Could a War Break Out in Asia?

In recent months, sabers have been rattling in and around the Pacific Rim as the United States ramps up military drills with South Korea and has begun sending B-52 bombers and attack drones to American military bases there to incorporate into the country’s defenses.

Also integrated will be a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system, which is designed to take out long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that North Korea could launch if and when it perfects such weapons (which it says it’s currently in the latter stages of doing).

The U.S. attack drones — remotely controlled Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) — are part of a military deployment plan to integrate airborne drones into every U.S. army division. “The UAS adds significant intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to U.S. Forces Korea and our ROK [Republic of Korea] partners,” said U.S. Forces Korea spokesman Christopher Bush.

The drones will be permanently stationed at the U.S.’s Kunsan Air Base, about 112 miles south of the South Korean capital, Seoul. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was quoted recently as saying that as regards the Trump administration’s stance on North Korea, “all options are on the table.”

Meanwhile, North Korea is likely preparing for a sixth nuclear weapon test, which reportedly will be much more potent than previous tests — 14 times as powerful, according to recent high-ranking North Korean defectors. There are even fears that if Pyongyang cannot adequately control the next explosion that it could cause an environmental catastrophe and send thousands of the country’s citizens fleeing into China.

Both the THAAD deployment and the stationing of the additional airborne defenses in South Korea have upset China, which is now worried about the shifting balance of power in the region; specifically, the Chinese are worried that the THAAD radar system could peer into sensitive Chinese territory and be used for defensive purposes in case China were to launch its own missiles, either toward the United States or at another country.

When the THAAD deployment was announced, China retaliated against South Korea, normally a cooperative trading partner with the larger Communist nation. China summarily closed as many as two dozen Chinese branches of the Korean supermarket Lotte and disallowed South Korean citizens to visit China as part of package travel tours to the larger country.

Clearly, China is angry that the Democratic Korean regime chose the defense priorities of the United States (even though they incorporate South Korea’s own) over those of China. In the meantime, South Korea recently impeached and dismissed its president Park Geun-Hye and is due to hold new presidential elections May 9.

The THAAD deployment comes on the heels of North Korea testing what appeared to be medium-range missiles at a longer distance than usual, with four simultaneous missile launches being televised and some of the missiles falling within 200 miles of the coast of Japan.

This had the effect of worrying Japanese defense officials and sparking talk that the Japan needs to bolster its own offensive-capable forces (although officially, Japan’s military is referred to as a “Self-Defense Force”). And this is after much controversy over islands in the South China Sea, which both China and Japan have laid claim to, in order to try to defend their rights to oil deposits and fishing grounds in the region and to control valuable shipping lanes through the area.

The U.S. recently steamed the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson through disputed South China Sea waters, in an action that angered Chinese military officials. For its part, the U.S. has said it intends to maintain regular naval traffic through the aforementioned sea lanes, even though China has said that the U.S.’s actions are meant to undermine China’s security and sovereignty.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that China should be blocked from accessing the artificial islands it’s built in the Sea, some of which are more than 800 miles from the Chinese mainland, creating the risk of a military flare-up over the issue.

In the last 10 months, Chinese warplanes have intercepted or crossed paths with U.S. aircraft three times, and the U.S. has been forced to issue statements that in each case the Chinese aircraft were operating in an “unsafe” manner.

Adding to all of these potential flashpoints has been recent talk by the Philippines’ mercurial president, Rodrigo Duterte (who is said to have killed as many as three drug dealers in his country personally, as well as ordering the extrajudicial executions of thousands of others). Duterte reportedly ordered his nation’s Navy to seize control over the Benham Rise, a large ocean area north of his country where Chinese vessels have been surveying in recent months.

This is in addition to disputed regions of the South China Sea to the West of the Philippines that Duterte has also claimed. “My order to my military, you go there and tell them straight that this is ours,” said Duterte. According to the U.N., the Benham Rise and its associated fishing and oil rights belong to the Philippines, but the Chinese foreign ministry said its ships have the right to pass through the area.

If all this weren’t enough, Russia, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and Vietnam have also raised their voices over South China Sea-related territorial matters as well as registering their disapproval with the U.S.’s new South Korean defenses and actions in the South China Sea.

Certainly, it seems that with each passing month, the chances of a conflict breaking out or tensions escalating to a military dimension are increasing. Currently, President Trump is scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in April.

Hopefully, tensions will ratchet down somewhat after this conclave, but up until now, it’s become clear that Trump is not hesitant to show military force as his predecessor President Obama appeared to be. Let’s hope that cooler heads can prevail for the remainder of the year.

~ Conservative Zone


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