Tensions are growing between the United States and China. A US military ship approached an island controlled by Peking in the South China Sea on Sunday (July 2), prompting a strong reaction. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denounced “a serious political and military provocation”, after this American maritime demonstration.
The USS Stethem approached less than 12 nautical miles from Triton Island in the Paracel Archipelago, de facto challenging Chinese sovereignty over this territory occupied by Beijing, but also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan. This was the second US operation to challenge China’s territorial aims in this strategic maritime area Since the Trump administration came to power. The first operation took place on May 25 in the Spratley Archipelago further south.
China expressed its disapproval in a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang. “The Chinese side strongly urges the US side to immediately cease such provocative operations that violate China’s sovereignty and threaten China’s security,” said the spokesman quoted by the official news agency Xinhua (New China). China will continue to take all necessary measures to defend its national sovereignty and security, the spokesman added. The gesture of Washington, a few hours of a conversation between the presidents of the two countries, seems to confirm a certain stiffening of its relations with Beijing, Trump and Xi explain on the phone
Trump and Xi explain on the phone
The US administration last week took several initiatives that could provoke anger in Beijing. On Thursday it gave its green light to the sale of 1.4 billion dollars of weapons to Taiwan, which China considers as one of its provinces and has not given up to win back. Also Thursday, Washington announced for the first time sanctions against a Chinese bank, the Bank of Dandong, accused of facilitating transactions to companies involved in the development of North Korean ballistic missiles. On the same day, the US State Department expressed its concern for the respect of liberties in Hong Kong, twenty years after the handover of the city to China. Tuesday, US diplomacy had also placed China on its black list of human trafficking, at the same level as Syria, North Korea or Venezuela. These initiatives contrasted with the tone of the Mar-a-Lago meeting, and the signs of mutual goodwill afterward, such as the announcement in mid-May of an agreement on the export of beef and Of US gas to China.
But Donald Trump recently revealed his frustration over Beijing’s efforts to put pressure on the North Korean regime, after hailing for several months the goodwill of the Chinese government in this matter. The Chinese efforts “did not work,” he lamented in a tweet two weeks ago. The Kim Jong-un regime has conducted several missile tests in recent months in violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. China claims almost all of the South China Sea, much to the chagrin of many of its neighbors such as Vietnam or the Philippines, which also have land claims in this strategic area for world trade, Oil, and gas.
Last week, AMTI (Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative) estimated that three bases built by Beijing in the Spratley Archipelago were now ready to receive combat aircraft and missile launchers. Such a deployment, combined with that already carried out in the Paracel Islands, “will allow Chinese airplanes to operate in almost the entire South China Sea,” warned the study center. Donald Trump was scheduled to meet with President Xi on Sunday at 8:45 pm Washington time and with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at 8 pm Washington time.