Diplomacy as well as military might needed in South China Sea

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China’s aggressive behaviour has to be curbed, but not just by giving the giant a bloody nose, writes Brian Toohey.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Words should be as important as military force.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Words should be as important as military force. AP
by Brian Toohey
The main goal of the defence white paper from Malcolm Turnbull’s government is to support a military build-up by United States and its allies to restrain China’s provocative behaviour as a rising power in the South China Sea. The intention is laudable. But it is not always easy to prevent heightened military preparations on all sides from escalating into an arms race that ends badly. Which is why a bigger, indisputably difficult, international diplomatic effort is needed in parallel with the arms build-up to lower the risks of an unintended full-scale war that crashes the global economy and kill millions.

Without this two-track approach, the overwhelming focus will remain on exerting more military pressure to modify China’s behaviour. The danger is that China will believe exaggerated claims about its military capacity to act with immunity. There are no guarantees, but an intense diplomatic effort could reinforce the US-led military message that China has more to gain by pursuing its professed commitment to Confucian notions of international harmony.

Read more: http://www.afr.com/opinion/diplomacy-as-well-as-military-might-needed-in-south-china-sea-20160228-gn5mdn#ixzz41bSthi37

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