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Diplomacy over threats: Recourse in South China Sea

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Naval Surface Warriors/ Flickr

Naval Surface Warriors/ Flickr

James Monroe’s 1823 State of the Union Address contained a terse statement that would later define the principles of United States foreign policy. “The American continents are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers,” he declared. It was a well-intended pledge to aid in the implementation and protection of sovereignty for smaller nations.

Yet, gradually this empathetic reciprocation of the United States’ own achievement of independence, later dubbed the Monroe Doctrine, was extended far past the Western Hemisphere. With time this turned the U.S. essentially into an international policing agency, intervening on behalf of foreign governments and citizens for the sake of instituting stability and justice wherever apt. Today the influence of the doctrine has become exaggerated, leading to an imposing government and military into situations undeserving of intervention.

The U.S again demonstrated its overextended role within global politics on Oct. 27. The USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, sailed within 12 nautical miles of an artificially created Chinese island as a way to refute China’s claim to the surrounding waters and attempted expansion of territory. China promptly responded by saying that the presence of U.S. military in their waters was a provocation and urged the U.S. to “act responsibly in maintaining regional peace and stability.” Certainly creating military tension with one of the world’s superpowers, while still involved in the Middle East, is not ideal. The question looms: why would the U.S. do such a thing?

Well, it’s true that the islands China created are quite controversial. By piling sand on top of reefs in the South China Sea to create a string of seven islands, the country believes that it is entitled to exclusive rights of the waterways, which were partly international waters reserved for trade. Neighboring countries, such as the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam have laid similar claims to the area, so one could argue that China did it in response to others’ actions. However, the Chinese claim encompasses nearly the entire South China Sea, which would allow the country to control all activity in the region.

Sure there is a need to control a bully, a cause the U.S. has been sympathetic to for its entire history, but intervening with a military presence should never be the first response. Because this is a violation of international waters, gathering support from other countries to ratify the dispute diplomatically would be more effective and safer. Perhaps a law could be passed that states that a nation’s sovereignty can only extend to naturally occurring landmasses. Simple enough, right?

By acting individually, the U.S. becomes viewed as an enforcer of global control, and a bully in return, as it tries to intimidate China by showing military strength and presence. The action is arrogant. It gives off the impression that the U.S. prefers to fight rather than reach agreements. Whenever a military becomes involved, the gravity of the situation increases significantly. Not understanding this obvious consequence is immature. Not only is this dangerous for domestic safety, but it can also be harmful economically, as China is the United States’ largest importer.

Far too often, the U.S. military is inserted into unnecessary circumstances. When James Monroe first presented his idea about using the United States’ newfound global power to curb colonization, he did not intend for every dispute worldwide to be contested with military presence. Yet it routinely happens. The situation in the South China Sea certainly needs to be addressed, but with more diplomatic strategies. Undoubtedly a collective pact between a handful of nations could be created to restrain China’s actions, restoring peace to a region of growing anxiety without introducing threats.

Michael Agnello is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Diplomacy over threats: Recourse in South China Sea”

  1. Jonas on November 3rd, 2015 2:48 pm

    By acting individually, the U.S. becomes viewed as an enforcer of global control, and a bully in return, as it tries to intimidate China by showing military strength and presence. The action is arrogant. It gives off the impression that the U.S. prefers to fight rather than reach agreements. Whenever a military becomes involved, the gravity of the situation increases significantly. Not understanding this obvious consequence is immature. Not only is this dangerous for domestic safety, but it can also be harmful economically, as China is the United States’ largest importer.

    No. Wrong. First of all, there already is a diplomatic agreement. Territorial waters are defined by the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea extending at most 12 nautical miles from the coast. I believe this has, in practice, been extended to 50 miles or so. The entire area in question is very firmly governed by this convention. Which just goes to prove the fallacy that international action/ratification is any value at all.

    China is trying to take an important area for fishing, but also primarily for oil. This was undisputed international water forever until it was discovered to contain oil. Building the 7 islands (complete with military installation) as well as scaring away fisherman from several other nations, is essentially an act of war, or at least of usurpation. China is building up its military in alarming fashion. It aims to directly engage the U.S. in military action per Mao Tse Tung’s 100 year plan to become the world’s dominant superpower. That doctrine is now around the year 50. Check it out online.

    It is time to double our military resources, perhaps even triple. China and Russia are becoming ever bolder in the wake of our weak leadership and national resolve. That pathetic weakness evidenced in great detail on university campuses all over America is the blood in the water that these sharks are circling at the moment. China’s designs on total hegemony are the REAL threat. China has already purchased all of East Africa’s natural resources and is attempting to corner the market on all manner of natural resources globally. It clandestinely supports Iran and was in favor of the Iran deal because it purchases oil there and can now do so out in the open because of our ludicrously bad negotiations regarding their nuclear power. Our only hope is to stop them at every turn we can and hope that their impending population crisis will decimate their resources and set back their plans.

    It is clear from this article that UMASS professors continue their sorry record of indoctrinating students instead of teaching them. If you are really interested in China, just look at some of the things I have mentioned in this comment and you will see what is really going on. NEVER FORGET that nations act in their own best interests, most often at the expense of others. China is doing so in a way even more egregious than previously known. If we let them roll over us and our allies in the name of some false morality, we will all be subjects in a few decades.

  2. John on November 3rd, 2015 9:48 pm

    Jonas: Whether or not you agree with the article, to say that we should respond by doubling or tripling our military resources is immature and an irresponsible reactionary thought. If we can barely afford what we spend now, how could we possibly handle that kind of expansion? Instead of sticking to such simple and impractical decisions, you could attempt to form a realistic thought like the above article did. Perhaps if you had listened to your professors rather than blaming their personal ideals for your poor marks I’m sure you received, you would’ve learned the math necessary to realize that the small government I’m certain you preach is impossible under the conditions you propose.
    Sincerely,
    A well educated, conservative military member

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