Preparing for war over South China Sea?

AT LEAST 22 nations are participating in this year’s “Rim of the Pacific” naval exercises in Hawaii from June 29 until August 7, involving US, UK, India, Russia, Australia, Canada, Japan, France, South Korea, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Peru, Norway, Thailand. It is the first time that the Philippines is joining this naval exercise.

This Rim of the Pacific Exercise, said to be the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercises and war games hosted by US Navy’s Pacific Command, has however excluded China which is currently in conflict with other countries over claim in South China Sea.

The exclusion of China raises speculations that such multi-nations naval exercise is an apparent attempt to ward off the military threat – actual, perceived or potential – posed by China in Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia.

While the Pacific Rim naval exercise is nothing new since it has been conducted way back 1971, it is however the first time that such huge number of nations are participating and that the Chinese naval forces are excluded. In 2010, there were only 14 nations which participated.

That is really discomforting, considering that both the US and China are fighting for control of or dominance over the South China Sea, locally known as the West Philippine Sea, whose strategic location has great geopolitical values for both countries.

It is said that oil transported through the Strait of Malacca from the Indian Ocean to East Asia through the South China Sea is more than six times the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and 17 times the amount that transits the Panama Canal.

In terms of the natural wealth, the South China Sea has, based on rough calculations, the natural gas reserves estimated to total around 7,500 km3 or 266 trillion cubic feet.  In addition, it has a wealth of crude oil amounting to 7 billion barrels and 900 trillion cubic feet below sea level.

Obviously, our region has now become the new battleground between the US and China in view of the involvement of several countries drawn in the border dispute or conflict with China.

But a careful observer of defense strategic studies could not help but be suspicious of the real intention of the US in forming multi-nations military alliance without China’s participation in the Southeast Asia.

One plausible explanation for US hidden agenda is for the US to cut off China’s access to the Indian Ocean so that it can stop the trading activities of China with the Islamic world.  This is how the South China Sea is of great value to both US and China.

That is why our honorable politicians should restrain themselves against issuing fiery statements that may just provoke conflict or encourage confrontation with China, but should also be equally wary of the US real hidden agenda.

Otherwise, unless cooler heads prevail, we may be drawn to war in our shores.

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