US and China both refuse to back down over South China Sea row that experts fear could trigger World War 3

US and China both refuse to back down over South China Sea row that experts fear could trigger World War 3

December 20, 2018

Concerns are mounting the two superpowers could become embroiled in a terrifying conflict in the directly contested region which could kill thousands of people.

Observers at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Centre for Preventive Action have ranked the South China Sea as a hotspot as Beijing and Washington refuse to back down over who controls the oil and gas rich region.

Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei argue they own parts of the sea — and the United States is prepared to back them with military force.

It is feared a showdown is on the cards which could spiral out of control.

Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defence strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra, told CNN: "China is not going to ease up on its attempts to control the South China Sea in its entirety.

"Basically, what the Chinese want to do is make the South China Sea their lake." 

Mr Davis added that Trump administration would be unlikely to back off in the face of Chinese pressure.

But Beijing is bent on a takeover and has built seven artificial islands in the disputed area and blatantly made the reasons behind this clear.

Satellite images clearly show they are equipped with air bases and an array of military equipment in a bid to project total power in the contested sea.

Earlier this month Chinese Air Force colonel Dai X made clear his country’s position.

The Global Times quoted the colonel warning: “If the US warships break into Chinese waters again, I suggest that two warships should be sent: one to stop it, and another one to ram it."

Meanwhile the Pentagon is ramping up its military muscle by expanding its Lombrum naval base which is strategically located at Manus in Papua New Guinea.

Regional powers and US allies such as Indonesia are also arming themselves to the teeth.

But other experts believe Taiwan could be the flash-point.

The island broke away from mainland China in 1949 when the Communists seized power after winning a long civil war.

Peter Mattis, a former CIA analyst and Fellow in the China Program at The Jamestown Foundation, believes Chinese president Xi Jinping could try to boost his domestic image as a leader in the coming years by reclaiming the island nation.

Speaking to in September, he characterised Taiwan as the greatest immediate challenge the world currently faces with regards to the threat of rising China — even more so than growing tensions in the East and South China Seas.


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