The pivot to Asia, announced at the beginning of this decade by the Obama administration, re-awakened Beijing to Washington’s designs. Accordingly, they began fortifying islands in the South Sea, after Taiwan, Vietnam, etc made claims on various rock formations. After all, it’s not as if Washington has a solid record of peacekeeping in East Asia, however widely that record is ignored. It’s worth a moment’s pause to recall that the death toll – Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese – in American wars runs into the millions. Understandably, China builds coastal and island defenses.Washington calls this aggression and styles itself a peacekeeper.
The Paracels, for example, roughly equidistant from Vietnam’s eastern and Hainan’s southern shore, were originally granted to Vietnam by the colonial French; China was not consulted. In 1974, as the Vietnam War was coming to an end, Beijing knew that the South would fall to the North. However, the North was then close to Moscow, and Beijing had fought a short war with the Russians five years earlier over Zhenbao/Damansky island in the Ussuri River between China and Russia. At the time Beijing had reconciled with Washington and had welcomed president Richard Nixon two years earlier, in the spring of 1972. Under these circumstances and with tacit US approval, Beijing seized the Paracels lest they become a base for the Russians.
Farther south about midway between the Philippines and Vietnam is Taiping/Itu Aba Island, occupied by the government of the Republic of China since 1956. It has a military base and a small economy. The island is the largest of the Nansha/Spratly island group, which is claimed by several nations including China. Taipei’s threats to augment military forces there are opposed by Hanoi and Manila, as well as by Beijing. Taiwan’s occupation of Taiping (but no other Nansha) was “legalized” by the Japanese Peace Treaty of 1952, a document imposed on Japan by Washington during the Korean War. Neither China nor Korea is bound to respect the treaty, among whose outcomes was forcing Japan not to trade with China if they wanted the US occupation of their country to end. (Even though the occupation officially ended, a massive military presence of US forces continues, largely confined to Okinawa (with 70% of the bases and 30% situated elsewhere in Japan.)
However one judges China’s recent moves in the South China Sea, it is relevant to bear in mind the vast territorial sea-island claims by London, Paris, and Washington. This issue is explored in “Imperial Archipelagos,” by Peter Nolan, the acclaimed British China scholar and business adviser. In the 2013 issue of New Left Review, Nolan writes: “Thanks to their island holdings, the EEZs [exclusive economic zones pursuant to UNCLOS, the UN Law of the Sea, 1982] of the US, UK, and France dominate enormous stretches of the Pacific, Indian, and South Atlantic Oceans.” Russia, Australia, and New Zealand have smaller holdings. All told, “the six have 54 million square kilometers, of which almost three-quarters is separate from their home territory.” China’s own EEZ comes to just under 1 million; the disputed zone it claims adds another 2 million. Given the tailored narratives that dominate western journalism on China, it is no surprise that these telling details are rigorously excluded from discussions about China and the South China Sea.
Besides, the 1st Island Chain & Malacca/Lombok Straits r natural barriers to the W. Pacific & Indian Ocean; those SC Sea islands China has built allow partially alleviate that handicap.
Update: US Coast Guard churns South China Sea tensions
Last edited by Tsavo Lion on Mon Nov 04, 2019 5:17 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : add link)