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    In this undated photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a Chinese H-6K bomber patrols the islands and reefs in the South China Sea.

    'China Has Achieved Irreversible Shift in Balance of Power in South China Sea'

    © AP Photo/ Xinhua
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    The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has published a comprehensive report detailing how the US might 'deter China' in Asia. Commenting on the report, respected Russian military observer Vasily Kashin explained that as far as the South China Sea is concerned, there is already very little Washington can do.

    CSIS published its report, titled 'Countering Coercion in Maritime Asia: The Theory and Practice of Gray Zone Deterrence', on Tuesday. The report documented the uptick in Chinese assertiveness in maritime disputes with the US and its Asian allies, and provided recommendations on how Washington might work to counter Beijing and its efforts in what CSIS experts called the 'gray zones' of the East China and South China Seas.

    The report described the most acute crises and incidents in Asia involving China in recent years, from the Chinese attempt to stop the work of a US intelligence ship in the South China Sea in 2009, to crises around the Senkaku/Diaoyudao Islands in 2010 and 2012, to a number of incidents around disputed shoals in the South China Sea, and finally, the Chinese project to create artificial islands in the South China Sea beginning in 2013.

    Commenting on the report in a special analytical piece for Sputnik, military and geopolitical observer Vasily Kashin explained that "naturally, each of these cases is dissected from the position of the US and its allies, and it's unlikely that the conclusions reached would be acceptable to the Chinese side, or even to independent observers…"

    Kashin noted that while the nearly 300-page report did offer a broad array of US-centric assessments and facts, "as far as the recommendations on 'countering the Chinese strategy of coercion' go, the report seems to be quite severely detached from reality."

    China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea in this undated photo taken December, 2016
    © REUTERS/ Stringer
    China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea in this undated photo taken December, 2016

    Furthermore, the expert stressed that today, "the US's very ability to pursue a consistent policy on any issues having to do with China is questionable. The priorities of the current US administration are subject to rapid and unpredictable changes, and important policy directions could shift 180 degrees in an instant."

    Kashin suggested that examples of this include everything from the US position on Taiwan's status, to President Trump's allegations about China being a currency manipulator, to the possibility of a unilateral US military strike against North Korea. 

    "And this is also happening on the issue of the status of the South China Sea," the observer noted. "It's well-known that the Trump administration has prevented the Pentagon from conducting new 'freedom of navigation' patrols in the Spratly Islands area." It is speculated that Washington "needs cooperation with China on the Korean issue too much to anger the Chinese once again."

    President Donald Trump gestures as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla
    © AP Photo/ Alex Brandon
    President Donald Trump gestures as he and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together after their meetings at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla

    Kashin stressed that another key recommendation made in the report – that of 'strengthening US alliances in the region', is equally difficult to implement.

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center standing, reviews members of Japan Self-Defense Forces (SDF) during the Self-Defense Forces Day at Asaka Base, north of Tokyo, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016.
    © AP Photo/ Eugene Hoshiko
    "In Southeast Asia, US positions in the area of security had begun weakening under President Obama, and this trend has not been reversed under Trump. On the contrary, the protectionism and unpredictability of the new administration is likely to accelerate this process, rather than slowing it down."

    "As far as Northeast Asia is concerned, Trump's demands that South Korea pay for the THAAD missile defense system has shown the White House's lack of understanding of some of the foundational principles behind US-South Korean security relations," the expert added.

     In this photo provided by U.S. Forces Korea, trucks carrying U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system arrive at the Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017.
    © AP Photo/ U.S. Force Korea
    In this photo provided by U.S. Forces Korea, trucks carrying U.S. missile launchers and other equipment needed to set up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system arrive at the Osan air base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea, Monday, March 6, 2017.

    Ultimately, Kashin indicated that in the South China Sea in particular, "the Chinese have already managed to achieve irreversible changes in the situation and in the [regional] balance of power, and it is unlikely for any US strategy to be able to change this situation." 

    As for the East China Sea, the expert noted that "periodic outbursts of tension will continue, but here the more important factor will be the possibility for coordination between any tough measures and the domestic political situation in Japan."

    On the whole, "a complete and detailed study of China's strategy and tactics in maritime territorial disputes may have greatly helped the US a few years back, but can hardly change the situation now," Kashin concluded.

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    expert commentary, expert analysis, strategy, geopolitics, Vasily Kashin, Donald Trump, China, United States
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