Provocative remarks by US Pacific fleet commander fuel disputes with China [World Socialist Website]

By Nick Beams
21 March 2014

The US has increased tensions over territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas, warning that a Crimea-like crisis could develop as a result of China’s “revanchist tendencies.”

Speaking at a meeting of the Jakarta International Defence Dialogue on Wednesday, in the presence of Chinese delegates and South-East Asian officials, the US Pacific Fleet commander, Admiral Harry Harris, pointed to the “global tensions caused by one neighbour against another in the Crimean Peninsula.”

Harris, who took up his post last October, added to his inflammatory remarks in an interview with the Financial Times on the sidelines of the conference. He said maritime tensions were at the highest point he had seen for thirty years because of what he called China’s “destabilising” influence.

“We welcome the rise of a strong and prosperous China that adheres to international norms,” he said. “What worries me though is China’s lack of transparency at times and their revanchist tendencies. I worry about that and I think it’s destabilising the region.”

The use of the term “revanchist” is significant. In diplomatic parlance it refers to a drive by a country to recover lost territory. In other words, China is accused of expansionist aims.

Replying to Harris, Sun Jianguo, the Chinese army deputy chief of general staff, rejected claims that China was responsible for increased tensions. Rather, it faced “pressing and immediate risks” because of provocations by other countries.

“We face so many disputes and some disputes are very thorny and difficult to tackle,” he said. In remarks directed at the United States, while not directly naming it, he continued: “In particular, some are trying to take advantage of these disputes to realise their own strategic objectives. Our goal is to make sure these disputes are properly managed and will not blow into conflict or war.”

The “strategic objectives” to which he referred are contained in the Obama administration’s “pivot” to Asia, which is aimed at isolating China, diplomatically and militarily in the region, with the goal of ensuring continued US dominance.

This is what is meant by the American insistence that China must adhere to “international norms.” Its economic growth is to be “welcomed,” provided China remains subordinate to the geo-political and economic relationships dictated by the US.

The US is demanding that the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which involve China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, be dealt with on a multilateral basis so that Washington can intervene. China, by contrast, insists that the disputes be settled through bilateral negotiations.

The long-running territorial disputes—some have continued for more than three decades—were elevated from second-order issues into matters of global significance through the intervention of the US.

In mid-2010, even before the “pivot” was officially announced, Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, declared that the US had a “national interest” in “freedom of navigation” in the South China, effectively giving support to Vietnam and the Philippines…

Excerpted; full article link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/03/21/usch-m21.html

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