South China Sea conflict fears surge as China’s row with US dubbed ‘worse than Cold War’



CHINA and the US’ battle for supremacy in the South China Sea is heating up, and one expert told that one element of the ensuing row between Washington and Beijing is worse than what was seen during the Cold War.

Asian countries convened last weekend at the Bangkok ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) summit to discuss the political situation surrounding the lucrative waters. The central theme of the discussions was a proposed code of conduct, which could thwart Chinese strategy as tension builds between Beijing and the US, both of which are flirting with hostility due to lack of communication in the waters. According to Professor Kerry Brown of Chatham House, the lack of regular messaging between Chinese and US ships could be the cause of inadvertent conflict between two of the world’s most deadly forces.

He told “There could be a misunderstanding, there could be an instance where it escalates.

“At the moment dialogue between the US and China military to military is poor, some people say that it’s worse than between the USSR and the US during the Cold War.

“There was a lot more contact then than there is now with China, therefore misunderstandings are horribly, horribly possible.”

Ships from both nations regularly patrol the waters where China’s controversial Nine-Dash line claim has left Asian neighbours, including Washington allies, furious with Beijing aggression.

Countries that also have vested interests in the region include Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand as well as Australia.

The complex networks of alliances mean one small mistake could lead to a chain reaction of political and even military chaos.

Professor Brown, an expert on Asian geopolitics, continued: “Absolutely [conflict could ensue] that’s the First World War scenario that the Japanese Prime Minister spoke about a few years ago, all you need is one trigger or another to create a chain of tension.

“There is plenty of scope for misunderstanding, I think in the last ten years there has been a few near misses and close encounters between US and Chinese ships, you just need one of those to go amiss.