What We Know:
Asian-Pacific powers met Thursday to discuss economics, diplomacy, and world events. The United States (U.S.) and Japan claimed that the current state of global affairs is threatening to shuffle the global order. Both Russia and China claim the U.S. is looking for a confrontation.
U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris claimed that the U.S. will remain committed to resolving the issues in the Pacific, including China’s continued provocation. She also took the opportunity to attack Russia for its “brutal assault” on Ukraine.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang said the U.S. was accusing Beijing of creating competing structures to force countries to “pick sides or get embroiled in meaningless disputes”. He follows this by saying that “confrontation produces no winner; rather, mutually beneficial cooperation is what people want and where the future lies”. He added that “general stability is being maintained in the South China Sea.
Why It Matters:
The South China Sea has been a point of contention that has created growing animosity between the U.S. and China. Countries in the region are looking for the best deal when it comes to defense contracts, naval bases, and joint exercises.
The language the Chinese Premier used during this conference is far different from the rhetoric the Chinese have been practicing. China has frequently violated sovereign waters by building “floating” military bases in the territorial waters of Pacific island nations and buzzing U.S. naval vessels. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has joined the U.S. in condemning the forced change of the status quo, calling it “unacceptable”.
Both Russia and China have a growing influence on smaller Pacific nations and have continued to claim that the U.S. is militarizing the region, pushing nations closer to the Russo-Chinese bloc.
China and Japan have also had tensions over the release of Fukushima nuclear power plant water. Kishida ensured that the release followed international standards, but China immediately ceased all food imports from Japan.
With the current trend of relations between the U.S. and China, there is a good chance that confrontations will get worse. Many Pacific nations in the South China Sea have already begun to choose sides. Earlier in the year, China had been strong-arming many Pacific nations with threats both military and economic.
With nations picking sides, there is likely going to be an increase in investments in bases in the Pacific. Larger joint security exercises and patrols will likely be spotted in the future. There will also be more summits that include China and the U.S., which promise to safeguard their individual interests in the region.