Between the tensions taking place with Taiwan and the United States already issuing warnings> about fighter jets launching from new artificial islands, relations have been tense with China for more than a year. We’ve written about this here on multiple occasions, but my general conclusion has always remained that there is probably – hopefully – no fire under all of that smoke. But as provocations of one kind or another continue, David Ignatius is beginning to wonder if we’re on the brink of a dangerous showdown with Beijing. (Washington Post)
The confrontation has been building for the past three years, as China has constructed artificial islands off its southern coast and installed missiles and radar in disputed waters, despite U.S. warnings. It could come to a head this spring, when an arbitration panel in The Hague is expected to rule that China is making “excessive” claims about its maritime sovereignty.
What makes this dispute so explosive is that it pits an American president who needs to affirm his credibility as a strong leader against a risk-taking Chinese president who has shown disregard for U.S. military power and who faces potent political enemies at home.
“This isn’t Pearl Harbor, but if people on all sides aren’t careful, it could be ‘The Guns of August,’?” says Kurt Campbell, former assistant secretary of state for Asia, referring to the chain of miscalculations that led to World War I. The administration, he says, is facing “another red line moment where it has to figure out how to carry through on past warnings.”
Just to show that it’s not simply a United States problem, keep in mind that other nations are getting in random scrapes with China at the same time. Just this month the Argentinians sank a Chinese fishing vessel.