By Wang Yunfei
The China-US relations have been taking a nosedive recently as Washington has imposed all-round, high-intensity maximum pressure on Beijing on political, diplomatic, economic and military fronts. Anti-China waves in the US have reached a new climax as Washington abruptly demanded the closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston, plunging bilateral ties to a new low.
The White House is waging an ideological battle against China. In particular, the US military has constantly sent naval vessels and aircraft to the South China Sea, the forefront of military confrontations between the two countries, for provocation and threat, pushing the region to a critical period when the US is most likely to attack Chinese islands and reefs.
As far as international law is concerned, the US administration made a statement on July 13, denying China's sovereignty over and maritime rights and interests in the Nansha islands and reefs of the South China Sea. By doing so, it has created itself the legal basis to attack unclaimed islands and reefs.
Regarding the political needs in the US, as Trump has a much lower public support rating than Democratic candidate Joe Biden, stirring up external frictions, especially military conflicts with China, will help the incumbent president for his re-election campaign.
If a military conflict had to break out between the US and China, one in the South China Sea would be much more controllable than one across the Taiwan Strait in terms of scale, region and duration. Given the current situation, it's probable that Donald Trump would take the unusual approach and suddenly stir up armed conflicts with China in the South China Sea before November this year.
With regard to military operations, the US military has kept increasing its vessel and aircraft operations in the South China Sea. Multiple types of reconnaissance planes such as RC-135, E-8C and P-8A flew to the region almost nonstop in June and July, B-1B and B-52Hbombers flew over South China Sea multiple times, and US dual-carrier taskforce held two military exercises in the region in July alone, not to mention the countless so-called “freedom of navigation operations” performed by relevant naval vessels in the past. It would not be surprising if the US vessel fleet had long planned the attacks on China’s islands and reefs.
On the diplomatic front, Washington abruptly demanded the closure of the Chinese Consulate General in Houston for the unjustified reason of "protecting American intellectual property and Americans' private information". Other reasons aside, the move may be a diplomatic test intended to try Beijing's bottom line amid various conflicts with Washington, so as to decide how to set about the military attacks on Chinese maritime features in the South China Sea.
The signs are clear that the US may, to everyone's surprise, attack China's Nansha islands and reefs.
It is necessary for the Chinese side to make military plans as early as possible to respond to the possible attacks from the US side.
Guarding against surprise attacks by the US military on South China Sea islands and reefs is no sensational claim. China must be fully prepared.
(The author is a Chinese military expert)
Disclaimer: This article is originally published on senstrat.com, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of eng.chinamil.com.cn.