Trump expected to take tough but brief action in South China Sea

Author: VOA

Posted: Tuesday 15th November, 2016


8203;The New York real estate billionaire said on his campaign website that a stronger U.S. military deployment in the South China Sea would counter Chinese “adventurism” as Beijing tries to expand its influence. Trump also criticized China for taking disputed islets in the sea and reclaiming land for others. China has reclaimed an estimated 3,200 acres (1,295 hectares).


“A strong military presence will be a clear signal to China and other nations in Asia and around the world that America is back in the global leadership business,” the campaign website said.


Economic reality


Once Trump has shown initial force in the sea, his government will probably drop military action in favor of a practical business partnership with China, analysts say.


“Details are scarce as to what Trump’s policy approach to the Asia Pacific might look like, and many of his off-the-cuff remarks have sent mixed signals about how the administration might proceed,” said Jonathan Spangler, director of the Taipei-based South China Sea Think Tank. “Had Clinton won the election, there’s little doubt that she would have continued to prioritize the Asia Pacific region.”


Cabinet an indicator


An Asia policy might become clearer when Trump picks policy architects such as the next secretaries of state and defense, King said.


“China will likely find a business-minded leader like Trump to be easier to influence than a political and ideologically minded leader like Clinton,” Spangler forecast.


Trump takes a cold view toward free trade, a core part of Sino-U.S. ties today. He has called China a “cheater” and a “currency manipulator.” But ultimately he will reach out to the Communist leadership in the interest of American businesses that rely on Asia’s biggest market and manufacturing base, analysts believe.


Exports of American goods to China totaled $113 billion in 2015. That figure made China the third biggest destination for American products after Canada and Mexico, the nonprofit advocacy group US-China Business Council said in a report this year.


“At the end of the day Trump is a marketing man,” Araral says. “He wants to make deals. If it brings domestic benefits to the U.S., he will do it.”


Trump may also cut the military budget as part of a refocus on domestic policy, limiting action in the South China Sea, said Lin Chong-pin, a retired strategic affairs professor in Taipei.


“When Donald Trump ascends to the presidency, he will scale back the military presence in [the] South China Sea for sure,” Lin said. “Of course Beijing is silently smiling now.”


China has irritated Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines by passing vessels through their claimed exclusive economic zones of 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) off their coastlines and occupying islets in those zones.


Beijing, which claims about 95 percent of the sea that extends from Taiwan to Singapore, began a visible expansion push in 2010 into the tropical body of water prized for fisheries, gas, oil and commercial shipping lanes.


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