US Policy on the South China Sea: Is It Just “Safeguarding Navigation Freedom”?


The South China Sea that once remained a bone of contention among China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei regarding territorial claims, has now become a new source of tension between U.S and China.

The growing influence of China and its reclamation acts over Spratlys and Paracels islands by building up military installations there has alarmed U.S administration. Failure of diplomatic means for halting china’s missions in the disputed area has pushed U.S towards a masculine stance, involving a show of military might in the region.

The United States along with its South East Asian allies strongly condemn the illegal creation of artificial islands in the SCS by China, with aims of military deployments and regional hegemony. In the wake of China’s military acts, U.S  is poised for military installations in the sea to contain China’s illegitimate territorial expansionism while “safeguarding navigation freedom” in the SCS.

Clashing interests of US and China in SCS and respective states’ stickiness to their rigid stances is turning the region into a “permanent zone of conflict”.

Recent military installations have raised uncertainty as U.S perceives China’s goal of establishing a “security buffer” as a challenge to its military status quo in Western Pacific. ”Mistrust” and “miscalculation” do not allow table talks but in fact have paved the way for gunboat diplomacy, resulting in worsening of relations.

Keeping its promise of maintaining global security and fulfilling alliance commitments to the Philippines regarding the South China Sea, U.S seeks coercive measures against China’s military buildups in the region, justifying its own military deployments by referring them as “safeguard measures” to ensure a free South China Sea.

Now where U.S perspective is hyping the idea that China has hegemonic ambitions in the region, characterised by its military deployments, a Chinese perspective gives us an entirely different picture of its build ups.

China defends its military deployments calling them a part of “national defence” and legitimises legitimises its actions in SCS on the basis of the right of “self-preservation” and accuses the United States of destabilising the regional peace by conducting illegitimate military drills and patrols from time to time.

In fact, U.S has set double-standards, it criticises China for the militarization of islands while ignoring its own military deployments in Philippines, Singapore as well as in South-China Sea which is on the rise.

US policy of “safeguarding navigation freedom” is nothing more than provoking China and maintaining its own maritime supremacy. The costs of such a policy will be more than benefits as an escalation of tensions between the two powers is likely to destroy the tranquillity of the region.
Nevertheless, it’s US or China behind the instability; prevailing situation drives us all to ponder the unbearable costs of the ongoing tensions between both states. The need of the hour is to tackle the matter in a wise manner, as by the time, the world is not ready to face another “great crisis”.

The idea of “Complex interdependence” has put all states concerned over the recent tensions that can lead to a “ big economic stagnation”, if not handled in a diplomatic manner. The harsh measures taken by the United States will do nothing more than risking global peace and stability.

Obama’s administration has continued harsh statements regarding China’s ruling over the matter, saying that “the US would continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows” and other states too have the same right of navigation.

However it’s not just the reason of “safeguarding navigation freedom” behind US military deployments, as neither US nor any other state has ever faced hindrance while navigating through SCS. Despite this. The military deployments by the US reveal that the core ambitions are far ahead than merely protecting navigation freedom.

But in fact, US policies have to do more with containment of China; that’s challenging America’s long historical domination in Western Pacific.


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