The US guided-missile destroyer USS Barry entered China's territorial waters off the Xisha Islands on Tuesday without being approved by the Chinese government. Senior Colonel and Spokesperson of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Southern Theater Command, Li Huamin, said that this is a severe violation of international law and Chinese sovereignty, stressing the ship was monitored, identified, warned and expelled by the Chinese side.
Since the first day of the Chinese Lunar New Year, the US military has been escalating its provocation in the South China Sea. Yet the move will bring no benefit to the US while only wasting its taxpayers' money.
Relevant news stories sound quite harsh against the backdrop of raging coronavirus pandemic across the world, with the US being an epicenter that has the most infections and the highest death toll.
On March 15, the US Navy released an administrative message to halt overseas travel of US troops for 60 days in the wake of coronavirus outbreak. Yet the provocation in the South China Sea still occurred. It fully mirrored that hawkish political forces in the US do not even have the minimum level of the humanitarian spirit and are disregarding the lives of US soldiers for their interests.
The number of coronavirus infections in the US military is rising fast with continuously growing deaths. Many coronavirus-hit aircraft carriers had to dock at US military bases. The captain of USS Theodore Roosevelt was even fired over COVID-19 warning and calling on Navy leadership to evacuate the vast majority of the crew. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," Brett Crozier, the former captain, wrote.
Yet the US is still showcasing its military muscle worldwide. Apart from its recent move in the South China Sea, US President Donald Trump tweeted April 22, "I have instructed the United States Navy to shoot down and destroy any Iranian gunboats if they harass our ships at sea," which sounded like a mobilization for war. Earlier this month, President Trump announced that Navy ships are being moved toward Venezuela. The US "is launching enhanced counternarcotics operations in the Western hemisphere to protect the American people from the deadly scourge of illegal narcotics," Trump said on April 1, in an attempt to stage a coup in the South American country, establishing a pro-US government there. US spy planes have also flown over the Korean Peninsula in April amid the pandemic.
The US is trying to divert the public's attention from its incompetence in fighting the virus. Also, be it its moves against Iran or Venezuela, those provocations may trigger a rapid rise of oil price. The South China Sea is an essential channel for the transportation of resources, which is of great importance to China, South Korea and Japan. As a businessman, Trump, as well as his team, must be aware of that.
More importantly, Trump wants to boost his supporting rate by creating threats of possible warfare. Former US president George W. Bush had reportedly little chance of being re-elected before the September 11 attacks. But the chances took a turn after the attacks, following which he declared war on terror. Trump must have dreamed about replicating the success of Bush. After all, with the coronavirus infections surging in the US, Trump's approval rating will likely trend downward.
But will Trump reach his goal through the tricks? The answer would be no, at least in terms of his calculations in the South China Sea. As Li stressed, Chinese troops will resolutely fulfill their duty, safeguard national sovereignty and security as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea.
China has the iron will and determination to safeguard the country's sovereignty. If the US has to try it, go ahead.
By Cheng Hanping, a senior research fellow and professor at the Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing University.