The Department of Defense issued a statement over China’s most recent advancement into the South China Sea, a passive military move that has kept the United States on edge for years, citing that the agency is “concerned” in China’s practice of military exercises around the Paracel Islands from July 1-5.
China’s decision to conduct military exercises in this area is deliberately aggressive, as the area is contested water and territory. The DOD noted that this choice “is counterproductive to efforts at easing tensions and maintaining stability,” and further “destabilize the situation in the South China Sea.” The DOD finished their statement with: “We urge all parties to exercise restraint and not undertake military activities that might aggravate disputes in the South China Sea.”
Why this matters: China has long been pushing their luck through military exercises in this region. They are also violating the commitments they made under the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that sought to de-escalate growing tension in the area. Furthermore, China pledged to not militarize the South China Sea, and the United States has worked to create a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
What to expect: President Trump has a track-record of having a firm hand with China. His foreign policy is very direct. China has been able to get away with slowly advancing their dominance in the area under the Obama administration, but especially after the effects of the Coronavirus, it wouldn’t be unlike the president to take swift measures to stop the passive aggressive movement from China into this neutral territory. Just like the president did with North Korea when they were testing ICBM’s, President Trump could be pushed over the edge with the current national sentiment against China, and send a clear message to China that the United States will not be played with.