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China fires warning missiles into sea as isolation grows in South East Asia

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China unleashed its most lethal threat to the U.S. carrier fleet this week by firing off series of ballistic missiles called ‘carrier killers’ into the South China Sea in a direct warning to U.S. policymakers after D.C. politicos ramped up its rhetoric regarding China’s activities in the disputed sea areas.

“A US defense official told CNN that the Chinese military launched four medium-range missiles from mainland China on Wednesday. The missiles impacted in the northern reaches of the South China Sea between Hainan Island and the Paracel Islands, known as the Xisha Islands in China, the official said,” said CNN.

The missiles are part of the Chinese strategy called Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) that looks to hamper America’s projection of power into Southeast Asia by denying American aircraft carriers access to the sea.

“The missiles were fired a day after China said a US U-2 spy plane had entered a no-fly zone without permission during a Chinese live-fire naval drill in the Bohai Sea off its north coast, and amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington in the region,” says the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

The Trump administration and world courts have rejected China’s claims to the disputed sea areas.

This week, the Philippine Foreign Minister said that they would invoke a mutual defense treaty between the United States in the Philippines if China attacks any portion of the disputed area.

Philippines have followed other southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, who have suddenly become more friendly with the U.S. as the Trump administration takes a harder line with China.

“[U.S. Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s statement explicitly takes sides in favor of Southeast Asian nations including the Philippines and Vietnam, after years of the U.S. saying it took no position on individual claims,” VNExpress, Vietnam’s largest English language daily said in July.

Pompeo has threatened China on the South China Sea dispute saying: “America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”

Vietnam and the Philippines both accuse China of illegally seizing and developing islands in the South China Sea, in violation of international law.

The sea area is rich with oil and gas resources, fishing and has strategic importance as a trade route, defensive area, and its strategic offensive staging capabilities.  

However, A2/AD is a two-way street.

China is more dependent on access to the seas outside of the South China Sea, and the U.S. and its allies can seal those straits up in less than 24 hours.

Thus, “sealing the straits permitting passage through the island chain would be like cutting the roots of a plant. It would deny the Chinese merchant fleet and PLA Navy access to the oceanic thoroughfare on which they rely to ply their trades. China’s import and export traffic—crucial to its prosperity, and thus to fulfilling the China Dream—could shrivel and die,” writes National Interest.

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