The USS George Washington Didn’t Sail In Vain

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Countering neo-conservative and paleo-conservative derision about the decline of American power in Northeast Asia, Carlyle A. Thayer argues that American smart power is wearing down Chinese bellicosity in the South China Sea.

US diplomatic initiatives must be placed in the larger context of US-South Korean naval exercises, the prominent surfacing of three Ohio-class submarines armed with conventional Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles in Subic Bay, Busan and Diego Garcia, and the visit of the nuclear carrier George Washington to waters off central Vietnam to mark the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The view that US primacy is in decline seems premature indeed.

Secretary Clinton’s declaration that the South China Sea is a national interest counters China’s recent assertion that the South China Sea is a core interest.

The South China Sea is a vital artery for global maritime trade including the shipping of oil and LNG. For this reason it is unlikely that China will attempt any action that can be viewed as threatening the safety of navigation and transit through the South China Sea.

Since the Taiwan Straits crisis of 1995-96, China has sought to exert naval power in the first island chain in the western Pacific to keep the US Navy at bay. Thanks to North Korean belligerency, the US Navy has returned to exercise in waters adjacent to China, the fraying US-South Korea alliance has been repaired and the drift between Tokyo and Washington halted.

When developments in Northeast Asia and combined with Southeast Asia China’s bellicosity and diplomatic outrage appear to be a sign of weakness rather than strength.

But, this won’t stop the con camp from taking the easy rhetorical route, that it’s all about Pyongyang.

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Filed under: Academia, East Asia, Korea, Maritime, Military, Southeast Asia Tagged: asean, barack h. obama, china, hillary rodham clinton, prc, south china sea, spratly's, uss george washington, vietnam


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