'Proxy game in South China Sea like the Game of Thrones'
MANILA - China has a different plan that would altogether require a “new leadership” to protect the interests of several countries in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) – and it’s not the United States, international affairs analyst Richard Heydarian said.
And while the United States dilly-dallies in supporting her allies, the Chinese have been engaged in a “proxy war,” Heydarian told ANC on Wednesday.
"The engagement track should be there, but increasingly, the US leverage has been diminished. In the eyes of China, the US does not have the wherewithal and level of commitment to rein in on its ambitions in the East Asia," he said.
He said China is playing a "long" war, which could prove to be its advantage since the US is not committing to any act that would escalate to a real war.
Officials of the US and China recently met again, with both promising to improve economic and security cooperation and avoid confrontation on issues related to territorial disputes.
"The Chinese idea is: the US will never allow us to have that level of control, but as we lay down the foundation of de facto domination of the waters, we’ll be in the position to tell the US [in the future], who is the boss now?" he said.
He said this de facto domination can be seen in the "proxy" war China is waging against allies of the US, including the Philippines.
"Behind the scenes, they’re already bolstering the capability of conventional military in order to deny access to the US if there’s a moment of crisis," he said. These include the reclamation activities they are doing in disputed areas in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
"In a year or so, they’ll have the capability for a nuclear deterrent in the area. They will tell the US: If you want to help the Philippines in moments of crisis, you’ll have to face the risk of a nuclear showdown," he said.
Even other countries in the region are questioning the so-called US pivot in Asia. Until now, a large number of military assets has yet to find its way to Asia, he added.
"There’s a feeling among US allies that the US is not in an optimal position to push back the Chinese. That’s why the countries in the region themselves should take care of their situation," Heydarian added.
He said there is now an effort from regional powers such as Japan “to carve out a new leadership to create an alternative dynamic.”
Even the US is pushing Japan to take responsibility in the region, he added.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently announced plans to expand the scope of its country’s armed forces. Several countries, including the Philippines, supported the move.
It is also seeking the support of the likes of Australia and India.
Heydarian noted that different countries are looking to Japan for its military capability and advanced technology.
"The weakness of China is it doesn’t have an anti-submarine warfare… that’s why many countries are interested in Japan,” he added.
He said Japan is thus giving a clear signal to China: “If you continue to be aggressive in your pursuit of territorial claims, you’re not just going to empower historical rivals but you’re going to create a coalition against you in the region.”
He said the proxy game is along the lines of the popular series Game of Thrones. “It’s all about signaling, not about killing each other right away, not about waging a war.”