SOUTH CHINA SEA tensions have resulted in territorial tussling between the US and China as both superpowers try to assert their dominance over the region, but Washington was not helped by a huge French blunder which exposed their weaknesses to Beijing.
In 2015, the French Ministry of Defence published a report had and then quickly pulled it back, hoping that the momentary publication hadn’t reached any Western rivals. Within the report was an outline of how the French Navy had successfully completed an operation in which a nuclear submarine sank half of the US’ Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier battle group.
The report highlighted just how vulnerable US Navy could be to submarine attacks, and while the revelation was left on the internet for a short period of time, Chinese intelligence were still able to attain the paper.
As National Interest highlights, a Chinese defence outlet covered the story and interviewed Submarine Academy professor Chi Guocang, who said that while US defence against submarines is highly efficient, the French report had “high credibility.”
Information on rival weaknesses is invaluable to both the US and China as both ramp up military presence in the contested region where Beijing’s audacious waters claims are aggravating smaller nations.
China’s Nine Dash Line serves as a demarcation for what Beijing believe to be their waters.
The South China Sea is hotly contested because of its lucrative shipping lanes, capacity for military strategic advantages and wealth of natural resources such as oil and minerals.
At the centre of this disagreement are various island clusters such as the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands. China has had particularly tense relations with Vietnam and the Philippines over islands in the region.
China’s Nine-Dash-Line draws a line around all of these islands, asserts sovereignty over all of them, and makes audacious claims about rights to waters within
As the map shows, the U-shaped marking essentially siphons off the large central part of the sea.
But this claim has left other countries furious, including Vietnam who have ramped up their defensive posturing in recent weeks.
A Chinese oil survey vessel – The Haiyang Dizhi 8 – only recently pulled away from Vietnam’s EEZ after 3 months of resource exploration.
Beijing tried to pressure Vietnam into halting its exploration of seas and resources in contested waters, but in July China sent fleets to the Vanguard Bank, an area that also lies in the Vietnam EEZ.
Occupying the Vanguard bank meant Chinese ships would no longer need to return to mainland China for refuelling and maintenance during journeys into the South China Sea, but the move has angered those in Hanoi.
However, the US has stepped in to help the Vietnamese who have previously been reluctant to cooperate with second countries due to their ‘Three Noes’ foreign policy – no alliances, no bases, and no working with a second country against a third.
Washington has agreed to give Vietnam a coastal patrol cutter in an effort to bolster Hanoi’s ability to thwart Chinese encroachment.
While the US aim to thwart China in the South China Sea, they will be hoping their allies don’t inflict another humiliating revelation regarding its defence.