China has recently been in the headlines with attempts to exert its military and economic influence over the southeast area. In response, the U.S. challenged China’s claims to sovereignty over regional waters, letting all nations in the area understand that the U.S. will not be intimidated. American Thinker asked experts if China should be viewed as a competitor, adversary, or enemy.
China claims sovereignty over most of the South and East China Seas and warned last month that it would “never allow any country to violate China’s territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and over flight.” This overlaps the areas claimed by other countries, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia. Some believe that if China succeeds, nations will protect their claims through the “naval cannon,” not the rule of law. The U.S. has responded by initiating “Freedom of Navigation Patrols,” when the USS Lassen, a modern-day destroyer, sailed within twelve nautical miles of several of China’s new fortifications.
The commander of the Pacific has been pushing for the U.S. to challenge the Chinese claims for quite awhile. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden states to American Thinker, “We want to establish the precedent of innocent passage, letting China know we will not treat the East and South China Seas like they want them to be treated. Because we are a maritime nation, it is important to make sure the open seas are not closed off. The way I explain it: you build a fence three feet inside your property line. Because of that, your neighbor stakes claim to the other piece of the land that is really yours.”
Bonnie Glaser, an expert on China and Asia-Pacific at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., believes that it is important for the U.S. to work with other nations in the area to show the Chinese that it is not in their interest to put such a high premium on sovereignty. She tells American Thinker the Chinese admiral sent a message after America’s show of force. “It was a four-character phrase that was more of a warning than a threat. Basically, it said, ‘If you are cleaning your gun, it can go off accidentally,’ meaning that we should not back ourselves into a conflict we both do not want.”