South China Sea crisis: Beijing think tank warns of US conflict just weeks away

South China Sea: Military exercises ‘must continue’ says expert

The South China Sea is a highly contested region and faces claims from China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Diplomatic relations between the nations are already extremely strained.

Over recent months, Beijing has asserted its dominance in the region and has built several military bases on some of the atolls.

Despite not having a claim to any part of the archipelago, Washington has increased its military presence in order to counter against China’s dominance in the region.

But with just weeks before Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the new President of the United States, a Chinese think tank has warned of a growing risk of conflict between the nations.

The South China Sea Probing Initiative (SCSPI) said in a statement: “We still believe that the risk of conflict is rising.

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“Though less mentioned in media reports recently, there have always been several encounters of various kinds from two sides every single day.

“If the US and China couldn’t find a substantive crisis management measures, the risk of an accident or unexpected conflict would still be high.”

Within the report, the SCSPI’s team urged the US to cease intervening in regional disputes to prevent potential provocations during encounters with Chinese forces.

It continued: “The US needs 1) to refrain from ‘taking sides’ on disputed issues and maintain necessary policy balance.

“2) to avoid extreme moves on the front line.

“However, under the backdrop of the great power competition, both mentioned above are hard to be seen.”

Just this week, the US Navy warned China is the number one threat to its maritime dominance.

A conflict between Washington and Beijing has been previously warned by Hu Bo, the Director of the Center for Maritime Strategy Research.

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He said: “Although the US has been trying to decouple from China in other areas, they are still closely connected.

“The chances of a large-scale conflict happening are small.

“But a medium or small-scale conflict is possible, such as two warships hitting each other or occasional crossfire since the two countries’ warships and aircraft encounter each other.”

Earlier this month, Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, urged other nations to work together to counter against Beijing’s dominance.

Mr Wu said: “If one of the most critical junctures of the first island chain is not in the hands of the like-minded countries, we can imagine what this is going to create in the global strategic picture.

“We definitely need to think about how we prevent it from happening.

“The like-minded countries need to come together, and we will be strong together.”

He warned allies including the US, Europe, Japan and Australia that if Taiwan was to “fall prey to China” it would increase Beijing’s reach into the Pacific region.

However, other countries have called for China and the US not to involve them in the ongoing disputes.

In September, Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi said: “ASEAN, Indonesia, wants to show to all that we are ready to be a partner.

“We don’t want to get trapped by this rivalry.”

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries include Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.

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