South China Sea disputes could lead to Asian war

Posted By on June 28, 2011

According to Reuters, risks are growing that incidents at sea involving China could lead to war in Asia, potentially drawing in the United States and other powers, an Australian think tank warned on Tuesday.

The Lowy Institute said in a report that the Chinese military’s risk-taking behaviour in the South and East China Seas, along with the country’s resource needs and greater assertiveness, had raised the chances of an armed conflict.

“The sea lanes of Indo-Pacific Asia are becoming more crowded, contested and vulnerable to armed strife. Naval and air forces are being strengthened amid shifting balances of economic strategic weight,” report authors Rory Medcalf and Raoul Heinrichs wrote.

“China’s frictions with the United States, Japan and India are likely to persist and intensify. As the number and tempo of incidents increases, so does the likelihood that an episode will escalate to armed confrontation, diplomatic crisis or possibly even conflict,” they said.

The study on major powers and maritime security in Indo-Pacific Asia was published as China prepares to unveil its first aircraft carrier, perhaps this week, a development that has added to worries in the region about China’s military expansion and reach.

This month, China sent its biggest civilian patrol ship to the South China Sea. That rattled the Philippines, which makes competing claims to some waters thought to hold vast oil and gas reserves.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution that deplored China’s use of force against Vietnamese and Philippine ships in the South China Sea.

Senator Jim Webb, chair of an east Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said “a growing number of nations around the South China Sea are now voicing serious concerns about China’s pattern of intimidation”.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, speaking at a regular news briefing in Beijing, said the U.S. resolution “did not hold water” and that countries not directly involved in the dispute should not interfere.

“Countries not involved should respect the hard work of countries actually involved to peacefully resolve the dispute bilaterally through dialogue,” Hong said. […read more]