Tillerson takes on a collision course with Beijing

Rex Tillerson, PhD Donald trump for the post of Secretary of state, paved the way for a potential collision with China, saying the country should be removed from artificial Islands, created in the South China sea.

Tillerson said that the control of China and the construction of artificial Islands in waters claimed by neighboring countries, “akin to the annexation of Crimea by Russia.”

China claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China sea. The country has built seven artificial Islands on the reefs and rocks, and added their military runways and anti-aircraft weapons.

“We need to send China a clear signal that, firstly, the construction of the Islands should be stopped and, secondly, the country is denied access to these Islands,” said Tillerson at the time of the confirmation hearing for the post of chief diplomat of the United States. “They capture, control or claim control over territories that rightfully belong to China”.

Such statements probably will infuriate China, which takes a very strict position in regard to encroachments on its sovereignty. Last year, the international Tribunal issued a decision which recognized the greater part of territorial China’s claims invalid, but it does not affect the situation: the Chinese government has ignored the verdict.

“[Chinese President] XI Jinping not want to appear weak and soft in the face of pressure from the United States, so I’m really worried about the beginning of the crisis with China,” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for strategic and international studies. “China is not going to allow the United States to block him access to what he considers his territory.”

Trump often attacked China during his campaign mainly on economic issues, and recently used Twitter to chastise China for supporting North Korea. But comments Tillerson is a new provocation that Beijing simply cannot ignore.

“China has always been kept in respect of all tweets and statements, because I was hoping that they will be able to stabilize U.S.-China relations, said Glaser. — The Chinese do not refuse it, but at some point, XI Jinping, may have to do so, because weakness could harm its ability to consolidate power.”

This year is crucial for si, since it ends the first row. At a critical Communist party Congress at the end of the year will be a shuffling of Cabinet members, and, most likely, will be determined by the successor XI Jinping; the leaders will fight for the opportunity to nominate their allies.

Tillerson did not specify how the US will block China access to Islands in the South China sea, but experts agreed that it is necessary to use one of the forms of military deployment.


“Blocking access to China, presumably with the help of American warships, will provoke a crisis, a military confrontation,” said Ashley Townshend, researcher, research centre USA at the University of Sydney.

“It is also illegal according to the rules, which are applied by US in the conduct of its current policy in the South China sea”.

Under the administration of Barack Obama, the US maintained a neutral position regarding the sovereignty claim, not recognizing property rights, they were often sent military ships through the South China sea, explaining that the freedom of exercises for the use of navigation devices.

“Tillerson, like trump, is preparing to take a more belligerent stance against China in the South China sea, and, in fact, more decisive,” added Townshend.

But a more aggressive stance in relation to what China considers its territorial integrity will probably cause more tension. “No country can expect us to swallow harm our sovereignty, security and interests,” said XI in his speech last year.

Tillerson also condemned China for what he could not rein in nuclear program of North Korea, he said that China has “full control over what supports the government of North Korea.”

“We can no longer make empty promises. Like the ones when China has stated that it intends to exert pressure on North Korea for the sake of reform, but in fact the promises were given only to shirk, said Tillerson. — We cannot close our eyes when the violation of trust, it leads to even worse behavior. This has to end”.

High-sounding phrases against the South China sea and North Korea is unlikely to cause China to act, but they can impede the efforts of the administration to trump to develop cooperation in other spheres.

“I don’t know of any solution to the North Korean nuclear problem, which would not have included the cooperation between China and the United States, said Townshend. But to publicly call China to a duel — not the best strategy if you are trying to persuade him to cooperate”.