Implications of the Advancing China-US Rivalry in Asia-Pacific

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Context
China-US competition and cooperation have coexisted until now; however, there are indications that competition and rivalry parts are gaining ground. The region of Asia-Pacific is particularly heating up with implications for the Af-Pak area, Indo-Pak and US-Pakistan relations. This article examines three recent incidents that have caused PoliTact to issue this alert.

Analysis

The following three incidents involve three countries that are increasingly part of US axis in the Asia-Pacific region and include India, Japan and South Korea:

  • The most recent incident involves a collision between a Chinese fishing vessel and two Japanese coast guard boats in the disputed Senkaku islands, located in the East China Sea. The uninhabited islands are administered by Japan but claimed by China. Subsequently, Japan captured the Chinese vessel and  now plans to  prosecute the captain. The event has caused China to suspend high-level government ties with Japan.
  • China recently denied visa to an Indian general whose command includes the region of Jammu and Kashmir. According to media reports, since the incident, the defense relations between the two countries stand suspended. The occurrence is also associated with reported presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan part of Pakistan.
  • The tension between North and South Korea has remained high as Seoul points the finger at Pyongyang for the sinking of the warship Cheonan on March 26. The US is backing Seoul, while Pyongyang is blaming the US. The event was followed by naval exercises by both China and US that have raised the tensions considerably in the region.

The US Commander for Pacific region (PACOM) Admiral Robert Willard had stated in August that increasing Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea is a cause for concern and the country would take steps to counter. He added:

“Our purpose there is to maintain security, when you consider the sea lines of communication that criss-cross this very strategic and important region of the ocean, they carry the majority of commerce for this part of the world,” he said, saying the U.S. Navy would work with “our partners in the region”.

In short there are economic and strategic interests at stakes for both US and China in the region, and if China is acting aggressively, US is not about to back down. The Chinese and US defense relations are not going well either and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been unable to visit China for sometime now. These events are taking place in the background of Chinese policy declaration that asserts ownership of South China Sea and that it represents its Core Interest.

As China feels the pressure from US and its allies in the Pacific, China is bound to push back as it appears to be doing. China’s partners and economic interests are coming under strain not only in the Pacific and Middle East but also in South and Central Asia region.

Based on these observations, PoliTact has concluded that both Kashmir and Afghanistan situation is about to take a turn for the worse, and meanwhile bring Pakistan under enormous strain. The present government of Pakistan already disillusioned from the flood devastation, appears ill prepared to deal with the emerging geopolitics, which would also be a challenge for the US-Pakistan relations.

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