US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is willing to risk a war with China in order to defend “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Speaking in Honolulu, Hawaii on Wednesday, Carter issued his “most forceful” warning yet, demanding “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation” by China in the disputed Spratly Islands.
Carter said: “There should be no mistake: The United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world.” He also added that the United States intended to remain “the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.”
In order to show Chinese leaders “who’s the boss”, Carter has threatened to deploy US warships and surveillance aircraft to within twelve miles of the islands that China claims are within their territorial waters. Not surprisingly, the US is challenging China under the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a document the US has stubbornly refused to ratify. But that’s neither here nor there for the bellicose Carter whose insatiable appetite for confrontation makes him the most reckless Sec-Def since Donald Rumsfeld.
So what’s this really all about? Why does Washington care so much about a couple hundred yards of sand piled up on reefs reefs in the South China Sea? What danger does that pose to US national security? And, haven’t Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines all engaged in similar “land reclamation” activities without raising hackles in DC?
Of course, they have. The whole thing is a joke. Just like Carter’s claim that he’s defending the lofty principal of “freedom of navigation” is a joke. China has never blocked shipping lanes or seized boats sailing in international waters. Never. The same cannot be said of the United States that just recently blocked an Iranian ship loaded with humanitarian relief–food, water and critical medical supplies–headed to starving refugees in Yemen. Of course, when the US does it, it’s okay.