Rex Tillerson on right, a former ExxonMobil CEO prior to his appointment as the new US Secretary of State under President Donald Trump
(Astro Awani) – The new US administration of President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States would prevent China from taking over territory in international waters in the South China Sea, something Chinese state media has warned would require Washington to “wage war.”
The comments at a briefing from White House spokesman Sean Spicer signalled a sharp departure from years of cautious US handling of China’s assertive pursuit of territory claims in Asia, just days after Trump took office on Friday.
“The US is going to make sure that we protect our interests there,” Spicer said when asked if Trump agreed with comments by his Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, on Jan. 11 that China should not be allowed access to islands it has built in the contested South China Sea.
“It’s a question of if those islands are in fact in international waters and not part of China proper, then yeah, we’re going to make sure that we defend international territories from being taken over by one country,” he said.
Tillerson’s remarks at his Senate confirmation hearing prompted Chinese state media to say the United States would need to “wage war” to bar China’s access to the islands where it has built military-length air strips and installed weapons systems.
Tillerson, who was expected to be confirmed as secretary of State on Monday, was asked at the hearing whether he supported a more aggressive posture towards China and said: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”
Trump and Tillerson think they are reenacting the Cuban missile crisis, a 13-day deadly standoff between the USA and USSR from 16 to 28 October 1962 which ended with the USSR blinking first. Thereafter President John Kennedy became an American hero.
Tillerson might have believed he could use the US Navy far superior fleets, the most powerful naval force in history with eleven air carrier strike forces ,to blockade or quarantine Chinese forces from entering or exiting the man-made islands in the South China Sea.
Methinks Donald Trump (and perhaps even Tillerson) aspires to that Kennedy-ic heroic status by confronting China and hoping China will back down.
But China is not the USSR. I predict that when push comes to shove, Trump and Tillerson will be embarrassed into backing down.
For years since the end of the Qing Dynasty, China was the weak man of Asia, suffering invasions and occupations by many nations such as Japan, Britain, France, Germany, etc, and utter wretched countless humiliations for a proud race who believed (rightly or wrongly) themselves as culturally far superior to the rest of the world.
That ethno-centric view has been the foolish pride of Chinese (in China) for millenniums, explaining why they call their country as the 'Middle Kingdom', meaning everyone else surrounds it as a mere vassal or barbaric and uncivilised state.
We should remember that after the communist reigned supreme in China, it fought an extremely ferocious war with Americans in 1950 to 1953 who had then enjoyed operating from safe bases in Japan, Guam, and the Philippines and who had the direct support of numerous countries under the aegis of the UN.
China stepped into the Korean fray when the US-UN forces pushed the North Koreans as far north as the Yalu River, the border between China and North Korea.
Much earlier China had through the good office of India warned the USA not to cross the 38th parallel but General MacArthur ignored that, even pushing ahead with the aim of crossing the Yalu River (Chinese border) to destroy Chinese military depots which had been supplying North Korean troops.
That was when China poured divisions of poorly armed troops but who moved with surprising lightning swiftness through the rugged mountains of North Korea to push the US-UN troops back. The Yanks were caught by surprised by the speed of the Chinese advance who were poorly equipped but which had humongous mass or numbers (one of the US military principle of war).
The notoriety of the Chinese mass wave assault was then borned. Approximately half a million Chinese perished in the Korean War.
I opine that if the Americans attempt to blockade the Chinese from entering or exiting the South China Sea islands, they will be in for a shock. The Chinese had fought a war with the USA in 1951 and perhaps believe they can win again.
Though the Americans have far superior naval and air assets, the Chinese have two deadly weapons which they have been developing for decades, namely, the carrier-killer nuclear tactical missiles DF-21D (900 miles) and DF-26 (2500 miles). They can fire these from ships or land.
A Chinese DF-21D ASBM costs only $5 to $10.5 million. China can afford to build hundreds of them.
Chinese foolish pride will persuade them to use it against approach or interfering US Navy carrier strike forces, regardless of the consequences unto the total destruction of China itself.
If the Yanks escalate the confrontation by resorting to their Triad, namely the submarine, air force and land operated nuclear ballistic missiles (approximately 7,000 warheads) they can destroy China completely, that is, if they are prepared to do that.
The Chinese have (I am not exactly sure) a fraction of what the Yanks have, about 250 nuclear warheads which, while not about to destroy the USA completely as the Yanks will destroy China, will cause a lot of serious harm to the USA. WE are talking nuclear warheads.
longer range DF-26 ASBM
California state by itself is the world's 6th biggest economy. Imagine if 30 to 50 of those Chinese nuclear warheads, delivered by missiles with MIRV (multi independently-targeted reentry vehicles) nuclear warheads were to blast California into nothingness, how will that affect the USA? What about the rest of the USA like aircraft producing Seattle and the wheat belt of America?
Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD, if the USA is prepared to go all the way. I believe the Chinese is.
But who will blink first?