Over the past few weeks, several high-level US leaders have visited the Asia Pacific region, primarily with one focus, China.
The US is extremely concerned over China’s inaction in regards to North Korea and the militarization of the South China Sea Islands. Speaking at the Sydney as part of AusMin, Australia and America’s annual bilateral foreign, security and defense meeting, Tillerson stated that there was no room for negotiation on China’s island-building in the South China Sea, which was found unlawful by the permanent court of arbitration in the Hague last year.
“We oppose China’s artificial island construction and their militarization of those features in international waters,” Tillerson said.
“China is a significant economic and trading power. We desire productive relationships, but we cannot allow China to use its economic power to buy its way out of other problems, whether it’s militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failing to put appropriate pressure on North Korea.”
“They must recognize that, with a role as a growing economic and trading power comes security responsibilities as well.”
John McCain, one week prior, described China as a bully;
“The challenge is that as China has grown wealthier and stronger, it seems to be acting more and more like a bully.”
And Mattis stated at the Shangri-La regional defense summit in Singapore;
“The scope and effect of China’s construction activities in the South China Sea differ from those of other countries in several key ways.”
“This includes the nature of its militarization … China’s disregard for international law … [and] its contempt for other nations’ interests.”
China sharply condemned Mattis’s words on the matter, but the fact remains China is a rising power in the region and tensions between the US and China are escalating. In large part, the US is growing frustrated with China’s inaction on North Korea.
“Today, we also speak with one voice in calling for North Korea to abandon its illegal nuclear weapons program,” Tillerson said.
“China and other regional partners should also step up their efforts to help solve this security situation which threatens not just that region, but really presents a threat to the entire world.”
With the North Korean situation in mind, Trump has one card to play before US action in the region, according to a leaked transcript of the US President’s phone call with the Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte, China. Only time will tell how China responds to US pressure, what say you reader?