In this new round of tit-for-tat, Australia is stuck between two fires. China remains the country’s top trade partner and America remains Canberra’s number one military ally.
As Beijing seeks to carefully distance Australia from the US in the South China Sea conflict, as a means to mitigate tensions, the overall situation appears to have crossed a point of no return, according to Siracusa.
“The Australian government plays these cards close to the chest. They want to involve Americans more and more [in the South China Sea],” the professor suggested. “Australia is on board and Australian public is pretty much on board, except for some critical members of academic community. The military and ordinary Australians are pretty much on their [the government’s] side.”
“US President Obama has been trying to rebalance or shift the balance,” Siracusa said. “That means that a shift in American assets in different parts of the world, to this part of the world, is mainly prepositioning. Putting its long-range bombers in Australia pursues the concept of prepositioning weapons or troops such as heavy marines here.”
Beijing has placed missiles in the South China Sea, and has stated that it doesn’t recognize a right claimed by the United States to sail in or fly over what they consider to be Chinese territorial waters.
“We have a lot of buildup to some kind of a climax here,” opines Siracusa, adding that, “the Chinese Navy has been actually cast with stopping the US Navy.”
According to these and other indicators, the professor asserts that the situation could grow into a war between China and the US, and, he suggests, claims by both countries that they will increase joint maritime military drills don’t fool anyone.