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The South China is already a highly contested area with China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines all laying claim to parts of the archipelago. Diplomatic relations between the nations, which have laid claim to the islands, are already extremely strained.
The US has increased in military presence and freedom of navigation operations in the contested region and called on other nations to counter China’s dominance.
Last month, the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, issued an alarming warning to Beijing and called for other nations to counter against China.
Writing on Twitter, Mr Pompeo said: “The United States’ policy is crystal clear: the South China Sea is not China’s maritime empire.
“If Beijing violates international law and free nations do nothing, history shows the CCP will simply take more territory.
“China Sea disputes must be resolved through international law.”
Now, a Chinese military adviser has claimed Mr Trump will launch an attack in the region to boost his chances of winning a re-election in November.
Wang Yunfei, a retired Chinese naval officer, sensationally claimed the US President could start a “controllable” military conflict with Beijing.
He suggested the US would attack Scarborough Shoal, an area now under Chinese control.
Unlike other atolls in the archipelago, China has no built any structures on the reef.
But Chinese coastguards regularly patrol the area, which is contested by Manila and Beijing.
Mr Yunfei said: “There are no troops stationed there, so the consequence of a [US-China] diplomatic conflict is relatively smaller.
“The American military might also try to humiliate the Chinese in the name of resumption of their shooting training.”
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As the shoal lies within the 200 nautical miles of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, a conflict in the region could affect other nations in the region.
Hu Bo, director of think thank South China Sea Strategic Situation Probing Initiative, said: “To throw some bombs into an empty lagoon makes no military sense, and it would also upset the Philippines and even other countries in the region.
“But if it did happen, it would also open the door to a hot conflict, just like attacking the Chinese artificial islands in the South China Sea would mean a full-on war.”
Philippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, announced this week his country’s military will no longer take part in joint maritime exercises in the region.
Defence secretary Delfin Lorenzana said: “President Duterte’s orders to us, to me, is that we should not involve ourselves in naval exercises in the South China Sea except our national waters, within 12 miles of our shores.”
His statement suggests the Philippines will not join their American allies should a conflict near the Scarborough Shoal starts.
Zhang Mingliang, a specialist in South China Sea studies at Jinan University in Guangzhou, southern China, said: “This policy is to avoid further irritating Beijing, given that US military activities in the South China Sea have practically protected the interests of the Philippines, an American ally by treaty.
“China is already under pressure from the United States, so other Asean claimants of South China Sea features are being extremely careful with their words and actions, so as not to explicitly choose a side.”
Mr Trump is currently trailing behind in Democrat and presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
Wu Xinbo, director of Fudan University’s Centre for American Studies, claimed Mr Trump has a political move to start a crisis overseas.
He said: “Trump does have the political motive to create a crisis to divert his troubles at home.
“But military wise a conflict with China is too risky to manage.”
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