Sino-US ties: Analysing potential conflicts in Pacific | By Dr Muhammad Khan

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Sino-US ties: Analysing potential conflicts in Pacific

After the controversial visit of Taiwan by Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, tension has increased at two levels; one, between Mainland China and Taiwan and two, between US and China.

China warned both US and Taiwan before the visit that, it will spark tension in the region as well as in the bilateral relationship of Whitehouse and Beijing.

The visit was retaliated severely by Beijing through military drills and war simulation exercises which almost encircled the straight.

As per Chinese military spokesperson, “This is a solemn deterrent against the US and Taiwan for continuing to play political tricks and undermining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

” These military exercises and manoeuvring was aimed to; “resolutely defend national sovereignty” of China which include Taiwan too.

Indeed, it was an offensive gesture of China which U.S and Taiwan must have been cognizant of any repercussion.

But, rather finding a peaceful settlement of prevailing situation in the region, U.S decides to further fuel the fire by approving $1.1 billion sale of arms and equipment for Taiwan.

This package includes; 60 anti-ship missiles and 100 air-to-air missiles to counter Chinese threats.U.S has stated that, this military assistance is necessary for the security and sovereignty of Taiwan.

China has reacted to this development in an unusual way and warned US of its dire consequences; ‘Washington is playing with fire’.

Apart from this announcement (arms supply),President Joe Biden has invited the leaders of 12 island countries of the Pacific on September 28-29 in Washington for a summit.

The likely goals of the summit could be, taking these states into confidence over the evolving situation in the Pacific.

Apparently, the agenda of the summit is; “broadening and deepening cooperation on key issues such as climate change, pandemic response, economic recovery, maritime security, environmental protection, and advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Nevertheless, the summit will mainly concentrate over the Chinese military drills and situation arising thereafter.

US would like to gain the sympathy of these states against China and may be concluding the security deals with these island states of the Pacific region.

Earlier, US concluded agreements with some states of ASEAN and with the forum too in 2010.

US has already stepped up its engagement with Pacific Islands countries and all those states in the neighbourhood of China.

The evolving situation may lead towards major crises in the Pacific which could be in the form of military conflict between Mainland China and Taiwan.

In the absence of any visionary way forward, the region may be inflamed into a future armed conflict.

Already there have been three crises in the region in the past.The first two crises took place in the region in 1954 and 1958 once People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of mainland China fired at Taiwanese held islands of Kinmen.

The third crisis took place in 1995/96 once Taiwan refused to re-join the mainland, which was agreed earlier.

In case, there is no negotiated settlement of the issue, this time it is going to be the ‘Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis.’

Reunification of Taiwan (Republic of China) with the mainland China has always been the major agenda of successive Chinese leadership and the Communist Party of China.

President Xi Jinpingis the biggest campaigner of this movement, since his term of President and Secretary General of Communist Party has been enhanced (life time).

He reiterated the Chinese stance by saying that, ‘reunification with Taiwan must be fulfilled’ for which he did not rule the possible use of force, if it is otherwise not possible.

Once assigned the responsibilities of General Secretary of Communist Party and as President of People’s Republic of China, he was to strategize and implement three landmark events as part of Chinese Grand Strategy: a) completing moderately prosperous Chinese society in all respects by 2021, b) China should be much stronger economically and technologically, have become a global leader in innovation and have completed its military modernization by 2035 and c) by 2049: China should have resolved the Taiwan question, and be a strong country with world-class forces- final drive for a super power.

Under the visionary leadership of Xi Jinping, China was on its way to achieve all these milestones without any major setback and it had already achieved and passed the first phase.

The evolving security situation in the Asia- Pacific region has a broader dimension. In the case of any military escalation and conflict between mainland China and Taiwan, there will be repercussions over broader Asia-Pacific region.

Predictably the Russian invasion of Ukraine has encouraged United States to initiate a similar situation in the Asia – Pacific region by destabilizing China through its regional allies.

Though these are two different scenarios, yet analysts of international relations draw the parallels.

Washington and Beijing had already engaged themselves in an economic war with devastating impacts on global economy.

Besides, Ukraine war has added to insecurities of smaller states with a threat to return of traditional wars and disrespect to the sovereignties of nation states.

Any military conflict in the Asia-Pacific would further destabilise the region with wider and devastating impacts on international security.

Therefore, prudence must prevail at the level of United Nations and other international forums to avoid any potential military conflict and developing a mechanism for the peaceful resolution of prevailing disputes.

— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

 

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