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U.S. plans to dispatch warships to South China Sea

Posted October. 20, 2015 08:53,   


The tug-of-war between the U.S. and China is ever more intensifying over the South China Sea, a geopolitically crucial post passing a massive cargo volume worth 5 trillion U.S. dollars every year.

According to the Kyodo News on Monday, the U.S. government conveyed its policy to the authorities of the relevant South East Asian countries to send American battleships to the South China Sea in a near future where China claims to have dominium. The U.S. has criticized the Chinese initiatives on the reclamation of artificial islands and the construction of military facilities, citing the "freedom of navigation" under international rules. Conflicts are likely to emerge as the U.S. plans to have its battleships make entry into the area stretching 12 nautical miles (about 22.2 kilometers), which China claims to be the territorial waters of the artificial islands built by the country in the South China Sea. While the U.S. military has flown patrol plans into the sky over the sea in the past, sending battleships within the controversial 12 nautical miles is unprecedented.

Against this backdrop, even Chinese President Xi Jinping himself expressed the will to protect the sovereignty of his country. On his trip to the U.K., Xi said at his exclusive interview with Reuters on Sunday that he would not allow any foreign warship to enter the territorial waters of the artificial islands, which is interpreted as his willingness to take hawkish measures in the event that the U.S. should send forth the battleships. However, the Chinese president also expressed his intention to avoid armed conflicts, saying that he does not want to bring any disturbance to the South China Sea and that he would play a role responsible for such chaos.

If the conflict between the U.S. and China continues to intensify, it might put Korea in diplomatic hot water, considering the joint press conference on Oct. 16 between U.S. President Barack Obama and Korean President Park Geun-hye where the former urged a proactive role on the part of Korea, saying “The only thing that we`re going to continue to insist on is that we want China to abide by international norms and rules. Where they fail to do so, we expect the Republic of Korea to speak out on that, just as we do.”

The U.S. military is beefing up its navy assets in Asia on Monday, by dispatching an additional multi-mission platform with the AEGIS combat system suite “Benfold” to its navy base in Yokosuka, Japan. Stretching 153.9 meters long, Benfold is equipped with the state-of-art response system designed to neuter submarines and ballistic missiles. Having dispatched a ship with the AEGIS combat system in June, the U.S. military is planning to send three more warships with the combat system to the navy base by the year of 2017.

This will augment the military capacity of the Yokosuka navy base, which is the foothold of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, to 14 ships, including 12 Aegis combat system-equipped destroyers, the USS Ronald Reagan, which is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, and the USS Blue Ridge. The size of the navy forces will be the largest since the Allied Powers occupied the Yokosuka base in the wake of the defeat of Japan in 1945.

Lacking aircraft carriers, the Chinese military is planning to pave an airstrip on the artificial islands in order to make them impregnable. China is building 3,000-meter-long runways and light houses over the seven artificial islands that it created by reclaiming the rocks and coral reefs around the Spratly Islands.