Chinese media warns of war with US after Trump’s state department pick stirs South China Sea row Blocking Chinese access to islands in the South China Sea would require the US to wage war, an influential Chinese state-run tabloid said on Friday, after US Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson suggested the strategy on Wednesday.
Mr Tillerson told his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he wanted to send a signal to China that their access to islands in the disputed South China Sea is not going to be allowed. He did not elaborate.
The United States would have to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea to prevent Chinese access to the islands, the Global Times said in an English language editorial.
The paper, which is known for writing strongly-worded, hawkish and nationalist editorials, is published by the ruling Communist Party’s flagship paper. It does not reflect Chinese policy.
Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories, the paper added.
The editorial also said that Mr Tillerson, an Exxon Mobil Corp chairman and former chief executive, was the most likely of US President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet picks to be vetoed by congress.
“It is suspected that he merely wanted to curry favour from senators and increase his chances of being confirmed by intentionally showing a tough stance toward China,” it said.
The paper did not elaborate on either point.
A similar article was also carried in the paper’s Chinese language website that receives thousands of hits every day.
There are also legal questions of any US attempt to block China’s access, the editorial said, asking if this might mean that Vietnam and Philippines also should be denied entry.
A person familiar with deliberations inside the Trump transition team was not aware of any suchs plans for a blockade, raising the likelihood that Mr Tillerson misspoke – a view shared by analysts.
Blocking Chinese access to the island could spark armed conflict, said Mark Fitzpatrick, at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. I can’t help but think that he did not mean it this way.
China claims most of the energy-rich South China Sea through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. Neighbours Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
Beijing has reclaimed more than 3,000 of acres of land and constructed military-grade infrastructure, and reportedly installed weaponry, on reefs and islets mostly in the Spratly Island chain. China denies any intent to restrict freedom of navigation but has objected when the US Navy has sailed close to the islands.
The United States has previously called on China to respect the findings of the arbitration court in The Hague earlier this year which ruled in favour of the Philippines, rejecting China’s territorial claims in the strategic waterway.
Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration conducted periodic air and naval patrols to assert the right of free navigation in the South China Sea.
These have angered Beijing, but seeking to blockade China’s man-made islands would be a major step further and a step that Washington has never raised as an option.
Mr Trump has already clashed with China since his election in November. After taking the call from Taiwan’s leader, he accused Beijing on Twitter of currency manipulation and flexing its military might in the South China Sea.
The incoming president’s use of the social media site has irked China, with state news agency Xinhua running a commentary headlined An obsession with ‘Twitter foreign policy’ is undesireable.