The United States has announced a plan to contain China’s growing naval strength in the Asia-Pacific region. According to experts, this is as an attempt to pressure Beijing and to limit propaganda rhetoric targeting American voters and US allies in the region.
The United States will increase its Navy by using unmanned and autonomous surface ships, submarines, seaborne aircraft and other modern equipment. According to US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, the country’s future fleet “will be more balanced in its ability to deliver lethal effects from the air, from the sea, and from under the sea”. Speaking at the Rand Corporation in California, Esper said that the US fleet would focus on the Indo-Pacific, calling China the main threat to US security, and the Indo-Pacific region a “priority theatre of operations” for the US military.
According to Zhu Feng, head of the School for Foreign Studies at Nanjing University, the US is trying to start a new Cold War against China.
“Esper’s speech largely reflects the trend associated with the US shifting the centre of its global security strategy to the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, the United States is pressuring China both by promoting its Indo-Pacific strategy and by trying to extend its geopolitical influence throughout Asia. The US is pressuring China not only in trade, diplomacy, science, technology and culture, but is also enhancing military intimidation of China. The United States is trying to start a new Cold War against China, considering it its main strategic adversary. Therefore, building up naval potential in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as militarily strengthening the blockade of China are indispensable attributes of US policies”.
Alexei Mukhin, director general of the Centre for Political Information, a leading Russian think tank, described Esper’s statements as propaganda designed to impress China.
“The United States’ strategic goal is to contain other countries in order to look powerful. It’s currently creating this illusion of power, rattling its weapons. This, they think, should impress opponents, first of all, China. Trump needs to demonstrate strength, since the policies he previously pursued towards Beijing have failed to show the desired results, further complicating the situation around the US-China trade deal. The US now starts demonstrating its military power aimed at intimidating China. I think these moves will have quite the opposite effect. China will enhance its military capabilities in the region to respond to US activities at sea. It has every opportunity to do this”.
Mukhin believes that Esper’s statements are also addressed to US allies:
“The United States’ allies are showing suspicion regarding the US, doubting it will protect them. Esper’s plan is to impress the allies. For example, Germany and Japan are actively working on sovereignize their global status. These are alarming signs for the US, who is used to the fact that everyone worships it. This is not the case now. Even Australia has doubts that it can fully rely on the US for security, let alone Japan that has increased its military budget, thus making it clear that the presence of US military bases on its territory is likely to soon be inappropriate”.
A military analyst at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, Vladimir Evseev, believes that Taiwan might interpret US plans to gain military advantage over the Chinese navy in the region as support for Taipei.
“Some political leaders, including the authorities in Taipei, might well interpret such statements as support for separatist actions to prevent Taiwan’s reunification with mainland China. They will interpret it this way, because it’s beneficial for them both politically and militarily. Moreover, Taiwan is now building its own submarine fleet, and signing contracts for supplying advanced American weapons. Of course, this will be a serious problem in US-China relations regardless of the US election results. With the help of Taiwan, the United States is trying to put pressure on mainland China both politically and militarily”.
Beijing responded with military exercises near the Taiwan Strait to what it described as recent provocation on the part of the United States, following Under Secretary of State Keith Krach’s trip to Taiwan on 17-19 September. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang called the exercise a legitimate and necessary action to protect national sovereignty and territorial integrity in response to the situation in the Taiwan Strait.
Ren observed that the United States and Taiwan had intensified contacts, and reportedly provoked various incidents. The People’s Liberation Army of China has firm will, full confidence and sufficient ability to thwart what Beijing has described as external interference and separatist actions on the part of Taiwan’s independence activists in order to defend state sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned that Beijing reserved the right to take what he called necessary measures in response to Krach’s visit. According to the Taiwan Foreign Office, Krach is the highest-ranking US official to visit Taiwan since 1979.
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