that China coerces some Southeast Asian neighbors through the use of Coast Guard and maritime militia. Washington has spared no effort in hyping up the maritime threats from China over the recent years, citing the larger number of military vessels owned by the PLA Navy than the American Navy, but it knows perfectly that it would be a bit too far-fetched to build its story on the number of vessels alone, as the total tonnage of Chinese naval vessels has just reached 1/3 that of the US Navy. Therefore, hyping up the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia is to a large extent intended to exaggerate "the maritime threats from China".
Obviously, the US is no longer satisfied with interfering in the South China Sea issue but is bent on resisting China's all activities and moves in the region. US aggressive moves, making no sense and highly illogical, are just taken "for the sake of opposition".
The US' slew of moves to stigmatize China is essentially aimed at restricting and curbing China's rise as a maritime power. They have not the faintest relation to morality or the so-called "rules-based international order". The US, according to the classical theory of sea power, is simply determined to control the South China Sea, restrict China and deprive China of its rights in the waters. Such an attempt will never succeed.
The writer is director of the South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative (SCSPI), a think tank in China.
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on huanqiu.com, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.