Surge in South China Sea Naval Exercises in 2018 Vexes Beijing


A surge in naval maneuvers in the South China Sea by Western allies this year is keeping China from any further expansion into the contested waters, analysts say.

Vessels from Australia, France, Japan and the United States have sent ships to the 3.5 million-square-kilometer sea in 2018. They believe the sea rich in fisheries and fossil fuel reserves to be an international waterway, but China claims about 90 percent of it and has militarized several key islets.

The foreign military exercises, naval ship passages and ports of call, along with one U.S. B-52 flyby have effectively stopped China from pushing ahead with expansion that’s also opposed by five other maritime claimants in Asia, experts believe.

“You take a realist perspective of power, and it’s a way of ensuring the South China Sea is permanently contested,” said Alan Chong, associate professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“So, the Chinese will issue angry statements and so on, warning of consequences, but the fact that all these multinational navies keep doing it in spite of Chinese warnings, it defies Beijing,” he said.