Lately, the news has been obsessed with two topics: Iraq and the Russia-Ukraine fiasco. In fact, we’re even guilty of it here, too.
But in the midst of this media barrage, another important story just about slipped through the cracks… even though it has implications just as powerful as the stories getting more air time.
Specifically, the Chinese have been moving oil rigs into disputed territories and drilling for oil… all while ignoring the protests of the surrounding nations.
And considering that a minor skirmish in the Gulf of Tonkin launched the Vietnam War, could China’s aggression possibly spark a new World War?
Neighboring countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines have cited a 2002 accord between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China that created a nonbinding code of conduct, in order to “consolidate and develop the friendship and cooperation existing between their people and governments with the view to promoting a 21st century-oriented partnership of good neighbors and mutual trust.”
But China’s aggressive moves directly violate the spirit of that code, even if it was nonbinding.
A Sea of Peace No Longer
In fact, the Chinese announced last Friday that they would be moving a second rig near Vietnam’s coastline, even though the two countries have yet to resolve a dispute over the first rig that China moved into territory that Vietnam calls its own.
The dispute has sparked deadly riots in Vietnam – with protestors targeting Chinese factories – and has also created immense friction between the Chinese and Vietnamese navies. However, with China’s clear military and economic advantage, it’s doubtful that Vietnam could force China to move its rig.
Meanwhile, most analysts believe that China’s aim is not just Vietnam’s territory, but in fact the majority of the South China Sea, a resource-rich area that The New York Times calls “a vital waterway for international commerce.”
In recent years, China has been bolstering its navy in hopes of becoming a maritime super power, and the country now has three fleets, a class of nuclear submarines, and one aircraft carrier. In light of that information, the timing of China’s aggressive expansion in the region is probably not a coincidence.
Between its newfound economic prosperity and its budding military, China sees an opportunity to outmuscle the much smaller countries that also share a border along the South China Sea.
U.S. Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, said that “China has called the South China Sea ‘a sea of peace, friendship and co-operation,’ and that’s what it should be. But in recent months, China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.”
In fact, the country has been hard at work moving sand and rock into the Spratly archipelago – another contested region in the waterway – to create small islands on the shoals that could support military installations and surveillance equipment.
That has caused speculation that China may, in fact, want to force the U.S. navy out of the South Pacific, a region it has dominated since World War II.
At this point, it’s hard to tell what China’s end goal is. For the moment, it’s busy positioning oil rigs and searching for valuable resources. But the developments in the South China Sea are dubious, at best, and Obama must be watchful going forward.
In Pursuit of the Truth,