Facing China’s Red Dragon in the South China Sea

Global, naval warfare

The Philippines undertakes distribution work for Ayung's Shoal

Philippine Coast Guard personnel aboard the PRP Sintangan watch a Chinese Coast Guard vessel sail nearby during a reconnaissance mission for troops stationed at Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, March 05, 2024. (Photo by Ezra Akhayan/Getty Images)

China has shocked its neighbors by believing it can operate with impunity in the waters of the Indo-Pacific region. In this new op-ed, Lt. Cmdr. The US Navy’s Thelmar Rosarta and Nathaniel Shochet of the Center for a New American Security argue that the US should use China’s maritime aggression to strengthen ties in the region.

There is no doubt that China’s maritime power has grown over the past several decades, and its navy is expected to reach. 400 Surface Combatants by 2025 As they have evolved, their concrete violations of recognized international law, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Simply put, Beijing clearly ignores international cooperation, not just in the Pacific, but around the world, in and around waters.

That’s a problem for countries that have to deal with it — but it also represents an opportunity to strengthen its ties with other countries as it seeks to build a geopolitical bloc against China’s expansion. Some of this work is already underway: Recent Tripartite Summit The joint and encouraging Polykathon exercises led by Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and US President Joe Biden and the Pentagon were key. Peace and stabilityand grassroots activities that promote and advance international norms while strengthening U.S. alliances.

It’s a start, but not enough. The US should seek to build similar partnerships with countries seeking stability across the region and counter China’s gray zone activities. If China is going to be a bad neighbor, Washington should take every opportunity to remind countries in the region of that.

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In the past Two decades, China sought to increase its capability to operate in near and far waters. These include a 150% increase in the ships of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), a 400% increase in China’s Coast Guard ships, and a similar increase in its maritime combatants. In July 2023, China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed to work on a code of conduct in the South China Sea. A month later, in August 2023, China’s Ministry of Natural Resources released a new claim that covered 90 percent of the ocean’s surface area—which „Ten dash line.” This new announcement continues its flagrant disregard for international law, and China is still in violation of the UNCLOS decision. 2016. Exactly, this was the new frontier Rejected By India, Indonesia, Vietnam and many others.

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China’s subsequent actions illustrate how it views its role in the maritime world – recognizing itself as a global power but unwilling to conform to international law. China’s sheer size could pose a threat to countries with smaller fleets in the South China Sea and its widespread gray zone operations Increased risk. In contrast, the United States not only continues to adhere to customary international law, but is also a willing partner in its enforcement—primarily through freedom of navigational operations (Phonops) and, to enforce international law, the United States frequently conducts multilateral cooperation activities with allies and allies in the South China Sea.

Cooperation between partners that adhere to international law provides ways to jointly implement the law of the sea. Therefore, countries that reject the new ten-dash line present an opportunity for US partnership.

A clear example is the Philippines, which in recent years appeared to be moving away from the US orbit, thanks to China’s aggressive actions in its waters.

Last month’s trilateral meeting led to the strengthening of the partnership between the three allies and the creation of a description of an international law-driven integrated maritime force to navigate the South China Sea. As mentioned White House Joint Statement„We underscore our nations’ unwavering commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight, as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).”

In that way, it is significant that Japan and the United States have expressed their signals Commitment Assisting in the modernization of the Philippines’ maritime capabilities. The US also announced that members of the Coast Guard from Japan and the Philippines will soon be welcomed aboard a US Coast Guard ship during patrols in the Indo-Pacific region this year. All three countries intend to conduct trilateral exercises at sea. Also, a Trilateral Maritime Dialogue was announced with the aim of promoting coordination and joint efforts in the region.

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The leaders also recognized the importance of engaging other countries in the region in advancing maritime domain awareness. Accordingly, they promoted new initiatives to strengthen maritime security Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness (IPMDA)– Announced two years ago Quad leaders. They too indicated Willingness to conduct joint training programs with regional partners in Southeast Asia – expressing their intent to work with Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) to support 2050 Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent.

Another sign of strengthening ties between the three countries: On April 22, 2024, The Annual bilateral exercise It began between the Philippines and the United States, with nearly 17,000 troops from the Philippines, the United States, Australia, and France. This year’s exercise was notable for the numerous milestones achieved during it. for that First time, which will be conducted beyond the Philippines’ borders and includes the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)—highlighting the PCG’s role in countering Chinese gray zone activities. A „Made in China” vessel, ex-PRB Luk Kaliraya, was used as part of the exercise. Fake target During an immersion exercise off the coast of Ilocos Norte.

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Perhaps most dangerously for China, the military will stand down Medium range missile (MRC), capable of striking enemy targets at ranges of 500 to 2,000 kilometers. The MRC has a vertical launch system and uses the Navy’s Raytheon-built Standard Missile-6 and Tomahawk missiles. This will also be the first time France Participates in training and deployment Flower type Battleship Vendemiaire

The Philippines has proven to be a good test case for how China’s aggressiveness over water can help push countries in the region toward the United States, and how Washington can take advantage. But it cannot be the only one. America should pursue similar partnerships, especially with like-minded nations Indonesia.

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The US-Indonesia CARAT maritime exercise is in its 29th yearTh Year and Long continuous exercise in the region. Joint training is planned May 2024, opening up the possibility of an even greater regional partnership to strengthen efforts to counter China’s new claim and enforce international law. Washington needs more assurances Joint patrol Increased presence from the Philippines in military exercises in the South China Sea and the region.

While China is certainly a recognized global power, its approach to maritime cooperation does not respect international law—characteristics expected to be relevant to a global power. Indeed, their violations are tantamount to destabilizing the region and regardless of the decisions of the United Nations. The US should try to present itself as a bulwark against Chinese aggression and prevent it from unilaterally changing the status quo. If Washington can draw a clear distinction between its behavior and Beijing’s, it may win some friends along the way.

LCDR Thelmar Rosarta He is a US Navy Federal Executive Fellow at the Center for a New American Defense. He has conducted multiple operations within the Indo-Pacific region and commanded the USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) from 2021-2023 at the US Navy’s Central Command. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US Navy, the Department of Defense, or the US government.

Nathaniel Shochet Joseph S. Nye, Jr. is an intern for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). His writing has appeared in The Diplomat, South China Morning Post, Forbes, China-US Focus and National Interest. He is also a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations.

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