01:59 GMT18 January 2021
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    Washington deems that the best way to contain Beijing in the South China Sea is to arm US allies in the region, however, America's military foreign sales will aggravate tensions in Southeast Asia, Sean O'Connor stressed.

    The US-led rapid military buildup in Southeast Asia is unlikely to discourage China from realizing its plans in the South China Sea, but will only lead to a dangerous arms race in the region, noted Sean O'Connor, a researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, warning the United States against bolstering its military foreign sales in the region.

    "What Washington must recognize, however, is that foreign military sales have unintended consequences. With more capabilities and vessels deployed in the disputed territory, a small skirmish could ignite an all-out crisis," the researcher noted.

    Meanwhile, last week Washington approved a $130 million deal aimed at upgrading Singapore's F-16 program, while the US State Department has recently approved missile sales to Indonesia and Malaysia, the expert emphasized.

    Furthermore, Japan may soon sell its sophisticated submarines to Australia. The Philippines are currently mulling a possible purchase of stealth frigates, anti-submarine helicopters and guided missile fast track craft with the help of Washington's financing. Taiwan has signaled that it is ready to deploy its new P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, obtained from the US, in order to conduct operations in the South China Sea, Sean O'Connor highlighted.

    If all these (no less than nine) countries populate the disputed waters of the South China Sea with their submarines, aircraft and other weaponry, "the chance of an accidental—or intentional—collision continues to increase," the expert claimed.

    According to Sean O'Connor, the only way for Washington to reduce the potential risk of collision in the rapidly militarized region is to outline a new strategy.

    The expert insisted that instead of encouraging new military sales the United States should focus on creating an information-sharing center in the South China Sea region in order to establish high-level communication between all sides.

    "Existing mechanisms, such as the Code for Unalerted Encounters at Sea (CUES), provide a framework for establishing dialogue among countries in the region in the event of air or sea encounters," he noted.

    Regardless of the fact that establishing an information center alone is unlikely to resolve the problem soon, it will be a step in the right direction, the researcher emphasized.


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