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Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef. (Photo: the Telegraph)

Threat of 'Inevitable' War Looms Between US and China Over Pacific Island Row

Chinese military white paper accuses US of 'meddling' in South China Sea

Lauren McCauley

Tensions between China and United States continue to rise over the South China Sea as a Chinese government newspaper warns that war may be 'inevitable' if the U.S. and its allies do not back off from the heavily disputed territory.

Last week, the Chinese government condemned the actions of the U.S. military after the P8-A Poseidon, the US' most advanced surveillance aircraft, was caught spying on Chinese naval activities in the Fiery Cross Reef.

The Chinese government has been accused of provoking its neighbors by actively building "artificial islands" in the Spratly archipelago, which is both a vital shipping corridor and an oil and gas rich territory, west of the Philippines. While China has claimed the right to most of the South China Sea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have competing interests in the highly-contested waters.

An editorial published Sunday in China's Global Times—which the Telegraph describes as "a tabloid owned by the Chinese Communist Party through another newspaper"—warns that U.S. actions have been "raising the risk of physical confrontation with China recently," and that the two countries may soon reach a "tipping point" if they are unable to compromise on their strategic purposes.

The Global Times says that it is "essential that both sides should show their bottom lines to each other, and see if one can respect the other on these. For China, one bottom line is that the reclamation of these islands must be finished no matter what."

"If the United States' bottom line is that China has to halt its activities, then a U.S.-China war is inevitable in the South China Sea," the editorial concludes.

On Tuesday, the Beijing government issued a white paper outlining its military strategy, in which it says that the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific region "has caused grave concerns."

"Some external countries are also busy meddling in South China Sea affairs," the paper continues, adding that "a tiny few maintain constant close-in air and sea surveillance and reconnaissance against China."

Further, the Telegraph reports:

China's forces will no longer be limited to defence of the nation's territory but will project its military power further beyond its borders at sea and more assertively in the air in order to safeguard its maritime possessions, the white paper states. 

While the air force will shift focus from "territorial air defence" to both offence and defence, the Chinese army will increase its global mobility and its artillery will improve its "medium and long-range precision strikes", it said.

Meanwhile, also on Tuesday it was reported that Japan, for the first time, will be joining the U.S. and Australia in joint military exercises around Australia this summer, which security experts say is being done to counter threats that China will impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratly island chain.


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