Water Wars: Looking Through a Glass, Darkly, in the South China Sea

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Donald Trump’s election has created significant uncertainty about the future of U.S. strategy in the South and East China Seas. While there is no Trump agenda for this issue in particular, the President-Elect’s discussions with regional leaders and statements from influential surrogates begin to paint a picture of the new administration’s policy.

“Peace through strength” appears to be the byline of President-Elect Trump’s foreign policy, including his stance towards the South China Sea. Trump has decried China’s “massive fortress” in the region and claimed the Beijing was “getting away with murder” during the Obama administration. He has suggested using Washington’s “trade power over China” to halt Beijing’s activity in the South China Sea. To ameliorate the situation, Trump called for significantly increasing the size of the U.S. Navy, from roughly 270 to 350 ships. Trump surrogate Peter Navarro criticized the U.S. rebalance towards Asia as “invit[ing] Chinese aggression in the East and South China Seas.” Navarro went on to lament “the litany of allies and partners mistreated under this administration” and asserted that a US defense presence is “essential for liberal values like freedom of the seas to prevail.” James Woolsey, another senior Trump aid, presents a much less hawkish vision for Trump’s foreign policy. He argues that while Washington will persist in “reinstat[ing]” strategic primacy, “we must also redraw our red lines and redefine our vital interests” with regard to US-China relations. For a deeper dive into statements on China, Graham Webster’s Trump-China reading list is a must read.

https://www.lawfareblog.com/water-wars-looking-through-glass-darkly-south-china-sea

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