The war of words between the USA and China is escalating, and it could lead to an actual regional war between China vs. a number of Asian nations allied with the USA. The USA’s rhetoric has become more threatening in tone regarding China’s strange assertion that it has sovereignty over the entire South China Sea–a region traditionally regarded as international waters. In mid-May, I wrote a post entitled: China Provoking War in the South China Sea?, a post discussing China’s rapid building of artificial islands in the South China Sea and its building of military bases and airfields on those islands to enforce its claims over the South China Sea. That is a choice which, if continued, will almost certainly lead to war.
The first link reports that China is now beginning to move heavy military weaponry to those artificial islands. Having begun to do so, China will surely accelerate the deployment of warplanes and warships to those islands as soon as they prepare the facilities for them.
The second link, third link and fourth link report on the tougher warnings by the USA to China to relent on its claims to the South China Sea and to stop militarization of the artificial islands. I urge readers to review those links as they reveal that the USA is now finally reacting more aggressively to the strong Chinese provocation. Indeed, the USA needs to act strongly to stop Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea or the USA will “lose face” (and credibility) throughout the Oriental region. The fifth link, sixth link and seventh link report that China, in response to the US warnings, is raising the ante and is even warning openly of warfare if the USA tries to act on its warnings to China. This is a very serious situation, but the world’s media seem unwilling to cover this story and report on its severity and escalating dangers. I did see a FOX News story today about this increasingly-dangerous situation.
US Secretary of Defense Carter is on a 10-day trip to important Asian nations such as India, Singapore, Vietnam, etc. Undoubtedly, the Chinese bellicosity in the South China Sea is a major topic of conversation in all these Asian capitals. The nations visited by Secretary Carter are also worried about Chinese militarism, the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, an equitable access to energy resources in the that region, etc. It may also be that the US Defense Secretary is having serious discussions with these Asian nations about what each nation is willing to contribute to a military confrontation with China over the South China Sea. Of course, this would not be publicly reported, but it would be hard to imagine that such discussions are not occurring. Unless the USA and other nations confront China soon, China will finish its military bases on its artificial islands in the South China Sea and will place its military forces on them. That would present the nations of the world with a “fait accompli.”
Questions Secretary Carter should be asking each nation threatened by China’s militarism include: (A) What warplanes and warships can you contribute?, (B) what military bases will you make available to a coalition confronting China?, (C) Can you contribute refueling and rearming services to the warplanes of other nations if they land at your nation’s airfields?, (D) Are you willing to contribute warships to block all Chinese access to the Indian ocean by refusing access to all ships heading to/from China via the Strait of Malacca if China persists in claiming the South China Sea?, (E) What air-sea rescue services can you provide to the militaries of a coalition of nations confronting China? If China is confronted with a large coalition of nations willing to fight it over keeping the South China Sea an international body of water, it may back down. However, I don’t think it will.
I can think of one possible diplomatic action which could force China to give up on its claim to the South China Sea without a war taking place. If Singapore claimed sovereignty over the Strait of Malacca (a far more logical action than China’s claim over the entire South China sea), and a coalition of Asian nations and the USA recognize that claim, these nations could declare that a blockade exists at the Strait of Malacca that no Chinese-bound or Chinese-departing ship can pass the Strait of Malacca into the Indian Ocean unless China backs down on its bizarre claim to the entire South China Sea.
The coalition of Asian nations that could unitedly challenge China is large. It would include the USA, India, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, the Philippines and perhaps Malaysia. I’m not sure where Indonesia stands on this matter, but all its shipping is threatened if China asserts its sovereignty claim over the entire South China Sea. India, Japan, Australia and the USA and virtually all major trading nations are threatened by China’s bullying in the South China Sea.
As I’ve suggested in my previous posts on this topic, I suspect that China wants a regional war in the South China Sea and it is pushing ever-more warlike actions against everyone else in order to provoke it. I think China knows its claims are ridiculous, but it using them as a way to entice the USA into a war where China can test its new weaponry vs. western weaponry and especially vs. US aircraft carriers. When/if such a war takes place, I think the USA should send two carriers, not one, into the conflict. Two carriers can have overlapping defensive capabilities and can land each other’s warplanes and service and rearm them in a swirling tactical situation. The USA has to have airfields for its naval warplanes to land at if their carriers are sunk or damaged, and it has to prepare rescue responses in advance if this war takes place. These necessities all justify Defense Secretary Carter’s trip to Asian nations to make such preparations. Such a war may not be confined to the South China Sea. The USA has to make preparations to defend its bases in Okinawa, Japan, Guam, etc. as well in case China launches cruise missiles at those bases from submarines or warplanes. As a tactical issue, the US just launched its X-37B military, space-based weapons platform back into space a few days ago (as reported in a recent post). It may be in anticipation of a confrontation in the South China Sea that this action as taken. If war breaks out, we may learn what space-based weapons capabilities the X-37B really has. It may include weaponry China hasn’t anticipated.
It would be a smart tactic to give China “a dose of its own medicine” and have Singapore claim the Strait of Malacca. If the USA and a coalition of Asian nations support that claim, they can offer to reverse that action if China renounces its claim to the South China Sea. Also, China would like the war to occur in the northern or central South China Sea where its land-based warplanes can join the action. If the war includes the Strait of Malacca, China’s land-based planes and warships are unlikely to survive any wartime deployment to that region where access is controlled to the South China Sea. China may be deterred from warfare if it knows a conflict will end access to the Indian Ocean for its ships.
I hope this war does not occur. Matthew 24:6 warned “wars and rumors of wars” will characterize the latter days of our age. The “rumor of war” in the South China Sea is sliding toward a “hot” war, but we will have to wait and see what happens. However, the warlike rhetoric is such that one side is going to have to back down or warfare is increasingly likely. China is asserting sovereignty and control of the South China Sea. The USA and other nations are saying, “You can’t do that.” If China doesn’t back down, war is the only likely outcome. If war breaks out, it may escalate into a bigger war that neither side wants. That is what happened in World War I. If the war expands, I think it likely that China’s immense Three Gorges Dam (last link) will be destroyed by cruise missiles or bunker-busting bombs. The damage that would cause would make China wish it had never started any war. The destruction of the Three Gorges Dam would send an immense freshwater tsunami all the way from the inland dam down the Yangtze River through China’s heartland to near Shanghai where the Yangtze empties into the East China Sea. The destruction that would cause would be worse than that of a single nuclear bomb, I believe.
If I were the President of the USA, I’d send a diplomatic message to China that if it starts a war in the South China Sea and sinks a US carrier, the Three Gorges Dam will be a fair target. If China launches ballistic or cruise missiles at our carriers, we will retaliate by hitting the Three Gorges Dam with ballistic and cruise missiles of our own. I was born in the Chinese “year of the tiger.” I don’t bluff about such things. In a war, I’d go for the jugular of the enemy. I don’t think China will think a war is worth the risk if it knows it could lose the Three Gorges Dam. However, I don’t know if the Obama administration is capable of such “hard ball” thinking. China has seen many examples of Obama being a weak president. If China wants a regional war, it will want it to occur before Obama leaves office rather than risk a war with the US led by a tough-minded new president.
While Ezekiel 38-39 prophesies that a final World War III will erupt between Russia, China and Iran and their allies vs. an alliance of the USA, NATO and their allies, that does not eliminate the possibility of lesser, regional wars between members of these alliances. Indeed, a regional war that goes badly for China would make China even angrier and determined to get back at the USA in a future, larger war. The motivations and grudges that will lead to World War III could be formed in the results of a regional war in the South China Sea. The Bible has much to say about how World War III will start and end. You can read about those details in my article, What Ezekiel 38-39 Reveal about a Future World War III.