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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/21/20

PATRICK LAWRENCE: Cold War Escapades in the Pacific

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From Consortium News

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group steams in formation during a cooperative deployment in the Indian Ocean on July 20, 2020
The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group steams in formation during a cooperative deployment in the Indian Ocean on July 20, 2020
(Image by (U.S. Navy. Donald R. White Jr.))
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First came the Defense Department's formal request to Congress for a $20 billion check to upgrade its presence across the Pacific. That was last March. A month later the U.S. Navy sent three warships (and ever-faithful Australia one) to the waters off Malaysia because an unarmed Chinese vessel was conducting routine seismic surveys in an area thought to contain significant resource deposits.

Then a two-month pause, at least on the military side. The grandstanding denunciations, bans, bars, and sanctions have continued apace.

In early July the Pentagon sent two aircraft carrier strike groups into the South China Sea in its latest and largest-ever "freedom of navigation" exercise, just as the Chinese Navy was conducting exercises nearby. Last week came the caker: Mike Pompeo, our Dummkopf secretary of state, asserted that China's various maritime claims in the South China Sea are "completely unlawful."

This was an abrupt departure from Washington's previous pretense of neutrality on the question of jurisdiction over waters where assertions of sovereignty intersect. It was greeted in some quarters, not least the government-supervised New York Times, as opening the door to war in behalf of those nations -- Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei contesting China's claims.

What Is Unfolding?

Let us pay attention here. What is and isn't unfolding before us?

The Pentagon will get its check. Congress debates as we speak how much and when to spend on what it calls our Pacific Deterrence Initiative. The U.S. is about to buy a greatly enhanced, greatly more visible military presence in the western Pacific. Be sure to pay your taxes, readers.

The dispatch of warships to monitor a Chinese scientific vessel was sheer piffle. The Malaysians proved the adults in the room when they told the U.S. Navy to be on its way, thanks very much. Nothing whatever will come of this.

Ditto the carrier group's escapade earlier this month. Like the silliness off the Malaysian coast, this was in the way of acting out somewhat in the childish fashion the phrase implies. The element of spectacle is impossible to miss. There is no other meaning to be discerned.

And Pompeo's grand assurance that locked-and-loaded America stands aside those looking for a just settlement of the South China Sea question? This is the hollowest display of all. The U.S. has no legal standing in the South China Sea question; it is not party to any of the competing claims.

As Malaysia just made clear, those that have registered these claims intend to negotiate multilaterally and entertain zero desire to see America instead escalate this into armed confrontation.

New Circumstances

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Patrick Lawrence is a columnist, author, editor, and educator. He has published five books and currently writes foreign affairs commentary for Consortium News and other publications. He served as a correspondent abroad for many years and is (more...)

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