'Blue China' and the next war

As public attention is focused on important matters involving Stormy or Kanye, the next world-class conflict is ramping up, almost unnoticed, in the South China Sea.

China has laid claim to the South China Sea as its own territory for over eighty years.  "Blue China" is an area encompassed by an imaginary boundary called the "nine-dash-line" that takes in almost the entire maritime region, in defiance of legitimate competing claims from surrounding nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  

Over the decades, China has tightened its control over the region through a carefully planned campaign, occasionally involving blatant massacres (in 1974 and 1988), and more recently by running down fishing boats and carrying out attacks on survey and oil exploration vessels.  It's accepted as a given that China will soon announce its complete control of the area, establish maritime and aerial identification zones, and put itself in direct conflict with the surrounding nations...not to mention the United States.

China's latest moves suggest that this is not long in coming.  On April 12, China held a "naval parade" in the South China Sea consisting of 48 ships and over ten thousand personnel.  It was overseen by President Xi Jinping himself, dressed in mock military fatigues.  It was the largest such display carried out by the Chinese – at least since the 15th century, the last time they had a navy.

At the same time, the Australian Navy reported that three of its ships crossing the South China Sea were "challenged" by the Chinese while on their way to Vietnam.  The challenge was described as "polite, but robust."  Since the region is accepted as international waters, the Chinese have no business "challenging" anybody there at any time.

The third related item involves the maiden voyage of China's second aircraft carrier, the 001A Shandong.  This carrier is much larger and more capable than their first carrier, a patchup job called the Liaoning, though it still shares the "ski-jump" deck design, which means that it won't be able to launch fully armed or fueled aircraft – quite a failing in an aircraft carrier.  All the same, when it joins the Chinese fleet in 2020, it will automatically make China the operator of the second largest carrier force, behind only the United States.

It's obvious that China has big plans regarding the South China Sea.  This raises some questions about the supposed opening up of Kim Jong-un's North Korea.  It's well understood that North Korea is essentially a client state of China, effectively surviving due only to being under China's defense umbrella.  It's unlikely that North Korea – or Junior, for that matter – would make any serious move without clearing it with Beijing first.

So why is Kim making the opening to South Korea and the U.S. now, with China just aching to complete its takeover of the South China Sea?

There are numerous ways things could be played to assist the Chinese.  President Trump should certainly go ahead with his meeting with Kim.  But at the same time, he needs keep glancing over his shoulder in the direction of China – and the South China Sea.

As public attention is focused on important matters involving Stormy or Kanye, the next world-class conflict is ramping up, almost unnoticed, in the South China Sea.

China has laid claim to the South China Sea as its own territory for over eighty years.  "Blue China" is an area encompassed by an imaginary boundary called the "nine-dash-line" that takes in almost the entire maritime region, in defiance of legitimate competing claims from surrounding nations such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.  

Over the decades, China has tightened its control over the region through a carefully planned campaign, occasionally involving blatant massacres (in 1974 and 1988), and more recently by running down fishing boats and carrying out attacks on survey and oil exploration vessels.  It's accepted as a given that China will soon announce its complete control of the area, establish maritime and aerial identification zones, and put itself in direct conflict with the surrounding nations...not to mention the United States.

China's latest moves suggest that this is not long in coming.  On April 12, China held a "naval parade" in the South China Sea consisting of 48 ships and over ten thousand personnel.  It was overseen by President Xi Jinping himself, dressed in mock military fatigues.  It was the largest such display carried out by the Chinese – at least since the 15th century, the last time they had a navy.

At the same time, the Australian Navy reported that three of its ships crossing the South China Sea were "challenged" by the Chinese while on their way to Vietnam.  The challenge was described as "polite, but robust."  Since the region is accepted as international waters, the Chinese have no business "challenging" anybody there at any time.

The third related item involves the maiden voyage of China's second aircraft carrier, the 001A Shandong.  This carrier is much larger and more capable than their first carrier, a patchup job called the Liaoning, though it still shares the "ski-jump" deck design, which means that it won't be able to launch fully armed or fueled aircraft – quite a failing in an aircraft carrier.  All the same, when it joins the Chinese fleet in 2020, it will automatically make China the operator of the second largest carrier force, behind only the United States.

It's obvious that China has big plans regarding the South China Sea.  This raises some questions about the supposed opening up of Kim Jong-un's North Korea.  It's well understood that North Korea is essentially a client state of China, effectively surviving due only to being under China's defense umbrella.  It's unlikely that North Korea – or Junior, for that matter – would make any serious move without clearing it with Beijing first.

So why is Kim making the opening to South Korea and the U.S. now, with China just aching to complete its takeover of the South China Sea?

There are numerous ways things could be played to assist the Chinese.  President Trump should certainly go ahead with his meeting with Kim.  But at the same time, he needs keep glancing over his shoulder in the direction of China – and the South China Sea.