Signs that China may be contemplating another bout of island-building in the South China Sea ahead of an important U.N. ruling on the issue have provoked the United States to step up its vigilance in the region in recent days.
Twice last week, and again Tuesday, the U.S. Pacific Command said it sent warplanes close to Scarborough Shoal, a triangular chain of coral reefs, sand and rocks close to the Philippines coast. In Beijing, the response was sharp.
The shoal is the latest point of friction between China and the United States and nations that ring the South China Sea over Beijing’s moves to build maritime outposts and other installations that could have a potential military use.
“Thunderclouds are gathering over the South China Sea, and China is the lightning rod,” said Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor of politics at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
A key ruling on the Chinese action by a panel of jurists at a U.N.-appointed tribunal in The Hague, expected in coming weeks, is driving the unease in Beijing, experts suggest.
China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines in 2012 and appears to be considering whether to build an artificial island there, experts say. It has already constructed or reclaimed seven islands in the nearby Spratly chain.
On Monday, the South China Morning Post quoted an unnamed source “close to” the Chinese navy as saying Beijing would carry out “land reclamation” on the shoal this year.
Mira Rapp-Hooper, of the Center for a New American Security, said intense efforts were underway to dissuade Beijing from taking a step that Washington could see as “very escalatory.”
It would also constitute a significant violation of a 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, experts said, although that agreement between China and rival Asian claimants has often been ignored.
If China moves to build a military base on Scarborough Shoal, the site would form a strategic triangle with Chinese-controlled islands in the Spratly and Paracel chains. It would also help China monitor U.S. military activity in the Philippines’ Subic Bay, just 150 nautical miles to the east.
“It would bring U.S. and Chinese forces into close proximity, with all the attendant risks that that entails,” Storey said.
Russia has resumed bombing moderate opposition fighters in Syria, a U.S. military officer from Baghdad told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.
"We have seen them begin operations again in that region," Air Force Maj. Gen. Peter Gersten, the U.S.-led coalition's deputy commander for operations and intelligence, told Fox News.
President Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin last week asking him to help "press" Syria to end its airstrikes, according to a White House statement. The strikes appeared to violate the ceasefire brokered by the United States and Russia in February.
Russia claims it is striking Jabhat al-Nusra, otherwise known as the al-Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's Syrian affiliate. The group is not bound to the ceasefire agreement.
The "cessation of hostilities" has shown signs of fraying as the Syrian regime resumed bombing operations in northwest Aleppo and in the coastal province of Latakia where a Russian airbase is located. Russia claims al-Nusra is trying to take over Aleppo and parts of Latakia province.
In the last week of March, immediately in the aftermath of the tragic Brussels bombing which ISIS took responsibility for and which was subsequently revealed as organized by a semi-autonomous Brussels cell operating closely with the French cell responsible for the November 2015 terrorist attack, we reported that the Islamic State group has trained at least 400 attackers and sent them into Europe for terror attacks. As AP said, citing security officials, "the network of interlocking, agile and semi-autonomous cells shows the reach of the extremist group in Europe even as it loses ground in Syria."
The last sentence was most troubling: "The officials say the fighters have been given orders to find the right time, place and method to carry out their mission."
According to an April 23rd article carried by Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (German Economic News), U.S. President Barack Obama is “demanding the active deployment of the Bundeswehr [Germany’s armed forces, including their Army, Navy, and Air Force] to NATO’s eastern borders” at Poland and the Baltic republics, to join the quadrupling of America’s forces there, on and near the borders of Russia. This is an extreme violation of what Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to when he ended the Soviet Union and its NATO-mirror organization the Warsaw Pact, but it’s actually culminating a process that began shortly after he agreed to America’s terms, which included that NATO “not move one inch to the east.”
Furthermore, DWN reports that on April 25th, the U.S. President will hold a summit meeting in Hannover, Germany with the leaders of Germany (Angela Merkel), Italy (Matteo Renzi), France (Francois Hollande), and Britain (David Cameron). The presumed objective of this meeting is to agree to establish in the NATO countries bordering on Russia a military force of these five countries, a force threatening Russia with an invasion, if or when NATO subsequently decides that the ‘threat from Russia’ be ‘responded to’ militarily.
Obama is thus now adding to the economic sanctions against Russia that he had imposed because of Russia’s alleged ‘seizure’ of Crimea from Ukraine after the US and EU engineered coup overthrew Russia’s ally Viktor Yanukovych who had led Ukraine until the coup in February 2014.
Even though Western-sponsored polls in Crimea, both before and after the coup, had shown higher than 90% support by Crimeans for rejoining with Russia, right after Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to rejoin Russia, Obama slapped sanctions against Russia. Nuclear weapons were prepared, both on the U.S.-EU side and on the Russian side, for a possible nuclear war.
This is no mere restoration of the Cold War (which was supposedly based on the capitalist-communist ideological disagreement); it’s getting forces into position for a possible invasion of Russia, pure-and-simple — raw conquest — though no major news-media in the West are reporting it as being such.
The current preparation doesn’t necessarily mean a nuclear war will result from them. Russia might accept whatever the demands ‘the West’ makes of it and thus lose its sovereignty. Alternatively, if Russia stands-its-ground and refuses to yield up its national sovereignty,‘the West’ (the U.S.leadership, and the leaderships in its allied countries) could cease with its evermore-ominous threats and simply withdraw from Russia’s borders.
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