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China threatens to send warships inside US territorial waters


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China, on Wednesday, threatened to send warships into U.S. territorial waters.

The Global Times called on People's Liberation Army Navy warships to travel to "U.S. military bases in the Asia-Pacific and the U.S. allies' coastlines to conduct close-in reconnaissance operations and declare freedom of navigation." The editorial added that "the U.S. will definitely see the PLA show up at its doorstep in the not-too-distant future."

This isn't simple ranting. The Global Times operates under Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi . Its words represent a credible threat.

Why is China so furious?

It laments the "naked provocation" of a U.S. Navy destroyer's transit, on Wednesday, within 12 miles of a Chinese artificial island in the South China Sea. Yang's mouthpiece warns that "only by making the U.S. have a taste of its own medicine can we touch the nerves of the U.S. and its allies, and reshape the Western world's understanding of U.S. bullying in the South China Sea."

This assessment bears little relation to reality. China's claims of ownership over the South China Sea are both geographically absurd and politically imperialist . Instead, China is escalating its militarization of the sea for two distinctly unjustified reasons. First, to make these waters safe for unilateral Chinese communist resource extraction. Second, to extract political concessions from other nations in return for their access to the sea. China's leverage is the $3.5 trillion-$4 trillion in annual trade flows that move through the South China Sea.

The Trump and Biden administrations have rightly resisted China's actions with U.S. naval actions such as that on Wednesday. They recognize China's threat to trade, sovereign government, and a key principle of the post-Second World War U.S.-led international order: free transit. But while America's European allies have been unwilling to conduct the U.S.-style transits that so upset China, nations such as Australia, India, Japan, and Vietnam are moving closer to the U.S. position. China thus senses it may face a more robust multilateral challenge.

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