Last two presidents tested by China, but arbitration ruling will affect behaviour, says Japanese academic
CHINA may take provocative action regarding the South China Sea, which currently remains calm, to test Washington’s reaction after the United States’ president-elect Donald Trump takes office early next year, a Japanese scholar said recently.
As long as Trump continues to refrain from making his policies regarding the contentious sea clear, China has two options: Take a wait-and-see approach or engage in provocations to test the winds, Japan Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Tetsuo Kotani said.
Looking back to the experiences in 2001 and 2009 after George W Bush and Barack Obama took office respectively, China has had a habit of testing incoming administrations, he said.
In April 2001, the US and China had a dispute after a mid-air collision between a US Navy EP-3E signals intelligence aircraft and a People’s Liberation Army Navy interceptor fighter jet. The US aircraft was forced to land at Hainan Island and the crew was detained until Bush sent a letter of apology to Beijing.
In March 2009, there was an incident in the South China Sea when the Pentagon reported that five Chinese vessels shadowed and aggressively manoeuvred in dangerous proximity to the USS Impeccable surveillance ship while it was conducting routine operations in international waters.
China said the US Navy ship had violated international and Chinese law by confronting its vessels off the southern island of Hainan.
“These two incidents happened in March to April, so we can expect in March next year, China may test the US new administration in the South China Sea,” said Kotani in an interview. “China can’t wait for Trump, so we expect something will happen right after Trump takes office or even before.”