Michael Auslin: China Drone Seizure Throws Down Gauntlet to Obama and TrumpPosted: December 17, 2016
Michael Auslin is the author of “The End of the Asian Century: War, Stagnation, and the Risks to the World’s Most Dynamic Region,” which will be published by Yale in January. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Michael Auslin writes: In seizing an unmanned, underwater US Navy drone in international waters off the Philippines on Thursday, China has thrown down a North Korean-style gauntlet to both the outgoing Obama Administration and the incoming Trump team.
While media reports are still sketchy, it appears that a Chinese naval vessel was close enough to a US oceanographic survey ship to launch a small boat to grab the scientific drone as the American vessel was preparing to retrieve it. That would mean a ship-to-ship level of intimidation, and not a snatch-and-grab action in isolated waters.
Like in 2009, when the Chinese harassed the USNS Impeccable in the South China Sea, the latest action comes against a similarly unarmed US research vessel. This time, however, the Chinese flagrantly flouted international law, and unlawfully seized US property while possibly endangering the safety of US military personnel on the high seas.
Such a dramatic upping of the ante is out of character for China, and American officials should understand that Beijing now appears willing to take increasingly risky actions. This latest provocation may well be at least partly in response to President-elect Trump’s recent comments on China, Taiwan and the One-China Policy.
At the same time, the latest challenge comes on the heels of steadily degrading relations between the Obama Administration and China, including news that Beijing is rapidly militarizing its newly built islands located near the Philippines. On these reclaimed shoals, China has emplaced anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems in what can also be a precursor to fielding offensive weapons capabilities.
In response, senior US military leaders have made forthright statements about America’s national interest in maintaining open and uncontested sea lanes. These comments have put Beijing on notice that Washington will not sit idly by if China appears be upending decades of peaceful development in Asia’s waters.
Until January 20, it is the current president’s job to respond. The Chinese move offers President Obama two choices: be seen as capitulating to a dramatic increase in Chinese aggressiveness, or leave office having taken a hard line against China’s destabilizing path. Whatever course he takes, however, will almost certainly be carried over into the new administration, given how close we are to Inauguration Day….(read more)
- Weapons installed on South China Sea part of normal defence, not militarisation, says China (scroll.in)
- US says Chinese warship seized Navy underwater drone (bostonherald.com)
- China reportedly responds to Trump’s Taiwan call by flying nuclear-capable bomber (stripes.com)
- Pentagon demands that China immediately return underwater drone it seized out from under U.S. ship (news.nationalpost.com)
- China Acts Once Again in the South China Sea (dailysignal.com)
- China is being untypically quiet as Taiwan holds drills in the South China Sea (businessinsider.com)
- China says it has defeated ‘conspiracies’ to stir up trouble over the South China Sea (japantimes.co.jp)
- Donald Trump wades into diplomatic crisis with China again – but gets his spelling wrong with ‘unpresidented’ tweet (telegraph.co.uk)
- S. China Sea Dispute Hangs on Philippine Leadership of ASEAN (voanews.com)