Trump Show of Force in South China Sea. Beijing Finally Backs Down.

Under President Trump, the USA is finally starting to step up to the plate on the South China Sea issue, and the world is grateful. The United States military launched nuclear-capable B-52H Stratofortress bombers over the heavily disputed South China Sea last week, a huge step in the right direction to defusing the ongoing and continual aggression from Beijing.   

The mission was first reported by ABC News. “Two B-52H Stratofortress bombers took off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and participated in routine training missions, March 4, 2019,” according to a statement from U.S. Pacific Air Forces. “One bomber conducted training in the vicinity of the South China Sea before returning to Guam, while the other conducted training in the vicinity of Japan in coordination with the U.S. Navy and alongside our Japanese air force counterparts before returning to Guam.” According to The Diplomat, a Pacific Air Forces spokesperson said in a January 30 email that the U.S. Pacific Air Forces does not publicly comment on whether the bombers deployed during recent missions are nuclear-capable. “We do not discuss the nuclear capabilities of our operational bomber aircraft to that level of specificity for security reasons”.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ CIA

The history and politics of the South China Sea is important for many reasons. China and several of its neighbors including Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have been involved in a decades-long dispute over who controls the South China Sea.

The map Beijing insists on using demonstrates a nine-dash. This is a map that completely contradicts international maritime law, which is set up to safeguard the maritime commons for shipping and trade.   

China’s nine-dash line is based on a map originally issued by a department of the Republic of China that showed 11 lines forming a U-shape in the South China Sea. Beijing continues to claim sovereignty over land features within the line, which it uses as an excuse to build floating island fortresses.

Image Credit: Reuters- Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, seen in a satellite image taken on April 2, 2015.

It’s important that Trump keeps up the flyovers and continues to put pressure on Beijing. International law and the states in the region, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan have all agreed that the maritime waters should remain in the commons.

According to a February 2013 report by the U.S. Environmental Information Agency, “the South China Sea contains approximately 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in proved and probable reserves.” Meanwhile, according to the same 2013 report, the official Chinese National Offshore Oil Company “estimated the area holds around 125 billion barrels of oil and 500 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in undiscovered resources.”

Addressing top energy firm executives and oil ministers in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised “China’s illegal island-building in international waterways”, insisting that it was not “simply a security matter”.

China’s foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing slammed Pompeo’s claims as “irresponsible”.

“Nations in the region are capable of resolving and managing the disputes in their own ways,” Lu said. “Nations outside the region should refrain from stirring up trouble and disrupting the harmonious situation.”

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