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Countries should beware 'Indo-Pacific' NATO creating war zone in the region: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-04-01 19:54

Ren'ai Reef. [File photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, the United States, Japan and the Philippines will reportedly launch joint naval patrols in the waters later this year. Such military maneuverings, self-serving and irresponsible in nature, will only do a disservice to efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region.

According to the Politico news website, the joint patrols will be part of a package of initiatives to be unveiled by US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at their first-ever trilateral summit in Washington this month.

Recent Japanese media reports also indicate that the US and Japan are looking to strengthen their respective security partnerships with the United Kingdom, Australia and the Philippines by staging more joint military exercises in the "Indo-Pacific".

It does not require much acuity to appreciate that the expanding of AUKUS — the "Indo-Pacific"-focused military cooperation mechanism of Australia, the UK and the US — into a quintuple AUKUS + is a further step toward the formation of a US-led "Indo-Pacific NATO". The US is likely to push for the conjoining of the Quad — the security cooperation mechanism grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the US with the "Quint". The countries concerned have made no bones about containing China being the raison d'etre for their joining forces. Given the conflict the US has managed to spark in Europe by means of NATO with the aim of debilitating Russia, the agenda of the "Quint" does not bode well for the region.

The US likes to portray its designs as being for the common good: to uphold the "rules-based order". But in fact they are nothing of the sort. Its scheming is nothing but that of a gangster. It has hyped up a "threat" from China and is now peddling protection. As a result, the South China Sea situation, which had remained largely calm in the past few years, has become increasingly tense since Marcos took office as the Philippine president, as he has proved willing to pay the US' asking price for "protection" for the Philippines' snatch-and-grab attempts — namely, that the Philippines be the US' proxy in provoking China.

Covert and overt US support has emboldened Manila to repeatedly provoke China over some hot spots in the waters, such as the Ren'ai Reef and the Huangyan Island, with the seeming intent of causing an incident that triggers the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. Both parties have been hyping up the possibility of the treaty being triggered in the last few weeks.

China holds irrefutable sovereignty over the Ren'ai Reef and the Huangyan Island and is fully justified in responding to Manila's provocations, such as its repeated attempts to send construction materials to reinforce the warship it deliberately grounded on China's Ren'ai Reef. But bearing in mind the importance of peace and stability not only for its own development but that of the region as a whole, China's response to the provocations has been restrained.

While China does not seek to fight or create trouble in the South China Sea, all parties should be clear it will not be cowed into silence and submission. While Beijing has continually urged Manila to resolve the maritime disputes through dialogue and negotiations, Manila and its Western supporters should not misinterpret that and underestimate China's resolve and capability to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Manila should realize it is on a collision course if it continues with its unwise and irresponsible adventurism. Peace and stability in the South China Sea serve the security, development and prosperity of all countries in Asia, and they should look to Europe to see what will be the consequences of buying the snake oil Washington and its out-of-town "pardners" are selling.

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