(ANTIMEDIA) Beijing — In a state-run editorial on Monday, China praised comments made by Secretary of Defense James Mattis over the weekend. Mattis suggested the hotly disputed issue of the South China Sea should be handled diplomatically rather than through warfare.
Calling the defense secretary’s words a “mind-soothing pill” that “dispersed the clouds of war that many feared were gathering over the South China Sea,” the China Daily hinted at a warming in U.S.-China relations.
“Mattis has inspired optimism here that things may not be as bad as previously portrayed,” the state-controlled newspaper wrote.
Stating Mattis’s remarks were “worthy of affirmation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang echoed this sentiment at a press briefing. The spokesman said the U.S. defense secretary’s comments align “with the common interests of China and all countries in the region” and reiterated the Chinese desire for outside nations to “respect the joint interests and wishes of countries in the region.”
While seemingly conciliatory, these words from an official Chinese spokesman also seem to imply that every Pacific Rim nation wishes to voluntarily adhere to the “One China” policy the superpower is seeking to establish. And that, as the United States under the leadership of Donald Trump seems vehement upon proving, is simply not the case.
In fact, even as James Mattis was suggesting over the weekend that between the U.S. and China, the diplomatic road was the one to take on the issue of territorial sovereignty, he was also accusing the Asian superpower of using coercion to force its will upon neighboring countries.
“We have watched in the South China Sea as China has shredded the trust of nations in the region,” Mattis said at the conference in Tokyo, “apparently trying to have veto authority over security and economic conditions of neighboring states.”
Providing further evidence that tensions are invariably rising between China and the United States — despite what government officials on both sides might happen to say at a given time — Fox News reported Monday that three Chinese warships have just sailed into the East China Sea.
It would be difficult to argue the timing is coincidental, as just two days before, the U.S. solidified its security commitments to ally Japan. And those commitments essentially back up the claim that Japan — not China — has a sovereign claim to the contested Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
In effect, it’s the same fundamental disagreement over two different bodies of water — both of which are in one region. And it’s a region neither the United States nor China appears willing to cede control over.
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