ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark J. Valencia:
By Mark J. Valencia - 24 Apr 2017
The US flies hundreds of ISR missions every year to collect communications between the target country’s command-and-control centers and radar and weapons systems. The initial deployment of the Carl Vinson strike force was to the South China Sea. Are these probes and the deployment a violation of the UN Charter?
By Mark J. Valencia - 05 Apr 2017
Analysts trying to parse US policy in the Trump era regarding the South China Sea must be prepared for stark contradictions and intellectual whiplash. It is too early to draw conclusions regarding US-China relations in the South China Sea or in general.
In the run-up to Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States, advocates of a more aggressive US foreign policy towards China unleashed a barrage of hawkish commentaries and proposals. Most comments focused on China’s behavior in the South China Sea.
On January 11, 2017, US President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made several intemperate remarks. Most provocatively he said that China’s access to the features it has built up in the South China Sea is not going to be “allowed.”
US underwater drones can be categorized as Force Net, Sea Shield, Sea Strike and Sea Base. Force Net includes the missions of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and oceanography. Some may even be weaponized. Thus, it is easy to be uncertain regarding the mission of particular UUVs.
On 16 December, the US Department of Defense announced that it had issued a formal protest to China demanding the return of an underwater drone. After several days of verbal tit-for tat, China returned the drone. The US Navy is determining whether the seizure was a “low-level” action by the sailors or a top down message by senior Chinese leaders.
“Make America Great Again” was Trump’s campaign slogan. This probably translates to a Reaganesque “peace through strength” approach. Implementing such a policy in Southeast Asia is likely to be accompanied by blusters, threats and shows of force and gunboat diplomacy.
A debate between Kurt Campbell, the architect of the US pivot to Asia, and Australian strategic thinker Hugh White makes clear that the South China Sea has become the cockpit of US-China competition for domination of Asia. The outcome may determine whose principles, values and “order” will shape the future of Asia.