Four Powerful Countries Plan Resistance to China in a Disputed Asian Sea

TAIPEI, TAIWAN A bloc of four powerful, Western-allied nations, intent on keeping the South China Sea open for international use despite growing Chinese control, will probably issue stern statements, help China’s maritime rivals and hold joint naval exercises near the contested waterway this year, analysts say.

Australia, India, Japan and the United States, a group known as the quad, are most likely to take those measures rather than directly challenging Chinese claims such as its military installations among the sea’s 500 small islets.

Number one, presence is probably going be driven by the U.S., said Stuart Orr, professor of strategic management at Deakin University in Australia. If I were to take a guess, I would say probably follow that by India, with Japan taking a little bit more of the same role as Australia does, at providing high-level logistical support.

The quad countries want to keep the 3.5 million-square-kilometer, resource-rich sea open while protecting their own economic ties with Beijing, say experts who follow the issue. Multiple countries ship, fish and explore for oil in the South China Sea today.

Cautionary pronouncements

Heads of state from the four-way alliance met in Manila in November to discuss keeping the sea open. Australia and Japan separately called then for rules-based order and respect for international law in the sea.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told leaders from 10 Southeast Asian countries, including four that compete with China for maritime sovereignty, January 26 that India was committed to working together more on maritime matters.

Expect more statements designed to keep China on guard, analysts say.

I think the most concrete thing they can do is to issue some statements on the South China Sea dispute, and even then I believe that China might not even be explicitly named in such a statement, said Ben Ho, senior analyst with the Military Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Source: Voice of America

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