South China Sea arms race threatens conflict with US

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Defense missile systems installed at the Chinese naval bases in the South China Sea may increase the risks of military confrontation with the US in the future, military experts say.

This is a possibility since Washington seeks to contain the growing Great Power and influence of Beijing in the region.

The Chinese military installed anti-ship cruise missiles and ground-to-air missile systems on three Spratly Islands reefs, which is currently disputed by six countries in the region, the US media quoted US intelligence reports as saying last week.

During the briefing on May 3, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defended the positioning of the Chinese missiles, noting that this deployment “has no one in sight” and reiterated that no one should worry about it if you do not intend to intrude.

Meanwhile, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters that the United States has concerns about the issue, warning that the militarization of the South China Sea could have long-term consequences.

While in recent years China has increased its military presence in the South China Sea through the construction of artificial islands and additional military infrastructures, the US, concerned about China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region, is to conduct navigation ‘freedom operations’ (FONOPs) [!!], trying to ensure the safety of neighboring countries.

Military analysts warn that the positioning of Chinese missile systems on disputed islands may increase the odds of confrontation between the US and China if Washington decides to continue FONOPs in the region in the future.

For example, Ben Ho, a naval specialist in the Singapore Military Studies program, told Sputnik International that “the missiles are positioned where the US conducted FONOPs.” The position means that US military ships will be within reach of the Chinese.” He added that if US operations continue, we may witness clashes between US warships and Chinese forces in the South China Sea.

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Chinese analysts express similar concerns but point out that both countries do not want to go to war.

Ni Lexiong, a military specialist at the Shanghai University of Law, said that in the future “tensions will increase in the region,” adding that no one can be sure that a small-scale conflict does not evolve into full-scale war.

Ben Ho suggests that, in response to the positioning of Chinese missile systems, the US may most likely increase its military presence by moving more warships and carrying out more freedom of navigation operations.

“The United States and its allies could also respond to the increase in Chinese militarization in the South China Sea with greater positions of naval forces in the region,” he said. He also believes that we will be able to see more patrols at sea with embedded aviation participation if Washington wants to be more effective in conveying its strategic message.

Moreover, neighboring countries of the region can seek the improvement of their weapons systems to deal with the installation of the Chinese missiles.

Chinese experts argue that in trying to stop China from taking control of the South China Sea, the US wanted to maintain its global hegemony and avoid showing its weakness.

“For the United States, from the point of view of national interests, especially their military presence and influence in East Asia, they cannot remain silent about the situation in the South China Sea. If China can achieve its territorial aspirations in the region, this will be a sign of US weakness and its hegemony,” said Ni Lexiong.

According to the Chinese analyst, the neighboring countries will wait to see and will never permanently commit either on the side of China, or the US. He concluded that China understands the concerns of its neighbors and will invite them to jointly develop the South China Sea.

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