WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — On Wednesday, Washington corroborated media reports that Beijing had deployed a radar and two batteries of HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island in the Paracel archipelago, also known as Xisha in Chinese.
"The US Navy knows that its strike aircraft — unmanned or manned — will not survive against modern air defenses," retired US Colonel and military historian Doug Macgregor said in an interview.
In the event of conflict, US long range missile strikes would have to eliminate both Chinese integrated air defense systems and, potentially, anti-ship missiles, Macgregor, explained.
"In sum, the Chinese are simply adding complexity to the military challenge their fortified islands present," Macgregor, who also holds a Ph.D. in international relations from the US Military Academy at West Point, added.
However, Beijing was generating for itself conflicts of needless complexity in the region, Macgregor cautioned.
"Of course, the Chinese also have to contend with Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Filipino and, in all likelihood, Japanese opponents too. Thus, their militarization of the dispute is ultimately self-defeating. To date, their behavior has simply strengthened the forces against them."
Chinese policies in the region currently played into the hands of US hawks by giving them justifications for massive forward deployments of forces, Macgregor maintained.
"Given the distance from mainland China, Beijing would do better to opt for regional talks to sort out the claims. It is Chinese behavior toward its neighbors that provides the pretext for US naval intervention."
Macgregor is a famous US war hero whose squadron destroyed an entire Iraqi Armored Brigade in 23 minutes, while suffering only one casualty, at the Battle of 73 Easting, a decisive tank fight during the 1991 Gulf War.
Ohio Northern University Assistant Professor of History Robert Waters argued that the failure to coerce China in the region reflected the hollowness of President Barack Obama’s "pivot to Asia" strategy.
"President Obama has been saying for at least four years that he is going to ‘pivot to Asia.’ I guess he's saving the pivot so that he has something to do after he retires," Waters told Sputnik on Thursday.
The missile deployment was consistent with more than 20 years of steady Chinese commitment to maintaining its presence in the Spratly and Paracel Island chains, Waters observed.
However, he added, before current Chinese President Xi Jinping took power, the Beijing government moved stealthily.
"President Xi's government makes little effort to hide new deployments and its rhetoric has been very strident… toward the United States," Waters pointed out.
Xi sent missiles to Woody Island, also known as Yongxing Island, while Obama was meeting with Southeast Asian leaders, a painful embarrassment for Obama, he noted.
"That suggests that Xi isn't worried about Obama’s reaction."
If China's economic slowdown worsens and leads to unrest, Chinese leaders might think that a more aggressive foreign policy would make people forget their economic problems, Waters concluded.