While the higher level of talks being conducted in Washington allow the US and Chinese officials to air out differences, the recent level of exchange has been interesting in that the US is applying pressure to China on its expansion in the South China Sea – of course China rebuked these comments.
The US and other Asian allies want to keep the trade lanes open, explained in freedom of navigation laws, that the international community supports but China refuses to acknowledge stating that it abides by its 9-Dash Line system that allows China historical claims to the sea lanes.
The meetings in Washington DC are aimed at controlling damage before the US and China meet at the upcoming G20 conference scheduled in Argentina, where President Xi of China and President Trump of the US will sit down and discuss the future of US-Sino Relations.
Since China started building air and naval bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea since 2014, the US has spoken in blunt terms, pressuring Beijing to halt construction. The US, during talks, continued to send warships to the area, passing within only miles of the Chinese bases. Many analysts believe the South China Sea is the next flash point for confrontation in the region with North Korea being contained for now. Clearly the South China Sea is a growing concern as there are US, Japanese, Indian and Australian vessels patrolling its waters. China is building a blue water navy that is struggling to keep up with the US and Japan, not to mention the effort that India is putting into a submarine and destroyer forces – even carriers are being added to the Indian fleet.
Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe agreed with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that the current state of affairs has tensions dialed too high and must be addressed by talks. And with over 5 trillion dollars of goods passing through the region each year, each country will feel the need to protect its commerce and overall economic interests. Yes, this region has a flashpoint that is worth watching.
Let’s see how President Trump will deal with President Xi of China in Argentina.