China defiantly announced Monday it will militarily close off parts of the South China Sea to conduct war drills, a week after an international tribunal denied China’s historic claims to the majority of the region.
China announced the drills on the second day of a visit by U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, calling the South China Sea “inherent territory.” The U.S. called upon China to respect other countries’ sovereign claims in the South China Sea, which include the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The South China Sea is a vital trade juncture for the world economy.
The Council on Foreign Relations noted in 2015 that 5.3 trillion dollars of world goods moved through the South China Sea, with 1.2 trillion of that bound for U.S. shores. Any disruption in this shipping channel would throw world markets into chaos. China has shown a willingness to curtail freedom of navigation in favor of its territorial claims in the South China Sea, worrying the U.S. and its allies.
Prior the international tribunal ruling, a leading Chinese propaganda arm, called on the Chinese people to prepare for war in the South China Sea. “Even though China cannot keep up with the U.S. militarily in the short-term, it should be able to let the U.S. pay a cost it cannot stand if it intervenes in the South China Sea dispute by force,” the editorial said.
The U.S. deployed two carrier strike groups to the South China Sea to deter China from unilaterally exercising power against its allies in the region. The U.S. exercised its right to freedom of navigation and sailed the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, near an important artificial Chinese island in October 2015, protesting China’s actions. China was so incensed, it summoned the U.S. ambassador and told him the move was “extremely irresponsible.”
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