Secretary of State John Kerry recently visited Beijing for the purpose, among other things, of persuading the Chinese to submit their claims in the South China Sea to negotiation with the other ASEAN states. To no one’s surprise, the mission was a failure; the Chinese flatly refused to budge from their position, and had the additional satisfaction of humbling the American Secretary of State in the process.
I have written before about the massive military buildup in which China is engaged, and the purpose behind it. China wants hegemonic status in their near seas, and the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party believe they can get what they want through coercive tactics. Why should they negotiate?
China has been reclaiming seven reefs and atolls in and around the Spratly Islands. In effect, it is building islands in the ocean – creating a “Great Wall of sand”, according to Admiral Harry Harris, commander of America’s Pacific fleet – to assert its territorial claims in the region, which include virtually the entire South China Sea. About 5 trillion dollars worth of trade ships through that sea every year.